Battle over relevance of manifestos - Three share difference views
Dr Nii Moi Thompson

Two development experts have underscored the importance of political party manifestos and their impact on a national development.

The two — the Director-General of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Dr Kodjo Esseim Mensah-Abrampa, and a former Director-General of the commission, Dr Nii Moi Thompson — however, differ on how manifestos can impact positively on national development.

Sharing his perspective on the relevance of manifestos to the accelerated development of the country in separate interviews with the Daily Graphic, Dr Mensah-Abrampa said political party manifestos were key ingredients in the national development planning process.

Dr Thompson, for his part, posited that a manifesto was a political document which could impact national development when it was translated into a coordinated programme of economic and social development policy.

A manifesto is a document presented to Parliament by a sitting government on what it intends to do in sectors of priority covering the entire country.

Its presentation is in line with the 1992 Constitution.

Dr Thompson said so long as the country had no long-term vision, “Ghana will never develop; we are going nowhere”, adding that even though manifestos were vision documents and the intent of political parties, a long-term vision for the country was critical.

He argued that there was a difference between a political party manifesto and a national vision.

He explained that political parties would come and go, but the nation would remain, for which reason there was the need for a long-term vision to which political parties would have to align their manifestos when voted into office.

A Professor of Economics, Prof. Peter Quartey, said in a separate interview that the current arrangement where party manifestos constituted the development blueprint of the nation was inappropriate.

He explained that manifestos were a collection of the intentions and promises of political parties that were mostly not properly thought through, lacked details and were oblivious of the aspirations, limitations and opportunities of the country.

The economist said in most cases, manifestos were not costed, making them unfeasible and unrealistic, hence the inability of parties to properly implement them when they won power.

Prof. Quartey, who is the Director of the Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana, said the best arrangement was for manifestos to be derived from a long-term development plan that was conceived through broad-base consultations, reflected the long-term development aspirations of the country and had been costed, thereby making them feasible and realistic.

Context

Most of the political parties have already launched their manifestos for the 2020 general election.

The parties that have launched their manifestos include the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the Liberal Party of Ghana and the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP).

An independent presidential aspirant, Mr Marricke Kofi Gane, has also done so.

Importance of manifestos

Insisting on the importance of manifestos, Dr Mensah-Abrampa said: “Sometimes the manifesto indicates to you the direction the government would like to pursue and sometimes it is in the best interest because that is why the people have voted a political party into office.”

“So a manifesto is not parallel to the development planning process,” he told the Daily Graphic in answer to a question on the place of party manifestoes in the national planning process.

The director-general’s position is in agreement with Prof. Quartey’s, that “a manifesto is a thought giving an indication of where a political party will go and do if voted into office”.

He explained that “a manifesto is only an indication to us what you may want to do”, adding that Article 36 (5) 1992 Constitution provided that within two years of assuming office, the President must present to Parliament a Coordinated Programme of Economic and Social Development Policy, including agriculture and industrial programmes at all levels and in all regions of the country.

He added that in spite of the manifesto, the Constitution said when elected, a sitting President had, within two years, to present such a document to Parliament, which, therefore, indicated that a manifesto was not a plan but only an intention.

Dr Mensah-Abrampa, an economic development planning and public-private-partnership expert, explained that it meant that after being elected to office as President, the onus was on the sitting President to translate the manifesto into a technical document which could then speak implementation, the budget, acceptability and sustainability.

He said, for instance, that if the manifesto of a political party said it would construct all roads in the country, it should be able to explain how the party intended to implement that, get funding and sustain it.

Interface

The director-general explained that the Coordinated Programme of Ghana ((2017-2024) served as an interface between the manifesto of the ruling government and the technical plan by the NDPC, explaining further that the technical touch on the manifesto helped the government, which rode on the back of a political party to prioritise its projects.

Dr Mensah-Abrampa added that a political party could have about 20 promises in its manifesto, but when it came to implementation, the development plan helped to prioritise the manifesto, starting with the most implementable projects to the least.

“The key thing about a manifesto is that it prioritises the intent of the candidate and so when he comes, the plan helps the candidate re-prioritise the manifesto.

“So what we do at the NDPC is that when you have your manifesto and are in power, we help you draft the coordinated programme, which synthesises what you intend to do and put in the framework, which is in line with our national perspective,” he further explained.

Long term

Taking the Daily Graphic through the long-term national plan dubbed: “Ghana@100”, the director-general explained that the document had a brief indication “where we want to see ourselves in the long term”.

Sharing the four major key objectives of the long-term plan, Dr Mensah-Abrampa said they were to build an industrialised, inclusive, resilient economy, create an equitable, well-developed human capital, build safer and more planned communities, while protecting the natural environment, with the last one being to build efficient and accountable institutions in society.

He said the manifestos of the two main political parties covered the four broad areas, adding that they were both geared towards building a resilient economy.

Dr Mensah-Abrampa explained that manifestos generally went through the same direction, and that “it is only when you go into the details that they deviate, and it is the details that we, as a commission, bring to the reality”.

“The NDPC facilitates the development of a long-term perspective and political parties are supposed to develop their manifestos, very often counting on these long-term perspectives,” he explained.

Incorporation

Throwing more light on a development plan, Prof. Quartey explained that it would also incorporate international development protocols, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063, which would otherwise be absent from a manifesto.

On how Ghana could reverse the current situation where long-term development plans were not respected by the two main political parties, he said the country needed to revisit the proposals of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) on the matter.

He recalled that the report by the CRC advocated a long-term development plan to be enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.

That, he said, would make it compulsory for every administration to respect whatever development plan the country had adopted for the collective good of the nation.

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