Friday, 17 November 2017

Economists criticize Nation Builders Corps initiative

Adnan Adams Mohammed

Despite the Trades Union Congress (TUC) commendation to the government for the Nation Builders Corps (NBC) initiative for jobless graduates, some economists have rather rubbished it.

The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta, while presenting the 2018 Budget and Policy statement on Wednesday last week, indicated that about 100,000 tertiary graduates will be employed under the initiative called the Nation Builders Corps (NBC).

But, Dr Eric Osei-Assibey, an Economist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana, says the government should find more pragmatic approach to solving graduate unemployment, instead of rolling out the “Nation Builders Corps” programme.
Image result for Dr Eric Osei-Assibey

He said the 100,000 graduates government would employ under the programme would place enormous burden on government’s fiscal expenditure.

He said the programme was a brilliant idea but the approach government was using to address graduate unemployment would be problematic in the long term.

He therefore, urged government to expand the local economy and provide more incentives to the private sector to expand, in order to absorb the unemployed graduates.

In reaction to some initiatives government intended to roll out next year, as stated in the 2018 Budget and Economic Policy, Dr Osei-Assibey, who is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), he said,  “Government does not provide direct jobs because in places where government had provided jobs, it has not been sustainable, and particularly at a time when government wanted to rationalise or reduce public sector wages.

“We have seen government pioneer job creation programmes like the National Youth Employment Programme, GYEDA, YEA and others, which are trying to address youth unemployment and so this Nation Builders Corps may not provide productive jobs that graduates would need and it would also put too much strain on government’s expenditure,” he noted.

Another economist, Adu Owusu Sarkodie argues that the move will be appreciated if accurate information on unemployment levels is provided.

Mr. Sarkodie believes that, the value will be appreciated with an understanding of the current unemployment situation.

“If you are able to tell us how many people are unemployed and therefore you are creating 100,000 jobs to absorb them and that the remaining will be determined after, then we can appreciate that. But if you haven’t told us how many people are unemployed, whether you create 800,000 or 1,000,000 jobs, we do not know whether you are performing better or performing worse. So these figures must be shown to us before any concrete conclusions could be drawn,” he argued.

Official statistics from the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) indicate that only 10 percent of graduates find employment after completing their national service.

According to ISSER, it could take as much as ten years for a large number of graduates to secure employment.

Meanwhile, the TUC, in its statement signed by the General Secretary , Dr. Yaw Baah, described the move as a “bold initiative” adding that it is “perhaps the most ambitious jobs programme designed to address what has become the most critical economic challenge of the country.”

“Providing jobs for 100,000 graduates in the sectors outlined in the budget will significantly improve public service delivery. It will also signal to young people who have invested so much time and money in their education that education pays. The benefits will far exceed the cost of the programme,” he added.

Consequently, Mr. Baah reminded government to at some point “transit” these graduates into the mainstream labour market after they have “acquired further skills and experience so that others can also benefit from the programme.

This he believes will also strengthen the “domestic private sector to absorb the beneficiaries of the programme”

Like the Youth Employment Agency [YEA], which targets non-tertiary graduates, the NBC has a number of subsets which are connected to other major government targets and initiatives.

On the back of the National Sanitation Campaign launch and the anticipated Sanitation Brigade, the Finance Minister noted that, the NBC has made provision for sanitation inspectors under a “Clean Ghana” Programme.

These inspectors will focus on enforcing sanitation laws.

Trained nurses and other healthcare workers will provide healthcare to deprived and rural communities under a “Heal Ghana” module.

The 2018 Budget Statement made known government’s intent to ensure tax compliance, and NBC will be contributing to these aims with its “Revenue Ghana” programme.