…As NPP gov’t returns Ghana to bogus policy at a time that it’s borrowing to pay salaries
As the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government recommits the state to paying allowances to nursing trainees across the country, an opposite action by a far richer nation has given more context to the poor judgment therein the move by Ghana.
In this very year, 2017, the government of the United Kingdom, has committed to stop the payment of bursaries to nursing and midwifery students, in a bid to save some £800million in annual payouts.
The NPP government’s recommitment of the state to the payment of nursing trainee allowances this month will saddle Ghana with an annual bill of Ghc232 million.
Comparatively, Ghana is a lower middle income country struggling to find its feet, while the UK is a developed nation within the top 10 richest countries bracket of the world.
The move by the UK government to scrap the allowances is not only aimed at saving the country money, but also widen admission access that has been bottlenecked by a capping due to the bursaries.
The nursing trainees would instead be put on student loans.
According to The Guardian, replacing bursaries with loans would free up about £800million a year which will be used to create additional nursing roles by 2020.
It will also help more students enter the nursing profession, according to the country’s department of health.
In 2016, when the government announced the intent to scrap the allowances in 2017, it had been met with protests from students led by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
But the government had pointed out that the change would remove the need for the government-funded Health Education England to decide how many student places are available for admission every year.
Chancellor George Osborne had explained that the replacement of the bursaries with loans would still enable the students to get their education as before only for them to repay these loans upon completion of school and starting work.
He had explained that the move would also lift a capping on admissions that would create up to 10,000 extra training places in nursing schools.
Health Minister, Philip Dunne, had lamented that about two thirds of aspirant nursing trainees who qualified to go to nursing school every year did not get access because of the capping caused by the bursary system.
At the time that the UK government announced the moves to scrap the allowances to nursing and midwifery trainees, Ghana had already undertaken a scrap of the nursing trainee allowances in Ghana.
Former President John Mahama had responded to request from nursing training colleges across the country to scrap the allowance regime along with attendant capping on admission opportunities to enable the colleges to admit more.
The scrapping of the allowance regime had given way to nursing trainees being placed on student loans, like many other tertiary students, and freed the colleges to admit more student nurses.
However, the ruling NPP, which was then in opposition, had taken advantage of unhappy sentiments by the nursing trainees and used the new policy to campaign against the NDC, promising to restore the allowances, if it was voted into power.
It is that promise that the NPP, which won the December 2016 election, fulfilled earlier this month by restoring the allowances at a time that the UK is making moves to scrap its own.
Widely seen as irresponsible, the policy will see government gift GH¢23.2 million every month to the nursing trainees. At a monthly payout of Gh¢400 month, the NPP government will spend some GH¢ 232million annually in allowances to 58,000 nursing trainees.
Meanwhile, the government has saddled the state with this commitment at a time that it is borrowing to pay salaries. Just nine months into office, the government which had promised in opposition to never borrow has already borrowed some GH¢40billion.
That debt burden is scheduled to reach Ghc70billion by the end of the year.
Interestingly, this same NPP government which has committed to pay out ghc232million annually in bursaries to nursing trainees is planning to end a bonding system that ensured that graduate nurses work for the government.
Already, there are several thousands of graduate nurses who are jobless because of the lack of employment spaces.
Many have wondered why the NPP government would commit to pay out Ghc232million every year as allowances to nursing trainees that will graduate and face joblessness, rather than using the same money to invest in building more schools and hospitals.
The huge sums going into allowances for nursing trainees has also been committed to by the government at a time that high fuel prices have led to threats by commercial drivers to strike.
The drivers, who say life has become unbearable because of unprecedented hikes in fuel prices, have demanded that government subsidize fuel and remove levies and taxes on same, but the government has refused to listen to the demands of the drivers.
Meanwhile, since the restoration of the nursing trainee allowances, students from five training colleges of Agric around the country have also demanded a restoration of their allowances.
The Agric Minister has since promised to raise their demand with Cabinet.
Many people are wondering if the new trend of demanding allowances from the NPP government is encouraged by its restoration of teacher and nursing trainee allowances.
source:therepublicnewsonline.com/ Fiifi Samuels