Competing programmes, low funding impeding NDPC

The Director-General – National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Dr. Kodjo Esseim Mensah-Abrampa, has identified the Coordinated Programme of Economic and Social Development Policies (CPESDP) and limited funding as some impediments to long-term national development planning.

CPESDP requires that within two years after assuming office the president shall present to parliament a coordinated programme of economic and social development policies, including agricultural and industrial programmes at all levels and in all the regions of Ghana.

Speaking during a dialogue series organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) on the theme ‘Reviewing Ghana’s 1992 Constitution: view and reflections of the NDPC’, he argued that the short-term nature of the CPESDP often clashes with the medium- to long-term planning objectives set by the NDPC.

He expressed concern about the logical inconsistency of having a 20-year long-term plan and a medium-term national development policy framework (MTNDPF) spanning about four years alongside the CPESDP, which was presented just two years after the election of a new president. This overlapping of planning documents creates confusion and competition, making it challenging to prioritise and implement coherent development strategies.

“One significant challenge that makes the implementation of our plans difficult is a specific Act that requires the newly-elected president to present the Coordinated Programme for Economic and Social Development Policies (CPESDP). This requirement is enshrined in our constitution under Article 36, clauses 1 and 5 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. It mandates the president to outline broad economic and social development policies… The challenge we face is how the CPESDP aligns with our long-term plan of approximately 20 years and our medium-term national development policy framework (MTNDPF), which spans about four years. We often find ourselves dealing with competing documents, and this hinders our planning efforts,” he explained.

The current iteration of the CPESDP is dubbed ‘An Agenda for Jobs: Creating Prosperity and Equal Opportunity for All’ and has four key goals – which are building a prosperous country; creating opportunities for all Ghanaians; safeguarding the natural environment and ensuring a resilient built environment; and maintaining a stable, united and safe country, according to the formal document presented to parliament.

Furthermore, the Director-General emphasised the voluntary nature of supporting presidents in adhering to the plans; and budget allocations often favour the CPESDP over the NDPC’s plans. This disconnect leads to a situation wherein the NDPC’s advisory role becomes marginalised.

Cup in hand

Another significant challenge highlighted by the Director-General is inadequate funding of the NDPC. He revealed that the third-quarter budget for 2023 allocated GH¢100,000 for essential technical planning work.

“I recently discussed the financial constraints we face with a director from the Ministry of Finance. It was alarming to see that we were allocated only GH¢100,000 for all our planning work during the crucial third-quarter, which is when the plan should link to the budget for presentation in November. This highlights how a vital institution is being deprived of the necessary resources it requires to fulfil its mandate,” he stated.

Recalling another instance, when the Commission embarked on a project to develop a Human Development Strategy to leverage the nation’s primary exports for industrial and manufacturing growth through the NDPC – in partnership with the Ghana Statistical Service and Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations – funding was a constraint, Dr. Mensah-Abrampa noted.

“We have had to rely on development partners for support, as exemplified by a German NGO’s assistance in developing our human development strategy. This overreliance on external support is not conducive to sustainable development,” he said, adding that the Commission once had to rely on another development partner to print reports.

Additionally, the Commission’s composition, now consisting of 49 members, poses challenges as the constitution mandates a meeting with the president at least every six months, which is logistically challenging given the Commission’s size.

The Commission is tasked with advising the President on development planning policy and strategy by conducting strategic analyses of economic options, proposing multi-year rolling plans tailored to each district’s resources, and ensuring alignment with sound environmental principles. Moreover, it monitors, evaluates and coordinates development policies and projects, offering recommendations on various socioeconomic issues, as well as formulate and oversee national development planning strategies.

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