Gov’t won’t roll back Free SHS, other flagship programs – Ofori-Atta

The government says all its flagship programs including the ambitious Free Senior High School (SHS) policy will continue to run regardless of the challenges confronting the country’s economy.

This is contrary to earlier suggestions by the Minister responsible for Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah that all 16 flagship programs of the government including the Free SHS were up for possible review after a recent cabinet meeting to proffer solutions to the economic hardships.

But speaking at a press briefing today, Thursday, March 24, the Finance Minister said there’s no such intention to review any of the government’s policies.

“Let me say that President Akufo-Addo has no absolute intention to roll back any major policy like the Free SHS. He sees education as the best and enabling force for sustainable economic growth, transformation, and social mobility, and we will do more to improve on it for it to serve more and better our children.”

Pressure is mounting on the Akufo-Addo government to review Free SHS policy in particular as it takes a huge chunk of revenue.

Stakeholders including the opposition NDC, have urged the government to take another look at the Free SHS program and take expenditure cuts among others to save the country money.

Other civil society organizations have also called for a review of the programme including suggestions that the programme is limited to persons who are genuinely poor and unable to fund their secondary education.

For instance, the Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission, Prof. Stephen Adei. Prof. Stephen Adei, explains that the GH¢7.6 billion expenditure on the programme over the past five years is taking a toll on Ghana’s economy.

What did the Information Minister say?

In an interview on the Citi Breakfast Show with Bernard Avle, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said no program will be left out of the review.

“All the 16 flagship programs are up to be looked at. The President has directed that the flagship programs should be protected and fully implemented to ensure that the impact is achieved. However, he wants it done within the constraints of item number 2 which is the fiscal framework we are working with. If based on the caps that we are working with we will have to rescope a particular flagship program, we will do it and see how much we can achieve.”

“All the 16 are up for discussion, none is off-limit. Only that the President has laid down the red line that we will not compromise on the fiscal consolidation agenda because our real problem over the years has been a year-on-year deficit going out of hand.”

Consequences 

The Ministry of Education has also brushed away calls for a review or scraping of the programme.

Its Public Relations Officer, Kwasi Kwarteng, told Citi News that the overall cost of not implementing the programme far outweighs the cost of implementing it.

He argued that the country risks having hundreds of thousands of its young people staying without secondary education without the flagship programme.

“The cost in not implementing Free SHS in the long term has very dire consequences on us as a nation because it means that every year we will be having about 100,000 students that will not have access to education up to the secondary level and that will be dangerous for the socio-economic transformation that we seek to achieve. As compared to the current cost that we incur as a people, we should have the conversation within the proper context,” he said.

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