Friday, 28 October 2016

President Mahama’s Assertion On Media Cabal

President John Mahama has expressed worry over what he calls the control of Ghana’s media by a cabal who are blocking his message of transformation. In an interview with the Ovation Magazine, the President said and I quote "it is populism, a certain group has taken control of the media in Ghana and it makes it difficult for people to discern the truth" unquote. This comment from the President raises a number of issues. It is interesting how this could happen in a pluralistic media landscape as we have in Ghana. As at March last year, the National Communications Authority licensed 390 radio stations. Out of this number, 309 were operational. There are quite a good number of television stations and countless number of newspapers circulating in the country. The case can be made that not all these media organisations are sympathetic to the President or against him. There are well known media houses which are aligned to the NDC, both in opposition and in government. These media organisations have over the years given a fair coverage to the president, his party and government. It is not exactly clear how any cabal can prevent these media houses from showcasing the good works of the President.

Perhaps, the problem arises from the strategy which some of these pro government media houses have adopted. The difficulty as asserted by the President could be the boomerang effect of the practice where these media houses devote much time and space attacking the competence of the opposition, instead of directing their energies at projecting the government. This should be a wakeup call to all that you cannot project yourself by pulling down your opponent. The onus thus rests on those media houses that are openly affiliated to the NDC to tout the achievements of the government and drum home the transformational agenda. In any case, the President cannot genuinely expect every media house to sing his praises. By all means some will be critical of his administration. On a scale of balance, the president has an upper hand over all other candidates when it comes to media accessibility. In addition to the friendly private media, the President, by constitutional provisions, has an unfettered access to all state media. Indeed, the President has been making good use of this provision which gives him unrestricted access to all state media anytime he so desires. This is the President, who has had the most media engagements in recent times.

He has been interviewed on all GBC regional FM stations this year. He used each occasion to propagate his good deeds and justify why he should be retained in office. Again, the President and his vice have permanent reporters attached to them and all their activities are brought to the limelight. The President's comment could however be viewed from another premise. The question can be asked, what kind of publicity is being given to the President and his administration? Any observer can see clearly a deliberate effort on the part of some media houses to focus on the failures and challenges of this government, and in the process, bury its good deeds. That is why the President's allegation that some people twist and distort the facts is somehow meritorious.

This is manifested in a situation, for instance, where media organisations will not report on the number of Community Day Senior High Schools that have been completed but rather focus on the inability of the government to deliver the 200 as promised. The media will not report on the stability that has been brought to the power sector but rather blow out occasional outages. They will not report on the positive outlook of the economy but rather dwell on the temporary challenges. One cannot fault such media houses because it is a matter of choice. The sad fact is that the situation is worsened by the negative attitude of some of the President's appointees, especially ministers and their deputies to the media. It is disgusting the trouble journalists go through getting these functionaries to comment on issues. Most of these appointees hardly pick their calls, return calls or respond to messages from journalists. Is it not baffling that, ministers or deputy ministers will sidestep a professional and credible media organisation like GBC and rather go to a sensational private media house which will even end up twisting the issues?

So if there is any real cabal, the president should be looking at his own appointees who are letting him down by their refusal to take advantage of opportunities provided by the media, especially the state owned GBC to showcase the achievements of the government.

BY BUBU KLINOGO, A JOURNALIST

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

EOCO Directive Over Campaign Funds Investigation


The Economic and Organised Crime Office, otherwise known as EOCO has received mixed reactions from a section of the public following its invitation to some political party leaders to disclose their sources of funds for their political activities. According to a Daily Graphic publication, EOCO wants Hassan Ayariga of the All People`s Congress [APC] to explain where he got the $6 million he claimed to have expended on his campaign. Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Progressive People’s Party [PPP], on the other hand, is being asked to explain the source of the GH¢1,000,750 that he paid for himself and the parliamentary candidates of the PPP as filing fees. This is no doubt a move in the right direction. It is important that relevant state agencies are allowed to investigate the sources of funds of everybody who flaunts wealth especially if they are not known to be engaged in any serious business that can give them that kind of wealth. We are in a country where we worship the wealthy without questioning their sources of wealth. Politics is not a business neither is it supposed to be a money making enterprise yet people are so eager and willing to expend so much money on it. The troubling reality is that some of the candidates are well known and their income levels are also known, yet they spend so much on election activities. It is true that candidates and political parties are at liberty to raise funds to finance their activities, except to say that foreigners are precluded from financing political parties in Ghana.

The political parties law require parties to furnish the EC with their audited accounts, proceeds from party dues and other incomes as well as their expenditure regularly but the parties hardly comply with it. Unfortunately, the EC has over the years failed to crack the whip on defaulting parties. The declaration of assets is another law which is flouted by candidates and public officers with pompous impunity. The decision by EOCO to intervene in ascertaining the sources of funds for some of these political parties and their leaders is therefore welcoming. Under the EOCO Act, Act 804 of 2010, it is authorised to monitor and investigate economic and organised crime and on the authority of the Attorney - General prosecute these offences to recover the proceeds of crime and provide for related matters. Some of the offences to be investigated by EOCO are money laundering, tax fraud, and other serious offences. The office is also mandated to recover the proceeds of crime and take reasonable measures necessary to prevent the commission of such crimes and their correlative offences.

The current EOCO investigation will therefore not only unravel the sources of funds for the two candidates but also determine whether they have discharged their tax obligations to the state. Many people, especially politicians in opposition are quick to accuse government of corruption, financial malfeasance and wanton dissipation of tax payers’ money, yet they do not pay tax. The good saying has it that, he who calls for equity must come with clean hands. It is sad that some people are accusing the government of the day of using EOCO and other state agencies to harass its opponents. The situation where every state institution is politicised is not the best. It is retarding and must not be encouraged. We must allow state institutions to work and work effectively.

A case can however be made that, the EOCO should not and ought not limit its investigations to only the PPP and APC. The office must do well to invite all the other political parties and their leaders, especially the two leading ones. These are parties that suffocate for cash in opposition but become opulent and flamboyant overnight when they win power. The question is how do they make their money when they are in government and are not able to do so in opposition? Let this move by EOCO be the beginning of a new dawn of unravelling the mystery surrounding the wealth of the rich in our society.

BY BUBU KLINOGO, A JOURNALIST.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

History Of Teacher Trainee Allowances

It is necessary to know and understand how the Teacher Trainee Allowance came about. Originally, the Training colleges were attached to some secondary schools, for example Achimota School in Accra and St. Augustines College in Cape Coast. There were other similar Institutions in Ashanti and elsewhere. The two types of Education were on the same compound. The fees paid by the secondary school students were higher than those of the Teacher Training Department. For example, in Achimota while the secondary students paid seven pounds, their counterparts in the Training College Department paid five pounds as fees. The motive behind the disparity was to encourage more students to offer Teacher Training. The expansion of educational programmes necessitated the training of more teachers for the first cycle schools. For this reason, six week Emergency Training Centres were established in all the regions to train pupil teachers already teaching in schools.

In addition to this, some of the four year Teacher Training Colleges were split into two, and they became certificate 'B' Training colleges and certificate 'A' ( otherwise known as Post B) Teacher Training Colleges. It is interesting to note that those who entered 'A' (that is post B) Teacher Training Colleges were to use the salaries they received on the field to pay for their fees, boarding, books and other expenses. Whatever was left was paid to them as allowance. It should be noted that not all the teacher trainees received the same amount of allowance. This was so because some had taught longer than others. If you were not a pupil teacher you could not enter (Cert B Training College) and if you entered Training College as a pupil teacher you were given pupils Teachers' pay.

It should be noted again that if you were not teaching in the classroom you could never attend a Training College aside this arrangement. If you taught for five years without going to Training College you were sacked to give way to others who were serious enough to enter Teacher Training Colleges. The Teacher Trainee allowance was to motivate people to offer teacher training. More teachers were trained within a short period as a result of this arrangement. For this reason, the Cert 'B' teacher training was stopped and the Four Year Training Colleges re-introduced as well as Cert 'A' (2 year) Post-Secondary Colleges. As part of training college expansion, a special dispensation was given to girls who finished middle school to enter straight away into Teacher Training Colleges after passing their exams successfully. These categories of teacher trainees were paid as pupil teachers and had to pay for their boarding, books, tuition and others from their pay and the balance given to them as allowance. Incidentally this type of arrangement came to an end in the Second Republic but was restored later on during the military regime. The trainee allowances were not purposely instituted by any government as allowance. It was a long term plan that when Ghana attained sufficiency in Teacher Training, teachers would have to apply for postings after successfully passing an interview by the G.E.S.

The question is, at this stage, should a new allowance be instituted for Teacher Trainees/or we should continue to pay them the allowance. Even if the allowance should ever be paid, it should rather be paid to newly trained teachers to buy teaching and learning materials to equip them in their profession and not for goodies and enjoyment.

BY JOHN AFFUL, RETIRED ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION 0202792696, 0277247098.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Libya, After Death Of Col Muammar Gaddaf


October 20, 2016 is exactly five years since former Libyan Leader Col. Muammar Gaddaffi was killed by NATO backed forces. Col. Gaddaffi was no doubt a controversial figure. To some, he was a terror but to others he was a hero. His death still arouses mixed feelings among many Libyans and Africans in general. The point can be made that the decision by the western forces spearheaded by the US and France to intervene in the Arab spring, was not a genuine desire to liberate the people of Libya, but a desperate effort to get rid of a man who dared challenge their supremacy. Gaddaffi, was in no way a push over in world politics, he stood his ground and spoke his mind fearlessly. The western forces were just opportunistic, taking advantage of the wave of the Arab spring. That decision is currently haunting US Democratic Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton, who was the then Secretary of State.

The death of Gaddaffi hardly represents any of the ideals aspired to by a nation that had just emerged from violence and war on the heels of the Libyan revolution, which was supposed to bring back justice and the rule of law. Without a doubt, Libya today is a fractured country without any central government. At the same time, different terror groups are making gains in Libya. The most dangerous of them is the Islamic State. At the same time, various militias still operate outside any government control with the judiciary hardly functioning. Benghazi, the second major city in Libya where the revolution started in February 2011, in the wake of the Arab spring has been almost completely destroyed. Compared to a year or two ago, life for ordinary Libyans in the capital might have improved a little, but it is still far from what it used to be under Gadhafi. Many Libyans feel insecurity, struggle to make ends meet, with skyrocketing prices and little subsidized basic food available. Basic medical services are almost nonexistent, forcing people to seek treatment in neighboring Tunisia. Those with financial means seeking to go to Europe for whatever reason find it even harder, since all Western embassies have long closed. Oil production, the main source of government revenue, is down denying the treasury much-needed funds. All major infrastructure projects that were in progress when the unrest started five years ago have been on hold since all major foreign companies left. Thousands of Libyans are still displaced inside their country. In the absence of an organized military, armed militias continue to assert their role as guardians of the revolution.


Looking back, Libya under Muammar Gaddafi had the highest Human Development Index, the lowest infant mortality and the highest life expectancy in all of Africa. Arguably, one could say that Libya today is a failed state. The south of the country has fallen into the hands of ISIS terrorists, and the Northern coast a center of migrant trafficking. There are widespread cases of rape, assassinations and torture . The democracy which Libyans were promised by Western governments after the fall of Colonel Gaddafi has all but vanished. Under Gaddafi’s unique system of direct democracy, traditional institutions of government were disbanded and abolished, putting power directly in the hands of the people through various committees and congresses. Libya was highly decentralised and divided into several small communities that were essentially “mini-autonomous States” within a State. These autonomous States had control over their districts and could make a range of decisions including how to allocate oil revenue and budgetary funds. International relations experts have argued that America’s bombing campaign of 2011 has not only destroyed the infrastructure of Libya’s democracy but also actively promoted ISIS . US president Barak Obama's has admitted that the US failed to plan the aftermath of Libya and the subsequent killing of Gaddafi. Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the House of Commons that Al Qaeda was unquestionably a product of western intelligence agencies.

Today, Libya is home to the world’s largest loose arms cache, and its porous borders are routinely transited by a host of heavily armed non-state actors including Tuareg separatists and jihadists. NATO’s bombardment of Libya may indeed go down in history as one of the greatest military failures of the 21st century. General George Patton once said and i quote insecurity kills all that is beautiful, unquote. The once beautiful Gaddafi's Libya has been killed by insecurities and interference by western powers. Those who had a hand in the current state of Libya must bow their heads in shame. On the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the cruel killing of Col. Gaddaffi, let Libyans take solace in the hope that their country can be great once again. Let them not despair, let them work towards realising the dreams of their founding fathers. Let the fighters drop their weapons and turn their guns towards their common enemy of poverty, hunger, underdevelopment and most importantly neocolonial and imperial forces.

BY NATO BACKED FORCES

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Legal Battle Between Disqualified Presidential Aspirants, EC


There is a growing concern and fears that the December 7, 2016 electoral calendar could be negatively affected following the rising number of disputes between some disqualified presidential aspirants and the Electoral Commission [EC]. The EC on October 10, 2016 declined to accept the nominations of 12 aspirants after it detected errors on their forms. While majority of the disqualified aspirants claimed the errors were clerical and administrative, the EC insisted that some were criminal and bother on perjury and forgery which cannot be allowed to go unpunished. So far, the National Democratic Party, the Progressive People's Party and the Independent People's Party have sued the Commission over the matter. The People's National Convention and the All People's Convention have also given the EC up to October 20 to reinstate their candidates or face them in court. From the look of things, none of the parties to the dispute is willing to compromise and they are prepared to fight to the end. It is said that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. In this situation, if this litigation lingers, the whole nation stands to suffer. We must not lose sight of the fact that, we just about 48 days to the election.

The point is that, before the election, there ought to be a number of things done first. One can talk of balloting for placement on the ballot paper, printing and posting of notices of polls, printing of ballot papers and many more which cannot be done in a day or a week. That is why the fears of a possible delay in the holding of the elections are real. The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) has also raised doubts over the ability of the Electoral Commission to successfully conduct Election 2016. According to CODEO, “The EC is working with a timetable, and looking at the legal suits filed against the EC by the presidential aspirants following their disqualification, the election process might delay. At this juncture, one can only appeal to the Electoral Commission, IPAC and other identifiable bodies to intervene in the disputes. It is in this light that the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood must be commended for designating seventeen specialized courts to deal with electoral disputes that may arise before the December 7, presidential and parliamentary elections.

Again, it is noteworthy that the Chief Justice has also directed that the hearing of all electoral cases should take precedence over all other cases pending before the courts. A statement issued and signed by the Judicial Secretary, Justice Alex B. Poku Acheampong said the designated Judges have also been directed to hear the election related cases on a day-to-day basis including weekends but excluding Public Holidays from 9am to 6pm. This is a laudable move which will go a long way to ensure that the national electoral calendar is not unduly delayed. It will be important that the assigned judges strictly adhere to these directives and ensure that they hear electoral dispute cases expeditiously. Even though it is said that the wheels of justice grind slowly, this must not be tolerated in this instance. We should not allow what happened at the Supreme Court, where the dispute over the 2012 presidential election lasted for eight months to repeat itself. It is imperative for all the relevant stakeholders in the election to work with the judiciary for a speedy adjudication of cases to ensure a smooth and violent free election. Time is ticking fast and there is therefore the need for players in the election to expeditiously deal with all issues likely to mare the electoral process. Thankfully, the EC has given indications that it is willing to abide by any decision taken by court, even if it includes reinstating any or all of the disqualified aspirants.

Ghana has a worldwide reputation as a model of democracy and beacon of hope on a continent best known for wars emanating from electoral disputes. We have held six general elections which were largely free and fair and which saw the transfer of power from one political party to another. This year cannot and should not be an exception. If anything at all, it should be better, more transparent, more inclusive and more credible.

BY BUBU KLINOGO, A JOURNALIST.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Fake Election Prophecies And Opinion Polls

It is interesting how religion is playing in Ghana's body politic. Apart from parties and candidates organising prayer and worship sessions to seek divine blessings, some so called prophets and prophetess are making declarations and pronouncements in respect of who shall emerge victorious in the elections. In other words, these men and women of God have become pollsters and seers and are able to predict the outcome of the election. The irony of the whole situation is that, they all claim they have revelation from God yet their prophesies and predictions are different. The question is how can the same God tell different things to different prophets in respect of the same thing? What is clear is that these men and women think they are wiser or smarter than the rest of the population. They are aware just like everyone else is that in this year's election, one of the two main parties will win, so they go about stating the obvious, pretending to be prophesying. At the end, when one party wins, they can claim, they told us so. What is worrying is that, in the same vein, those who prophesised in favour of the losing candidate would have succeeded in making God, a liar. Those involved in this enterprise have the Biblical injunction that Believers should "not make God a liar" as contained in first John chapter one verse 10. They could not discern between the wishful figment of their imaginations and Divine manifestations.
At the same time when the prophetic claims are being propagated, all manner of groups are also releasing supposed opinion polls purporting to give indication as to the outcome of the elections. Opinion polls can be scientific and close to accurate nut some can be engineered and manipulated to achieve a certain outcome. Periodically, Research Institutions, Media houses and individuals conduct interviews by sampling or selecting a representative number of people to answer relevant questions on issues under discussion or enquiry. The responses are documented, collated, analyzed and interpreted for public information and/or decision-making. For Election purposes, documents and records obtained from Government offices, essentially the Electoral Commission, are the critical first point of contact, but the National Archives, Parliament and such-like institutions can be appropriate. Data about previous elections are matched against prevailing exigencies and occurrences, in order to arrive at future prognostics. Objectivity is always essential in assembling and interpreting such statistical information.

Just like fake prophets, fake opinion polls just give fake hopes to those who swallow them hook, line and sinker. We cannot run away from the fact that, in Ghana, many factors come to play in an election. It is an accepted fact some people vote along tribal, religious, and party lines. These people cannot be swayed by prophecies and outcome of opinion polls. These are people who are not moved by manifesto promises of opposing parties and candidates. In this year's election, it does not matter how many prophecies, predictions and opinion polls are conducted. What is key is for everyone to play his or her role diligently and objectively in order to ensure an incident free election come Decenber 7. May the most convincing team win and losers honourably accept defeat, in the true spirit of dignified sportsmanship.

GOD BLESS OUR HOMELAND, GHANA

BY ANTHONY KWEKU ANNAN, A RETIRED CIVIL SERVANT AND SOCIAL COMMENTATOR.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Restoration Of Fertilizer Subsidies In Ghana

Opinions about the role of fertilizer subsidies in spurring agricultural development in Ghana have fluctuated significantly over the years. Many experts believe that fertilizer subsidies represents an essential method for achieving long term food security in the country while providing social support to the poorest small holder farmer. There is widespread agreement that increased use of fertilizer and other productivity-enhancing inputs is a precondition for rural productivity, growth and poverty reduction. While the benefits of using fertilizer are widely known, fertilizer use in sub-Saharan Africa stood at just 8 kilogramme per hector compared to 78 kilogramme per hector in Latin America and 101 kilogramme per hector in South Asia. One of the reasons for these low rates is affordability.

Generally, in less developed countries like Ghana, the demand for fertilizer is thought to be more elastic under the assumption of readily available substitutes such as manure and other organic materials which is however not so. In an attempt to boost yields and food supplies, several African countries have re-introduced fertilizer subsidies after phasing them out in the 1990’s.

Even though there is still a deficit in production and supply in Ghana, the past six years saw an increase in maize production due to the affordability and accessibility of fertilizer to small and medium scale farmers who cultivate about 75 per cent of Ghana’s maize. The production of maize and rice especially suffered significant decrease in 2014 due to the withdrawal of subsidy by the Government the effect of which is the high price of maize we are experiencing now and the closure of companies who use the product as raw materials. Like any other Government policy or intervention, there are challenges in implementation of fertilizer subsidy policy leading to the right people not benefiting from it. For example, there is widespread evidence that subsidized fertilizer was typically captured by wealthy local elites and business men and women at the expense of the poor small holder farmer. What we need to do now is to tighten the loop-holes where people take advantage of. There are alternatives to increasing fertilizer use in the country other than direct price subsidies.

Significant reductions in farm gate fertilizer prices can result from investments in infrastructure at the port and in-land transportation and telecommunications networks. Policy changes that improve the functioning of financial markets and the broader macro economy are also expected to reduce farm gate prices. An appeal goes to policy makers to consider the potentials of the small and medium holder farmer who with the needed support can help the government realize its ‘use of made in Ghana products’ agenda. Importation of maize and rice to the country is needless considering the resources at hand. The re-introduction of subsidized fertilizer is welcome news to the farming community, what is important now is for government to ensure that the fertilizer gets to the farmers at the right time.

BY Seidu Nanundow, (Agriculture Policy Analyst) 
Email: nanundow_seidu@yahoo.com 
Telephone Number: 0242888701/0204850750

GBC

Friday, 14 October 2016

Need For Issues Based Voting


The season has begun and the atmosphere is filled with cacophony of promises. There is no doubt that Ghana is confronted with a lot of developmental challenges. There is growing unemployment, declining agricultural productivity, deteriorating infrastructure and many more. Recent surveys conducted by various institutions such as the National Commission for Civic Education [NCCE] revealed that Education, Health, Employment and infrastructure are key issues at the heart of many Ghanaians. With less than two months to the general election, it is imperative that those who seek political power subject themselves to probing questions from the masses to show that they understand their concerns and have what it takes to solve them. In times past, elections were driven by mundane factors such as tribe, religion, height, and skin complexion. Campaigns were also characterised by abuses, insults, mudslinging, fabrications, unsubstantiated allegations, accusations and counter accusations. Little attention was paid to the main issues, call it, the bread and butter matters.

It is significant however that there is a gradual shift from that attitude. The last election was largely driven by issues of education and the fight against corruption. This is a tradition we must continue. This year's election must be issues driven. The youth of this nation will no longer tolerate living in circumstances that give them no hope for the future. Whoever is elected must take concrete steps to assuage the plight of the youth or be prepared to face their wrath. There is rage in the eyes of teenagers in the three regions of the north who wallow in abject deprivation of basic essential needs of life. There is rage in the heart of children dwelling in communities like, Sodom and Gomorrah, Nima, Nungua, Ashaiman, Tsorkor, and many others. The feeling is not different with head porters popularly referred to as ‘Kayaye’ all over the big markets in this country. That same rage is sensed in the minds of Ghanaian workers whose salaries take them only to the next Bus Stop. As for their condition of work, the least said about it the better.

It is refreshing that after the long delay, the main opposition party, the NPP has launched its manifesto. Needless to add that, the ruling party, the NDC had also launched it’s about a month earlier. The aim of a manifesto is give indication that they understand the concerns of the citizens and have the solutions to them. True to that, the two main parties have attempted to proffer some solutions to the key issues they think many Ghanaians are concerned about. The NPP made a number of grandiose promises including reduction of corporate taxes, VAT, and import duties and at the same time embarking on a massive industrialisation drive, by building at least one factory in each district, one dam in each village and allocation one million dollars to each constituency. The NDC also promised to revamp old industries, invest in the citizens, expand social and economic infrastructure and many more.

What is key is that the two main parties are pretty aware that one of the greatest challenges confronting the nation is unemployment. There is general despondency among many citizens as a result of current economic challenges. As Gen. Romeo D. put it, and I quote "Human beings who have no right, no security, no future, no hope and no means to survive are desperate group who will do desperate things to take what they believe they need and deserve" unquote. That is the more reason why people who are seeking political power at this crucial time must give hope to the citizens. For lack of hope is the root cause of rage. Those struggling for political leadership should tell the nation in the ordinary man's term, how prepared they are to eradicate poverty, deprivation and hopelessness. This is not a matter of making phantom promises which can never be realised. What is most insulting is for a political party to take the intelligence of voters for granted. Even in our desperation for political power, let us remember that the Ghanaian voter is discerning, he or she knows what is a vote catching promise and what is realistic.

God bless Ghana.

BY SEWONYADZI ETSE REXFORD, FROM ASHAIMAN MIDDLE EAST.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Girl Child Day

The importance of setting aside a special day dedicated to the girl child cannot be over emphasised. The observation of the Day supports more opportunity for girls and increases awareness of gender inequality faced by girls worldwide. This inequality includes the right to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence and child marriage. The world currently has about one point one billion girls who are brimming with talent and creativity. But their dreams and potential are often thwarted by discrimination, violence and lack of equal opportunities. It is unfortunate that there is no up to date data on the specific challenges girls go through on daily basis. That is why it is refreshing that this year's observation of the International Day of the girl child focuses on data gathering. This is a clear call for action for increased investment in collecting and analyzing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data. One year into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, improving data on girls and addressing the issues that are holding them back are critical for fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals.

Children particularly, girls go through a lot of challenges worldwide. The most significant being early or child marriage. The statistics are frightening. It is estimated that, excluding China, one in three girls in developing countries get married before they turn 18. What is worrying is the fact that girls who are child brides most often miss out on education, are more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence, and bear children before they are physically or emotionally prepared. It is said that with a minimum of secondary education, girls are up to six times less likely to marry as children compared to girls who have little or no education. The situation is not different in Ghana as child marriage is a common phenomenon. It is prevalent in many parts of the country. It is true that the government of Ghana is putting a lot of policies and programmes in place to end child marriage and stop every discriminatory practice against girls. It is refreshing that the country has an almost one to one , girls to boys ratio in basic schools.

However, the girl population reduces as they climb the academic ladder. This should be the focus of policy formulators and implementers. Special incentives need to be provided to motivate as many girls as possible to stay in school. Current developments testify that girls are as capable as boys to undertake any intellectual and energetic activity to contribute towards development. In Africa women and girls are still subjected to all kind of discrimination due to some religious and cultural practices. The role of non-governmental organizations in combatting all forms of discrimination against the girl child is highly appreciated but not enough to overcome it. In the case of Ghana, there is the need for a swift passage of an affirmative action law. This law is long overdue.

In today's globalised world, African countries and friendly organizations need to join hands in putting together their resources to further appreciate the situation of the girl child through collecting and analyzing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data. This data should enable leaders to be fully aware of the real condition of the girl child and its negative impact on the development of the society at large. With such information, the leaders should be in the position to take the right policy and programme decisions. That should be the stepping stone towards achieving many of the SDGs. On the International Day of the Girl Child, we stand with the global community to support girls’ progress everywhere.

BY BUBU KLINOGO, A JOURNALIST.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Conversion Of Polytechnics Into Technical Universities

No one can discount the immense contribution university education makes to national development, particularly when efforts are directed at making education the driving force that transforms the economy through the development of a country’s human resources. It is with this sentiment that most people welcome the Technical Universities Act 2016, Act 922, which seeks to convert existing polytechnics into technical universities. Under the Act, the new technical universities are mandated to maintain their uniqueness as institutions for training the next generation of industrial human resources that are required to transform the economy. Geoffrey Boulton of the University of Edinburgh, in a speech in 2009 at the European University Association Convention in Prague on the topic, ‘’Globalisation: What are universities for?’’, made some propositions on the roles of universities, and stated, among others, that universities in today’s world are seen as ‘’crucial national assets’’ actually engaged with government agenda in dealing with policy priorities. They also act as sources of new knowledge and innovation through research and development. Besides, they are providers of skilled personnel to drive an economy and prepare society for a future that is unpredictable. He adds that higher institutions provide society with the moral force that would make it possible for society to influence the continually emerging global crises, without relying on outsiders for solutions. Given these roles, one could rightly conclude that society is driven largely by higher education and thus provides the impetus for economic, social, moral, and of course, intellectual development.

Seeing that universities play these very crucial roles, particularly that of providing skilled human resources, one would not hesitate to appreciate the conversion of polytechnics into technical universities. Technical universities, or universities of technology as they are also designated in other countries such as the Netherlands, South Africa, and Brazil, undoubtedly, are different from the traditional universities in terms the programmes of study they offer, and in the mode of teaching and learning that take place there. For instance, in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Ukraine, a common feature of technical universities, there is the intensive collaboration between the universities and industries, with a strong bias towards the current needs of industry. This is spearheaded by practice-based training founded on sound theory and research. The result is a continually emerging technological development that encourages industry to invest in university research, with the hope that the research would in turn translate into economic benefits to these industries. A fascinating and commendable feature of the technical universities in Ukraine is that public sector industrial associations and employers’ organizations submit inputs into the design of programmes of study run by these institutions. Thereafter, the programmes are approved by the Ukranian National Agency for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, presumably similar to Ghana’s National Accreditation Board (NAB), or the National Council on Tertiary Education (NCTE).

On these premise, one should feel at ease to support the conversion of Ghanaian polytechnics into technical universities, in spite of the likely challenges at the initial stages. However, there are other issues that need to be considered in order to make the whole enterprise work better. In this light, it is relevant to note with great concern what G.E. Mikhnenko of Ukraine’s National Technical University points out, that, for technical universities to be able to achieve the reality, there must necessarily be an ‘’environment for self-development and self-renewal.’’ By implication, industries and businesses need to grow in scale, in scope of operations, and in their capacity to absorb the students for practical training. That is to say, the training of students in the technical universities should go alongside the development of the economy. Otherwise, an adverse situation could emerge where, because of very limited opportunities for practical work in destination industries and businesses, training would suffer and consequently reward the conversion efforts with unexciting results.

Another salient issue that also merits consideration is what is learned and how it is learned – the issue of curriculum and teaching methodology at the pre-university levels. In order to make the basic, senior high technical, technical and vocational schools prepare to take advantage of the opportunities to be offered by the technical universities, it would be prudent that their present curricular be reviewed so that they fall in line with those of the new universities. This apart, the methodology of teaching should take a new turn and dwell more on practice than theory, while encouraging more project works using small student groups. The new Technical universities would require much more resources, expertise, and unalloyed commitment, if we are to succeed in making them what we envisage them to be. There is hope that by following a prescribed blueprint with a focus on the uniqueness that we pray for our new universities, we would achieve our target.

BY YAKUBU AKAJABU, CO-ORDINATOR FOR SENIOR HIGH SCHOOLS, BEREKUM MUNICIPAL EDUCATION OFFICE.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

“Bad economics for political gain”- A Deputy Finance Minister Replies Dr. Bawumia

In his typical fashion, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice Presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party, has presented a 2016 edition of his annual lecture, that simply comprises a mixture of half-truths, outright lies and deliberate misinterpretation of economic trends and events, in an effort to discredit the economic stewardship of the National Democratic Congress government of His Excellency, President John Dramani Mahama.

If there is any difference between this year’s lecture and those of previous years, it is that his desperation shows even more clearly this time around in the form of the number of statistical untruths and other factual inaccuracies he deploys to justify his arguments, coupled with ingenious, deliberate misinterpretation of the facts that he actually stated correctly.

This is not surprising considering that his sole motive for the annual lectures is to win the support of the electorate and with a general election just a few months away he has resorted to all sorts of intellectual and technical subterfuge to achieve his objective.

Space constraints will not allow me to respond to every single argument he has mustered over his 67 page treatise. However, since the issues addressed to not require the convoluted treatment he has given them, similar space is not required anyway and I will keep it simple for everyone to understand.

ECONOMIC GROWTH RATES

Firstly and most importantly, he has tried to discredit the incumbent NDC government on the grounds that Ghana’s economic growth has slowed during its tenor and this has made people worse off than when the predecessor NPP government of John Agyekum Kufuor was in power.

To do this he has outrightly lied that in 2008, the last year of that government, Gross Domestic Product growth was 9.1%. The truth is that it was 8.4%. But even more dishonest is his use of a single year, the one in which that government had its best performance, to illustrate its GDP growth achievements.

The fact is that using the more accurate parameter of average GDP growth over the entire eight year tenor in office, the NDC government’s average of 7.3% is significantly higher than the 5.8% average recorded by the preceding NPP government.

It is equally important to put each year’s growth rate into the proper context. The fact is that the NDC assumed office at the time a global economic recession was erupting, which slowed growth in virtually every region around the world.

It is instructive in this regard that under the NDC government, Ghana’s economic growth has outstripped that of other African countries by a greater degree than it did during the tenor of the NPP government.

PER CAPITA INCOME VERSUS LIVING STANDARDS

More important than this though is the effect that successive government have had on the living standards of Ghanaians. Indeed this is the most important measure of the success of any government.

Dr. Bawumia claims that Ghanaians incomes grew faster under the NPP government than under the incumbent NDC government, and uses his statistics to claim that this means living standards improved more under the former than under the latter.

He is wrong on both counts, but has tried to once again use intellectual dishonesty to score undeserved political points.

To justify his claim he uses per capita income growth and changes in the minimum wage as measures of improvements in the income of the average Ghanaian, and then uses that as a substitute for measuring changes in living standards. None of this is correct.

Firstly, per capita income only measures the average income of a populace. Thus a tripling of the average income of the richest 20% of the populace would result in an increase in per capita income, even if accompanied by a halving of the average incomes of the poorest 50% of the populace.

Indeed we are all witnesses to the fact that this was the trend under the stewardship of the NPP government, and this explains why the NPP was voted out of power by the majority of Ghanaians in the December 2008 general elections, despite the major increase in per capita income as claimed by Dr. Bawumia.

The NDC’s approach to governance is dictated by its philosophical stance as a social welfarist party, which means we seek improvements in the welfare of the majority of the people.

This inevitably creates a certain level of disconnect between individual or institutional wealth and the benefits that can be obtained from State policy and direct interventions.

The NPP which adheres to its belief in “property owning democracy” deliberately seeks to cement a connection between the two, with the result that the relative few who already have the most property are those to benefit the most from its governance philosophy.

To avert attention from this core truth, Dr. Bawumia tries to use increases in the minimum wage as a measure of a government’s success in reducing income inequality.

This is inaccurate in any economy and in one such as Ghana’s where less than 20% of the work force are in the formal sector and therefore subject to minimum wage regulations, it is simply absurd.

The fact that Dr. Bawumia trumpets NPP’s supposedly superior record with regards to annual increases in the minimum wage merely illustrates the fact that his party ignores the plight of the overwhelming majority of Ghanaians, who are in the informal sector, and whose incomes cannot be improved simply by raising the minimum wage.

These are the artisans such as fitters, hairdressers, masons, caterers and the likes who are in informal employment and whose incomes are not connected to the minimum wage.

The NDC, in line with its social welfares stance, emphasizes policies that will improve the living standards of such people, who comprise the overwhelming majority of the populace, through interventions by the State.

Their appreciation of the positive effects of our efforts in this regard, continues to translate into electoral endorsements by the majority of Ghanaians every four years, and this year will be no different.

Here, it is equally important to remind everyone that incomes alone do not determine living standards. Access to education, healthcare, electricity, water etc are equally important and with regards to ensuring universal access to public goods and services by citizens, especially those with relatively low incomes, the NDC has a far better track record of accomplishment than the NPP.

The bottom line in this regard is that whereas the NPP seeks to use the already well off as growth poles for the economy, the NDC seeks to carry every one along together. While the debate may continue to rage about the relative long term efficacy of each strategy, we at the NDC believe that social justice demands a more equitable approach to the deployment of public resources by the State, than how the NPP distributes State resources which are directed towards the relatively wealthy on the argument that when they growth their wealth, it will trickle down to the relatively poor. This country belongs to all Ghanaians, both rich and poor, and the latter should not be deprived of State support to get ahead in life simply because the former can deliver better growth statistics, even if at the expense of the latter.

THE PUBLIC DEBT

During the eight years of the Kufuor administration, Ghana was granted massive debt relief, first under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, and then under the Multi Donor Debt Relief Initiative.

This enabled Ghana to reduce its public debt to GDP ratio from 126% at the time of assumption of office to 33.6% by the time the electorate rejected the NPP at the end of 2008.

Dr. Bawumia has dealt extensively on how much the NDC has borrowed since assuming power, resorting to gross exaggerations and outright untruths that are now well documented and so will not be repeated yet again here.

However, allow me to add several other important facts.
One is that, in the immediate aftermath of the HIPC and MDRI in 2006, by which time Ghana’s debt to GDP ratio had been reduced to 26.2% through debt forgiveness, the NPP binge that exceeded most of what the NDC has done subsequently.

In 2007, the debt to GDP ratio increased from 26.2% to 31.1%, a proportionate increase of 18.38%.

That proportionate increase was higher than any incurred over the current eight year tenor of the NDC with the exception of 2010 and 2014.

In this regard it should be noted that under the John Dramani Mahama Presidency, it was only in 2014 that the debt to GDP ratio grew faster, in proportionate terms than in 2007, immediately after the NPP government was let off the leash of the IMF and World Bank.

Indeed that was the year when Ghana issued its first Eurobonds to the tune of US$750 million, virtually all of which went into unsustainable petrol and electricity subsidies in an unsuccessful effort to effectively bribe the electorate ahead of the next year’s general elections to turn a blind eye to the NPP’s failure to improve living standards during their tenor.

The latest Eurobond issue, which Dr Bawumia refers to in derogatory terms, is being used primarily to pay off the outstanding balance on that issue, which could not even be accounted for.

It should also be remembered that the foreign borrowing of the NPP government was constrained by their incompetence in securing the borrowing they sought rather than deliberate restraint on their part.

We were all witness to the two separate ludicrous efforts of the Kufuor administration to secure US$1 billion in foreign loans, the latter attempt eventually revealed to source from an address that turned out to be a hair dressing salon.

Dr Bawumia points to what he says is inordinately high debt servicing costs.

The truth of the matter is that our relatively high debt servicing costs compared with previous eras is the result of Ghana’s new status as a middle income country, achieved by the incumbent NDC government, which no longer entitles us to borrow on concessionary terms from multilateral development finance institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank, because lending on such terms is restricted to low income countries of which Ghana is no longer one.

This means Ghana now has to pay full commercial rates for its foreign borrowings which costs us an extra six to eight percent per annum in interest rate.

Since we hitherto could borrow at less than two percent per annum on concessionary terms compared with close to 10% on commercial terms this has quadrupled our interest costs on foreign borrowing, a situation which every government in Ghana, be it NDC, NPP or any other party, would have to cope with.

The alternative is domestic borrowing, but the incumbent NDC government has prudently been reluctant to emphasise this over foreign borrowing to avoid crowding out the private sector from the local credit market, another false allegation which Dr. Bawumiah has deliberately made against this government.

The fact is that investment by the commercial banking industry in government debt securities currently accounts for less than one fifth of their combined entire earning assets portfolios, whereas lending to enterprises, institutions and households accounts for more than 70% of the banking industry’s earning assets portfolio.

The decline in bank lending portfolio growth is rather the result of rising non-performing loans, which itself is the inevitable short term result of the increasing willingness of the banks to take on credit risks, especially to SMEs which they realize are central to this government’s private sector support efforts.

As SMEs improve their corporate governance and financial management within an improving macro-economic operating environment, loan repayment performance will improve.

In the meantime, the Bank of Ghana is currently preparing to order a bank recapitalization exercise which will strengthen banks’ balance sheets while this process takes effect.

HIGH INTEREST RATES

Another deliberately misleading argument that Bawumia has presented is that government’s high appetite for domestic debt and high inflation are the reason for the high interest rate regime currently in place.

As a former senior central banker he knows better but in typical fashion has deliberately misinterpreted the facts in order to score cheap political points.

The truth is that the high interest rate regime put in place by the BoG through its Monetary Policy Rate is done for two prudent reasons, and both are related to the cedi exchange rate.

One is to make cedi denominated financial portfolio investments competitive against alternatives that are foreign currency denominated.

This has served to encourage investors to hold cedi denominated investments rather than foreign currency denominated investments because of their superior yields, which in turn has reduced demand pressure on forex and so has contributed crucially to the current exchange rate stability being enjoyed by the cedi.

The second reason is that tight monetary policy through relatively high interest rates is curbing demand pull inflation by restraining the amount of credit driven demand in the economy.

Specifically, this strategy by the BoG is curbing credit driven demand for foreign exchange, which is the other reason why the cedi has stabilized. Simply put, the choice facing Ghana has been that between easy access to credit amid a sharply depreciating cedi or less credit growth amid a stable cedi.

The business and consumer confidence surveys conducted by the BoG and the Association of Ghana Industries both indicate a preference for the latter, since it is the most crucial factor affecting the fortunes of enterprises and households alike, which is precisely the strategy being adopted.

FISCAL DEFICITS

While Dr. Bawumiah devotes considerable attention to criticizing the size of the fiscal deficits under the NDC government he conveniently neglects to remember that the single biggest deficit under the 4th Republic was incurred in the final year of the Kufuor administration, in 2008, which amounted to 12.4% of GDP.

In no year has the subsequent NDC government incurred a deficit that large.

It is instructive that the 2008 deficit was incurred despite the low public debt following the extensive debt forgiveness Ghana had enjoyed over the previous six years.

It was simply the result of an ill-advised attempt to use subsidies and populist public spending to bribe voters in order to win the 2008 elections.

Indeed, the winning of elections is what dictates everything NPP does, no matter the cost to the State and to Ghanaians.

This includes Dr. Bawumia’s dishonest public lecture which has elicited this response.

Conversely, the NDC government under President Mahama is committed to doing the right thing in the interest of the State and Ghanaians, which informs our hard decisions that Dr. Bawumia cannot understand because while they make for good economics, they make for “bad” election year politics from the NPP’s self-serving perspective.

This year, under the NDC government, Ghana is on course to achieving its lowest election year deficit and the first primary budget surplus in a decade.

Contrary to Dr Bawumia’s dubious assertions, any competent economist will confirm that this is laying the foundation for falling inflation and interest rates and the sustainable stability of the cedi’s exchange rate, as well as accelerating economic growth, which is already happening, even amid sluggish global economic growth.

LOCAL VALUE ADDITION

One aspect of our economic management which Dr. Bawumia conveniently omitted from his lecture is that of local participation and value added.

The NDC’s commitment to ensuring the increased participation in and resultant benefits from the Ghanaian economy for Ghanaians themselves is perhaps best illustrated by the legislation passed in 2014 which enforces increased local participation in the upstream oil and gas industry.

In similar vein, government, in collaboration with the Ghana Chamber of Mines has instituted regulations for increased local participation in the mining industry too.

The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre has, over the past two years instituted measures aimed at increasing local investment in the economy and a more widespread geographical spread of registered investments around Ghana.

The NPP never even considered such initiatives during its eight year tenor, but now, Dr. Bawumia, having learnt from the success of the incumbent NDC government, says they will adopt this as deliberate policy.

It is instructive that Dr. Bawumia, at the same time as he claims that local value added will be put on an NPP agenda, also promises that his government would remove import duties on imported raw materials ostensibly to lower local production costs.

He further says that increased production and resultant taxes would compensate for the forgone import duty revenue. However, this would make imported raw materials more competitive than locally sourced ones and thus destroy all the commendable efforts the NDC government has made to make enterprises in Ghana look inward for their production inputs, which has given Ghana more local value added, given Ghanaians such as farmers more employment in supplying locally sourced inputs, and has conserved scarce foreign exchange hitherto spent on importing raw materials from abroad. This again shows NPP’s foreign, rather than Ghanaian policy mind set.

The inward looking strategic initiatives by the NDC, which were never considered by the NPP government illustrate the biggest difference between the two.

The NDC’s approach to economic government is dictated by its desire to improve the lot of all Ghanaians, ensuring that the poor as well as the rich enjoy improved living standards in practical terms through improved access to social and economic amenities, utilities, goods and services.

The NPP however, limits itself to statistical performance indicators which only provide national averages, but fail to measure the impact of its policies on individual enterprises and households.

Statistics have their uses but when a political party reduces the Ghanaian populace to statistics rather than real life people, the most likely result is that while progress may be made in the statistical outcomes, the majority of the people’s living standards would inevitably decline.

This is what tends to happen under an NPP government and this is why, having experienced life under each, Ghanaians prefer to vote for an NDC government.

This is what has happened during the past two general elections, and with Ghanaians using practical experience rather than graphs and tables to measure their progress under the two alternatives, this is what will happen again in December.


By: Cassiel Ato Forson, MP, Deputy Minister for Finance