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Opinions of Sunday, 23 December 2007

Columnist: Appiah, Kofi

Decentralization Policy: Hoax, Fallacy Or Real

Ghana celebrated her Golden Jubilee in a very whirlwind manner. Ghana’s pride for hosting almost all the fifty-three countries on the continent was at its best. The significant or do I say the insignificant leader whose presence could not either top up or reduce the numbers was the controversial President Yahaya Jammeh of The Gambia. Knowing that hostile reception would welcome his arrival in Ghana due to his infamous order or multiplicity in the killing/massacre of 48 innocent Ghanaians in the Gambia allegedly /purportedly trying to overthrow his government failed to come for the function. Instead, he delegated his lady foreign minister to stand in.

SETTLED DUST

Now some six months have elapsed and the bureaucracy, red-tapeism, development of projects that have all been Accra-centred has never changed. The presence of our colonial masters is not very much felt because the administration of the government machinery is entirely in the hands of the Ghanaian. Did we hasten in those days or era to govern ourselves? Much did our forefathers think the white master was a pain in the arse. Now that we seem to be in the captain’s seat, and for well over five decades, Ghanaians from Lawra and Bawku in the very north; Axim and Aflao in the south, Krachi Nkwanta in the eastern tip and Sampa and Dormaa Ahenkro in the western border have had to travel to Accra all the time at the peril of their lives for just simple official documents. These could have been secured if our technocrats, experts and professionals in the persons of principal secretaries/chief directors/managing directors/chief executives who claim to be ‘untouchables’ for ages were to streamline the administrative bottlenecks instead of delighting in foreign trips as part of government delegations. The travel fatigue of our friends from upcountry could have been spared the dangerous travels to Accra.

PASSPORTS

It will indeed be a great joy when Ghanaians wake up from their sleep one day to be told that they could now complete their passport forms and mail it through the post and wait patiently to receive same from their letter boxes. We have since independence been privileged to have talented, brilliant and knowledgeable sector ministers to man the foreign affairs ministry and it is very sad and ironic that to date none has ever dreamt of proposing this simple method. Obtaining a national passport is a must and people at the ministry should not think it is something for the elite. May be now that the national identification programme is just about to start in earnest, we will be fortunate to avoid the hassle and bustle but to have our passports sent to us through the mail.

WORKS AND HOUSING -RENEWAL OF CONTRACTORS’ LICENCES

The less talked about the Ministry of Works and Housing the much better. So many people have fallen victims to motor accidents en route Accra and I need not write home about this half-dead ministry. Almost everything that has to be processed in Accra might have contributed to Ghana’s placement on world road accident as the number four. It is not strange that some 35 out of l05 contractors working on some projects in some parts of the country have absconded. The bureaucracy is just too much. When, oh when will our technocrats sit up and propose something credible. When do we expect them to tell us that they have decentralized their outfit? Crazy, isn’t it? Being fortunate to have even UN experienced ministers to man the ministry could not alter the stalemate. The list of the ministry(ies) can go on and on without end. Were the so-called technocrats to do just the right thing, time, energy, and money could have been saved, but only interested as part of government delegations to overseas.

PENSIONS FOR PENSIONERS

In fact it is a shame that our aged parents have to travel from all the four corners of the country to come to Accra for collection of their pensions. When do we expect the much- trumpeted ICT please? Fancy our pensioned parents aged 60 and above, travelling at their risks from the nukes and corners of the country to Accra only to be ‘toyed’ with their lives by messengers at the Pension House and the Treasury. I do not envisage that the ‘all listening government’ will sit down aloof to allow these lapses to occur and rather come out to say ‘effective March 6, 2008, all Ghanaians should stay put and do their own things in their localities’ – that is decentralization proper. Beautifying Accra all the time at the expense of the other big towns is the headache of many a Ghanaian.

EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF GOVERNMENT PROJECTS

I strongly recommend that the development of Ghana which has always been centred in Accra should halt and the rest of the country also attract the attention of the government. A recent research by the National Investment Bank suggests and/or indicates that government projects all over the country have 62% in Accra, 28% for Kumasi and l0% for the rest of the 8 regional capitals. The writer is however subject to correction; but if it is found out to be correct, then something drastic must be done and in haste too. This and many more have been the contributory factor for the city/urban drift and it will not cease if a halt is not put to it. If government housing programme were to have been able to accommodate the influx of these people, fine; but the fact that we often hear of afford- able houses springing up here and there and the same go for the elite and the rich people to have them on hire purchase, government’s genuine intention will continually be defeated. And in the event of any likelihood of some catastrophe like ‘Hurricane David or a Tsunami’ then it would mean we would have gathered all our eggs into one basket and gotten it crushed at one go hence the subsequent admonition.

ADMONITION

In view of the above, the writer will like to admonish the government first and foremost and suggest for the adoption the following –

a) To seriously adopt three towns in each region for fast-pace development of infrastructure such as decent hospitals, polytechnics, vocational institutes, airstrips, rehabilitation of the railways in the existing areas, so as to serve as tourism centres.

b) To consider having regional annexes of the ministries in the largest of the three towns in addition to the regional ones.

c) To establish military base(s) in the remaining three regions which do not have i.e. Central, Upper East and West, and with say a platoon of men to help curb the crime wave in the system.

d) To finally consider the establishment of tertiary/public universities in the remaining regions and absorb most of our needy brilliant students who are the cornerstone and future leaders.

These laudable ideas which may have been on the drawing board and gathered some cobwebs for ages should come out soonest. The Brong Ahafo, the Eastern, the Volta, Western , the Upper East and West should collectively have their fair share of the national cake and stop all the concentration in Accra.

SELECTED TOWNS

In the Ashanti Region, the three towns should be Obuasi, Mampong and Bekwai; in the B.A. area, the three towns should be Berekum, Dormaa Ahenkro and Techiman; in the Central Region, Agona Swedru, Saltpond and Kasoa should be considered; in the Eastern, Akyem Oda, Nkawkaw and Donkorkrom; the Greater Accra too should have Dodowa, Ada and Amasaman as the beneficiary towns; in the Northern Region also the three should be Yendi, Walewale and Damongo; the Upper East’s three towns are Bawku, Navrongo and Sandema with the Upper West’s three towns being Lawra, Jirapa and Tumu. In the Volta Region, Hohoe, Kpando and Sogakope with the Western region’s selected towns being Sefwi Wiawso, Agona Junction and Elubo.

In conclusion, when government’s attention is focused on developing these towns the mad rush of our youth to the urban areas for non existent jobs will be curtailed as well as prevent the rate and spate of the oldest employment in the world i.e. prostitution by our young girls.



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