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Opinions of Thursday, 2 March 2017

Columnist: Owusu-Nkwantabisa, Nana

Did someone say 122 Billion Cedis (30 billion dollars)?


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By: Owusu-Nkwantabisa, Nana


Time for local self determination

President Akufo-Addo’s State of the Nation address indicated that between 2009 and 2016 before handing over power in January 2017, the NDC increased the nation’s debt stock from 9.5 billion cedis ( approximately 2.3 billion dollars) to 122 billion cedis ( approximately 30 billion dollars); a difference of $27.5 billion dollars.

Please indulge me here but if the total Ghanaian population is 27 million, then the NDC government borrowed about a $1000 per head ( Is that right, Mathematicians?). Well, unfortunately the kayayei and hustlers didn’t feel the one thousand dollar improvement in their lives so Mahama had to go. We understand the $1000 per head for every Ghanaian home and abroad was used to build a Dubai interchange and service debts.

In comes the NPP who the last time around, transformed the nation’s economy overseeing a growth in the banking sector, infrastructural development, and social interventions by borrowing no more than $80 dollars per head ($2.3 billion dollars debt divided by a population of 25 million). Ghanaians decided in 2016 to choose between what an $80 loan can accomplish versus what $1000 could not accomplish even against a background of increased revenues.

As a society, we do a fine job of highlighting our problems. Where usually, we produce little is by way of solutions. So let me offer my two cents (or pesewas) here hopefully to encourage discourse. I want to focus primarily on local governance and development.

Power and resources are yet to devolve to our local authorities. As a result, all blame is levelled at the national government and rightly so. However, if locals determined their own destinies, most of the blame would target the local governments and the central (national) government could spend its resources monitoring the local governments. Our MPs would also spend more time in their constituencies engaging the people and ensuring that the local administrations are attending to their needs.

In the United States, local governments generate revenue through property taxes and fees and have responsibility for local education and policing. Local governments may be by township or county (district). Regional governments (States) also get their budgets from a relatively smaller amount of income tax and fees to state owned institutions such as universities and hospitals but draw the bulk of their revenue from sales tax. The central (federal) government relies primarily on income and corporate taxes. The federal and state governments supplement local budgets by making allocations to it.

My point here is this - local folks are responsible for their destinies and share the burden of governance. As a result, if your roads are poor or your schools are not doing well, you hold your local leaders accountable. You have the ability to attend local budget hearings and contribute to the debate. In Ghana,we blame the president when the village pipe doesn’t run or when there are no toilet facilities. Why? Because our independence has not translated to the local level. Where is the local self-determination?

Well, we have district assemblies, don’t we? We do but are we empowering them? It is my hope that through legislation and policy, this new NPP administration will usher in a new type of local government. There is a lot to be hopeful about. In addition to the Ministry of Local Government, there is now the Inner Cities and Zongo Redevelopment desk. A million dollars was also promised to each district and there is the one district one factory promise. A national discourse must be conducted this year to develop elaborate plans for execution of these initiatives. Each district must determine its own destiny with the government recognizing and awarding the best managed districts. Obama had a race-to-the top initiative that challenged local school districts to excel. Those who excelled received additional federal funding.

My point is simple. The government should promote local responsibility. Funds should be disbursed to districts with well thought out plans and districts who excel must be rewarded. If the government turns the focus on local administration, there will be more civic involvement and democracy will be deepened as local self determination is entrenched.


Nana Owusu-Nkwantabisa

knowusu@yahoo.com

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