SEND Ghana says Government of Ghana’s Ghc 64 cedis bimonthly stipend given to beneficiaries of the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme, is unrealistic. At the organization’s zonal stakeholder engagement session to release its report on the 2021 budget, the Northern Regional Programmes Manager, Mumuni Mohammed said despite the implementation of the LEAP programme, there is still a widening gap between southern and northern Ghana.
He said the periodic pitfalls in the budget year is the reason the country is unable to bridge the poverty gap between the south and north. Mumuni Mohammed categorically stated that, failure by successive governments to allocate enough resources in Education, Health, and Social interventions in the northern zone is why poverty stirs visitors in the face when they visit the northern regions.
For him, the consistent meagre allocations in the budget years have created “inequality”, adding the 2021 budget year is “no exception”.
Although the Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS) says Ghana is making progress in terms of reducing poverty, but the inequality gap is increasing especially in northern Ghana according to the programmes manager. Mohammed recommends a critical analysis of the LEAP programme.
“Interventions such as LEAP should be implemented to target the worst households hit by extreme poverty thereby allocating huge amounts to the said households.”
The Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) is a cash transfer programme introduced by the Government of Ghana (GOG) in 2008, for extremely poor and vulnerable households which have the following three categories of eligible members; Orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) or, Persons with severe disability without any productive capacity and, Elderly persons who are 65 years and above.”
The main objective of the LEAP Program is to reduce poverty by increasing and smoothing consumption and promoting access to services and opportunities among the extremely poor and vulnerable. The Specific Objectives are;
To improve basic household consumption and nutrition among children below 2 years of age, the aged (65 years and above without productive capacity) and people with severe disability.
To increase access to healthcare services among children below five years, the aged (65 years and above without productive capacity) and people with severe disability.
To increase basic school enrolment, attendance, and retention of beneficiary children between five and fifteen years.
To facilitate access to complementary services such as welfare, livelihoods and improvement of productive capacity among beneficiary households.
The number of beneficiary households has increased from 1,654 in 2008 in twenty one pilot districts to 146,074 in 185 districts as at 31st December 2015 with women constituting 56 percent of the beneficiaries while men constitute 44 percent.
An impact assessment of the programme undertaken by the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economics Research (ISSER), University of Ghana, in partnership with the North Carolina University in 2012 showed positive impact on the extreme poor in Ghana. “LEAP is reaching the poorest families in Ghana and is having impact on the well-being of Targeted families”, the report said.
SEND Ghana has also observed discrepancies in government’s flagship programme, Free Senior High School. Mumuni Mohammed urged government to reconsider its implementation.
“I believe that not every parent everywhere in Ghana needed the Free senor High School especially considering the resource limitations that accompanies the policy therefore if proper targeting is done where those living in abject poverty like some households in the north become the target, it will not only lessen the burden on government budget but go a long to bridge the inequality gap.”
The 2021 zonal budget engagement brought participants across the five regions of the north to engage and analyze the 2021 budget with focus on issues bothering the north such including access to healthcare services, education, social protection and agriculture.
“Until these inequalities are addressed Ghana cannot achieve the development it is seeking therefore the media and civil society organizations in Ghana need to put pressure on government because the political class or the government always attend to issues that gets sustained in the media.”
Prior to the reading of the 2021 budget on 12th March, the Minority in Parliament raised red flags on some six new taxes which the caucus argued will burden the citizenry in the face of a global pandemic that had had a toll on even giant economies.