In lead-up to elections, Ghana's Mahama promises to continue fight against corruption
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Ghana has bright economic prospects in the medium term and remains attractive to foreign investors. This is the message that the West African state's president, John Dramani Mahama, is putting forth during his current visit to France.
The honest confidence Mahama exudes comes a day after seven of the country's 12 High Court judges were suspended after they were alleged to have taken bribes.
In the last two days, Mahama met French President François Hollande, officials at Unesco and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as well as members of the business community.
However, in the short term, the OECD has warned in its African Economic Outlook 2015 report that "Ghana’s economy is expected to slow down for the fourth consecutive year to an estimated 3.9 per cent growth rate" this year.
Mahama told RFI that the country's economy remains "fragile". Growth figures were revised down this year because of the impact caused by China's economic slowdown.
The country is now a settled democracy. But several factors have generated tension.
Inflation is high at over 16 per cent; public debt is ballooning with tax receipts being swallowed up by public sector salaries; foreign earnings from gold and cocoa have dipped; and power cuts continue to hamper economic take-off.
The International Monetary Fund was called in to give a helping hand last November, but in return have pushed for budget deficit reduction measures to be put in place. Fuel subsidies were cut and utilities tariffs shot up. But Mahama is quick to explain that Ghana agreed measures with the IMF based on "our home-grown fiscal consolidation policies".
The deficit-cutting plan of action was not made up of "measures that the IMF has come and told us to do," he said. "It's because we own [this plan of action] that we will implement it."
Mahama was keen to stress to RFI that despite the elections being only just over a year away, in November 2016, "it does not mean we should go over expenditure," he said. "We need to keep to expenditure, we need to increase revenue so that we are able to provide the social intervention measures that cushion the vulnerable and poor in our society".
He added that despite the low ranking given to the country in the latest UN Human Development Index, which measures such factors as life expectancy, access to education and health, and gender parity, Ghana had made "significant progress" in reducing maternal mortality, "from 900 per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 300 per 100,000 currently".
The infant death rate was cut in the same period from 31 per 100,000 to 19 per 100,000.
Mahama also pointed out that access to clean drinking water has been extended to 67 per cent of the population.
"The fight against corruption must be systematic," Mahama told RFI.
In the latest scandal, the chief justice of the Supreme Court ordered a probe following the airing of a video shot by an investigative journalist allegedly showing 34 judges taking bribes. Mahama explained that the extent of the prevailing corruption was due to "weak institutions".
"So we are strengthening those institutions," he said.
He admitted that the "case of the judges has been particularly worrying", but action has been taken and it shows that "we have a judiciary that is robust".
"We still have judges who have a high sense of integrity," he added.
A National Anti-Corruption Action Plan was passed late last year and the president set up its implementation committee. But the fight against corruption goes beyond the authorities. That's why, he explained, he has called on chiefs and religious leaders to get involved because "all segments of society" must combat an evil that affects all levels and groups of the population, he said.