Ghana’s election campaign kicks off

Ghana's election campaign kicks off

Ghana’s ruling National Democratic Congress party launched their election campaign in a stadium in Cape Coast on Sunday (August 14), four months before the December 7 poll.

In the 2012 election, the budget deficit doubled to one of the highest rates in Africa as the ruling National Democratic Congress ramped up spending on civil service wages.

It is too close to call whether Ghana’s President John Mahama will win re-election this year, but on one score success is starting to look attainable: the government is on course to get through an election year without triggering a fiscal crisis.

Mahama has embarked on a pre-campaign “Accounting to the People” tour to highlight spending on infrastructure, hoping that voters will overlook the hardships brought on by a period of austerity if there are visible signs of development.

It appears to be a tight race, however. Recent polls put the National Democratic Congress just 3 percent ahead of the opposition, with nearly 15 percent of respondents undecided, a senior source close to the government said.

The National Democratic Congress’s overspending in 2012 and a slump in commodity prices that followed have hurt Ghana’s reputation as one of Africa’s brightest investment prospects.

The IMF said in its last review that the government has been sticking to the terms of its three-year International Monetary Fund programme worth up to $918 million aimed at restoring economic balance and curbing the deficit.

An official close to talks with the Fund told Reuters that Ghana is on course to meet its requirements, despite spending pressures.

While some civil servants’ salaries more than doubled in 2012, spurring spending that quickly became unsustainable, a deal with civil service unions now limits wage increases to below inflation, union leaders have said publicly.

The scrutiny that comes with the IMF deal also reduces the likelihood that Mahama or opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo will face economic turmoil when one of them is sworn in.

Years of power cuts followed by higher electricity prices aimed at reining in spending have hurt consumers and manufacturing, which could lead voters to punish the incumbent.

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Story By Reuters
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