Kufuor's presidency follows 20 years of populist Jerry Rawlings' colorful, but highly erratic and at times violent rule. In contrast to Rawlings, Kufuor has adopted a chairman-of-the-board style of management, and has been criticized for indecision and lack of bold leadership.
From Rawlings, Kufuor inherited an inflation rate of 45%, a cedi whose value was in rapid decline, debt service equal to 9% of the GDP, and empty government coffers. In a controversial move, he agreed to place Ghana under the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative to avoid defaulting on massive foreign loans, and in spite of much criticism, Kufuor allowed subsidized fuel prices to rise by 70% early in his term, and to double in January 2003. To prevent collapse of power generation and distribution, he permitted a hike in utility rates of over 100%.
In December 2002, a Ghanaian think-tank released a midterm report card rating Kufuor's first two years in office. The report found that on balance the administration's record on rule of law, human rights, and constitutionalism was "moderately positive," a finding supported by Amnesty International and Freedom House. In particular, Kufuor upheld the dignity of the office of president, and did not attempt to create a cult following. He kept the party separate from the state, and prosecuted public officials for having caused financial loss to the state. The same report found Kufuor's record on transparency and government-media relations mixed, but praised him for improving civil-military relations, professionalizing the armed forces and police service, and for improving the personal security of citizens overall. By initiating a process of national reconciliation, Kufuor created a mechanism to investigate and resolve political grievances dating from independence. In March 2003, Rawlings was called upon to testify before the National Reconciliation Commission on charges that he had witnessed and failed to stop tortures in 1984.