Friday, 24 March 2017

Wastewater use for sustainable living and survival

Since 1993, March 22 has been observed as World Water Day. The day was first officially added to the schedule 21 of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. This year's event focused on, “Wastewater.” Basically, wastewater is water that has been used in homes and businesses in ways that negatively impact its quality with high concentration of pollutants such as human waste, oils, grease, and other harmful chemicals. Water in general is a human rights issue.

In 2010, the UN declared water as a basic human right and this makes it critical to sustainable living and survival for all. With reference to wastewater, the third target of the Sustainable Development Goal 6 states that “by 2030, there should be improved water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater, and increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.” The Ghana Water Company Limited has been quoted in some reports which indicate that less than 10 percent of wastewater in the country is treated and as such there is the need for measures to prioritise recycling of wastewater to enhance socio-economic development.

This deserves immediate attention since the total amount of grey and black wastewater produced in urban Ghana is approximately 280 million cubic meters as reported in a national draft policy dubbed: “Wastewater use for Agriculture in Ghana”.

In July 2016, the Engineering Department of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in a report on the “Assessment of Waste Water Treatment Plants in Ghana” stated that “Ghana has a very low coverage for wastewater and faecal sludge treatment which is mostly sewerage systems. The national average for sewerage is as low as four point five percent." In spite of its prevalence in the urban areas, there are two Municipal and three Metropolitan Assemblies that have wastewater and faecal sludge treatment plants in Ghana. They are Ho and Ashaiman Municipal Assemblies, as well as Tamale, Accra and Kumasi Metropolitan Assemblies. This is out of the 216 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in Ghana.

Lack of measures to treat wastewater results in the pollution of water bodies. The responsibility of human settlement management is stated clearly in the Local Government Act, 1993 (462) under the Functions of District Assemblies. A District Assembly is responsible for the development, improvement and management of human settlements and the environment. One therefore expects the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the MMDAs to partner with all relevant agencies to ensure that wastewater is treated for sustainable living and survival.

In recent times, water is becoming a scarce resource as a consequence of increasing population, illegal logging and mining and poor agricultural practices. A famous resource economist, Erich Walter Zimmerman once stated: “resources are not, they become.” This emphasises the identification of wastewater as a resource that must be recycled and reused for sustainable living and survival for all.

For as the famous Nigerian Afro beat musician, Fela Kuti sang: “water no get enemy.”

By Alex Blege, a Freelance Journalist.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The unprecedented number of Ministers appointed by President Akufo-Addo

The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on March 15 released a list of 54 Ministers and Deputy Minister Nominees. If approved by Parliament, it will bring his administration's ministerial appointments to 110. For now, this is the highest number of ministers to have ever been appointed in the history of Ghana. It is not surprising therefore that there is a huge public outcry over what can be termed the gigantic appointments.

With focus on the Fourth Republic, President Jerry John Rawlings administration worked with 83 ministers. President John Agyekum Kufuor appointed 88 and that of Prof J.E.A Mills was 75. The immediate past President John Dramani Mahama appointed 84. Now we have 110 Ministers, even with the likelihood of adding more when new regions are created. 
What is worrying is the Minister of State portfolios, attached to certain ministries, which already have substantive minsters and deputies. It must be admitted that the Minister of State portfolio is not new in the Fourth Republic.

However, one may ask how has this contributed to governance in the country? It appears the Minster of State portfolio phenomenon is creating duplication of roles where there are substantive sectoral ministers and deputies. For instance, there is a Minister of Education with two deputies, yet there is going to be a Minister of State in charge of tertiary education. There is a Minister of Agriculture, and a Minister of Fisheries, yet we will have another Minister of State in charge of Agriculture. This really calls for explanation. Let it not be said that it is simply job for the boys.

Ghanaians deserve to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt why this huge number of ministerial nominees. Can we take a cue from developed democracies, like the US, Britain and Japan with large population and better economy, yet their government have fewer ministers. Is it the case that the large number of Ministers will ensure efficient and competent administration that will impact qualitatively on the life of Ghanaians? The government must be guided by the definition of efficiency which is the ability to do or produce something without wasting materials, time, or energy or the ability to produce something with a minimum amount of effort.

In an attempt to justify this turn of events, Minister of Information, Mustapha Hamid said and I quote "The Akufo-Addo government has inherited a country whose economy is at its weakest, and therefore he requires a strong army that will confront these challenges and resolve them in the rapid manner we require in order to put our country back on the path of progress and development. We never promised a lean government "unquote. Really?

It is misleading to suggest that the President needs a large army of ministers to deliver on his campaign promises. What is needed is competent, efficient and innovative individuals to achieve the results. In the midst of all manner of reasons to justify the large ministers, one is at a loss to accept them, at a time when there are reports that the government is cutting down on statutory allocations to NHIS, District Assemblies Common Fund and GETfund.

Let us pause for a minute and ponder over the bureaucracies that will come with the workings of the of new ministerial portfolios, in terms of the cost to the nation, which include the salaries and other conditions of Service of the Ministers and their staff. The President must be reminded that he promised to protect the public purse. There is no doubt that the President has the constitutional powers to appoint as many ministers as he deems fit for the efficient running of the country. It is important for this to be guided by public interest and the sentiments of the citizenry.

Perhaps it is about time the constitution is amended to place an upper limit on the number of ministers a president can appoint. Ministerial appointments must not be used to reward campaign financiers, party loyalists and foot-soldiers. To quote Prof. Ransford Gyampo of the University of Ghana, it is a fallacy to think that a big government with numerous Ministers would be competent enough to meet the needs of the people. A government that is big enough to supply everything is also big enough to gobble the very things it has supplied "unquote.

Mr President, it is not late to prune down on the list.


Thursday, 16 March 2017

Need to make driving license acquisition less cumbersome

At the end of every year, most organisations hold meetings to take stock of their activities and make projections for the coming year. Stakeholders in road safety management are no exception. The country according to statistics from the National Road Safety Commission, as of the end of November 2016, recorded a total of 11,378 road crashes involving 17,746 vehicles. The crashes resulted in 1,990 deaths with 10,154 injuries. The Commission attributes the increase to the 2016 electioneering activities. This year, the Commission intends to focus its road safety programmes on motor riders, driving without seat belts among others.

It is laudable that the National Road Safety Commission has identified areas that it wants to focus on to reduce accidents. While stakeholders in road safety take steps to reduce accidents, the country was hit with separate accidents last weekend which left 19 people dead. Commenting on the incidents, the Commission attributes 50 percent of road accidents in Ghana to over speeding. The Commission describes the trend as worrying especially as research has shown that the country loses about one point eight percent of GDP through accidents annually. It is in this regard that drivers and other road users need to be extra careful in order to curtail the situation. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, DVLA, has started some projects to reduce the bureaucracy in the acquisition of driving licence. This is to encourage prospective applicants to resort to the right channel to acquire licence. One group being targeted is graduates looking for jobs. The graduates will become competitive considering the fact that most companies require applicants who can drive.

The DVLA has therefore initiated what is termed Tertiary Drive also known as ‘Tertdrive’ to afford tertiary students the opportunity to learn how to drive while in school. The idea is to ensure that students acquire genuine driving license in a hassle -free environment. Under the project, the acquisition of the driving licence which includes training, testing, personalisation and insurance of licence will be done on Campus. As part of the project, tertiary institutions will be allowed to establish their own driving schools with the approval of DVLA. This project will go a long way to eliminate the activities of middlemen popularly called ‘goro’ boys.

It is no secret that the cumbersome nature of acquiring driving licence most often push prospective applicants to seek alternative ways of getting the license. While commending the DVLA for this initiative, the Authority must consider extending this offer to Organisations whose staff hardly get time to go through the cumbersome nature of acquiring licence. The DVLA should also collaborate with transport unions to ensure that their members use the right channel to acquire license. Most of these drivers start as drivers' mate and learn driving on the job. After a year or two, they use any means to acquire licence and most of the time through the ‘goro’ boys. This is because most of them with no formal education try to avoid the right channel of acquiring a driving licence. If this laudable initiative is introduced to them and the training done in a language that they will understand, it will help eliminate the activities of ‘goro’ boys, and go a long way to reduce the carnage on the road.

The National Road Safety Commission, NRSC, and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, DVLA, need the support of the public for their road safety programmes to be successful. The call goes to other stakeholders such as those responsible for road markings and patching potholes to live up to their responsibilities. Potholes in most parts of the country are fast developing into gullies and the road markings have faded off, while the authorities responsible for this look on unconcerned. Once a while, people are seen patching portions of the road, but just a downpour and the holes deepen. When this happens, one is tempted to think those who do the work are not professionals. It is the hope of all Ghanaians that officials responsible for patching the potholes and making road markings visible will emulate the example of DVLA to save precious lives.

Recording deaths through needless road accidents is a blot on the national conscience, and the time to reverse this sad situation is NOW.

By Ernest Obeng- Anim, a journalist.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Effective means of collecting Television Licence fees in Ghana

The Minister of Information, Mustapha Hamid, on a number of occasions, since he was nominated and confirmed, has expressed the urgent need to effectively resource the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) to enable it to function as required. The Minister has therefore advocated an effective collection of TV licence fees in Ghana to ensure advance resourcing of the state broadcaster to enable it to deliver its functions effectively. Last week, in a special interview with the GBC after he toured the institution to familiarised himself with its operations, the Information Minister said he will help GBC roll-out innovative ways of collecting TV licence fees. He stressed the need to work to make the state broadcaster a major brand that could be competitive on the international scene. This is a very laudable initiative by the Information Minister, because globally, TV license fees are the major means of resourcing state broadcasting institutions. It is imperative therefore that all stakeholders welcome the initiative to help GBC to raise its own money in order to be truly independent of government control. Even in terms of government subvention, it is possible to position GBC as a global player on the international broadcasting arena.

Currently, even though it is the premier broadcasting institution and arguably the largest in network, it is not the first in audience share. This may primarily be due to certain basic challenges such as human resources and modern and effective equipment, all of which come with adequate financing. The TV licencing Act 1966 (NLCD 89) as amended, directs that “a person shall not install or use a television receiving set unless there is in existence in relation to that set a valid television receiving set license granted by the licensing authority. The Act also directs that “a person shall not carry on the business of selling, hiring or otherwise disposing of television receiving sets or of repairing television receiving sets unless that person holds a valid dealers’ licence, granted by the licensing authority in relation to the respective business.”

Throughout the world, the laws on Television Licence, when backed by effective collection mechanism have seen broadcasting institutions including such big names as the BBC and the SABC thriving. England for instance raises an average of £3.7 billion annually from TV licence fees while that of South Africa is in the region of $2.4 billion. In England for instance, it is a criminal offence to fail to pay TV licence of £145.50 rising to £149 as from the first of next month, without any cogent reason. Even residents and citizens over the age of 75 are not exempted and therefore the government through concessions provides for these categories of people.

Comparatively, Ghana’s TV licence fees of a minimum of GH¢ 36 is in the lowest group, if not the lowest. Residents in South Africa, pay an annual TV licence fee of Rand 265 about GH¢92. Undoubtedly, GBC’s efforts to collect the fees remains a challenge as there is a general apathy among the populace in terms of payment. Therefore, the Information Minister’s move to help GBC to find pragmatic means of TV licence collection in the country must be welcomed and supported. This will primarily be used to fund the television, radio and online services of the GBC.

The Corporation itself must lead the way. Very easy and motivational methods need to be employed to achieve this feat. In conjunction with the National Commission for Civic Education as well as the Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies, MMDAs, the GBC must embark on a sustained public education to ensure that the citizenry understands and appreciate the need to willingly pay their TV licence fees.

This is a sure means of making the Minister’s dream for the state broadcaster, a reality.


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The 60th Anniversary Of Ghana's Independence

Today is the 60th Anniversary of Ghana's Independence. Parades have been held at the Black Star Square, in Accra, as well as Regional and District capitals to mark the Diamond Jubilee. In attendance were personnel of the security agencies, pupils and students, teachers, market women and other identifiable organisation. Yesterday, sixty Senior High School students who distinguished themselves in the 2016 Basic Education Certificate Examination were presented with scholarship packages. In the past years, only 20 students, a girl and a boy from each region, received such honours, But this year, the Ghana at 60 National Planning Committee, decided to increase the number to sixty to commemorate the diamond jubilee.

After gaining political Independence on March 6, 1957, Ghana has achieved some modest successes and made strides in its economic development. From the First to the current Fourth Republic, various governments have contributed their quota and played diverse roles towards building a prosperous Ghana. It will therefore, not be out of place to commend all citizens for the national development efforts for the past six decades even though the nation could have done better. Political Independence from the British Colonial rule gave Ghanaians the much needed space to build a prosperous and economically viable country, we so much desire. However, since attaining the much anticipated independence, one thing that has consistently eluded the nation is the attainment of economic independence. So, one might be tempted to ask what is the celebration for. What constitutes the mission and vision for the next generation of Ghanaians? Where do we want to see Ghana at 70, 80, 90 or even 100?

Despite the attainment of political Independence, sixty years down the lane, Ghana is yet to come up with made in Ghana solution to most of its socio-economic challenges. In the midst of abundant natural resources, why should the country be struggling to attain socio-economic freedom. After sixty years of nationhood, ugly scenes like activities of illegal miners, commonly referred to as ‘galamsey’, with local and foreign national's participation which destroy and pollute water resources should not be entertained. Traditional rulers, opinion leaders, politicians, security personnel, among many others, are involved in the destruction of the environment under the pretext of mining. Can we continue to look while such activities dry up our rivers? Sadly, our economic survival is still dictated by foreign countries and development partners. Our budgets are always supported from external sources and yet we are not prudent in resource management and expenditure.

When it rains in Accra, it becomes dangerous driving through most suburbs of the city, which is an indication that we are not prepared for the rainy season, which will surely start soon. So soon, we have forgotten the calamity of June 3, 2015 when more than 150 innocent lives were lost, due to the lackadaisical attitudes of some Ghanaians including the city authorities and government at large. What has happened to the projects initiated to forestall such incidents in the future? Indeed, in dealing with our very many social and economic problems, it is envisaged that we begin to build consensus on national issues, irrespective of political affiliations to find Ghanaian solutions to our problem.

Those in political leadership must lead the crusade to bring everybody on board in order to build consensus to arrive at the acceptable solution to our economic and social challenges. To achieve economic sovereignty, Ghanaians need to do things differently to achieve purposeful outcomes. Political leaders, traditional rulers, the clergy, Imams and indeed the media all have a role to play. Selfish interest must give way to oneness of purpose with the objective of nation building for a prosperous nation.

Long Live Ghanaians, Long Live Ghana.


2017 budget statement of the Akufo Addo Presidency BY BUBU KLINOGO.

The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, on the authority of the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and in accordance with Article 179 of the 1992 constitution March 2 presented the government's maiden budget to parliament. The presentation came at a time when the country finds itself between a rock and a hard place, underpinned by an economy that is highly challenged in almost every sector. The fast depreciation of the cedi, high interest rates, budget deficit, increasing debts and unemployment are just but a few pointers of the state of the Ghanaian economy. The NPP while in opposition capitalised on these challenges which featured prominently in its 2016 campaign. The Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia then the NPP's running mate, incessantly attacked the John Mahama administration of mismanaging the economy, and tagged the NDC government as incompetent. The NPP in turn, made a number of mouthwatering promises to turn round the fortunes of the economy. It is not surprising that during the presentation of the budget, the nation stood still with people glued to their radio and television channels to hear key policy measures in President Akufo-Addo's maiden budget statement vis-a-vis the campaign promises.

High on the minds of many Ghanaians were issues regarding the free Senior High School, One District One factory, One village one dam, One constituency one million dollars, reduction in utility and fuel tariffs, and what will be done to the so-called nuisances taxes as well as the restoration of the teachers and nurses trainee allowances. The previous NDC administration was heavily criticised for imposing harsh taxes on Ghanaians as a measure to raise revenue for government business. At a point, taxes were imposed on condoms, machetes, imported raw materials, among others. True to its promises, the Finance Minister announced juicy stimulus packages for businesses.

Reference can be made to the removal of taxes in the banking sector, on spare parts, and that imposed by local authorities on head porters, popularly known as ‘kayayei.’ The Minister also announced the implementation of the free SHS policy and the restoration of the trainee allowances. The budget indeed contains pieces of good news. No wonder the minister christened it ‘Asempa’ budget. However, the budget leaves a number of questions unanswered. For instance, the budget did not provide the number of people who are expected to benefit from the free SHS policy, except to say it is for only first year students.

With the introduction of the policy, there is a likelihood of an increase in the enrolment figures, which will lead to pressure on the existing facilities. There will therefore be the need for an expansion in the existing facilities and or putting up of new ones. Unfortunately, all the GH¢400 million earmarked for the implementation of the policy is going into goods and services. This cast doubts over the infrastructure component of the policy. What then happens to the Community Day Senior High schools project of the previous administration?

Another issue has to do with the restoration of the nurses' trainee allowance, which is estimated at GH¢149 million. The budget is silent on the number of nurses who will receive the allowance or the amount per student per month. The same can be said of the teacher trainee allowances. The government must come clear on whether or not it intends to reintroduce the quota system in the Colleges of Education and the nursing schools.

Again, it is not clear the rationale for abolishing of certain taxes is not clear. For instance, the so-called kayayei tax. One wonders if it is meant to encourage more girls onto the street as head porters. One would have thought that the government will pursue the policy of the previous administration, in helping these girls to acquire certain vocational skills, as a means of getting them off the streets. Despite the rowdyism displayed by members of the house, one thing that cannot be taken away from the presentation was the eloquent manner in which the minister delivered his statement. But here again, the performance of a budget is not determined by the manner of presentation but rather it’s out turn.

It is the expectation of Ghanaians that this budget will translate into concrete and demonstrable results which will be felt in the pocket of all citizens.


The dedication and selfless role played by Dr. J.B Danquah and its relevance to democratic principles and practice in Ghana

The month of March is significant in Ghana's history. It is a month that reminds Ghanaians of the spirit of patriotism as demonstrated by the likes of Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ako Adjei, and Obetsebi Lamptey. Recently, a wreath-laying ceremony took place at Kyebi in the Eastern Region in remembrance of Dr. Joseph Kwame Tweretwie Boakye Danquah. The event helped to bring to focus the great role played by the late J.B, as he was affectionately known. He believed in rule of law, good governance, freedom of the individual and democracy. He stood against suppression of the individual, dictatorial tendencies and lack of openness in government. He played a significant role in pre- and post-colonial times and, in fact, is credited with giving the name Ghana.

Again, J. B. Danquah was described as the "doyen of Gold Coast politics" by the Watson Commission of Inquiry into the 1948 riot. On the issue of rule of law, J.B Danquah believed that it is what the law says that should be made to regulate the conduct of politics in society. He also believed in good governance, pointing out that the individual should not be taken for granted but included in the process of rule of law. So strong was his unending commitment to liberal democracy that it led to his death under bizarre circumstances at the Nsawam prison in 1965. Dr Danquah made no secret about his preference for the Western-style democratic model and free market as against control and dictatorship. These were the qualities which established him firmly as advocate of a liberal democratic political tradition in the politics of Ghana. He also held the view that a political party should be used to liberate the energies of the people for the growth of a property-owning democracy in Ghana. This relates to right to life, freedom and justice, as the principles to which the Government and laws of the land should be dedicated in order to specifically enrich life, property and liberty of each and every citizen.

Today, J.B Danquah is no more but his beliefs and ideals continue to be a source of inspiration and guidance for many countries in Africa including Ghana that have chosen the path of rule of law and democracy as against dictatorship and autocracy. Any individual in Ghana today can legitimately stand up and criticize Government, the President or any official without the fear of being arrested and thrown into jail without fair trial. Each time Ghana is praised for her democratic credentials we must know that democracy, as known and admired today, did not emerge overnight in Ghana. The dark days in the history of the country where political power was misused and misapplied to suppress the will of the people, both under military and non-military dictatorships, are now a thing of the past.

Due to the role played by democratic stalwarts and others like J.B Danquah, Ghana has now seen the light and will continue to move in that direction, bearing in mind that rule of law and Democracy are what the people want. The noble people of this great nation must continue to exhibit their democratic credentials for the promotion and facilitation of rapid economic growth and development in the interest of all.

This must be the goal, dream, aim and purpose of all citizens in order to push the country along a smooth path of progress, freedom and development under the culture of rule of law.

By Kofi Amponsah-Bediako, Head of Public Relations, Ghana Standards Authority.