Ghana opposition slams president over 'elephant size' government

ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghana’s main opposition party and radio phone-in callers slammed new President Nana Akufo-Addo on Thursday for naming an ‘elephant size’ team of 110 ministers and deputies despite a campaign promise to cut government waste.

Ghana's new President Nana Akufo-Addo walks during the swearing in ceremony at Independence Square in Accra, Ghana January 7, 2017. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Akufo-Addo named 50 deputy ministers and four ministers of state on Wednesday in addition to 56 ministers and deputies previously announced. It is the largest government since the West African country adopted a democratic constitution in 1992.

The agriculture ministry now has a minister, a minister of state and three deputies, while four other ministries also have three deputies each and their ministers.

“We’re confronted with an elephant size of government and Akufo-Addo has proven that he’s a politician rather than a president,” Haruna Iddrisu, leader of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) in parliament, told Reuters.

Top government appointees receive monthly salaries equivalent to around $4,000 in addition to at least two cars, free fuel, a house, free utilities and personal protection, according to parliamentary sources.

“It’s a case of jobs for the boys,” politics lecturer Geoffrey Molu told Reuters. His comment was echoed on social media and by callers to radio phone-in shows.

Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party defeated the NDC in an election in December with vows to restore fiscal stability, boost private sector growth, create jobs, promote rural development and eliminate wasteful government spending.

Ghana exports gold, cocoa and oil and had one of Africa’s most dynamic economies, but growth slowed sharply in 2014 due to a fiscal crisis and a slump in global commodities prices.

Government spokesman Nana Akomea said the criticism would cease if the government delivers on its ambitious agenda.

“For ministerial numbers to cross beyond the nineties into the hundreds will surely alarm and disappoint Ghanaians ... but Akufo-Addo believes he needs these numbers of appointees to deliver,” Akomea said on Facebook.

Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Tom Heneghan