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Opinions of Monday, 5 June 2000

Columnist: Anning-Gyan Kwame

The Size of the Government

Basic economics teaches us that resources are limited. As such care must be taken when allocating resources for national development. There must be priorities clearly established and expected outcomes of policy outlined in no ambigious terms. Re-allocating resources to where they may be most effective is a mark of good administration.

Is our government too large and could it be downsized so that some of the resources used to maintain it could be allocated somewhere else that would be most appreciated?

There are twenty-one ministries; the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs as well as the Minister of State without portfolio. Two other non-cabinet Ministers without portfolio exist. There are seven Ministers of State at the President's Office and thirty-two deputies serving under these Ministers.

The Minister of State without portfolio acts as a liaison officer between the executive and the legislature. It appears that the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs who could also be the liaison officer has other functions including that of the majority leader in Parliament.

The Ministries of Food & Agriculture; and Environment, Science & Technology each has three deputies. The Ministries of Finance & Economic Planning; Education; Employment & Social Welfare;Transport & Communications; Roads & Transport; Lands & Forestry; Works & Housing; and Youth & Sports all have two deputies each. The Ministries of Defence; Mining & Energy; Foreign Affairs; Interior; Justice; Trade & Industry; and Tourism all have a deputy each.

The two non-cabinet Ministers without portfolio do not have deputies and the Ministers of State at the President's Office have no deputies either. There are nine appointments in the President's Office for two special assistants, the Secretary to the President, the Secretary to the Cabinet, Chief of Staff and Deputy, two Presidential Aides and the Presidential Advisor on Governmental Affairs.

In all, there appear to be twenty-one Ministries, eleven Ministers of State with or without portfolios and thirty-two deputies. This makes for a rather large administration (executive), the cost of which is bound to be exhorbitant if not prohibitive. Can Ghana afford an expensive administration? Are we getting our money's worth?

I do not have access to the books. And some of us are well aware that the executive, with its own power vested by itself (overriding constitutional requirements) has outspent its budgetary allocation to the tune of several million cedis. The size of the executive needs to be reduced and fine-tuned for efficiency and responsiveness. Money saved by reducing the size of the administration could be allocated to maintaining dilapidated classroom blocks or rehabilitate some of the health posts in the rural areas.

I propose that the twenty-one ministries be reduced to nine with a deputy each. There would no longer be a Ministry of Youth & Sports with two deputies. All activities performed under this Ministry for the youth will be placed under the Ministry of Education; and all sports related affairs under a National Sports Commission. The Ministry of Interior would be reconstituted to include the Environment, Lands & Forestry, Local Government and Chieftaincy affairs. Likewise, the Ministry of Industry would include Mining & Energy, Science & Technology and Labour. There would be an entirely new Ministry of Agriculture & Development that would handle Food, Rural Development, Works & Housing, Roads, Transport & Communications.

The Ministries of Road & Transport and Transport & Communications would cease to exist. The Ministry of Defence should be able to handle all national defence matters including that of National Security for which we have a separate Ministry at the moment. The Ministry of Justice would continue to house the Attorney-General and the Courts. The Police, Prisons and Immigration Service should remain part of this ministry. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have a special semi-autonomous unit to perform the functions of the defunct ministries of Tourism and Information.

The Ministry of Health would assume all responsibilities for social welfare. Finally, the Ministry of Finance would have responsibility for economic planning, budgetary affairs, trade and government statistics. This, by default eliminates offices such as Ministers of State at the President's Office for National Development Planning Commission; Planning and Regional Economic Co-operation and Integration; and Chieftaincy Affairs & Protocol.

The foregoing classification is by no means engraved in stone and is open to re-formulation and reallignment. The quest is to create a lean, mean governmental machinery that is equally effective, efficient and responsive.

Per JOY ONLINE LOCAL NEWS - March 22, 2000, "the smallest Ministry in the country got Parliament to approve its 560 million cedis budget." This is the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs which some members of Parliament ably pointed out that "it was duplicating the work of the Office of Parliament and weakening the influence of the legislative body in the realm of government." Dr. Kwabena Adjei who heads this ministry countered that it is "to help in organising comprehensive and sustained outreach programmes for the population to appreciate the norms and values system of Parliament." Paa Owusu Ankoma, NPP-Sekondi said "even if there is the need for that special arrangement, the President could create a section in his office to facilitate that linkage."

The Ministry of Roads & Transport's 2000 budget that was just approved is 724.5 billion cedis. There isn't a figure yet for the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The budget for the Ministry of Mines & Energy is 237.87 billion cedis. The Ministry of Youth & Sports has an approved budget allocation of 32.49 billion cedis. This is an increase of 10.03 billion cedis over the 1999 provision. If all these monies are being allocated and spent on the youth, why are there so many of them unemployed and roaming the streets with others engaged in petty trading (dog chains, razor blades, plastic bagged iced-water)? Parliament has endorsed a budgetary allocation of 69.24 billion cedis for the Ministry of Lands & Forestry of which donor support is expected to make up 31.39 billion cedis.

Per JOY ONLINE LOCAL NEWS - March 23, 2000, the Minstry of Local Government & Rural Development has requested 222.24 billion cedis of which 138.98 billion is expected to come from donor sources. The Ministry of Finance has requested 137.68 billion cedis of which donors are supposed to make up 8.26 billion.

The figures are intended to give the reader a view of part of the picture. There is certainly a danger inherent in the expectation that outside sources would make up our budget shortfalls. We know that not all donor pledges come to fruition. What happens to our programmes and projects if and when donors renege on their promises?

A smaller, efficient, effective, responsive and transparent government is in the best interest of all. We save monies that could be applied somewhere. We would have a lesser number of Ministers aand deputies on governmental payroll and some of these people could be business leaders or consultants that would help grow the economy. Imagine thirty-two Ministers and thirty-two deputies reduced to nine and nine, equaling eighteen in all. Give me the savings and I could build a first-class dual carriage road from Accra to Zuarungu! Just imagine how fast and efficient goods and services would move to where they would be most effectively utilised.

Let's look ahead!