Eulogizing Late President Jerry John Rawlings: focus on the first major agricultural policy under PNDC

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Eulogizing Late President Jerry John Rawlings: a focus on the first major agricultural policy under PNDC–Ghana Agricultural Sector Rehabilitation Programme (ASRP, 1987-1993)

It is very appropriate as a young academic in agriculture to eulogize the late President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E Flt. Lt. (Rtd) Jerry John Rawlings. My write-up will bother on the first major agricultural policy under his PNDC leadership. Arguably, this policy is one of the best policy reforms in the agricultural sector. I present to readers a piece based on available data and documents from the archives of the World Bank, Africa Development Bank, Ghana’s Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA).

Ghana witnessed a severe socioeconomic crisis late 1970s and early 1980s, as evident from worsening economic indicators. Real GDP per capita declined significantly, domestic savings were record low, performance of export commodities was poor and capital inflows significantly declined. Food self-sufficiency index dropped to a record low. The country faced acute hunger, needing urgent availability or supply of basic foods—the days of ‘Kalabuley’.  

In response to the worsening macroeconomic imbalances and living conditions, the Government of Ghana (GoG) initiated an Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) in 1983. Following the success of ERP in its first phase of implementation (1983-86), GoG focused on sector specific reforms. This saw the birth of the Agriculture Sector Rehabilitation Programme (ASRP) (1987-1993), to complement the stabilization and liberalization policies, and to rehabilitate key growth contributors of agriculture. The main objective of ASRP was to enhance MOFA’s capacity to provide effective policy and institutional support for rehabilitation and recovery of agricultural production and productivity, and thereby contribute to overall economic growth, food intake of the population and to reduce poverty. The specific objectives of ASRP were to: (i) provide foreign exchange to finance imported inputs; (ii) build technical and managerial capacity within MOFA; (iii) streamline and rationalize agricultural research and extension; (iv) pilot-test low-cost, farmers-managed small-scale irrigation schemes; and (vi) privatize input markets (fertilizers, tractor hire services and veterinary drugs).

The estimated total cost of ASRP at appraisal was UA 41.74 million, of which 91.8% were in foreign exchanges. The foreign exchange costs were co-financed by Africa Development Fund (ADF) (UA 18.61 million), International Development Assistant (IDA)/World Bank (UA 13.90 million), Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau (UA 6.95 million), and the United Nations Development Programme (UA 1.23 million). UA is unit of aid, an official currency unit for AfDB projects. The GoG and IDA provided the local currency component. By the end of the completion of ASRP, the estimated costs were fully disbursed (Africa Development Bank, Program Performance Evaluation Report (PPER), 2002).

Some outcomes of the ASRP

According to the PPER, agricultural growth saw a reversed downward trend of the 1970s and early 1980s, in the years during and after the ERP and ASRP. The average agricultural sector grew at annual rate of 2.8% in 1984-90, 2.7% in the early 1990s, and 4.4% in the second half of the 1990s. The years of recovery and growth in agriculture matched with improved performance in the overall economy. The overall economy, as measured by real GDP grew at annual rate of 5.7% in 1983-89 and 4.4% in the 1990s.

The ASRP also led to significant agricultural policy reforms. In the period, 1983-89, the reforms emphasized on stabilization of the macroeconomic environment followed by liberalization of agricultural prices and markets. In the1990s, the policy focused on developing and implementing agricultural policies and programs, and building institutions including markets. The most important policy reform was decentralization of MOFA, which started in 1987. The role of MOFA at national level has since moved towards formulation, implementation and monitoring of policies, provision of technical assistance to the districts, provision of legal and regulatory services, and evaluating impacts of policies.

Following the reforms initiated in ASRP, there have been significant improvements in functioning of national agricultural research and extension system. A national agricultural research master plan is in place and guides formulation of priority agricultural research programs. ASRP led to a liberalization of agricultural markets and private sector development. By the end of 1991, the whole fertilizer chain was privatized, most of agricultural prices were decontrolled, and subsidies on inputs were phased out. This led to the opening up agricultural markets to private trading.

It is very important to conclude by once again acknowledging the significant contribution of H.E Flt. Lt. (Rtd) Jerry John Rawlings, to the Ghana’s agricultural sector transformation during the days of his leadership. Rest in peace, dear J. J. Rawlings!

The Author, Haruna Gado Yakubu, is a PhD student and Research Assistant at Szent István University, Kaposvar Campus, Hungary. He is also a fellow at CEBSAR-AFRICA.


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