Selective Poverty Reduction in a Slow Growth Environment: Ghana in the 1990s

Type Report
Title Selective Poverty Reduction in a Slow Growth Environment: Ghana in the 1990s
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2003
Ghana is regarded as having achieved a relatively good record of poverty reduction in the first years of its Economic Recovery Programme initiated in 1983. This paper addresses the record of poverty reduction over the 1990s, when Ghana’s macroeconomic performance was somewhat weaker. The analysis is based on comparable household surveys conducted at the beginning and end of the decade. At the national level the incidence of monetary poverty fell overall, and the evidence for this seems to be quite robust, consistent with other survey based evidence and with macroeconomic trends over the period. Most non-monetary indicators of poverty that are available from the survey also show improvements over the period, except for use of health care facilities which has deteriorated substantially over this period. However, a more detailed analysis presented in this paper, shows that there are strong patterns to this reduction in monetary poverty. Poverty reduction has been concentrated in specific localities (Accra and the rural forest region) and within particular activities (notably export oriented sectors and commerce). Households in other localities and working in other activities have experienced little poverty reduction, with some evidence of increasing depth or severity of poverty in some locations (especially in the northern savannah). Again these patterns of change are consistent with the sectoral pattern of growth over this period. The reduced use of health care facilities is consistent with reduced government spending in this area combined with the introduction of user charges. The survey data used in this paper also help provide a clear explanation for these observed trends, which typically differs from one region to another. Poverty reduction in Accra is strongly associated with a large increase in the numbers engaged in self-employment, primarily trading activities, combined with increased incomes from these activities. In the rural forest increased prices and production of cocoa play an important point in driving poverty reduction there, but food farmers also experience quite large poverty reductions (in contrast to other regions of Ghana). Poverty reduction among the food farmers there is primarily due to a substantially increased inflow of remittances much from outside the region (raising questions about its sustainability). This experience of remittances leading to poverty reduction among food farmers, the poorest group, is much less evident elsewhere in Ghana.
Despite the reduction in the overall poverty figures, this paper highlights the limited benefits accruing to many of the poorest groups in Ghana over the 1990s and the increased differential between localities that emerged over this period. This is clearly not only a consequence of poor macroeconomic performance over the period, but also raises questions about the overall policy stance over this period and the extent to which it focused on poor, more remote regions and on non-export agriculture.

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