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Oil revenue is unreliable yet President Addo says it will be used to pay for his much touted free SHS


From all indications the NPP is hellbent — is more than determined — to keep its campaign promises.

In furtherance of this “noble” objective, the party is sparing no effort for obvious reasons: its political fortunes are depend heavily on its ability to fulfill the tantalizing and mouth watering promises it made to Ghanaians during last year’s election campaign.

So, this week, amid fanfare and political sniping, the NPP rolled out its most controversial, and ambitious campaign promises — the Free Senior High School Education policy.

Supporters of the policy argue it will ensure that Ghanaian students have access to the best education possible,  and better still, at no financial cost to their parents; small wonder then, that, the Ghanaian public has warmly embraced the policy.

The policy is close to President Akuffo Addo’s heart, and has garnered unpredecented media attention, coverage and praise. Not surprisingly, Mr. Addo and his deputy, Dr. Bawumia, have not shied away from heaping touting the inherent qualities of the programme at every opportunity.

Every government policy has its naysayers and critics, who revel nitpicking and tearing the policy apart.  I harbor few, if any, misgivings about the Free SHS policy; as a progressive, I am for free education; after all, educating kids at public expense is sound public policy because the nation ultimately comes out the winner.

However, some fundamental questions about the policy ought to be asked. The most logical and important being how is it going to be financed and sustained for the long term?

A project of this magnitude requires tons of money, a commodity our government complains loudly and incessantly that it does not have.

Though Mr. Addo strenuously maintains that his pet project will not be sidelined due to lack of money, his government for most part has been evasive about how it will finance the project.

And, it does not help the president’s cause when a host of his appointees try to outdo each other coming up with starkly different versions and suggestions as to how the Free SHS will be financed.

As the debate continues, Mr. Addo has come up with this wonderful idea; that revenue from crude oil sales will be used to foot the bill for the Free SHS program — provide free tuition and food for students, renew old infrastructure while building new ones and train and pay teachers.

This is overly ambitious.  If I were Mr. Addo, I won’t pin my hopes on oil, the price of which hasn’t recovered since it went tumbled two years ago, from a high of a hundred dollars a barrel to 50 dollars a barrel. Oil revenue judging from its price fluctuations is highly unreliable.

And the implications for countries that depend wholly on oil revenue to finance national projects have been anything but catastrophic.

Take Venezuela for instance, a country that built its economy on oil but has since suffered tremendous setbacks with the fall in the price of the precious commodity. For all its oil wealth, Venezuela now lacks basic necessities; food and medicine, and has been thrown into a political nightmare of public demonstrations and strikes.

Without mincing words, let it be said loud and clear that against this background of uncertainty about how the free SHS policy will be paid for, Ghanaians are baffled and left to wonder, if the project once it begins, will not suffer the same fate other well intentioned public projects in the past suffered — neglect and abandonment.

My hope is that the government is not foisting a trojan horse on Ghanaians just to achieve its political goals.




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