Here is what gov’t must do for a sustainable free SHS
The Nana Addo-led government has promised to begin implementing the free Senior High School (SHS) policy from the beginning of the 2017/2018 academic year.
Some have predicted that the policy which was one of the main policies the New Patriotic Party (NPP) campaigned on will fail.
Others have also questioned the source of funds for the policy since the government has other capital intensive policies to be implemented.
A Senior Research Fellow at the IEA Dr Eric Osei-Assibey in analysing the mid-year budget presentation by the Finance Minister said the Free SHS policy is a catalyst for sustainable growth and development.
“Government has indicated its readiness to begin the implementation of the Free Senior High School (Free SHS) Policy in September this year. We believe that free and all inclusive educational system is a major driver and indeed a catalyst for sustainable growth and development. Successful implementation of this initiative will not only ensure equity in the educational system but also have the positive multiplier effect in all sectors of the economy through a skilled and competent work-force.”
He, however, said the government must find a sustainable source of funding for the policy.
“We are concerned about the sustainability of the financing source for this programme. The 2017 Budget indicates budgeted funding for the initiative to include GHC188.28 million (47%) – GoG, and GHC 211.72 million (53%) – ABFA. While this funding arrangement could introduce another level of rigidity in the budgeting system, the ABFA source of funding which contributes the major part of the total amount as we know is not stable but highly volatile. This is due to dynamics in the oil and gas industry; specifically relating to fluctuating oil prices which pose risk to sustainable funding for this initiative.”
“Given the important nature of this initiative for our country’s sustainable development, we are therefore calling on the government to revisit its funding arrangement for this important initiative. A national forum or stakeholder workshop on how to ensure sustainable financing for the Free SHS programme in Ghana as a matter of urgency will be welcomed. We believe that a more sustainable funding should be pursued domestically.”
He gave an example saying “just as we did for NHIS, increasing the VAT rate by say 1% and ring-fencing it for exclusive funding of the Free SHS will be very ideal. Domestic tax revenue provides a more stable and predictable source of financing expenditure for important public programmes such as free education.”