Nation Builders Corps ‘is a bold initiative’ - TUC commends government

TUC General Secretary, Yaw Baah

Labour union, the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), has welcomed government’s Nation Builders Corps initiative aimed at tackling graduate unemployment.

Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta announced the policy on Wednesday during the presentation of the 2018 budget to Parliament, projecting that the initiative will put 100,000 graduates to work by the close of 2018.

The initiative has been criticised by the Minority in Parliament as a ‘jobs-for-the-boys’ initiative.

However, the TUC said in press release issued Thursday that the policy must be lauded.

“The TUC welcomes this bold initiative. It is perhaps the most ambitious jobs programme designed to address what has become the ‘most critical economic challenge’ of the country. Providing jobs for 100,000 graduates in the sectors outlined in the budget will significantly improve public service delivery. It will also signal to young people who have invested so much time and money in their education that education pays. The benefits will far exceed the cost of the programme,” the TUC said in what it describes as a preliminary statement on the budget statement.

Minority spokesperson on Finance, Cassiel Ato Forson, said Wednesday evening after the budget presentation that the Nation Builders Corps will only provide jobs for members of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), ruling out the possibility that the programme will achieve its intended purpose.

How the Nation Builders Corps will operate

Under the initiative, there will be modules like “Teach Ghana” which will hire graduates to teach Science, Technology, Engineering and Technology and Mathematics in primary and secondary schools.

Sanitation Inspectors are expected to be hired under another module, “Clean Ghana”, to enforce sanitation laws and inspection of communities.

Trained nurses and other healthcare workers in a “Heal Ghana” program that will provide healthcare delivery to deprived and rural communities across Ghana.

Trained Agricultural extension and other allied workers in a “Feed Ghana” program will provide extensive support to farmers along the agriculture value chains.

The Tertiary graduates in a “Revenue Ghana” program that will mobilize the youth to collect taxes that have been difficult to mobilize and enforce collection for the development of Ghana.

Thumbs down

The TUC, however, gave the government thumbs down for not adequately detailing how it intends to bring down the high cost of borrowing that is crippling the private sector.

“The private sector in Ghana has suffered so much unfairness especially in the areas of trade, high cost of production and in terms of access to credit, compared to their counterparts in other countries that are trading with Ghana such as China, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa. The private sector needs the support of the state, at least for a specified period, to enable local entrepreneurs to expand their businesses and to create decent jobs for Ghanaians,” the statement, signed by TUC General Secretary Yaw Baah, said.

Read the full statement below.

A PRELIMINARY STATEMENT ON THE 2018 BUDGET STATEMENT AND ECONOMIC POLICY On Wednesday, 15th November, 2017, the Minister for Finance presented the 2018 Budget and Economic Policy of the NPP Government to Parliament. As usual, we followed the presentation with keen interest. This statement is our preliminary assessment of the policies in the Budget Statement focusing on employment creation initiatives announced by the Minister. A more detailed analysis/assessment will follow in due course.

As has been the practice for so many years, TUC submitted some proposals to government for the 2018 Budget and Economic Policy. Employment creation and related issues, including the need to keep industrial peace, were at the heart of the proposals.

In our submission, we reiterated a point made in our earlier proposals and other submissions that the greatest challenge facing our country today is the lack of decent jobs for young people. We, therefore, repeated our call on government to “go beyond the rhetoric” and outline practical measures to address the employment challenge. We urged government to implement policies that create jobs in their right quantities and quality.

In the Budget Statement, the Minister for Finance described unemployment as “the most critical economic problem of our time”. He then proceeded to announce a “new jobs programme” termed the “Nation Builders Corps” intended to reverse the growing trend of joblessness among university graduates.

According to the Minister, the Nation Builders Corps Programme will employ 100,000 graduates across the country in 2018.

The TUC welcomes this bold initiative. It is perhaps the most ambitious jobs programme designed to address what has become the “most critical economic challenge” of the country. Providing jobs for 100,000 graduates in the sectors outlined in the budget will significantly improve public service delivery. It will also signal to young people who have invested so much time and money in their education that education pays. The benefits will far exceed the cost of the programme.

We do not know the details of the programme yet. For example, how many years will the programme employ the graduates? Is it going to be one year like the National Service Scheme? These are but a few of the important questions that need to be addressed as government prepares to rollout the programme in 2018.

Therefore, while we commend government for this bold initiative, we would also like to draw attention to the obstacles that continue to impede the growth of the private sector and its ability to create decent jobs. The 100,000 graduates that will be employed in 2018 will at some point have to transit into the mainstream labour market after they have acquired further skills and experience so that others can also benefit from the programme. Strengthening the domestic private sector to absorb the beneficiaries of the Nation Builders Corps Programme will ease that transition.

We have also taken note of the several other initiatives announced by the Minister in the Budget Statement including the removal/reduction of taxes as well as the proposed reduction of energy tariffs intended to create the enabling environment for the expansion of the private sector development.

These are commendable measures. But one important area that needs urgent attention is our trade policy which remains unfair to local manufacturers and farmers, especially livestock farmers. We need a very radical review of our trade policy to protect our manufacturers and farmers. Ghana also needs to work with other countries in the ECOWAS region to secure the sub-regional market for our private sector.

We expected to hear more about the measures government is going to implement to bring down cost of borrowing. The private sector in Ghana has suffered so much unfairness especially in the areas of trade, high cost of production and in terms of access to credit, compared to their counterparts in other countries that are trading with Ghana such as China, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa. The private sector needs the support of the state, at least for a specified period, to enable local entrepreneurs to expand their businesses and to create decent jobs for Ghanaians.

We continue to assure government that the TUC and its affiliates operating in all the sectors of the Ghanaian economy are ready to support policies that will create jobs for Ghanaians and ensure prosperity for every Ghanaian regardless of their economic and social status or their location – rural or urban.

[SIGNED]

DR. YAW BAAH

SECRETARY-GENERAL

TRADES UNION CONGRESS (GHANA)

ACCRA

16TH NOVEMBER, 2017

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