GHANA: An Emerging Migrants Economy?
Kweku Asare, ACCRA, Ghanadot
A few months ago, government was keen on seeing to the
passage of the Peoples Representation Amendment Bill into Law. The idea was
to rope in Ghanaians living abroad to have a vote during national
elections on the strength of the significant contribution they make towards
national development through remittances.
There were those who stood vehemently oppose to this development, notable among them being the Committee
for Joint Action and the main opposition National Democratic
Congress (NDC). They held several public demonstrations,
which sought to say that it was not prudent at this time of
the nation’s development to “waste” the tax payers’ hard
earned money on people who had voluntarily decided to leave
this country to seek greener pastures and even those who had
bolted away after been trained with the same tax payers
It was also this group’s opinion that if people who live
abroad want to vote they could easily fly down to vote, arguing that, they come
down to vote already anyway and how was the Electoral Commission going to
monitor polling centres. This obviously was on the
back of arguments that the EC was finding it difficult to
monitor voting even within the borders of th this country.
Government on the other hand was of the opinion that
Ghanaians living abroad should be recognised for the major role they play in the
remittances they send down to their relatives and friends towards development
projects across the country. The claim was that “after all, they are all
Ghanaians as well. Why should they be barred in any way.
But when you consider that total remittances sent down by
migrants to developing countries are estimated at 206 billion dollars in
2006, 13 billion dollars more over the 2005 figures, then you would
agree with me that they are making a huge contribution.
The United Nations Development Programme says the role of
immigrants in foreign exchange into their national economies
was huge and of significant value. The growing importance of remittances in
shaping economies of developing countries was the subject of a UNDP
and Government of Ghana workshop on Migration, Remittances
and Development in Africa recently and it was not gainsaying
the fact that such sums made a major impact. Notably,
health, education, construction and development of major
towns and villages in general. IN fact they have started
finding their way into government budget planning and place of pride.
In Ghana, Bank of Ghana statistics indicate that remittances
increased from 410 dollars in 1990 to 2.4 billion dollars in 2006, higher
than the overall Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and export revenue put
together! This actually speaks volumes and we cannot run away from it. But
lets stop here!
The question that comes to mind is if the nation is not
becoming remittance reliant? Indeed World Bank figures confirm the UNDP statistics that
“remittance flows to developing countries exceeded 200 billion dollars as in
An International Organisation for Migration Report said: all remittance
payments made through informal, unrecorded channels are
included, this figure may be as much as 50 per cent higher and larger than
we are made to believe.
The UNDP said remittances have promoted investments in real
assets, including building schools and clinics, rather than formal
sector financial instruments. Little wonder that the participants
brainstormed on how to harness remittances to speed up the attainment of the world
body Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
It was their desired view that governments in countries of
origin and destination of immigrants should engage the diasporas to
better channel remittances into productive ventures. This would require recognition of the Diaspora as a
transnational development actor, build trust and capacity to integrate and
identify interlocutors and ensure that the development projects have
ownership of local communities.
It emerged during the workshop that efforts were needed at
the micro level to ensure that development benefits of remittances are
linked to the macro efforts of government and its affiliates.
Indeed, total receipts including grants for the first four
months of 2007, provisionally, amounted to ¢14,516.2 billion (GH¢1.45
billion). This represents some 33.0 percent of the annual budgeted target
for 2007 and shows a growth of 70.7 percent over the outturn for the same
period in 2006. Domestic revenue component of the total receipts amounted to
¢10,872.4 billion (GH¢1.09 billion). This performance was about 47.5
per cent above the outturn for the first four months of 2006.
As I asked earlier, I am not against foreign remittances.
Again, like I said it has helped in many ways to bring hope and cheer to
many whom government and government agencies have failed woefully. My
point here, is if, we as a nation begin to rely so heavily on foreign
remittances, which at the last count was a little more than 4 billion dollars and
hold on so much to it, we could end up laughing at the wrong side of our
mouths if the fortunes of these migrants go bad and they can no longer
provide those amounts into the national economy.
The argument been that we could then begin not to find and
generate extra money for development. I agree that we have put in place
facilities such as the Venture Capital Fund, inflation targeting budgeting and
introducing new, stringent and open financial sector regimes, among others
that would enlarge the national kitty. But the fact also remains that very
little is actually been realised.
Foreign remittances are good. They have become part of our
national budget. ( I wish it were not so) But so it is and we must gird our
loins to ensure that we are actually in the driving seat calling the shots
in attracting the real funds for development.
By Kweku Asare, ACCRA, Ghanadot.com