Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ghana's inequality widens

Booming construction, gleaming shopping malls. The economic boom, especially in Ghana is obvious. The economy grew by 14 percent in 2011, one of the fastest rates in Africa. Since 2000, the economy has recorded an average growth of five percent per annum, but it shot up in 2010 when oil production began. Per capita income has more than tripled in from $400 in 2000 and is likely to reach $1,400 in 2012.

 However, a similar rate of growth has eluded the northern provinces, where there are fewer roads and less infrastructure, poorer housing and not nearly as many modern businesses as in the south. The World Bank noted in a 2011 report that while 2.5 million people in the south shook off poverty between 1992 and 2006, in the same period almost a million people in the north slipped into poverty. Inequality is also widening in Accra, where many people from the countryside, especially the youth, come in search of jobs, but development in the capital has pushed up the cost of living and many fall further into poverty, said Eugenie Maiga, an economist at the African Centre for Economic Transformation, a policy think-tank.

 Inflation, currently around nine percent, has been climbing for 14 months, weakening the currency and eroding purchasing power. The cost of food and rent has gone up across the country. "This is negatively affecting access to food in the north, where the proportion of food-insecure people is the highest in the country," the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a March 2012 report. Many in the northern countryside can no longer afford basic foods. Rental prices in Accra are becoming prohibitive, with civil servants and other middle-income workers compelled to a take loan to secure a rented house. Most landlords are now asking tenants to pay their rent for one or even two years in advance

"...as far as I am concerned, life is still as tough as it was before," said Augustine, a taxi driver.

 Sanitation services in the capital and rural areas are equally poor. Just 13 percent of Ghanaians have access to clean sanitation, according to the UN Children's Fund, while 80 percent of all childhood diseases are caused by unsafe water, says NGO Water Aid. Service provision has lagged behind growth

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