Ghana’s VP touts economic acumen as election campaign beginsWed, 07 Feb 2024 18:54:43 GMT

Ghana’s Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, the ruling party’s presidential candidate for December’s election, opened his campaign on Wednesday touting his economic management record, digitalisation programme and promises for job creation.Ghana’s presidential election is set to be a tight race between Bawumia, the New Patriotic Party’s first Muslim candidate, and former president John Mahama of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). Incumbent president Nana Akufo-Addo steps down after two terms with the country’s economy emerging from one of its worst crises in decades and Ghana managing a $3 billion loan from the IMF.”Notwithstanding the difficult economy we inherited, we had to get on with it and start to fix the problems,” Bawumia said in a speech titled “Ghana’s Next Chapter.”He said the private sector will be the engine of growth to create more jobs and lead in infrastructure development to reduce the fiscal burden on government as public debt remains a major struggle. “This represents a major paradigm shift,” Bawumia said at a public forum in Accra to outline his vision for the presidency, addressing around 5,000 supporters.Many wore T-shirts in the party’s red, blue, and white colours, waved miniature Ghana flags, and danced to the sound of drums.Bawumia also said he would reduce the number of government ministers to around 50 to cut spending. When he assumed office in 2017, Akufo-Addo appointed 110 ministers — the highest since Ghana returned to stable democracy in 1992. Political analysts have been advocating a leaner government to cut public expenditure as the Ghanaian economy goes through major challenges.   Ghana experienced its worst economic crisis in decades in 2022 as inflation surged to over 50 percent, forcing the major producer of gold, oil and cocoa to seek out its IMF relief programme and a debt restructuring. Ghana’s debt load expanded and like other sub-Saharan African nations it struggled with the economic fallout from the global pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.Bawumia outlined plans to enhance fiscal discipline with an independent fiscal responsibility council and said he would also broaden the tax base and increase revenue collection through digitalisation. In a bid to propel Ghana into the digital age and foster inclusive economic growth, Bawumia also unveiled a plan aimed to leverage technology, data, and innovation across various sectors.”As part of this process it is my goal to eliminate the digital divide by achieving close to 100 percent internet penetration,” he said. The economy will be a major campaign issue as the opposition looks to paint the IMF deal as evidence of failed economic management and the NPP shows how its government’s policies have helped Ghana recover.Akufo-Addo’s party will be looking to secure an unprecedented third term in office with Bawumia, a former deputy central bank governor.The vice president will also be the first northerner to run for the top office on the ticket of the NPP, a movement dominated by ethnic Akan, which analysts say will pose another challenge for Mahama, who also comes from the north of Ghana.