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Opinions of Thursday, 27 May 2021

Columnist: Sandow Kpebu

Wrong timing for Accra decongestion exercise

The Greater Accra Regional Minister is doing the right thing at the wrong time. In fact if you consider the timing and the context, I don't think it's humane to support his actions.

To be clear I will celebrate Accra becoming the cleanest city in Africa. However if you consider the following, the timing is wrong:

1. COVID-19 has forced the world economy into recession and economic burden on citizenry.

Some countries are supporting their citizens with relief packages and businesses with stimulus packages. Considering the fact that citizens of Ghana are not enjoying these packages and have to depend on small loans to support our hawking businesses, this is not the time to destroy structures people live in and use as business locations.

2. The excruciating economic environment Ghanaians are currently going through caused by high taxes, increasing prices of goods and services, high rents and other high costs of living issues, makes the timing for this exercise wrong.
It's generally agreed that Accra needs to be decongested of course it's true but the Gestapo style of its execution by the government, and at a period mentioned above is most concerning.

Any caring government would not want to increase the suffering of its citizens at a time COVID-19 is ravaging their lives. The exercise is also rife with allegations and suspicions that top government/NPP officials are pushing this exercise through so they could allocate lands created to themselves.

When people start raising the issue of bad faith, it should be worrying to us all.

Many are those who would say if it's not done now when? The "when" would be as the economy improves or recovers to present alternatives to people who are affected by the exercise. The economy in its current state doesn't support such an exercise especially as the World Bank is warning the government to slow down its borrowing and to ensure it raises revenue to service its loan obligations and for budgetary support.

These small businesses currently being destroyed form part of the lifeline for the government revenue mobilisation efforts and therefore must be preserved for now at the very least.

The current high cost of living coupled with the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic in my opinion makes the exercise undertaken by the Greater Accra Regional Minister or the government untenable and inhumane.

Yes, the government wants to take all the difficult decisions, inflict all the heartless actions on the people and implement the harshest policies and programmes this year because they wouldn't want it done close to an election year but again this is the wrong time to do the right things.