Gathered at the Independence Square last Wednesday were tens of thousands of young Ghanaians who for years have been unemployment.
Amongst those gathered were also many young people who had only months earlier completed their mandatory national service and could only hope for decent jobs in the face of the harsh reality of graduate unemployment in the country.
These are the first batch of young people recruited by the government under its new social intervention for young unemployed graduate, the Nation Builders’ Corps (NABCo).
The program was first announced in the 2018 Budget Statement and Economic Policy by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta.
Quite characteristically, very little information was made available to the public until the green light was given to prospective recruits to apply. More and more information came out all through the process even until the eventual commissioning by Akufo-Addo on Wednesday, October 17, 2018.
For those of us who followed the proceedings at the Independence Square, it seemed a joyous day of liberation for the unemployed, formerly unemployed graduates, some of whom have been without jobs for over 5 years after completion of their tertiary education.
The ceremony did not only bring joy to the nation builders but also their many relatives and friends who will no longer be burdened with providing basic needs and parting with monies to help their unemployed fellows keep up.
Quite frankly, this development can only be good news for anyone who works hard day and night to make a little money under the country’s current economic dispensation, myself included.
It is therefore, on the surface of it only reasonable to laud this initiative.
However, it is a great struggle for me to support this initiative in its current form.
First, we are yet to be made clear as to whether NABCo is an employment opportunity or a skills development and training program. Knowing the exact category of this intervention will help us appreciate what roles the recruits will play in their respective agencies and what expectations we should have of them upon exhaustion of the full 3-year duration of the program.
Will those recruited under the Teach Ghana module, be considered trained/experienced teachers after the duration of the program? Or are they already trained teachers whose services will be employed by the government?
Same questions apply to recruit under the Heal Module. More importantly, as an area that requires special expertise, who exact roles will those recruits be given?
I think it is clearly a shortchange for a government that is struggling to grant financial clearance to trained nurses and grant them employment to easily engage them for the same services for a monthly allowance of GH¢700; hundreds of cedis less than the between GH¢1,000 and GH¢1,800 graduate nurses averagely earn.
Secondly, citizens have been left in the dark as to what the source of the finding for NABCo is. Typically, the relief NABCo may be bringing, may cause many not to take interest in where resources for the program will be sourced from.
The Minister for Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah failed to give a convincing answer as to what the source of funding for the program will be, given the history of how this government and those in the past have treated young graduates, especially those in health and education.
There have never been adequate funds to pay salaries of graduate teachers, neither has there been for graduate nurses and the only way these salaries get paid, or clearance acquired for their employment is through protests, a phenomenon we have come to tolerate as a norm.
In fact, National Service personnel whose services were engaged by the public sector in September were until few days ago, yet to receive their allowance.
It doesn’t take much to know that the country is struggling economically and those worse affected are young people who will averagely remain unemployed for 3 years after tertiary education before finding a job.
Indeed, President Akufo-Addo’s unequivocal declaration prior to the 2016 election that Ghana is wealthy and blessed with abundant resources and can become a prosperous nation given the right government as managers (referring to the NPP), and his resulting Ghana beyond aid mantra, remains but an English statement since fundamental indications from the lives of citizens tell a different story.
Can we be assured that there will never be a time where we’ll see NABCo trainees protest over delayed or non-payment of their allowances?
Arguing about government priorities can often be very challenging because there will also be a somewhat justifiable reason why one issue is prioritized over the other. The best judgment can only be made after weighing each justification or perhaps assessing the result of the choices made.
That notwithstanding, my belief that this is the best thing to do at this time for unemployed graduates is shaky.
The fact that almost every Ghanaian can easily point to a friend or family member who is unemployed means it is a major problem that needs to be addressed.
If the economic principle of utility maximization is to be applied, I want to guess NABCo is not the best way of utilizing the little money the government may have found to create economic prosperity.
For a country that spends over 50 per cent of its money; including borrowed monies on paying wages and salaries, drawing in more people to pay wages should not be topmost on budgets.
It should rather be channelled into avenues that will directly support a struggling economy to be more robust.
I really hope that NABCo, as the name suggests, can indeed ‘build’ the nation. That will not happen by its mere creation and impressive launch. Komenda Sugar Factory and the GhanaPost GPS were both beautifully decorated at their respective launches!
In my personal view, it would have been more prudent, if NABCo was to be instituted anyway, to be part of the government’s grand plan for revamping the country’s industries.
If the country’s many abandoned factories are revamped, NABCo recruits to serve there, it would be easy to measure their outputs and how much that is ultimately helping to boost the country’s economy.
While the recruits await their postings I wish them well, and hope they will not be left to follow in the unfortunate inefficiencies of the country’s public sector, as alluded to by President Akufo-Addo in his 2018 May Day address.
I wish a lot of good come out of the NABCo job for the many young people recruited because I hate unemployment, unfortunately, find it hard to embrace NABCo.
By: Jonas Nyabor (The author is a journalist with Accra-based Citi FM. The views shared in this piece are those of his personal convictions and ideas)