Technocrats, Elections and Social Protection in Ghana
During the 2000s, Ghana introduced substantial social protection policy reforms. These included reform of the contributory pensions system from a single statutory defined-benefit scheme and a colonial-era defined benefit scheme for civil servants (the former introduced and the latter closed to new entrants in 1992) to a new three-tier system with mandatory and voluntary privately-administered schemes augmenting the SSNIT. A new contributory national health insurance scheme was introduced in 2003 and several forms of social assistance targeted at the (largely rural) poor, including a school feeding programme, ‘capitation grants’ to expand free primary education and the flagship Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) cash transfer scheme. All of these reforms were initiated under the right-of-centre Kufuor/New Patriotic Party administration, who had won the 2000 elections and unseated Jerry Rawlings’ National Democratic Convention which had been in power since democratisation in 1992. The NDC returned to power in 2008 and has continued the implementation NPP-introduced reforms and with broadly similar economic and social protection policy. Given Ghana’s experience with poor performance during statist experiments under military rule and the return to sustained economic growth after painful ‘structural adjustment’ reforms in the 1980s, the broad cross-party consensus on macroeconomic policy is not surprising. What requires more explanation is how and why Ghana opted for an unusually contributory social insurance-oriented social protection policy framework augmented by various forms of social assistance and a (relatively parsimonious and small, but largely domestically-funded) conditional cash transfer scheme – and that this policy path too enjoyed broad consensus. It introduced cash transfers earlier than many African countries and in a less donor-driven fashion, despite early resistance from some parts of the polity to handouts’. However, despite highly-competitive elections with two dominant parties, neither party appears to have seized a populist social assistance agenda (for example, broad expansion of LEAP or universal social pensions) in order to attract poor rural voters, the urban poor is largely left out of the social protection system, and the LEAP programme has remained small under the rule of both parties. This paper examines the ‘technocratic’ agenda (among both donors and bureaucrats) and the political/ideological agendas as well as electoral incentives on politicians in an attempt to help explain the path of Ghanaian social protection policy reform since 2000.