Areas ISSER will be focussing on in the coming years

Oil Find and Ghana Development

Ghana has discovered oil in commercial quantities as announced by Kosmos Energy, Anadarko Petroleum, and Tullow Ghana Limited  a consortium engaged in oil exploration west of Cape Three Points near Axim. Although the announcement has been greeted with joy, some sections of Ghanaians are sceptical that the country may be plunged into the resource curse syndrome. This is because, countries that have a large share of natural resource exports in GDP have a much worse growth performance than those that are less reliant on natural resources.Nevertheless, the experiences of countries such as Norway, Botswana, Thailand, and Malaysia give hope that the natural resource curse can be avoided if the quality of institutions as well as policy is strong before extraction begins. Also, given the extensive opportunities that the country has to learn from the broad experiences of oil-rich economies, there is ample opportunity to derive significant benefits from the discovery.
This however, is contrary to other held views that institutions in Africa are too weak to manage properly the significant and varied interests that evolve from the development of an oil industry or any extractive industry. Numerous poor examples have often been cited to support these views, and the most recurring ones being the situations in Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon. Thus, history of natural resource exploitation and management in Africa is certainly not a very positive one. Besides, Ghana own history with the extractive industries is quite contentious and this has led to debates about whether Ghana has been able to effectively apply the revenue from various extractive industries to finance its development agenda. This obviously, remains a question to be addressed properly with good research. This is especially so in view of the considerable deterioration in prominent mining communities such as Obuasi, Prestea, Bogosu to mention but a few. These are often referred as the mining curse.
The question of whether Ghana is properly positioned to manage the new oil boom remains topical both on the policy front and in the public discourse. The extent to which civil society groups and academics can contribute in harnessing ideas to ensure effective administration andmanagement of oil resources is critical. What specific policy measures and legislative instruments are required to engender transparency and accountability in the application of oil revenues, without unduly undermining private investment interests in the new sector? And, what could be a reasonable expectation about the likely benefits of the oil discovery to the public, particularly in the context of poverty reduction and sustained local development. How do we manage oil revenue to transforms the structure of the Ghanaian economy? How do we manage the likely environmental effects? How do we manage the windfall to avoid potential `Dutch Disease effects? These are some of the key areas for future research.

Politics of Policy Making

One anticipated outcome of participatory governance, as decision-making is dispersed closer to the citizenry through decentralization, is that pro-poor policy solutions to development will now be more firmly and explicitly embedded in mainstream discourses of development. 
Overarching, universalizing models such as PRSPs and MDGs would now have better chances of achieving their objectives because policymaking becomes consensual discourses of collective responsibility that truly address the multidimensional character of poverty. Ghana adopted participatory approaches to governance and decision-making more than two decades ago and decentralization and civil society involvement has had some impact. However, politics and governance continues to be an inherently centralized form of decision-making. Political elites continue to play a crucial role in what policy ideas are enacted and/or supported. Bureaucratic elites strongly influence which policies are implemented. In essence, pro-poor growth policies are unlikely to succeed without elite support because elites continue to influence policy formulation and implementation. It becomes imperative therefore that even in a participatory episteme, pro-poor growth policies are also analyzed through the lens of elite politics. 
This sub-theme covers issues concerning governance, decentralization and the political economy of decision-making and will seek to bring more systematic research and analysis to the following areas:

  • The politics of policy formation and implementation under the PRSPs and MDGs era.
  • Processes of elite formation (nature and composition of political/ productive economic/bureaucratic elite; intra/inter-elite relationships political polarizations and intra/inter elite struggles).
  • How elite formation influences which pro-poor policies are deemed desirable and what gets implemented using case studies of government support for new areas in the various productive sectors.
  • Government-business/private sector relationship and its impact on pro-poor policy formulation and implementation.
  • Role and impact of civil society in pro-poor policy making and implementation

Urbanization and National Development

History indicates that no country in the industrial age has ever achieved significant socio-economic development without urbanization. This shows the close association between economic development and urbanization. Studies have also shown that across countries and over time, as the urban share of the total population rises, the overall (urban and rural) poverty rate tends to fall. This effect is transmitted largely through higher economic growth associated with more rapid urbanization rather than through re-distribution. While the recency and speed of the process of urbanization in Ghana have significant negative impact on development, it widely acknowledged that the process could also be the source of national and regional development if properly managed. It is acknowledged that the demographic and economic changes facilitated by urbanization is one means by which improvement in socio-economic development could be achieved in less developed countries like Ghana. In other words, policies and programmes in countries like Ghana should aim at capitalising on the potential benefits offered by a highly urbanized society. Underpinning this argument is the recognition of the close association between urbanization and economic growth malfunctioning towns and cities also have negative macro-economic consequences. In addition, urbanization can be a positive phenomenon in terms of human development and national integration by fostering a closer interaction of Ghana many ethnic groupings. However, recent studies on urban Ghana indicate increasing incidence of urban poverty and development of slums and squatter settlements. A key research question requiring attention is how to maximize the positive effects (socio-culturally, economically, demographically, etc) and minimize the effects of urbanization as Ghana becomes an urbanized society, a historical milestone it achieved in 2010 with an estimated 51 percent of the country total population living in towns and cities for the first time ever.

Climate Change and Adaptation Measures

Recent studies on climate change indicate that it will affect poor countries (including Ghana) more severely, especially in health-related conditions and water supply. This is partly because they lie in the tropics. But more importantly due to the fact that they are poor and poverty reduces resilience to natural crises and disasters. It is widely predicted that climate change will be associated with a rise of sea level, leading to flooding of coastal settlements and other low-lying areas. Owing to accident of history as well as national policies of concentration, much of the population of Ghana is located on the coast, and are likely to be affected by sea-level rise and other potential disasters predicted to be associated with climate change. Even for human settlements located far away from the coast, climate change has serious consequences for their existence and well-being. Increase temperatures and dry conditions as a result of climate change will affect the quantity, quality and distribution of water supply, food production, increased health risks, etc. In addition, climate change is expected to increase the occurrence of create microclimate with unpredictable health and other consequences. Nevertheless, Ghana (like many developing countries) the focus has been on economic growth rather than protecting itself against climate change. For poor countries such as Ghana, research is required to provide information and the impacts of climate change. In addition, research is required to provide the appropriate local adaptation and mitigation measures or strategies to reduce the challenges likely to be associated climate change.

Methodological Approahes To Data Management and Analysis

As a research institution, ISSER requires  Statistics, Computing, Communication and Information (SCCI) Division to strengthen the research activities and the quality of research output of the other two Divisions, namely, the Social and Economic Divisions. In this regard, SCCI will have:

  • To build database of all ISSER survey data and of national indicators and matrix.
  • To undertake research in statistics, with particular reference to the development of appropriate methodology of data collection,management and analysis for surveys conducted by the researchers at ISSER and the entire university system;
  • To standardize survey instruments and examine all questionnaires and data processing activities.
  • To enhance data entry with more advanced data entry software and determine the appropriate software for any particular survey.Spearhead other data collection and management technology, such as PDA.
  • To develop appropriate data analysis strategy for time series data, cross section data and pooled cross section and time series data.

Social Mobilization and Social Protection

The theme is in recognition of the increasing contributions of civil society voices acting in a variety of ways on their own or through partnerships with the state and others contribute to the social and economic transformation of Ghana. In the first instance as pressure groups they keep policy makers abreast with the expectations of the people, with special reference to issues of equity, transparency and accountability in governance.

ISSER wishes to conduct research into these dynamics to create better understanding of civil society engagement with development practitioners. In the second instance the theme also focuses on the ways in which ordinary citizens contribute freely to social progress through voluntary giving of time, resources and labour worldwide, as direct inputs to the development process. This is most amply demonstrated in the international dependence on volunteerism for disaster relief and post-disaster reconstruction, as well as the high profile given to corporate social responsibility in recent times. ISSER also sees social protection as part of this broad theme of social mobilisation and is keen to be part of the current development interest in the subject. It is recognised that both in terms of social insurance and social assistance social mobilisation plays a critical role in social protection. The Institute intends to explore research issues in social mobilisation such as the forms it takes, sustainability and the economics of social mobilisation and protection.

Domestic Resource Mobilization

Domestic resources, defined here to include financial resources, human capital, fiscal revenue and remittances form an important engine of growth and poverty reduction. Ironically, after 52 years of independence, the economy of Ghana is yet to adequately and efficiently tap its natural and human domestic resources to accelerate growth in its key sectors such as industry and capacity development. The country on the other hand continues to draw heavily on external resources. Domestic financial resources can be harnessed from private savings, remittances, local investors, volunteerism, to mention but a few. Private savings, one of the major components of domestic resources in Ghana is low by African standards. Between 1980 and 2001, gross domestic savings as a percentage of GDP averaged 6.4% in Ghana, 37.4% in Botswana, 21.4% in Cameroon, 21.6% in Nigeria, 13.9% in Kenya and 7.3% in Malawi (WDI, 2003). It is worth emphasizing that most savings in Ghana,especially by the relatively poor, are held in the form of real assets which do not promote financial intermediation. This has been due to the political history of the country, low returns on savings, and limited financial intermediation. Also, access to credit remains a major bottleneck to private investment in Ghana and the reasons for this include credit risk, high cost of intermediation, lack of collateral, slow enforceability of contracts in case of default to mention but a few. This therefore calls for an investigation into the major constraints to domestic resource mobilization, in order to develop targeted government policies to address the bottlenecks. The wide-ranging issues that emerge call for closer

attention to what has been described as an economy-wide approach to DRM. ISSER organized a conference on these sub-themes under DRM in 2009 and plans to explore them further through expanded research.

Human Capital Development and Socio Economic Transformation

The theme of human capital in socio-economic transformation is motivated by the assumption that education and skills training in particular is a key strategy to economic progress and social development. Economists and other social scientists have long accepted the links between educational outcomes and broad development processes and goals. Human capital has come to represent the store of knowledge, skills and values acquired through education, work and social learning that raise productivity and well-being. The concept of human capital is a strong reminder of the instrumental value of education and health besides their place in the store of basic rights of individuals and groups. While formal education remains the core pillar of human capital formation the concept has evolved from a singular focus on formal education and skills training to include many more capacity building processes. Some of the now mainstream processes include healthy living/nutrition, leadership training through teamwork and for young people still in school, out-door education or extra mural activities. In addition, with the pursuit of a knowledge-based economy continuing education or life-long education has come to be seen as integral to maintaining adequate skills and promoting innovation in development management. Under the broad theme of human capital ISSER intends to conduct research into the strategic role of education and health, and how public investment contributes to the outcomes of these processes. High pay-offs from South-East Asias heavy investment in education at all levels to provide human capital to spearhead its industrial transformation, bears testimony to the potential short to long term-benefits from investing in human capacity building. Research will therefore be driven by inquires into equity issues, as well as achieving higher productivity of labour. Of particular interest is how best to utilise public investment in this process , and the most beneficial ways to pursue public / private partnerships in human capital development.