It is only the wicked that would be against any form of assistance that will protect the poor and the vulnerable in society. That is why no Ghanaian should be against any attempt by government to improve society by ensuring that the poor are well protected.
However, this does not mean that one should remain silent when a programme to assist the poor is not being handled in a way to make it sustainable. In the developed countries, they call it social protection or welfare and it is what the state uses to provide care and assistance to those who fall within the poverty bracket.
Thus, in our desire to provide any form of social protection, it is important that it is not politicised or used for propaganda purposes, but implemented in a manner that will support those who need it most and it must be made sustainable. There is no point in rushing to increase the numbers of poor people who are given some form of social protection just to score political points.
The issue of social protection across Africa and for that matter, Ghana, has become a global concern and at the European Day celebrations in Sweden in 2009, it was one of the main issues on the lips of delegates. Since then, Ghana and other African countries have tried various schemes to bring some relief to the poor. Our Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme is one of these schemes to develop some form of social protection in the country.
The Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development of the European Commission defines social protection as “a broad range of public, and sometimes private, instruments to tackle the challenges of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion.” Increasingly, it said, social protection measures are being used to mitigate vulnerabilities as they occur across the human life cycle, to maintain dignity, to promote the rights of individuals and to contribute to pro-poor and inclusive economic growth through building human capital and enabling poor people to increase their participation in economically productive activities.
“Social protection not only helps people to escape from poverty, but also plays a vital role in preventing them from falling into or back into poverty,” it added.
Giving a helping hand to the poor is not simply charity, it is in line with Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that, “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood circumstances beyond his control.”
In addition, The Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention of 1952 (No 102) establishes worldwide-agreed minimum standards for all nine branches of social security. These are; medical care; sickness benefit; unemployment benefit; old-age benefit and employment injury benefit.
It also includes family benefit; maternity benefit; invalidity benefit and survivors’ benefit. That is why, we must look at LEAP and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) as very important social interventions that we must nurture to grow properly.
It means that no ad-hoc measures must be taken just to create a success story that would not last. For example, there is no point in shouting about increasing numbers that are receiving social support if we do not put in place measures that would make such support schemes sustainable. Therefore, the country should be considering how to fund all the social protection programmes so that whatever we are building does not collapse in the near future.
The European Report on Development of 2009 did mention that the EU and other donors have been funding social protection measures across Africa because of “pragmatism and self interest.” Among other things they said, “developed countries have a vested interest in supporting developing countries on their path to resilience.” In addition, they said, their support to social protection contributes to “international stability by improving the welfare of the South’s poorest and most vulnerable.”
This does not however, mean that we should leave our fate in their hands. There is the possibility that at a point in time all the contributions from these donors would cease and if that happens, what will become of our social protection programmes? In order to handle things our way, there is the need for real resource mobilisation. Unfortunately, the EU has identified that most countries in Africa “do not possess the institutional and administrative capacity to mobilise sufficient domestic resources such as through taxation.”
Under the circumstances that we find ourselves currently, there is the need to think outside the box as to how we would be able to generate the needed resources to fund our social protection programmes. Donor countries may be providing the funding for pilot progammes, but we must also be looking at how we can put in place measures to mobilise resources so that when donors pull out, we would be able to continue.
A very good way is to be looking at how to make the rich in society pay for these programmes because it is in their interest. It must be made clear that if poverty is entrenched in any country, the very poor in society would turn against the rich. So, properties above a given threshold could be taxed to provide money to support LEAP instead of the ad-hoc way it is being funded now. We can also look at some other ways of taxing the rich as a way of redistributing wealth.
Let it be known that the poor do not need much. For majority of the people, what they want is just something to call food daily. They do not want to live in mansions and do not care about frivolous pastimes of the rich and mighty in society.
It is only those who do not understand that we are all interlinked in a way that the rich needs to support the poor so that life is made meaningful for all who will kick against any form of social protection. It has been done in other countries and we should also make ours successful.
Source: Ghana/todaygh.com/Francis Kokutse