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Opinions of Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Columnist: Asiedu-Young, Bellinia

Forging towards a Decentralized Administrative Governance in Ghana

Ghana’s dispensation towards a decentralized administration is for the most part about the management of its executive powers. It is about taking away from the central powers and giving what has been taken away to the 10 regions. This topic has escaped public debate because those who dare it are consistently accused of shoring up sinister motives. The potential for public discourse is often undermined by starry eyed skeptics who block any attempt to tackle this issue. Those people fear that at the extreme level, decentralization will make some regions poorer, or that if this happens, some very ambitious power hungry persons will pick up the power at the regional level and run with it. The fear of not being able to control what some regions will do is very real and legitimate. I believe a decentralized Ghana government is very high up there on a Richter scale of importance, but it should be carefully planned out to make it successful. Looking at Ghana critically, it is a country that is lumped up in its entirety in one boat that is sinking; the citizens are all sinking in one boat, but there could be 10. Ghana must now build 10 boats to support its weight.

Before I continue I want to ask these very important questions? What is going on with Ghana’s body politic? Why is political violence rife in recent times? Figuratively, the political parties are highly driven by pedestal-mounted statues that wield the entire power after elections. It’s a win-win or lose-lose situation, it is also a do or die affair. There is an enormous amount of powers placed on the shoulders of the one winner. Eventually, this sole entity controls the total land mass, the minds, the talents, and the total will of all the people of Ghana, with an absolute power to do or undo the country called Ghana in its entirety without any constraints whatsoever – a very frightening situation.

The main point I’m trying to make is that there is a big problem with the way Ghana is being governed and a decentralized administration may be the best system of governanace. The idea of decentralization is about giving all regions the chance to progress, and placing the development of each region in the hands of the people who live in it regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or political orientation, and recognizing that it is far easier to develop Ghana in portions as opposed to as one whole. Administratively, decentralization will open up the avenue for each region to learn from the other regions how they go about developing and using their resources and how they treat corruption. Decentralization is not about one region using its minerals or human resources solely for itself, or leaving some regions behind, because all regions have unique gifts which can be harnessed with proper management. And if I have anyone worried, it is important to note that decentralization has nothing to do with separatism. It is simply about setting up each region with the right tools to operate as a seat of government with full delegated authorities to negotiate and do the right thing for itself as well as share its physical assets and human resources with the rest of Ghana. Decentralization will stop the situation of stagnancy that is occurring throughout Ghana. However, one must bear in mind that the talk of a decentralized government will not be complete without the topic of federation. The question is: What is the main objective for choosing this type of governance? What will the optimum goal be? Strong institutions? Can Ghana achieve strong institutions without the induction of proper systems? Is it going to be the type of governance that mimics federal type administrations whereby there is a redistribution and sharing of power between the central government and the regions; or a decentralized governance whereby complete power is offloaded equally onto the regions? The key will be careful planning.

There are pros and cons to any initiative: To reap the benefits, decentralization should be planned such that there will be no unanswered questions with regards to responsibilities, regionally and nationally. With a decentralized administration, it is hoped that Ghana’s developmental agenda will be enhanced as all 10 regional seats work simultaneously in tandem with each other to show their clout. This is an ideal situation which will make it easier to expose corruption because people will seek to understand why some regions are able to do similar work at reasonable costs. There will be more accountability and electoral fraud will be reduced, because the Head of Government will serve only as an international figure head and an overall overseer whose major duty nationally will be to provide a mandate and framework within which the regions must work. There will be a vested interest by citizens to develop regional capitals and redesign all regions. With decentralization, Ghanaians will begin to recognise there are places beyond Accra or Kumasi. I have friends who go to Ghana and the moment they land in Accra they continue to Koforidua, Bawku, Wenchi, Keta, Takoradi or Cape Coast. For anyone who might wonder if all the regions in Ghana are equipped with enough resources to survive. Every single region in Ghana has potential to survive if its resources are harnessed properly. Chana still has undeveloped potential in farming, tourism, banking, manufacturing, minerals, real estate, etc., unfortunately, Ghanaians do not have confidence in their local talents and products. The greatest worry for decentralization is that there are regions which seem weaker at the moment and which might need initial assistance to survive, another negative is finding the right mix in the power dispensation.

Someone once asked that in the face of “dumsor” what do Ghanaians celebrate national birthdays for? I tend to side with this person. But then, who am I? I am only tossing a penny for my thoughts!

Bellinia Asiedu-Young
Richmond Hill, Ontario Canada