Why Ghanaians have a lot riding on these elections

A supporter of Ghana's largest opposition party New Patriotic Party (NPP) gestures at the party manifesto launch in Accra in October 2016.

Ouborr Kutando holds a Master of Public Policy degree with a specialty in Political and Economic Development from the Harvard Kennedy School, and a BA in Political Science from the University of Ghana. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)It's not hard to see why Ghana was a lodestar for economic migrants in the 1970s.

The first African country to achieve independence -- on 6th March 1957 -- its relative economic and political stability drew immigrants from all over West Africa.
Fast forward almost six decades, and a much different story is being told.
    Even with the discovery of oil reserves off Ghana's coast in 2007, the country still struggles with providing day-to-day services to its citizens today. Abysmally long waits for basic government services abound.
    Rolling blackouts called 'dumsor' plague the country, and have done so for the past five years despite repeated promises from President John Mahama to solve the issue.
    Corruption, once scoffed at as a Nigerian problem, is now seen as part and parcel of the government, and it has Ghanaians worried, with 76% stating that they felt corruption had increased in the country.
    Ghana's might be in the throes of experiencing its own lost decade.
    According to Mo Ibrahim Foundation's 2016 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, Ghana experienced the eighth largest deterioration in the Overall Governance category, noting that "over the past decade, oil revenues accrued from the oil price boom between 2000 and 2013 have not been harnessed for the benefit of citizens."
    Let's rewind a bit.
    After independence Ghana went through a cycle of military and civilian leaders, that wreaked havoc on its economy, and only finally transitioned away from military rule in 1992 by electing Jerry Rawlings, the former military leader. Ghana's economy was caught in a debt trap—its expenses far outweighed its income and it was continually borrowing to meet its obligations.
    When John Kufuor was elected after Rawlings in 2000, he inherited a heavily indebted poor country. His administration restructured the government and its debts, negotiated debt forgiveness and by the time he left, the country was lower middle income nation and seemed to be on the path to success.
    John Atta Mills came into power in 2009, and the upward trend stalled.
    A 2010 public sector wage hike was supposed to help curtail growing corruption, it aggravated it instead. Cost of living is skyrocketing and an average Ghanaian pays more for power and water than they did eight years ago. The government seems to be trying to paper over the large cracks of the exposed corruption scandals, typified by sole-sourced, inflated public contracts and judgment debt payments.
    The wasteful spending has Ghana borrowing at an alarming rate, forcing it to run cap in hand to the IMF, the public and the international community. Debt repayments now make up 30% of the budget, the debt to GDP ratio is getting close to the 70 percent mark, and still Ghana has borrowed an additional $860 million since September 2016, about as much as their estimated yearly revenue earn from oil.
    With elections coming up on 7th December, it will be a referendum on the last decade, and the Ghanaian people are mulling over change versus continuity.
    The last eight years are not a record to be proud of, but Ghana's potential to get back on course is achievable in the right hands.