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Opinions of Thursday, 9 October 2014

Columnist: Biney, Stephen

Constitutional reforms and Ghana's development the way forward

I am not a legal luminary, I am not a politician and I am not a specialist in basic developments planning that affect or improve people's life.

However, common sense dictates or tells us that participation by citizens in developmental planning can galvanize economic development.

Ghana has gone through a number of political changes since independence and the current change being, the fourth republic.

There is one thing disturbing and troubling me at this point in our national development. As a nation our strategic development plans have always been designed by the central government in Accra.

It is sad to know that today most people in Ghana do not have access to basic things such as convenient toilet, potable drinking water, consistent electrical power supply and sanitation which have resulted in cholera and malaria. All these have come about as a result of failure of government centralized planning from Accra.

Since the 1992 election, all the elections have been centered on choosing the president and parliamentarians. I have never known of any ballot measures during general elections that centered on initiatives that the local citizens have to decide to benefit their areas' developments. Some political commentators will argue that we normally hold district assemblies elections but, what about district developmental initiatives or measures on the ballots?

As a matter of urgency, I think now is the time for the on going Ghana's constitutional reform or review committee to evaluate the development planning laws and modify the laws, to entrust the local voters to decide on their development plan initiatives or measures in relation to their areas. This reform will allow the local participation to decide serious and strategic development plans of their areas, than some politicians who live or sit in Accra and do not even know these areas they plan for.

Ghanaians must take concrete and concerted steps and look beyond the development planning rules written in the past. The status quo or the system of central command of the development plans designed from Accra needs to be changed and allowed the local people to plan for themselves. This will give the people the external powers to transform, develop and uncover the economic potentials of their areas.

There are numerous evidences and theories from around the world that cement the argument that local participation leads to infrastructural and economic developments. (Adam smith (1776): Wealth of Nations).

Ghanaians are witnesses to the high level of unemployment, prostitution, armed robberies and other evil vices that have stigmatized our beloved country.

We have been deprived of our decency and descend into degeneracy and venality. Most people will not have engaged in these evil habits but in the absence of local planning and development to sustain the local economies, they have no option. There are no grievances or arguments that justify the under development of the various districts. Every district needs it own separate strategic planning committee not the status quo in Accra.

I believe, when the locals are allowed to plan for themselves through ballot measures, the competition from other districts will force the politicians to develop their localities because if they fail, they will be voted out. The passion for patriotism will be manifested and challenge them to make collective efforts to meet their local necessities. I remembered in the 1970's and 80's we used to face lift our communities through communal labor. Where is that spirit of nationalism , the will of devotion and dedication now?

Why is it that at this 21st century, people still defecate in the openings, children still attend schools under trees? It's pathetic and disgrace to our nation due to poor planning.

If we do not take intensive and determined efforts to curtail these problems, there will be anarchy in Ghana one day. As President Thomas Jefferson once said "When things got so bad, the people would actually make corrections".

Finally, the district or local level developments are our collective responsibilities and must be delegated to the people through the ballot box. I therefore call on all Ghanaians and the stake holders to enshrine in the pending constitutional review the need to allow local voters to determine their own fate through developmental ballot measures.

Where are our priorities? Are we moving forward or backward Ghanaians?

When this reform of local people voting on their developmental plans is implemented in logical and comprehensive way, it could eradicate or reduce the unemployment and other aligned social evils and provide avenues or opportunities for better standard of living, because nobody wants to be seen as a bad person. Thank you.

God bless Ghana.

By: Stephen Biney ( Seattle, U.S.A)