Ghana mourns demise of Rawlings


  • A view of his economic legacy
  • Prez directs 7 days of mourning
  • Flags to fly at half-mast

Former President, Jerry John Rawlings has died at the age 73. He died at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in the early hours of Thursday, November 12, 2020. Rawlings was Ghana’s leader since the December 31, 1981 coup until the 2000 elections. Before that he ruled the country for 100 days with Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in 1979.

A statement from the Presidency, which confirmed the reports, announced a seven-day national mourning in his memory with flags flying at half-mast. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has described the death as a great loss which makes Ghana poorer, while announcing that government will work closely with the bereaved family for a befitting state funeral.

“I convey the deep sympathies of Government and the people of Ghana to his wife, the former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings, the children, and family of the late President, in these difficult times.”

Also, in honour of the late former President, he announced a suspension of all his campaign activities for seven days, with Former President John Dramani Mahama, who is currently the flagbearer of the opposition, doing same.

Mr. Rawlings recently buried his mother, Madam Victoria Agbotui in Keta who died at the age of 101. He was a Flight Lieutenant in the Air Force and a militant populist when he led the first coup of June 4, 1979, that overthrew the regime of Gen. Fred Akuffo, who had, in turn, deposed his predecessor, Gen. I.K. Acheampong, in a palace coup.

Rawlings led Ghana through the difficult years of economic recovery and successfully signed on to Economic Recovery Programmes (ERP) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

Road to ERP under Rawlings 

During the 1970s Ghana went through a number of economic difficulties with high inflation, unstable exchange rate regime, and a declining GDP of about 3 percent on average. The country also witnessed food shortages that became so severe that ordinary people in Accra were having trouble finding enough to feed their families.

Due to a galloping inflation, the minimum wage recorded a loss 62 percent of its value in the period. By 1983 Ghana’s economy had hit the worst drought in memory. A number of events led to more economic difficulties after the cocoa farms caught fires and Ghana’s major hydrodam, the Akosombo Dam ran out of water, leading to power shortages. To make matters worse, Ghanaians were also expelled from Nigeria within the period due economic hardship in the west African country.

By April 1983, the Rawlings government announced a new budget along with a devaluation of the local currency, the cedi. The 1983 budget was followed by a number of reforms contained in the Economic Recovery Programmme.

The ERP was a major reversal in the policies of the previous government of the country introducing a market-based approach known as diversification programme. This approach saw the privitisation of many state-owned enterprises.

The ERP also forced government to over-liberalised the economy to allow private sector participation in critical areas of the economy. Some of the state-owned companies that were privitised included the Tema Steel Company, Golden Tulip Hotel, while other companies such as Produce Buying Company, Aluworks, and Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB Bank) were privatized through the Ghana Stock Exchange, which was launched under Mr. Rawlings.

Major policies passed under Rawlings

Under Rawlings, Ghana passed the value added tax (VAT of 10%) to secure government revenues, which today funds most government public expenditures. Rawlings also passed the Ghana Educational Trust Fund (GET Fund) that is today educating millions of Ghanaians.

The creation of District Assemblies’ Common Fund, the GetFund, the Road Fund, the EDIF and the Energy Fund are just a few programmes that decentralized the economy, educated millions and provided much needed financing for various sectors of the economy. It must be stated that Rawlings expanded electricity to Northern parts of Ghana – hitherto ignored by ruling elites since 1957.

Major road construction under Rawlings

Rawlings also pursued aggressive urban road expansion and reconstructed the entire Kumasi city roads, Sekondi-Takoradi city roads and the Accra city roads. In Accra, these included the six-lane dual carriage road leading to the four-lane dual carriage road from the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange to the Independence Avenue.

In addition, Rawlings constructed the Kumasi-Sunyani asphalt road, the Kintampo-Tamale-Bolgatanga-Paga Faso asphalt road, and the double surfacing bitumen Bibiani-Awaso-Sefwi Wiawso road.

Educational development under Rawlings

Surprisingly, Rawlings used his Hunger Award Prize Money to establish the University for Development Studies, and used the rest to buy books for the University’s Library. He upgraded the Winneba Advanced Teacher Training College into a full-fledged public University of Education, Winneba, thereby adding two new public Universities to the three that had existed since independence.

Rawlings also introduced the policy of allowing the establishment of private tertiary institutions, including universities, to supplement the public sector universities while implementing the policy of one region, one Polytechnic. Importantly, Rawlings made sure that every district had at least two senior secondary schools.

Health development under Rawlings

Rawlings constructed the modern regional hospitals at Cape Coast, Ho and Sunyani.  In addition, numerous modern district hospitals were constructed in the district capitals all over the country. Potable water was provided for so many communities that at the time he was leaving office, guinea worm infestation had virtually been eradicated from Ghana.

Housing development

The housing sector saw major uplift during the era of Rawlings with housing estates at Adenta, Sakumono, Lashibi, and on the Spintex Road all in Accra. In addition, Rawlings constructed the SSNIT Estates all over the country were constructed during his era.

Debt issues under Rawlings

Ghana’s debt reached alarming levels by 2000. After the exit of Rawlings’ government, Ghana’s debt to GDP had crossed the critical 75 percent mark making the country a debt stressed nation. The next government that succeeded the Rawlings administration, John Kufuor government went to the IMF for the country to be declared a HIPC nation.


Returned Ghana to democratic rule in 1992, after a public referendum by a wide majority approved a new constitution.