Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Need for Ghanaians to support implementation of the Free SHS Policy

At the ongoing round table organized by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development UNCTAD in Geneva, Switzerland, Ghana has been highly praised for rolling out of the free Senior High School education Policy. It is indeed a matter for all Ghanaians to be proud of and equally be responsible for its ultimate success. African Union Commission made the commendation, which was hailed by all present. The Commission said Ghana's introduction of a free senior high school programme is a true indication and a sure way of ensuring the growth of the country and Africa as a whole. As if by design or coincidence, this major achievement by Ghana is in tune with the theme of the meeting, which is “Accelerating Progress in Building Productive Capacities in Least Developing Countries and Other Vulnerable Developing Economies.” Ambassador Thomas Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson, African Union Commission, who gave the commendation on behalf of the AU noted with delight that the beginning of Free SHS in Ghana would give greater impetus to the AU’s agenda of having every African child in school by the end of the decade.

In many respects, Ghana has been seen as a trailblazer for the rest of the African continent. This time too Ghana is joining countries like Rwanda, Uganda, and Namibia that already provide free education at the Secondary level to lead the way to bring to fruition the dream of the AU to put every African child in school by the year 2020. With the level of poverty on the continent, there is no way such a laudable vision of the AU could have been achieved without the intervention of governments.

Ghana’s bold decision is therefore is a good omen for the rest of the continent. Most countries around the globe that are a step away from Africa and Ghana for that matter made education, their paramount priority. The free compulsory secondary school programme that Ghana has embarked upon is really an idea whose time has come. For sure, the policy is a sure way of ensuring the growth of the country and Africa as a whole. This is because Africa and Ghana for that matter do not only have the largest number of young people but also are the poorest in the world despite their huge natural and human resources.

At the moment, Ghana ranks 20th within the 52 African countries by way of the literacy rating with 57.9 percent. It is hoped that this policy by government could improve the situation to beat Burkina Faso which ranks first with 21.8 percent. In the words of Ambassador Quartey, “We would like to have a literate and a numerate Africa. We want an Africa where illiteracy is a thing of the past. With a literate and numerate Africa, the continent would be ready now to imbibe technology, apply science and technology, and find solutions.”

By Simple calculation, about 400, 000 students who have gained free access into senior high schools this year, were the same children whose mothers benefited from free maternal care under the Kufour administration some 15 to 16 years ago. The lesson is that the parent must ensure that the money that are supposed to be spent on these children would not go waste but rather rechanneled them into viable ventures to create wealth and ensure the furtherance of their wards education up to the university level to help the government build up the needed human resources for national development.

All of us who share in this pride must also share the accompanying responsibility and exhibit high sense of support and optimism of this important policy as it will benefit all Ghanaians in particular and Africa in general.

BY NANA SIFA TWUM, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT – LONDON- UK.

Implementation of the Free Senior High School Policy

The free SHS Policy was a critical campaign promise in the 2008 and 2016 general elections. The announcement of the policy which derives inspiration from the Constitution, received both praises and criticisms from a wide range of people. Politically, those on the other side of the divide said it was only a campaign gimmick and the policy cannot be implemented in view of the socio-economic challenges of the country.

All the negative presumptions must give way to reality. The unveiling of the logo for the initiative was a great pointer to the fact that all is set for its roll out. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in February 2017, officially announced the intention of his government to fully implement the Free SHS. The President said by free SHS, the government is saying in addition to tuition, which is already free, there will be no admission fees, no library and science centre fees, no computer lab fees, and no examination fees. Also no utility fees will be charged. There will be free textbooks, free boarding and free meals. Day students will get a meal at school for free. The President pointed out that the Free SHS will also cover agricultural, vocational and technical institutions at the high school level. The policy also involves the building of new public Senior High Schools.

This is indeed a great relief to parents and students. Parents can now channel their resources to other activities that will enhance the living standard in their homes while government takes care of their wards in school. A 26-member Free SHS Implementation Committee was inaugurated by the Minister of Education and a Free SHS Secretariat established to handle all issues pertaining to the implementation of the policy in September.

To add impetus to the commitment, the Minister of Education in collaboration with the Ghana Education Service, GES, held series of meetings with key stakeholders within the GES to sensitise them to the policy and the roles expected of them. The free SHS policy will address inequality and ensure equal opportunities for all students through the removal of cost barriers. It will also enable students who otherwise would have terminated their education at the JHS level to acquire functional and employable skills through the acquisition of secondary education as well as enhance the human capital base of the country. It is also aimed at making secondary education the minimum academic qualification in Ghana. The budget per student include one-time fee items for first year students amounting to GH¢435.00 per day student and GH¢438.00 for each boarding student. The policy will also cover all recurrent fee items amounting to GH¢101.47 for day students and GH¢105.47 for boarding students.

It is important to acknowledge that currently all Senior High Schools have received all the core textbooks ready for distribution to all first-year students under the free SHS policy. The initiative is critical for human resource development of the country and all stakeholders must ensure its success; come what may. Let’s make it work so it becomes a great yardstick for other countries in Africa and beyond. Critiques and duty bearers who may through their actions or inaction throw spanners into the wheels should be mindful of the supreme national interest and rather support the policy. It is the desire of every well-meaning Ghanaian that all the necessary resources will be provided to reduce the hitches which usually accompany novelties of such national character.

The Ghana Education Service should be strict on school authorities that may engage in acts that may undermine the implementation of the policy. Regional and District Free SHS Secretariats should be established where parents and guardians who encounter challenges can go for redress.

We must all support the Policy for All its good intentions.

BY DAN OSMAN MWIN, HEAD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS OF THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION.

Synchronising National Development Efforts To Ensure Long Term Sustainable

Good governance as a tenet in a democratic dispensation has been widely recognized as a key ingredient for development. Multi-Party Democracy gained root in most parts of Africa in the early 1990s replacing dictatorial regimes. Evidence seems to confirm that African countries where multi-party democracy has been established perform better as compared to non-democratic states. This notwithstanding, one of the challenges that confront multiparty democracy is consensus building for prudent sustainable long term development. Time and Time again governments formulate good and credible laws, policies and strategies to propel socio-economic development. The daunting task however is the capacity to implement these policies and strategies effectively and sustainably.

It is important to emphasize that the implementations of some of these plans are sometimes truncated mid-way through the plan period sometimes as a result of change in government. It is therefore heart-warming that in recent times some present and past governments have endeavoured to continue some programmes started by previous governments. Some experts believe that a persistent and effective long term national development goal is key to realizing fruitful national development outcomes. It is almost impossible for one single government, given the full term of eight years, to achieve meaningful development in the absence of a long-term national focus. This is why successive governments should be committed to continue programmes of their predecessors.

About 7 years ago a Constitution Review Commission was set up to among other things ascertain from the people, their views on the operation of the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution. One issue that stood out phenomenally was the need for long term sustainable approach to national development planning. It is as a result of this among others, that the National Development Planning Commission took a step to solicit for inputs for a long term national development framework, which was supposed to serve as yardstick by which programmes and manifestoes of political parties would be measured. That way, manifestoes would come closer to one other, with the differences being the pace at which one Government wants to develop and how effectively it does so .This is what gave birth to the preparatory process for a 40 year long term national development plan.

Throughout the preparatory stage for the long term plan there were concerns about the form the long term plan should take. Whereas some were of the opinion that a national development framework as long as 40 years stands the risks of violation by successive governments due to fast-changing global trends, others were pessimistic about a plan that is not legally binding. It is in the light of these that some have called for a review of the 40 year National Development Plan. Whatever one’s viewpoint about the 40year National Development plan is, the need for a long tern sustainable national development plan cannot be overemphasized. The National Development Planning Commission which is the national coordinating body responsible for the national development planning system has being doing a yeoman’s job by reviewing development planning records in Ghana as well as the planning experiences of other countries, mindful of the current political context of planning in Ghana where different political parties come to power with specific promises captured in their party manifestos.

There is however the need for strong consensus building in our body politic to ensure all inclusive and holistic development. As we continue to explore ways to achieve a free, just and prosperous society as a nation, there is the need for present and future Governments to have strong collaboration with the National Development Planning Commission to ensure synchronization of development efforts that permeate political barriers.

That is a sure way of ensuring sustainable national development.

BY DAVID OWUSU-AMOAH, A CULTURAL JOURNALIST AND HEAD OF RESEARCH, INFORMATION SERVICES DEPARTMENT.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Implementation Of The Papaerless Operations At The Ports

Over the past few years, operations at the country’s ports of entry have been characterised by unbearable delays, frustrations and allegations of bribery and corruption as well as loss of revenue to the State.

To overcome these problems and sanitize the system, government has decided to make operations at the ports paperless. This is meant to reduce or eliminate human intervention as much as possible from the system and, thereby, eliminate any possible payment of money to influence operations.

New measures which effectively come into full operations today are aimed at expediting the clearance of imported goods within a maximum of four hours and also help to eliminate revenue losses to the State, promote transparency, increase revenue, reduce cost of doing business for importers and, ultimately, bring about efficiency at the ports.

Port efficiency is needed for rapid trade facilitation for importers, eliminate frustrations and make it easy for business men and women to go about their duties.

The ports are national assets which have seen massive investments that must be recouped by the state for socio-economic development and also for the common good.

The new system is heavily dependent on technology, so stakeholders at the ports have been educated to make use of the technology to facilitate their operations.

This means that all importers are expected to initiate their processes online and make all declarations in the same way to facilitate the process so as to avoid undue delays.

Also, under the new system, the 17 agencies that inspected goods at the ports have been reduced to only two, namely, the Standards Authority and the Food and Drugs Authority.

Again, there will be joint-inspection exercises and not but not separate inspection exercises as was the case in the past.

Ghana is not an island onto itself but part of the international community of nations that must ensure effective trade facilitation in line with best international best practices.

It is, therefore, appropriate and good that at long last measures have been put in place to ensure that there is maximum efficiency at the ports.

In Dubai, for example, in using the same technology, importers are able to clear their goods at the ports within one and half seconds, showing their level of efficiency as compared to Ghana which has its operations characterized by delays emanating from inefficiency.

Under the new system, importers are expected to clear their goods within a maximum of four hours.

This will be a great improvement over previous operations at the ports. With time, the system is expected to improve itself until the clearance time is significantly reduced further. Stakeholders are enjoined to obey the new rules of operation and collaborate with each other to achieve the desired maximum impact.

The country has come of age and, therefore, needs to operate efficiently when it comes to transactions at the ports.

This will not only ensure rapid operations but also eliminate undue delays, eradicate bribery and corruption as well as effectively rake in the needed revenue for national development.

The country deserves to advance in her rapid economic development and certainly the paperless operations are part of measures needed to bring this about for the purpose of smooth economic transformation.

This explains why all hands must be on deck to support the new paperless transaction at our ports.

DR. KOFI AMPONSAH-BEDIAKO, HEAD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS, GHANA STANDARDS AUTHORITY.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Significance of EID

Religion has played and continues to play a critical role in shaping the lives of individuals. These individuals in turn determine the development of societies. In the course of shaping the destiny of society people must be ready to surprising forgo what is dear to their lives. It is therefore not surprising that Prophet Ibrahim obeyed the command of his Creator to sacrifice his one and only son, Ismael. This act by Prophet Ibrahim was a clear exhibition of a high level of faith in Allah. This courageous and submissive deed is what is being re-enacted by Muslims in Ghana and beyond.

To Muslims, Ibrahim is the father of all prophets and respected for submitting himself to the will of Allah. Allah tells us in the Quran the essence of sacrifice is to portray our closeness to Him. Quran Chapter 22 verse 37 clearly states this: “It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him.” Muslims are therefore commanded Allah to follow the footsteps of Prophet Ibrahim by dedicating the best of their possessions for the sole purpose of obeying the directives of Allah. Eidul Ad-ha or Feast of Sacrifice is one of the most important Islamic holidays of the year and it marks the end of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah.

As Muslims commemorate the day they are reminded of the mercy and benefits bestowed upon mankind by Allah. On this day Muslims, who can afford, must slaughter a sheep, cow, camel or goat. In order to encourage peaceful coexistence among people with diverse religious and cultural persuasions, the meat of the slaughtered animal must be divided into three. One third of the meat must be retained by the household that slaughters the animal while one third should be shared among relatives. This act also reminds us to share worldly goods with those who are less fortunate, and serves also as an offer of thanksgiving to Allah.

Prophet Mohammed, Peace be upon him, has strongly recommend maintaining family ties and treating one’s neighbours with dignity. This, can be achieved if we share gift among ourselves because, as the saying goes, sharing is caring. Therefore, one’s neighbours, regardless of their religious belief, are entitled to the rest of the one third of the meat. If we can share our resources with others not because we are self-sufficient, it presupposes that we would not let harm befall such persons and that we would be each other’s brother’s keeper. Even this sense of unity is seen yearly when more than one billion Muslims from all parts of the world converge on the plain of Mountain Arafat during the Hajj.

One of the most powerful sacrifices is for leaders to sacrifice their authority in the course of serving humanity. It is rather unfortunate that some leaders spend more time working to remain in power to the extent of endangering the lives of the very people they serve. If they would sacrifice their personal ambitions for the good of society, the world would not be witnessing the rise in religious and ethnic conflict level. As the Muslim world observes EId-Ul-Adah, the focus is to be responsible as citizens and promote unity and peaceful coexistence for the development of Ghana. Prophet Ibrahim gave his son in order to attain God’s consciousness.

We ought to remember that we should not always expect what Allah must give. If we desire better things in this life and the hereafter we must also give.

By Abubakar Garba Osuman (Journalist).

The One District One Factory Initiative as an avenue for job creation

The “One District One Factory, one of the flagship initiatives of the NPP Government is a key component of the industrial transformation agenda. The initiative is designed to set up at least one medium to large scale industrial enterprise in each of the 216 Districts. The goal of the policy is to ensure that Ghana’s industrialisation drive spreads to every part of the country, a departure from the situation where most of the nation's manufacturing facilities are located in the largest urban areas; Accra, Tema, Tamale, Kumasi and Takoradi. A key component of the policy is to add value to the various raw materials grown at the various districts. The project is geared toward creating jobs for the youth and reducing the developmental disparities across the country as well as curb rural-urban migration.

Even though the programme is emanating from the Presidency, it is being coordinated by the One District One Factory Secretariat. The Secretariat is to serve as an interface between the public and private sector partners. Information available indicates that the factories to be established will be private sector led with government facilitating the process. This is a better deal as it lends credence to the cliché that government has no business doing business.

To this end, government must ensure that its engagements with the private companies in the establishment of the factories are based on well thought-out agreements. An aspect of the One District One Factory initiative provides options for local assemblies to partner investors. The question is, do our District Assemblies have the capacity to be involved in such projects? How can citizens be assured that District Assemblies' resources are not dissipated in the name of investing in such ventures?

Projects have been established in this country in the past with heavy government involvement but the outcomes are nothing to write home about. Examples are the starch, sugar, tomato, diary and textile factories which were set up in the past. The issues with the SADA Projects are fresh on the minds of Ghanaians. Report that several potential industries have been identified in the districts and investors have shown commitment to financing them is indeed a good omen for the initiative. This is because the buy-in of investors is key to the success of the programme.

The ‘One District One Factory’ initiative reportedly received a major boost following the signing of an MOU in Beijing, China by Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, for a $2 billion [Two Billion Dollar] funding facility between a number of Ghanaian banks and the private sector, led by the Association of Ghana Industries and the Chinese government’s private sector development corporation. Under the agreement, the China National Building Materials and Equipment Import and Export Corporation is to provide 85 percent financing for viable projects recommended by the One District One Factory secretariat. Turkey has also expressed interest in investing in 51 districts.

It is vital for government to take steps to reduce the risks inherent in district level industrialisation by providing crucial technical assistance to the investors. It is also needful for the One District One Factory Secretariat to build the capacity of both investors and other stakeholders across the value chains on the strengths and weaknesses of each district.

Again, the State must help reduce the cost of doing business in the districts by providing reliable shared industry resources like electricity, water, good road and rail networks. Managements of the new factories need to religiously adhere to best corporate governance practices, a crucial element in making small scale businesses successful. Providing market linkages and access as well as generating demand for the products to be produced by the industries are essential.

Focus must not only be placed on creating new factories. Stimulus packages should be provided to existing economically viable but financially distressed companies to revamp them. It is heartwarming to learn that President Akufo-Addo decided to open the first of the 216 factories in Ekumfi in honour of the late former President John Evans Atta Mills who was a native of the Ekumfi District.

Yes! we join the people of Ekumfi and its environs to celebrate the opening of the first One District One Factory in their Community and urged them to contribute their quota to the success of the Pineapple Factory. It is the hope of every Ghanaian that the One District One Factory initiative attracts the right investors for the creation of sustainable jobs.

BY DOMINIC HLORDZI, A JOURNALIST.

CHALLENGES HINDERING THE SUCCESS OF PRIVATE SECTOR BUSINESSES IN AFRICA

The private sector has often been described as the engine for socio-economic development in Africa. This places huge burdens on the sector. Governments for that matter the States are supposed to create enabling environments for the sector to engender the needed growth. To this end, some governments on the continent have been encouraging their citizens both home and abroad to take advantage of investment opportunities available in their countries to make contributions to national development.

The question is, to what extent has the enabling environment been expanded for the sector to propel economic growth? A number of Businesses have collapsed for one reason or the other. Business development in Africa is saddled with a number of challenges. Ever-changing government regulations, use of multiple currencies, protectionist policies and the absence of scientific market research data make the assessment of the retail environment, consumer behaviour and consumer needs difficult.

In addition, businesses in Africa are fraught with technology and communication challenges as well as non-adherence to strict business management rules. Underdeveloped infrastructure makes delivery of goods and services to most parts of the continent difficult; unreliable road networks and transportation systems affect ability of businesses to meet deadlines. Erratic Electricity supply is a major threat to the survival of businesses on the continent.

In 2015 alone, about 13,000 businesses in Ghana were negatively affected by power cuts leading to employee lay-offs and liquidation. Business registration and contract execution processes have been a bane to the success of businesses on the African continent. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it takes about 155 days to complete a business registration process. In Ghana, a business certificate applicant is often assured of receiving the certificate in two weeks.

However, it takes several months for the certificate to be issued. In Angola, the successful execution of a contract involves 47 procedures and one thousand days to get registered. Foreign-investor participation in African economies is negatively impacted by these setbacks. High lending rates by financial institutions also hinder business development.

With a 21 percent policy rate, Ghana is occupying the 4th highest policy rate position in the world and 2nd highest in Africa. How can this engender private sector growth? No wonder about 90 percent of the continents businesses are dominated by menial buying and selling activities among informal retailers using stalls, kiosks, and non-organised open air markets.

To address the challenges, African leaders must strive to provide improved road and rail networks and other forms of transportation systems that could decrease employee work-travel hours to enhance productivity. Import-restriction measures must be tightened to provide protection for nascent businesses on the continent and Africans must do more to trade among themselves. Electricity supply must be reliable and affordable through diversified power generation sources. Unnecessary administrative bottlenecks in business registration and contract execution processes must be eliminated to make the continent an attractive investment destination. Interest rates on loans should be drastically reviewed downward to enable businesses to access credit at reasonable interest rates.

The Ministries of Education and Trade and Industry must liaise with the tertiary institutions to ensure contents of academic curricula are tailored to meet the needs and demands of businesses and industries. Industrialization is the only way out of the present economic predicament. Governments must do well to create the enabling conditions to woo investors and to ensure that their businesses become profitable to contribute to the much needed economic transformation.

The private sector cannot be the engine of growth when the engine is troubled. Our businesses must not walk the path of death. They must be assisted to thrive.

BY DR. EBENEZER MENSAH ASHLEY, A CHARTERED ECONOMIST AND COUNCIL MEMBER, INSTITUTE OF CERTIFIED ECONOMISTS OF GHANA.