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Ghana: Growth Trends and Potential
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Growth Trends and Potential


During the 1980s, the Ghanaian government successfully rehabilitated major economic sectors that had deteriorated since the 1960s. Throughout the decade, Ghana saw growth in GDP and the repair of some of its economic infrastructure. Through fiscal austerity, the government achieved balanced budgets at the same time that it invested in development projects. In particular, the export sector regained some strength by the early 1990s with a resurgence in cocoa, gold, and timber exports.

The cost of this growth, however, raised serious questions about the long-term viability of the government's programs. Growth has been possible only through foreign assistance and loans, which totaled US$7 billion by 1990. Although the government has been effective in directing these funds toward productive sectors, it has cut recurrent spending on social services, which will require attention in the future. Currency devaluations, while helping exports, have increased both the cost of living and prices for imports. Most important, the government has emphasized export production, while subjecting import-substitution industries to stiff foreign competition and neglecting local crop production, leading to an increasing reliance on imports of goods and food. Thus, although exports have increased, they have been offset by rising imports, with the result that Ghanaians are increasingly subjected to higher prices.

The Economic Recovery Program has succeeded in allowing Ghana to regain its international credit standing and has curbed the worst excesses of economic protectionism. The country is in a position to exploit its considerable agricultural and mineral potential. At the same time, sustained long-term growth will require that attention be given to domestic industries and to consumption rather than exclusively to exports and the wealth generated thereby.

Sources on Ghana's economic past and present are relatively rich and varied because of the country's continuing prominence in discussions about economic development and structural adjustment programs on the African continent. For good historical studies, see Kwame Yeboah Daaku's Trade and Politics on the Gold Coast, 1600- 172 and Edward Reynolds's Trade and Economic Change on the Gold Coast, 1807-187. Polly Hill's study, The Migrant CocoaFarmers of Southern Ghana: A Study in Rural Capitalis, is a seminal examination of African economic initiative and enterprise during the colonial period. For the independence period, see Tony Killick's Development Economics in Action: A Study of Economic Policies in Ghan, Douglas Rimmer's Staying Poor: Ghana's Political Economy, 1950-199, and Donald Rothchild's "Ghana and Structural Adjustment: An Overview." The multilateral assistance organizations have also published numerous studies of Ghana in light of its prominence as a showcase of structural adjustment policies. They include the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study by Alan Roe and Hartmut Schneider, Adjustment and Equity in Ghan, the World Bank's Ghana: 2000 and Beyond: Setting the Stage for Accelerated Growth and Poverty Reductio, and the International Monetary Fund's Ghana: Adjustment and Growth, 1983-9. For statistics and current information, see Ghana in Figure, Quarterly Digest of Statistic, and Statistical Newslette, all published by the Ghanaian government's Statistical Service, and the Economist Intelligence Unit's quarterly Country Report: Ghan and annual Country Profile: Ghan. Numerous periodicals contain much information about Ghana's economy, including African Busines, Africa Economic Diges, and Africa Research Bulleti. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of November 1994

Last Updated: November 1994

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Ghana was first published in 1994. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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