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Business News of Monday, 23 February 2009

Source: Financial Intelligence (Justice Lee Adoboe)

Savannah development more realistic-CEPA

In his bid to ensure equitable development of the state, President John Evans Atta Mills in his State of the Nation Address last week promised to establish a Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) and revive the Central Regional Development Committee (CEDECOM)

Interestingly, 15 long months before President Mills’ announcement, the economic policy think-tank, Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) had been muting the idea of such an approach to deal with the poverty situation in the country.

The policy think-tank also proposed a policy for the alleviation of poverty in the Central Region which they believed is equally poverty-stricken as the savannah belt of Ghana.

Executive Director of CEPA, Dr. Joe Abbey who spoke to this reporter in November 2007 just after the late Minister for Finance, Kwadwo Baah Wiredu had delivered government’s fiscal policy statement for 2008, warned that the proposal for the establishment of a Northern Development Fund was half-baked since the poverty situation in the country was not just a problem of the three northern regions but that of the whole savannah belt as well as the Central Region.

He explained the situation using the vegetational map of Ghana, which divides the country into the different vegetation zones, saying that the savannah belt covers the three northern regions and the northern parts of both Volta and Brong Ahafo regions.

“Data collected throughout the country shows that poverty is endemic in all these places covered by the savannah”, Dr. Abbey noted, calling for any policy intention to deal with poverty on regional basis to get to understand the situation before embarking on that venture.

The seasoned economist then also called for the inclusion of the Central Region in any such policy since, “poverty in that region is as endemic as it is in the savannah belt of Ghana”.

Last Thursday, in his State of the Nation Address to Parliament, President John Evans Atta Mills announced the decision of his government to fulfill the campaign promise of his party to establish a Savannah Accelerated Development Authority to deal with poverty in a more holistic manner.

He also promised the reviving of the Central Regional Development Commission (CEDECOM) to tackle poverty in that region.

“My administration will this year establish the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) as a more holistic development agency to harness the development of the three northern regions and districts in the Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions contiguous to Northern Regions”, President Mills promised.

He promised to use the proceeds appropriated under the Northern Development Fund and with the support of development partners to begin urgent development interventions in the three northern regions to bring the needed relief for farmers and residents whose livelihoods were destroyed by two successive floods.

“We will also begin the process of enabling the private sector and civil society in these regions to accelerate development that enhances incomes and provide employment for the youth”, President Mills assured, explaining this would in the long term help bridge the poverty divide between the north and the south and revitalize the central region.

On the private sector, the president promised to form a long term partnership with them to secure the future and well-being of Ghanaians.

“Given the importance of the role of the private sector in the development of Ghana, their development agenda will be driven and monitored at the heart of Government business at the presidency. This is a promise I made to the private sector and the government will translate it into action”, the president stated.

President Mills also noted that in spite of the budget deficit of 15% of GDP, balance of payment deficit of 18% inflation rate of over 18 %and the overall national debt burden of US$7.6 billion, Ghanaians must not panic since it is still possible to turn the situation around.

As a first step to managing government expenditure, the president Mills promised a drastic cut in the State Protocol budget, drastic reduction in official foreign travel budget, a drastic reduction in budgets for official seminars, the monitoring of targets and dividends of state-owned companies and enterprises as well as reviewing the exemptions regime.