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Issues To Scrutinise In The 2013 Food And Agricultural Budget   
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Budgets in Ghana are normally presented before year end with the exception of election years when the newly elected government is allowed to present a budget in the new year.

The 2013 budget is due to be presented soon and there are a number of issues in the food and agricultural budget that should be under scrutiny this year.

The first issue is the level of investment in agriculture as reflected in the Food and Agricultural Budget of Ghana.

According to CAADP (Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program) principles and targets Ghana and other African governments committed to pursue seven principles and targets, namely:

1. Agriculture-led growth as a main strategy to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of poverty reduction

2. Pursuit of a 6 percent average annual agricultural growth rate at the national level

3. Allocation of 10 percent of national budgets to the agricultural sector

4. Exploitation of regional complementarities and cooperation to boost growth

5. Policy efficiency, dialogue, review, and accountability, shared by all NEPAD programs

6. Building partnerships and alliances to include farmers, agribusiness, and civil society communities

7. Implementation principles, including program implementation by countries, coordination by regional economic bodies, and facilitation by the NEPAD Secretariat.

Although the share of agricultural sector in the national budget is estimated to have risen to 10 percent in 2008, the real question is if the 10 percent is enough. For some countries it may be too much, and for some it may be too little.

In 2012 MOFA (Ministry of Food and Agriculture) openly acknowledged that the levels of investment in agriculture is totally insufficient while it is also generally acknowledged that investment in certain aspects such as extension services fall short by a wide margin.

Another issue of concern is the huge percentage of the food and agricultural budget that consists of donor funding. In 2012 the donor component accounted for 43.7 percent of total allocation. The dependence of external sources for Ghana’s agriculture sector could however be detrimental to the growth of the sectors given that the current global meltdown could trigger the inability of Development Partners to effectively honor their financial commitments.

The question is therefore if these promises by external donors indeed materialised and if it was invested as planned. If this was not the case, the the Food and Agricultural Budget of Ghana might very well have been below the intended 10 percent guideline.

Another major concern about the large portion of donor funding is that it has long represented the vast majority of agriculture sector financing. This situation led to three main challenges as pointed out by Oxfam.

First, the difficulty for governments to develop their own approach of agriculture sector development, due to the lack of ownership. Second, the crucial need for Development Partners (DPs) to coordinate their interventions on the ground to avoid incoherence of their actions. Third, the necessity for DPs to fully involve Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and especially Farmers organizations, from the early stage of elaboration of projects, to implementation and monitoring.

When the 2012 Budget is presented the above aspects should be scrutinised and indeed questioned, namely the true levels of expenditure, its adequacy and its funding.

Another issue that should be scrutinised when the new budget is presented is the issue of accountability. The jury is still out on the performance of the food and agricultural sector in 2012, but it was clear that the sector woefully underperformed in 2011.

By accountability we mean an honest review of performance of the previous year with an explanation of planning gaps and what needs to be done to rectify that in the coming year.

To illustrate this issue one only needs to look at the highlights of the 2012 budget that provided the following outlook for 2012:

“47. Two Harbours will be constructed at Elmina and James Town and 12 landing sites at Axim, Dixcove, Moree, Fete, Mumford, Winneba, Senya Breku, Teshie, Ada, Keta, Abotoase and Dzemeni;

48. Government will expand the Agriculture Subsidy Programme to include liquid fertilizers (bio-fertilizer) and improved seeds, and also distribute 165 metric tonnes of chemical fertilizer and 800,000 litres of liquid fertilizer to farmers in 2012;

49. The National Food Buffer Stock Company will acquire another rice mill with a capacity of about 8.5 metric tonnes per hour to be located in the Upper East Region;

50. Construction of the first phase of the Accra Plains Irrigation Project, covering an area of about 5,000ha, and the irrigation dam at Mprumem will be commenced;

51. In collaboration with the University of Cape Coast, Government will establish a Fisheries College at Anomabu in the Central Region and establish a fish processing plant at Elmina

In evaluating the 2013 FaABoG one would expect as a minimum that feedback will be given on the outcome of the above promised “projects”.

More important though is that the budget should both review the past year’s overall performance and the projected performance in the light of the broader plans and objectives for the sector as a whole. By including projects in the outlook without reference to how they fit in with national priorities and objectives leaves one with a feeling of “nice, but so what?”

The following statement in the 2012 budget, “Agriculture Sector grew by 2.8 per cent against a target of 5.3 per cent and an actual outturn of 5.3 per cent in 2010;” without elaboration on the reasons for the seemingly dismal failure can only be viewed as a deliberate avoidance of accountability.

It is not about playing a “blame game”, but indeed a right of the people of Ghana to know whether their tax money is indeed spent in line with the plans and policies that promises food security and development in the country.

The third issue that requires scrutiny is the basis of the Food and Agricultural Budget of Ghana. The two documents under scrutiny are the Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy (FASDEP II) and the Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP).

The revision of FASDEP to produce the most recent agricultural policy, FASDEP II, began with a review of policies and of strategies relevant to policy formulation for the agricultural sector.

Seven thematic groups, which comprised representatives of the ministry and other government organizations, the private sector, and banks, were constituted to review FASDEP. The draft produced in December 2007, before CAADP implementation, was circulated widely for comments among stakeholders and through consultations in the 10 regions of Ghana.

The regional consultations covered a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including farmers, researchers, district assemblies, input dealers, traders, and NGOs. Comments from the consultations were incorporated to produce the final draft, which was discussed at a national validation workshop in July 2007. The final draft was presented to the cabinet in September 2007, and approval came in July 2008.

The first question is therefore if FASDEP II (2007) is still relevant or whether it is overdue for revision. FASDEP I (2002) was reviewed after 5 years, and five years have now passed since its revision. Since then the world and Ghana have experienced food crisis after food crisis and the dynamics of food security have changed dramatically.

Is Ghana using an outdated food and agricultural sector development policy to allocate very scarce resources and therefore misallocating funds?

The second document, METASIP, serves the following purpose according to MOFA’s website:

The Government of Ghana has developed the Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP) to implement the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP II) over the medium term 2011-2015. It is the framework of interventions for the agriculture sector to play its role in the national economy in the context of the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA) which is the national programme of economic and social development policies coordinated by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC). METASIP is also in fulfilment of Ghana’s participation in agriculture related initiatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Africa Union Commission (AUC) under the framework of the ECOWAS Agriculture Policy (ECOWAP) and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).”

This sounds very impressive and comprehensive and probably requires a Doctorate in Agronomy to fully comprehend. The question, however, is if METASIP is an investment and implementation plan that is based on an outdated sector development policy? If that is indeed the case, then the food and agricultural budget of Ghana may be a case of misdirected resources.

The first three issues that should be scrutinised are the levels and funding mix of the food and agricultural budget of Ghana, accountability for how resources were deployed and the basis or guiding policies and plans that result in these budgets.

Food Security Ghana (FSG) will explore this and other issues that should be scrutinised in the 2013 budget in the coming days.

The people of Ghana and all parties playing a role in food security do not only have a right but indeed have a duty to play the role of watchdog and critic when it comes to allocating scarce resources by means of the national budget. Budgets are but the final step in formulation of strategies, policies and plans to create a better future for the people of Ghana.

If the strategies, policies and plans are outdated, then budgets will result in the misdirection of valuable and very scarce resources.

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Source: Food Security Ghana

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