The Covid-19 crisis has exposed many weaknesses across the globe, one of them being chronic underinvestment in social infrastructure in most countries. The Covid-19 crisis has revealed the urgent need for resilient infrastructure across the globe. It has highlighted the criticality of nationwide infrastructure in facilitating the smooth provision of transport, connectivity and utility services. The United Nations, the world bank, the Asian Development Bank and other institutions have revealed that critical infrastructure across the world, especially Africa, remains far from adequate in many countries, despite the rapid economic growth and development some regions like Asia have experienced over the past decade. Schools, health infrastructure, housing, good road network, efficient communication systems, provision of potable water, sanitation, are evidently essential for all political systems. Economists measure the substantial contribution of infrastructure to economic growth and employment. Social scientists stress the link to human and social capital formation, poverty and social cohesion. Even from a pure infrastructure investor perspective, the operation of transport, energy, communication etc benefit from a healthy, progressive infrastructure.
The need for infrastructure is enhanced by the willingness of citizens to live decently through an increased access to electricity, modern health facilities, roads, schools, water etc. In Africa for instance, the high cost of transactions highlights the urgency to upgrade infrastructure, build new ones, support the expanding economies and foster regional integration. Adequate infrastructure provision is considered a key prerequisite for the continent to achieve the intended economic growth. This is why the United Nations, the World Bank and other institutions are calling on governments to immediately focus on massive infrastructure development. Narrowing the infrastructure gap holds large potential in terms of economic growth according to these institutions. After all, spending money on infrastructure create jobs and creates durable assets that can help boost long-term economic growth. Infrastructure should always be defined in a comprehensive manner. That means spending on traditional sectors such as highways, public transport, water, schools, community health facilities, child health care among others. Governments investment should be equitable, transparent and targeted to communities facing the greatest need. That is Prof Adei’s assertion that building modern secondary schools in our rural communities is useless, is senseless. God forbid, but if the pandemic hits our rural enclaves, these schools can be used as temporal places to handle cases as we seeing in other countries including the advanced ones. Under the current administration, government spends significantly less money than it actually allocate to projects. This reduces the execution of projects earmarked for investment each year, a clear sign of the inefficiencies pervasive in the sector. Huge chunk of our revenue, loans and grants, go into consumption, debt servicing, and payment of wages. Experts estimate that financing required by African governments to delivering on the continent’s infrastructure is over $120 billion a year. It is against this backdrop that our government has no other choice but to increase its capital expenditure, reduce unnecessary spendings, and use our oil revenue prudently. To be successful in implementing our much needed and impactful infrastructure project, we need to optimize the role of all stakeholders including institutional investors and innovate with risk mitigating solutions that will secure long-term affordable finance, while delivering development impact, starting first with our own pool of Ghanaian institutional investors.
Government must adopt Mahama’s infrastructure development approach by taking a longer view of infrastructure development. Once constructed, new facilities will shape communities like we seeing today as a result of the projects the last administration implemented in our deprived communities. If done in a thoughtful manner like the last administration did, robust government spending cannot only boost employment, wages, and overall economic production, but it can also lay a lasting foundation for inclusive prosperity.
What the United Nations, World Bank etc have recommended as the best post Covid-19 approach, was started in Ghana under John Mahama. His government embarked on massive infrastructure development across the country including building of new schools, hospitals, roads, clinics and renovation of some existing facilities including hospitals, airports, harbour, schools etc. Some of these facilities are being used by the current administration in the Covid-19 fight.
Although considered among the most advanced nations across the world with first class healthcare infrastructure, the rapid spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and the high number of cases has overwhelmed hospitals in Europe, particularly in Italy and Spain as well as in New York in the United States. As a result , closed hospitals are being opened, vacated school buildings, hotels and stadia are being turned into makeshift hospitals and existing hospitals are being refitted. In Ghana, authorities were able to handle the initial pressure because of the huge investments the Mahama administration made in the health and other sectors. A place to quarantine people was quickly prepared at the ridge hospital, the body temperature devices the administration fixed at Kotoka during the Ebola epidemic was available to check temperature of people who traveled into the country, the Dodowa hospital has been put on stand by and the Bank of Ghana Hospital has just been opened to support the fight. That is visionary leadership.
So, when is government going to complete he abandoned hospitals and other health facilities started by the Mahama administration? When is government going to complete the abandoned community day secondary schools and when is government going to pay fully, contractors who executed these projects?