Government’s ambitious program to fund the free SHS policy in September 2017 will impose an unnecessary burden on government’s finances, a policy think tank has suggested.
The Institute of Fiscal studies believes the policy risks being poorly funded if government goes ahead to roll out the program later this year.
The lead economist with the Institute Leslie Dwight Mensah would rather the policy is deferred to at least the next three years by which time government would have reasonably minimized the gap between expenditure and revenue which has left in its wake a humongous debt burden.
The Institute is the next to criticise government’s decision to implement the policy this year. The first was the Pro-vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast who believed the government was not ready to execute the project.
Prof. George Kwaku Oduro in an interview with Joy News said the current situation at the Senior High Schools was nothing to write home about and that the situation was likely to be compounded with a free SHS policy.
“You get to so many schools, particularly those in disadvantaged context their labs are empty, they don’t have libraries. So if access is given through free SHS and these schools remain with empty labs and empty libraries then it compromises quality,” he argued.
But the Minister of Education in a fierce rebuttal said it was hypocritical that the Pro Vice Chancellor will be criticizing a policy which was implemented 50 years ago and which people benefitted from.
“Where was the Pro-Vost when free SHS started some 50 years ago in this country? Has he ever advised that those part of the country enjoying free SHS should be stopped?
“I find it hypocritical that some people are enjoying free SHS even though it is with constraints and when a government is taking a bold step to remove that financial barrier a pro-vost will say some people should wallow in ignorance. The president in what appeared to be a bold move to honour a campaign promise said the free SHS, a policy initiative that was the major campaign mantra since 2008 would be executed in September this year.
There were issues with the cost of funding and which source of funds will be used to execute the policy.
That appeared to have been resolved with the promise by the Finance Minister to use the Annual Budget funding arrangement as well as other major government finance sources to execute the project.
The government budgeted an amount of 400 million cedis for the implementation of the project but critics believe that amount will not be enough to implement the policy and have called for better targeting of students who will be in need of the policy.
Prof George Kwaku Oduro believes if proper due diligence is not done the policy will have dire consequences on the country’s education.
But the UCC Pro Vice Chancellor and the Institute of Fiscal Studies are not the only the only ones criticizing the policy.
Head of the Economics Department at the University of Ghana Professor Peter Quartey also believes a lot more needs to be done before the policy is implemented.
He explained while the cost of funding may be importing his biggest problem is the issue of targeting.
He does not understand why the government will seek to execute a policy that will fund the rich kids whose parents have the capacity to pay for it.
He would rather the issue of targeting is fundamentally resolved before government goes ahead to execute the policy.