Thursday, 28 March 2013

Labour Unrest In Ghana

The recent reported cases of labour unrest in the country must be a source of worry to all Ghanaians as it has the potential to undermine the peace and stability the nation has and continues to enjoy. Anytime a group of workers decide to lay down their tools, in demand for enhanced conditions of service, it becomes difficult to quantify the financial and economic cost to the nation. Reference point is the just ended industrial action by teachers. The cost of the strike to the nation, students and pupils as well as parents cannot be quantified. The timing for the strike which was well calculated by the teachers to coincide with the WASSCE and the Easter Holidays has reduced the number of weeks to be covered for the term to almost three weeks which can never be recovered. TEWU also gave a strong signal to withdraw its services. Meanwhile, the Ghana Medical Association has also indicated that its members will lay down their tools, not forgetting nurses and other auxiliary staff who support healthcare delivery. Government, realizing the ill-effects of industrial actions on the economy decided to introduce the Single Spine Salary Structure to address the problems of unfairness in the labour sector. Ever since the migration started, it appears it is creating more problems than it envisaged solving. The disparities within the wage and salary regimes continue to widen to an unimaginable level more especially, among people with equal academic qualifications who are rendering similar services.

According to the Minister of Finance, the nation’s wages and salaries alone including those of government appointees such as the Presidency, Ministers, and Parliamentarians accounted for over 60 percent of government expenditure and consequently contributed to the budget deficit of about 12 and half percent recorded last year. This is not to mention the election year expenditure. The reasons for the current labour unrest are not farfetched because it is quite strange to see a person with similar academic qualification who enters into politics and receives a fat salary and in less than two years he or she is better off than the same person who is with the public sector and cannot afford to either own a house, live by three square meals a day let alone take proper care for himself and his family. It is no wonder teachers and most professionals are running away to join politics which is now more lucrative than gold mining. Why on earth do we create such huge disparity in a payment structure and continue to cry whenever there unrests by a section who wants to claim what they think they deserve and have been deprived of.

Probably Ghana should learn from the Rwandan example where politics has been made so unattractive that it is only those who are born politicians who venture there. Until these distortions are addressed, no matter the interventions to be adopted whether Single Spine or not, the labour front shall continue to be unstable. The equal work with equal pay must not only be a slogan but a reality that must be seen to be fully implemented.


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Proposed Sponsporship for Pilgrimage to Israel

The Good Book, the Bible enjoins Christians not to remove the ancient landmark. One of the ancient landmarks of Christendom is the holy land, Israel where we have historical sites of our cherished Christian faith. The visit of Christians to the holy land is not mandatory like other religions, but then the bible indirectly encourages us to do so. Those who have ever visited the holy land have testified that they experienced spiritual renewal and the strengthening of their Christian faith. Again, such pilgrimage makes the Bible come alive to the child of God. For that matter Christians and pastors have for many  years advocated a sponsorship package for believers of the Christian faith to enable them to pay fora pilgrimage Jerusalem, Israel. 

On the average it cost about $5,000 per person to visit the holy land. This includes plane fare, accommodation and other miscellaneous expenses. But how many Ghanaians can afford this cost? Additionally, the acquisition of visa on individual basis is very difficult. Sponsorship packages facilitated by the government makes the issue of visa acquisition quite easy. Therefore, discussions on some kind of government assisted sponsorship for Christians to visit the holy land has been ongoing for some time now. 

The larger Christian community therefore breathed a sigh of relief when the government announced a few weeks ago that it has secured a sponsorship package for Christians to visit the holy land. Many were happy and confessed that God has answered their prayers.
 A  cross section of pastors at a meeting with the President at the Flagstaff house a week ago expressed  worry at how the proposed Israel trip has been politicized in the media. Let’s be true and honest to ourselves, the Presidency revealed that the sponsorship money is not from the state coffers. Also, the claim that the monies could be used to cater for the poor is neither here nor there. The poor or all of Ghana’s problems will never be solved. We should be careful we don’t live to regret it one day or posterity may judge us for rejecting such a decent offer. One may  humbly ask whether political parties reveal the identity of their sponsors likewise sponsors of football events? Can we for once trust government and some heads of churches who are vouching for the integrity of the sponsors? Others may also ask whether we can or we do verify the sources of our church members income before we accept their tithes and offerings?  If some cross section of Christians have issues with the trip is that how to reciprocate this kind gesture? There is the need for sober reflection on the issues surrounding the Israel trip. 

The  heads of churches should have broader consultations with their rank and file before issuing statements that bother on the welfare of their followers. 

We hope the  government will not to be discouraged by the negative comments on this issue, but go ahead to implement the proposal made at the meeting with the President. That the pilgrimage trip to Israel must come on.       

 Rev.Ernest Agyei, Senior Pastor, Ringway Gospel Center of Assembly of God, Osu  

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Galamsey Menace

The spate at which lands in the country are being defiled in the name of small scale mining leaves much to be desired. It is unfortunate the previous and current governments have not had the political will to stamp authority on fraudulent gold trade which has been on the upsurge these days. Not only do these illegal gold dealers destroy the environment through illegal mining popularly called galamsey, they also make huge returns from their operations. So lucrative in the galamsey business that, foreign nationals including Chinese have ventured into it and are destroying the environment with reckless abandon. The Daily Graphic in its Monday edition reported that illegal Chinese miners have invaded the concession of Anglogold Ashanti at Kwanwire near Obuasi and established perhaps the biggest galamsey mine in the Ashanti Region. According to the report during a visit to the site last Friday, four bull dozers were seen cutting through muddy grounds in the large area close to river Kwanwire for gold. What was most despicable was the fact that the river is the main source of drinking water for the residents of some of the villages downstream. In 1989, the then government worried about illegal mining passed PNDC law 218 to legalise small scale mining in a bid to check galamsey. However the move appears to be yielding little dividend as illegal mining activities are on record high if the 2008 Ghana Chamber of Mines report is anything to go by.

Galamsey did not start today, it has lived through almost all governments. Under the law, small scale miners need to be registered in order to work on land to which they have legal access and are subject to regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Miners Commission or both. Recently there was mad rush by the youth to the beach of Elmina in search of Alluvial gold, a situation which compelled the authorities to close down the beach by placing military and police surveillance there. At Prestea - Huni Valley in the Western Region, the youth have taken to illegal mining to the detriment of their education. In the Upper East Region, precisely at Nangodi, illegal mining has become the order of the day and at Kyebi in the Eastern Region the situation is despicable. Galamsey is thriving because they are largely unregulated and the activists operate outside the law. Galamsey operators and to some extent the few licensed ones cause serious environmental damages. In some areas, operators enter forest reserves, illegally cut down timber woods just to get access to gold under the forest land. Some of them de-vegetate and do not reclaim the trenches they dig. They use mercury for processing the alluvial gold which is very harmful to health. A lot of the galamsey operators engage in blasting and other activities which pose a nuisance. The long and short of it all is that the reckless activities of these illegal miners pollute the river beds as they easily release cyanide, a poisonous chemical into them. A section of the public argues that galamsey guarantee easy jobs for the youth and reduces crime among others in the mining communities but in reality have we sat down to examine the risky nature of the job? Most of these operators meet their untimely death in the course of business. They are trapped underneath the pits they dig. This brings pain and agony to their families and people in the community. What is worst is that most of these galamsey miners are always armed to the teeth, which is a threat to security.

The activities of galamsey operators affect the earnings of the major mining companies which pay royalties to the chiefs of the land on which they operate as well as dividend to government. This helps in boosting national revenue. Most of these companies in pursuant of their social responsibility to the community in which they operate build schools, community centres, health facilities, drill boreholes and provide alternative livelihood to people in communities where their mines are located. The Mining Companies can help discourage the galamsey operators from their illegal activities by offering them jobs, soft loans and other forms of capital to start their own businesses. Chiefs who encourage their subjects to engage in galamsey must be dealt with according to law. We are aware some chiefs and opinion leaders are behind the lawless galamsey operations. They offer land and other incentive, to these operators. The security Agencies must regularly swoop on the galamsey pits to apprehend the perpetuators. All efforts must be put in to make galamsey an unattractive venture else it keeps destroying our energetic youth. If we keep damaging our arable land and water bodies in the name of illegal mining, we must remember that indeed we are destroying our very selves. A stitch in time they say saves nine.


Bribery And Corruption

Bribery and Corruption together is a social problem that has come to stay with us. It is a negative phenomenon and impinges on the conscience of many because of its debilitating effects on development. Bribery and corruption have been cited as the major reason for the overthrow of governments both military and civilian since independence. The Anin Commission appointed by the Kutu Achaempong led National Liberation Council in 1975 defined bribery and corruption as the giving and receiving of a gift or attempts to extort a gift or a valuation consideration whether cash or kind with the object of influencing a person in a position of trust to act in a way favorable to the interest of the giver. Persons in positions of trust act according to set of rules either explicitly stated or understood, so if in the course of exercising such powers any person attempts to influence their conduct with gifts either in cash or kind such a person is indulging in bribery since the intent is to corrupt the official. The Anin Commission further revealed that if the person holding the position of trust demand a gift from possible beneficiaries in order to favor them before performing such functions, the trustee is clearly corrupt. Why should one know someone or have a link with a big man in order to get what one rightfully deserves. Sociologically, bribery and corruption are not synonymous terms. Bribery is narrower, more direct and less subtle.

In fact there cannot be bribe givers without bribe takers, hence the assertion that the giver is as guilty as the receiver. Corruption can and frequently does exist even when there are no personal tempers or guilty confederates. In the assertion of Nye (1967) the use of reward to pervert the judgment of a person in a position of trust also constitutes bribery. Empirically if someone in a high position agrees to help a friend or relative of another person in an equally high position with the hope of reciprocity, that person is corrupt. Whichever way one looks at the phenomenon, bribery is wrong whether it results in the bending of rules or outright violation. The issue of bribery and corruption is so serious that in most organizations the bureaucratic principle which requires the impersonality of inter-personal relation also known as ‘Sine Ire Et Studio’ in Latin meaning, an act without ill-will, is being violated. The principle of first come first serve has no prominence anymore in many places. It is common knowledge that in some organizations today promotions and selection are no longer the preserve of technical competence due to bribery and corruption. Sadly the canker has led to the situation where in some institutions less educated, low ranked in hierarchy sometimes get comparatively higher remuneration than more qualified and higher ranked seniors. The belief that one needs to pay huge sums of money or have a link before one can get a job has saturated the minds of many young graduates seeking for jobs and rightfully so. As for what some bosses do to our young ladies before offering them jobs, only God and the principal actors know. Admittedly many organizations have square pegs in round holes and the output is low productivity, mediocrity and waste of public resources. Why on earth should we have ghost names on our payrolls? Why should one lobby before getting an appointment? Or why should it take some officials over six months and sometimes years to process documents for payment of newly enrolled nurses or appointed teachers when people are being paid to do that as their job description. The fight against bribery and corruption must therefore be taken more seriously bearing in mind that until the root causes are identified and nipped in the bud, we may only be joking. The fight must tackle both the precipitating and perpetuating factors squarely.

The socialization of Ghanaians which make us feel and believe that we have a prescriptive or even a God-given right to depend on brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and other relatives for all kinds of help play a role in corruption and must be given a second look . Also supervisors of administrative controls and the suppression of moral courage in the name of preserving good social relations should be reconsidered. Religious leaders must intensify the crusade against the pervasive acquisition on the get rich quick syndrome by first discouraging expensive funerals and marriages. Bribery and corruption has the potential of making our nation unattractive to visitors. It kills many psychologically and widens the social class gap making the richer ever richer and the poor ever poorer. Bribe givers and takers as well as those who engage in all sorts of corrupt acts must the reminded that no condition is permanent. They may succeed today but judgment surely awaits us all. A word to the wise, we have long been told is enough.


Need To Avoid Air Pollution

Air pollution is any harmful material that is present in the earth’s atmosphere. The causes of air pollution are many and highly varied. These include natural sources like volcanic eruption, forest and bush fires as well as the burning of fossil fuels. Experts in air pollution posit that while the earth does have built-in mechanisms for getting rid of air pollution, it is usually better for all human beings to reduce the amount of pollutants released into the air to begin with. Unfortunately most well-known and pervasive causes of air pollution are man-made. One can talk about the burning of petroleum products especially in the cities as a very common cause of air pollution. The experts also note that while man-made air pollution does present health hazards, natural causes of air pollution can be equally dangerous at times. These sources include dust picked up by wind erosion, the emission of methane by livestock, and smoke from wildfires and burnt rubbish at wasteland sites.
A World Health Organization (WHO) report indicates that eighty-seven per cent of the three billion people worldwide rely on inefficient traditional energy sources to cook and this adversely contribute to household air pollution. Another frightening aspect of the report is that women are mostly affected by the negative effects of cooking on open fires and traditional cook stoves. Given the fact that the use of gas to cook, is being promoted, majority of women still use open fires and traditional cook stoves for both domestic and small scale industrial activities such as extraction of cooking oils from groundnuts, coconut, palm nuts, palm kernel and shea nuts. In the three regions of the North in particular, the brewing of the local alcoholic beverage popularly called ‘pito’ is done on open fires and traditional cook stoves. The same applies to the production of ‘dawadawa’ used as a spice for soups. As a nation that has recently acquired a middle income status, there is an urgent need for inter ministerial and organizational collaboration to ensure universal access to modern energy for cooking and productive use of energy by the turn of the next decade. That explains why the Ministries of Environment, Science and Technology and Energy, the Energy Commission, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Ghana and Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves are collaborating to encourage innovation, improve access and quality of cook stoves and to ensure that women are economically empowered is scaled up.

Indeed there is absolutely the urgent need for strong partnerships to be developed among institutions, agencies and civil society organizations towards effective implementation of the action plan drawn up by the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves dubbed “Ghana Sustainable Energy for All Country Action Plan”. Through this, lives would be saved, livelihoods improved, women empowered and climate change combated to create a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions.


Friday, 22 March 2013

International Women's Day And Efforts to Reduce Maternal Mortality

While global community observes International Women’s Day today, it is important to take another look at how to create a conducive environment for our mothers to have safe deliveries and also ensure the survival of new born babies. There is the need for attitudinal change regarding cultural practices which tend to affect the dignity of women. In looking at maternal health issues, two vital questions can be asked: whose relative should be among the maternal mortality figure of 185 women per 100 thousand live births.? Who would wish that a wife or sister dies due to complications related to pregnancy and child birth? The fact is “Every life counts.” Former First Lady Mrs. Naadu Mills, got on the maternal health campaign trail to draw attention to the fact that all have to take keen interest in saving the lives of our mothers.

The Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) acted as a catalyst for other efforts. On 26th February, this year, another campaign initiative dubbed: “Mamaye” was launched in Accra by the University of Ghana School of Public Health in partnership with the Alliance for Reproductive Health, to step up efforts to reduce maternal mortality. The campaign which is under Evidence for Action, a five-year programme aims to improve maternal and newborn survival and is being funded by the UK Department for International Development, DFID. Even with all these efforts, the disclosure that on the average, seven women die each day in Ghana from pregnancy-related causes and in addition, 63 newborns die is something that should grab the headlines daily. To draw an analogy, over forty people have died on the N1 Highway since the road was inaugurated. Everybody says this is unacceptable.

What about this maternal and newborn mortality figure? Within a week are we not talking of higher figures? Certainly, the rising crescendo of voices calling for intensified action on the maternal health front is more than justified. Advocacy is certainly important in finding solutions to the problems that confront the country.

Appropriate knowledge about what to do and when to do it is very important in helping to save lives. No one will like to see a relative die but some are quick to accept that the problem an expectant mother is confronted with is more spiritual than medical. They will thus head to the spiritual camp instead of the nearest medical facility till it is too late to save the situation. Regularly, medical experts warn of delays and its disastrous consequences where pregnant women are concerned. Every little change should be seen as abnormal and shrewd ones will immediately seek the necessary assistance.

The Ghana Health Service has been stressing the need for supervised delivery. During supervised delivery, emergencies like bleeding, can be catered for in good time. It is welcome news that the most recent maternal health campaign, the 'MAMAYE' initiative is promoting blood donation. The first of the Mamaye blood donation at the Efua Sutherlands Children's, coincides with the international women’s day. As the Caretaker Deputy Minister of Health Rojo Mettle-Nunoo stated at the launching of the Mamaye campaign, “we should have an attitude of zero tolerance for maternal deaths.” This calls for exploiting synergies where everybody is involved in word and deed. Examples abound as to how taxi drivers have shown commitment by transporting expectant mothers to health facilities even at midnight on very bad roads. The goal of the Mamaye Campaign calling for the survival of our mothers and newborns remains relevant. The causes of maternal mortality are known let us intensify the remedial actions now.


Victory of Uhuru Kenyatta

There is no doubt that there were clouds of uncertainty hanging over Kenya in the period leading to the election of the fourth President of that country since independence in 1963. The fear justifiably stemmed from the violence that erupted after the 2007 elections which led to the loss of over one thousand precious lives, and some 500 thousand people displaced. The ethnic polarization of the Kenyan politics and the interference of the west through the so called indictment of one of the President-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, of the Jubilee Alliance Party, and his running mate, William Ruto whose charges have just been dropped are not issues that should be swept under the carpet.

The elections are over and the son of Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta, 51 year old Uhuru has been declared winner. The call by the main opposition challenger, Raila Odinga, on his supporters not to engage in violent acts is highly commendable.His decision to challenge the results in the Supreme Court, the same judiciary he said he did not trust in 2007 is also laudable. One hopes Raila Odinga’s actions before and after the court’s verdict will portray the peaceful Kenya he claims to seek. The truth is that the elections have been hailed as transparent, at least by African standards and in the history of Kenya. The choice of the people must be accepted and respected in the interest of peace not only in Kenya and Africa, but the international community as a whole. It is in this regard that comments by senior government officials from the US, Germany and Britain before the elections can be interpreted as interference in the domestic affairs of Kenya and must not be allowed to continue. It is true that the world has become a global village, as such what happens in any country can have a rippling effect across the globe. That, however, is not enough justification for anybody or country to decide who democratically rules a particular country. Uhuru Kenyatta hit the nail right on the head when he responded by saying that he does not seek the presidency of the US or UK but his home country Kenya and is democratically doing so without forcing anyone to vote for him. Irrespective of how one sees it, the people of Kenya have defied the ICC indictment against both Keyatta and his vice Ruto as well as voices of foreign diplomats and have accordingly by 50 point–zero-seven percent margin given the mandate to them to rule. Uhuru Kenyatta has become the second African President to face Indictment by the ICC after Sudan’s Umar al Bashir.

African leaders must rally behind Kenyan President elect Uhuru Keyatta to help improve that country’s economy and hopefully move it to the much anticipated middle income status. Africa appreciates the support of western nations but the west ought to know that providing assistance and other forms of handouts does not mean the political independence of Africa should be compromised. In all dealings, the advanced nations must be guided by the Biblical injunction in Ecclesiastes 12:14, which states that “God is going to judge everything we do, whether good or bad and even things done in secret. Long live Kenya and long live Africa.