2016 IMANI Pre-election Report: Critical Analysis of Political Promises in Ghana

IMANI Africa on Thursday 25 released a report on promises made so far by the 6 largest political parties in Ghana. Our research revealed that only 18 out of the 247 promises collectively made by the 6 parties were quantifiable.

Download the full report


The word democracy stems from the two Greek words “demos” (the people) and “kratia” (power, rule). It is clear that the major essence of a democratic system is that the power to govern the country fundamentally lies with the people. Ever since the Athenian democracy around 500 years B.C., democracy has in most societies where it has been applied taken the form of a representative one. The people elect a government to govern the country. Hence, the government is a crucial link between the people and the power to rule, which is the defining feature of a democracy.

This link can be broken for different reasons. Perhaps the most obvious way this can happen is that the government can decide to neglect the will of the people by refraining from fulfilling the promises upon which the people selected them. The same result may happen if the government does not fulfil the promises because they were too far reaching to begin with. However, another equally probable way for the power of the people to be lost is when the representatives give no information on what they intend to do if elected. If the citizens lack information about their representatives, they cannot select the ones who will most likely follow their will. When this happens, the true meaning of a democracy is lost, since the people in essence have no power to determine how the country will be ruled.

To secure the democratic system, it is therefore fundamental that the parties running for power clearly state what they intend to do. It is to this end that this report has been compiled. The text aims to scrutinising the nature of promises provided so far by six of the major Ghanaian parties, namely NDC, NPP, PPP, CPP, PNC, and NDP. It develops a scheme for categorising the promises into three; quantifiable, semi-quantifiable and nonquantifiable. In doing so, it aims at shedding light on whether or not the parties provide adequate information for the people to make an informed decision during Election Day.

Equally important as enhancing democracy, the report intends to enhance financial responsibility. Therefore it brings out some of the major promises for a tentative cost analysis. The main rationale for the cost estimations is to show the crucial need for a clear financial plan or provision of pro forma budgets to back up promises made. These will both push for fiscal responsibility, and to ensure that promises are not merely empty, undoable statements to lure people into voting for them. The text is not meant to provide policy recommendations; indeed it is not IMANI running for presidency. Rather, it raises questions that the selected parties need to clarify so that Ghanaians can be informed of their representatives’ true strategy for governing their country.

We hope that the project will be received as constructive criticism, not a tool for naming and shaming certain parties and we hope that the parties can take help from this to make their promises available, assessable and understandable to the Ghanaian people. Finally, we hope that this project can help enhance the political environment in Ghana, and create a healthy competition where each party, by focusing on itself and what it can improve, pushes the others to provide the best possible policy objectives for Ghana and its people.

Read the full report here>>>

  • Kwaku Annor

    This Pre-Election evaluation of political platforms (manifestos) is a thorough eye-opening analysis of the promises the parties are making to attain power. IMANI as usual has done a terrific job of synthesizing information from written manifestos and extrapolated promises from the websites of the parties and other campaign sources. Other than silly grammatical errors and poor proof-reading, the content is well-thought-out, the methodology clearly stated and each party fairly treated.
    What is disturbing about the political parties are the following:
    1. All the parties, including the current ruling party have done a very poor job of thinking through what they can realistically accomplish.
    2. All the parties are averse to hard data. One would think that while waiting in the wings, the parties, particularly the mature ones like the NPP, CPP and PPP would deploy their own shadow governments to be studying the workings of the various sectors of the economy they intend to improve when they come to power.
    3. Sometimes the promises are just farcical. The CPP for example wants to earn $300 billion from growing almonds! Aside from the fact that our humid tropical climate will not be conducive to growing almonds, that crop is one of thirstiest after alfalfa. Given the dismal water resources infrastructure we have, who thought to include this pipe dream in their manifesto?
    4. Even though the report cautions us not to use it to name and shame any of the parties, the ruling party, the NDC at least has a record against which to measure performance. Negative industrial growth has resulted from poor energy management. Its record could have been measured against its manifesto of four years ago, although it is understandable that this report was specifically about pre-election promises. In the future, it might be worthwhile to design instruments to measure performance based on what has been promised.
    5. All the parties have a very hard time promising any sensible policy on education. They waffle between free education at the elementary level, through senior high school to scholarships for Arabic schools. With a bulging young population, the lack of coherent thinking on how to provide the youth with a decent future is a tragedy. The parties better find thoughtful people to think through the challenges facing the country in education at all levels including teacher training, the curriculum, how to raise the next generation of scientists and engineers who will help solve some of our mundane problems. Vague promises won’t cut it.

    I hope that this report will be read by political parties and rethink some of their promises. I also hope that reports such as this one can have a wider reach and help in the discourse as we struggle for solutions to our many problems. Good job, IMANI.

    • George Keteku

      To state the positives first: any attempt to perform due diligence on party manifestos is a good thing. At best, it signals what a political parties ‘assumed’ identity is and becomes of an academic interest. With that said, way too much importance is being given to party platforms especially in a presidential system like Ghana’s. It is a pointless exercise, in my view, to spend any time at all reviewing the manifestos of all ‘registered’ parties in Ghana when the effective number of political parties in Ghana is two.

    • Kofi Sefa-Boakye

      The paper missed the elephant in the room: Our decadent culture.