Feature Article of Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Columnist: Nyarko, Stephen

Ghana’s Population will increase to 33 million by 2030

Are the leaders and Politicians aware? Why are the relevant issues not being discussed in our Political Debates in Election Year?

By S. Nyako ( A Concerned Ghanaian Citizen).

Its elections time again and Ghanaian politicians are back on the campaign trail, promising milk and honey but no one is really talking about the things that really matter given the above news?

This normally will not be news but the recent news from the electoral commission that Ghana plans to increase the number of members of Parliament from 230 to 275 gave me food for thought, and intrigued me to find out how many more Ghanaians there would be in 20 years’ time.

A United Nations Report (statistics of the worId’s projected populations) of couple of years ago projected that Ghana would have a population of 33 million people by 2030. That is just in 18 years’ time. The question is are the current leaders and politicians taking this observable fact in to account in their policy formulations and planning activities for the nation’s future development , or are we going to keep spending more of our meagre resources on political office holders whilst we continue to ignore the fundamentals, when our systems are not fit for purpose?

Table 3: Population Trends in Ghana, 1950-2030 (thousands of inhabitants)

Year 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020 2025 2030

Total 5,243 7,131 8,982 11,303 15,480 19,867 22,113 24,312 26,562 28,790 30,964 33,075

Rural 4,433 5,473 6,380 7,780 9,836 11,124 11,537 11,780 11,922 11,946 11,860 11,655

Urban 810 1,658 2,602 3,523 5,644 8,743 10,576 12,532 14,640 16,844 19,104 21,420

% urban 15.4 23.3 29 31.2 36.5 44 47.8 51.5 55.1 58.5 61.7 64.8

Accra 177 393 631 863 1,197 1,674 1,981 2,321 2,666

Kumasi 99 221 349 452 696 1,187 1,517 1,818 2,095

Source: http://www.worldbank.org/afr/wps/wp110.pdf

How are we going to cope with this massive increase in human numbers, especially in the numbers of young people if we don’t change the ineffective ways we govern ourselves?

Our problems are huge and complex, but evidence shows that a lot of our political leaders have very short planning horizons. They lack the necessary understanding and problem solving skills, competence, experience and exposure to figure out how to resolve some of the truly fundamental or key issues afflicting our country. Their mind set is not right. They still tend not to do deep thinking on issues and always gravitate towards emotions, quick fixes and ad hoc solutions which do not stand the test of time.

These are people who would easily spend a $100million dollars on a brand new aircraft for themselves rather than spending that hundred million dollars to fix our broken down basic education system. Or even use those $100million dollars to set up a venture capital fund for young entrepreneurs. These people would rather fly in a $50 million dollar planes to donor conferences abroad with its attendant costs, to go and beg for $10million dollars to augment the nation’s school feeding programme initiative. Such mind set can never be rational and for how long can we continue doing this, I hear you ask? If you ask me I say it’s Madness!

In this election year whilst politicians strut about the country, making promises, campaign speeches, donating cases of schnapps and whiskey, distributing party caps and t- shirts at the omanhene or paramount chief’s palace, some really relevant questions on fundamental and key issues like how do we reform the governance systems to work better for us or how do we take our destinies into our own hands to tackle the governance and accountability deficit arresting our development, are markedly absent from the public debate. To me it looks like we are still marking time.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that even now whilst almost 60 % of the population lives in abject and grinding poverty unable to eek a decent living, our political office holders are only interested in themselves and not taking Ghana’s development issues seriously .

I argue that since my experience, our leaders have always been focusing on themselves and disregarding the challenges we face as a nation. Their approach to the basics, education, healthcare, water, sanitation, electricity, roads, housing and basic infrastructure in our human settlements still remain the same and have still not really improved if you examine the cold figures and statistics under the microscope.

In the light of this the thought that we are going to have an extra 8 million more citizens by 2030, in 18 years’ time frightens me and should this be a wakeup call to our political leaders and their parties?

When I was growing up the in the 1960’s, Ghana’s population was a bit over 6 million people, then in my adult years it double to 12 million. It went to 18 million and now its 25 million people. Soon according to the United Nations Report ( ) will be 33 million in 18years time and despite our relatively huge resources and potential, Ghana has still not really developed the capacities to address the basic issues. Whilst it seems like are we still in the beginning of a very long dark tunnel with no end in sight, they keep creating more positions and allocating budgets to fund the expensive and ostentatious lifestyles of political office holders .

There is an epic folly going on in Ghana that must be confronted. During election campaigns you hear plenty of rhetoric and excuses why we can deal with the key fundamental issues of nation building. However the ruling political classes do not hold back on how to fund their expensive lifestyles. There is not much forward planning to achieve the basic mentioned. The squandering of resources on trivia, the corruption and waste in the public sector is incredibly damaging to our nation building efforts. Our tax systems, both national and local are grossly inefficient and corruption within the governance system is rife but who is debating these issues?

Whilst shirking their responsibility our political leaders continue to live large and have increasingly become a financial burden on the nation’s meagre resources. Some say they have literally become vampires on the nations democracy since the only people whose lives improve at the end of the day is them. This is not good enough and we need to correct this damaging oversight and must put these things under the spot light.

Let’s be frank here, our political leaders live like Saudi Arabian Sheiks at our expense, yet have no clue how problems are solved because they have no problem solving skills. They would rather spend all the meagre resources to fund their personal comforts and leave everything to chance, hoping and praying that some rich philanthropists would pop up and bring them some more to share.

When it does not materialise they tell us we are unable to deal with the various challenges including infrastructural challenges, because we have no money.

Let’s also be frank here, Ghana under normal circumstances is not ruled by its brightest and best. Unfortunately those who shout loudest seem to always rise to the top of the political tree and eventually mess things up. Why don’t we debate these issues?

Is it not true that most of these political leaders and activists in charge of the governance system, in charge of our destiny would struggle to find employment in the real world?

Despite our huge resources and potential our political leaders sit down and allow foreigners with little effort take over our economy without breaking sweat and not even paying taxes. They continue to tell us we have no money?

We have no money because they don’t ensure the right things are done first. We have no money because of the gross systemic corruption. The corrupt system of governance and chaos they are superintending over is a contributory factor to typical third world African “beggar nation” story denying the whole country an ability to mobilise funds to meet development challenges ahead is a self-inflicted truth. Resource rich Ghana does not deserve this? Our true contemporaries have left us in the dust and it appears we just want to muddle through.

We have no money because there is no justice and accountability in Government and our Governance systems. In Ghana hundreds of millions of dollars of public monies can go missing or stolen without any one being held to account and they say we have no money to educate our children?

Just look at the astronomical levels of corruption and the naked stealing of public monies through inflated public contracts and judgement debt payments that has become the hall mark of Ghana’s vampire elites, who are at the helm of affairs? The public Accounts Committee reports and the judgement debt saga show that too much Government money is being stolen and misused by corrupt government officials with impunity.

The question is why are the powers that are not debating these issues and proposing solutions? The corruption and waste and thievery of public funds in the system is just too much. Let us all find solutions to these relevant issues.

These days’ technology and tools for managing these things are cheap and readily available. ICT, and networked and reporting systems, software, are cheap and easily available. Equipment can easily and effectively be deployed instantly to gather the evidence required for prosecution and make our judicial systems more efficient. No one is discussing these.

Have you noticed something lately?

Given their inability to deliver a lot our political leaders have to provide some other justification for their existence and increasingly “appealing to God” sports (football) and entertainment have become proxies and we continue to suffer in silence.

For how long can we keep doing this when we can do the right things, reform our vast potential for generating internal funds from our own resources for development? Doing the right things will unlock our growth potential.

Our problems handicapping our development are systemic and we need to start fixing the rot.

In the light of the coming population explosion if we don’t get the fundamentals right , and if we don’t reform the crude chaotic governance and social systems built up from a discredited colonial past, to make our country more efficient and safeguard public resources we shall forever be marking time and chasing our tails.

For us to do this effective long term, we need honest leadership, not thieves in power. We need credible policies and planning strategies as well as long term initiatives, to be able to provide for the teeming masses that are going to soon join us as equal citizens.

How do we cater for their needs and provide them with opportunity and adequate public goods, such as more schools, health centres, decent cities and towns, water and working sanitation systems, roads etc. if we keep ignoring the fundamentals?

For example according to World Bank figures by 2030 Ghana would need 6.5 times more water than it managed to produce and treat in 2007. How are we going to do that if we still continue in the old shambolic ways?

All these challenges need above all leadership, honest selfless leadership, something which is currently lacking in Ghana politics. It needs foresight and above all resources. Ghana is not a poor country and can easily generate the necessary resources internally, only if the political leaders did the right things. If the leaders won’t think, may be because of some” handicap”, perhaps we the citizens must force the agenda, because it’s our lives that are forever being complicated.

The questions we should all be debating all the time before these elections should include, our grossly inefficient taxation system which have become a joke and which needs systematic reform. How about our lack of systematic spatial and urban planning systems, in our towns, cities and rural areas?

Street addressing systems, naming streets and structures in the built environment are very important for accelerated economic development in a third world country such as ours. Why are we not discussing this?

Likewise full decentralisation or what I call full autonomy for local governance, so local people are empowered to create their own destiny and create their own local economies.

We should also definitely not be wasting more of our monies on national political office holders, more parliamentarians and public officers at the national level is a no brainer! In this globalised world where resources are becoming scarce everybody else is reducing theirs. Did you hear our fellow African Country Senegal, has abolished its Senate?

We need to fully decentralize government to the local level with full competitive local politics to elected mayors and local leaders to improve responsiveness so local leaders can take responsibility and create development and increase economic growth at the local level.

Just look at how thousands of poor Chinese peasants and Fulani herdsmen have invaded our rural areas illegally prospecting for gold, poisoning water resources and the environment. Who is being held accountable? No one, because the DCE’s are only appointed at the patronage of the President and local peoples welfare is not their business. Why are we not discussing these issues?

Coming back to taxation systems, why are our leaders still unable to put credible systems into place to identify economically active persons, industries, and landed properties for effective tax collection? Some say they ignore these things because they have a particular difficulty with figures. The reality it seems is that, this mundane normal responsibility of government is too much of a challenge for some of these people, because of the efforts that need to be exerted to achieve the objective. Meanwhile our tax collection systems, both national and local have increasingly become unsustainable, unable to generate any credible resources or income for national development.

We definitely can fix these things, and we have to critically look at them. How come there are people both locals and foreigners who are multi- millionaires in Ghana, but don’t pay taxes at all because there are no credible reporting systems, and they are not on any databases, and they do not leave any audit trails, even though they are engaging in serious and very profitable economic activities, and earning huge amounts of money regularly.

How can this be allowed to happen in this stern age I hear you ask? Why are we not debating these issues?

So you see instead of our incapable leaders taking the initiative to fixing the system they find it is much more easier to keep the current, no effort badly structured shambolic taxation system because it serves their interests,. The more Chaotic the better! If we need more resources, it is easier for them to take the begging bowl around to seek funding here and there from so called “development” partners. Or even better securing extortionate “credit card “loans from even fraudsters for every development initiative. This is folly. Is this how to build a proud nation resource rich nation like Ghana?

To have a credible taxation system that properly identifies economically active persons, entities and assets is one of the key things our politicians must address. They need to understand that one needs to create and manage credible data bases for the purpose or you are going nowhere fast. It is not only at Funerals that we need to keep a good record of donors and provide an account as to how the monies have been spent. One needs to create water tight systems to collect national and local taxes and levies for our socio economic development especially in the economically active south of the country.

Is it not shocking that we claim to operate in a globalised world, yet we are unable to collect taxes from foreign and local companies who operate in the country, who make huge profits such as Banks and Mining Companies, because Government is unable to properly identify them to levy relevant taxes for national development, because they all have P.O Box Addresses at the local post offices in a small town. How can we even identify the owners of businesses million dollar properties and investments and where they reside?

How do we even keep a tab on the huge amounts of profits these companies like the mining companies are generating? These are very serious questions that requires planned concerted action from across the political spectrum. It needs to be drawn into the political debate and be debated so solutions can be found.

This brings me to our chaotic and shambolic spatial planning system. What are we doing about our shambolic spatial planning and land registration systems which still are not still credible and hindering our economic acceleration? Again it looks like because our leaders have a particular difficulty with figures or creating effective systems and data bases for the collection and management of data bases everything is being left to chance once again.

In Ghana today there is ever increasing rapid growth in informal settlements with their attendant problems. Our urban areas are growing at break neck speed, unplanned, dirty and chaotic and damn right ugly and unsightly whilst filling up on a daily basis by unregistered populations who are expected to double without any infrastructure. The challenges to fund and provide these areas with the necessary infrastructure are huge, education, healthcare, food security, water, sanitation. Why are we not debating these issues?

We still are unable to create credible databases to identify our own population to distinguish who is a Ghanaian and who is not. To find out where the Ghanaian lives and how can we tailor public goods such as education and health services to develop their potential and create wealth.

We are not able to put effective systems in place to secure our borders though there is a lot of regional instability and violence in our neck of the woods and we think its okay God would take care of it? What do we elect our political leaders and, parliamentarians for?

All these issues requires know how, experience and skills but do our political leaders have these?

In Ghana today there is no street address system to identify lands, properties and people for effective valuation and taxation and revenue generation. Our land title and ownership systems are still basically still shambolic, and the leaders find it just too difficult to fix any of these things, so they simply ignore them and leave everything to chance.

So how do we even improve national local taxation?

Street addressing is a very important aspect of socio economic development. It gives numbers to structures and buildings and aids resource mobilization. It is one fundamental thing that is truly going to propel and accelerate our socio economic development.

At the moment the politicians are roaming the country, they have put together manifestoes that don’t address the main issues that continue to complicate our lives.

Still 80% of economic activity is located on the tiny 10% of land near coastal Accra and the place is more than overcrowded. Yet there are no plans or strategies to diversify and relocate, or have regional and district policies to create incentives for local economies and disperse meaningful economic and industrial development to districts and far flung regions. So for now, everyone in the country gravitates to the tiny enclaves of Accra – Team to seek for opportunities and seek their fortunes. Why are we not discussing these issues? Between 1985 and 2000, the city’s population grew from 1.8 to 2.7 million, a 50 per cent increase, while its urban land cover expanded from 13,000 to 33,000 hectares, a 153 per cent increase. In a trend that is likely to be repeated elsewhere, urban land cover in Accra grew more than twice as fast as its population. (See map –World Bank Report))

The annoying thing is after all the mismanagement, lack of planning and maladministration by these same people, when the capital City increasingly turns into a slum, some half-wit Government leader, official or activists, pops up and says, “Let’s Build a new Capital City! What?

How are we going to take our development into our own hands? How do we create efficient systems to address the governance and management deficit, the gross poverty and inequalities affecting majority of our citizens, without having to go bowl in hand forever begging for money and misusing it?

How do we deal with and get rid of oppressive traditional cultures like witches camps and trokosi whilst building a modern progressive state?

Folks, the challenges remain immense and guess what we are going to have an extra 8 million Ghanaians to deal with in 18 years’ time. But sadly there appears to be no end in sight.

Folks, we are 55 years old increasingly operating in a globalised world so let’s stop the obfuscation and unsustainable quick fix solutions. Our politicians need to be aware that doing the same thing over and over again and achieving negative results is nothing but stupidity. We need to force them to discuss these issues and come out with meaningful, solutions, plans, strategies and initiatives and implementation programmes to resolve them. That is what we pay them for all the ostentatious lifestyles, those juicy allowances and per diems and unjustified perks. All we require them to do is think and do the right things for mother Ghana.

An ever growing population whose needs are not adequately addressed has serious consequences for all of us. As the political leaders, most of who benefitted a lot from free education and gold plated scholarships to get to where they are, keep making “Mickey Mouse “ decisions that are not addressing the issues and they hide behind high walls guarded day and night by national security , a large youthful population that is not gainfully employed can be a serious liability to the nation state.

Our political leaders, elected and appointed must sit up and think for once. Especially the youth of Ghana, must engage the debate, its your future being messed with. You must hold them accountable.