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Raymond Ablorh writes: The Reforms Ghana needs – how committed is the political class?



Many Ghanaians are genuinely worried about the state of the country’s democracy, its impact on their everyday lives and the future of their children.

These concerned citizens strongly believe that without comprehensive constitutional and institutional reforms, there is no way the most highly praised but dysfunctional democracy in Africa can serve its ultimate purpose.
For them, democracy is not just about casting votes for political parties to change leaders of governments. Their expectation is that multi-party democracy will deliver on its much-vaunted dividends of first-world living standards and opportunities, especially, for the teeming youth among whom unemployment is highest.

After nearly thirty years, Ghana’s now stagnant duopoly is starting to ring hollow for many frustrated individuals. For many whose hopes rode high on the crest of campaign promises, their aspirations now lie prostrate in the valley of bitter disappointment and despair.

There seems no clear way forward after three decades of a variety of economic interventions that included restructuring of the economy to clear the way for private sector lead growth, debt forgiveness under HIPC, followed by rebasing of the economy to account for new streams of income from gas and oil. Yet, there is still a lack of an obvious alternative choice to the established duopoly. The seeming lack of an alternative to the two parties has built up frustration to a crescendo and that has become like tinder waiting for the strike of a spark.

Many activists advocating for change believe that social upheaval can now only be averted by making fundamental reforms that remove the most significant deleterious impediments to progress from the 1992 constitution in order to allow a new inclusive paradigm for development to take shape.

One political group that has however taken it upon its shoulders to advocate the needed reforms is the National Interest Movement (NIM) led by passionate reformist, Dr Abu Sakara Foster.

NIM’s vision of prosperity for all and not just a few, seeks greater inclusion and participation of citizens at all levels of the national development process. That’s reflective in the Movement’s reform agenda for Ghana, whose demands are captured in their seven point summary for comprehensive constitutional reforms.

A description of reforms required and the relevant affected Articles in the 1992 constitution are listed below (source NIM reform Agenda):

1. Reduce excessive powers of the President and deconcentrate power to other organs and key institutions of the State. (No more 1 man 1000 President) – Articles; 78, 5(2) (C) (3), 44(6);

2. Strengthen independent Constitutional bodies to provide an equitable balance of power for adequate checks and balances and stop the appointment of ministers from the Legislature or judiciary (No more ‘kokofu’ football between the executive and legislature or judiciary) – Articles; 108, 70, 216, 225, 286;

3. Entrench a long-term National Development Plan in the Constitution to ensure focus, continuity, and enhanced national cohesion for development. (No more discontinued projects and judgement debt). – Articles; 86, 87, 178, 179, 180, 181,182;

4. Remedy Public Service inefficiency and culpability in corruption by defining clearly who is a public servant, setting the highest standards and ensuring meritocracy and integrity. (No more who you know) – Articles; 288, 62;

5. Remedy ineffective decentralization of local government and enhance their viability as semi-autonomous bodies by upscaling local government to regional level and enhance accountability through the election of DEC/MCE through universal suffrage on a non-partisan basis. (No more taking community for granted by the imposition of leadership) -Articles; 23, 55, 63, 70, 71, 87, 241, 256, 261, 267, 243(1), 55 (3);

6. Institute Compulsory military service to arrest declining patriotism, discipline, and strengthen good cultural norms through reinforcement of social values that project accepted social virtues for renewed patriotic and disciplined youth, (No more “dadaba” and vigilante protocol recruitments into public service) -Articles; 41, 231; and,

7. Increase Political space for greater inclusive and consensus driven governance by enacting electoral reforms that permit the formation of coalition governments to end entrenchment of duopoly and unresponsive governance). Article 63 clauses (3 to 8).
It’s worth noting that many years after the work of a Constitutional Review Committee towards transformative reforms, the country is yet to undertake comprehensive reforms to improve democratic institutions and the governance system as a whole.

Nevertheless, the President of Ghana and the leadership of Parliament have, in recent times, expressed the need for reforms and are warming towards the process. The president has indicated that it is Parliament’s responsibility to lead the process

Ghanaians are impatiently waiting for the process to commence. NIM has proposed that a referendum be organised in 2022 on a raft of reform propositions so that government could go ahead and embark on the necessary constitutional and institutional changes needed.

Early in his administration, President Nana Akufo-Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo successfully did a referendum for the reorganisation of the regions of the country which, moved the number of regions from 10 to 16. The leadership of NIM believe that the President is capable of leading the needed reforms if he could do that.
But, the question still remains: how committed is the Ghanaian political class to a comprehensive constitutional and institutional reforms of the nature NIM is proposing?

The populace must also answer other equally important questions that include: for how long will the populace tolerate a system of political patronage for a few that is predicated on overwhelming powers in the hands of the President?

For how long can our democracy remain stable if the Presidency subdues independence of key constitutional bodies that should act as checks on the Executive to ensure a proper balance of power?

For how long can a system of pervasive wastefulness of government endure due to over-bloated government expenditure and recalcitrance to pursue and complete projects initiated outside partisan manifestoes?

For how long will the widening gap between, central and local government, urban and rural folks, the haves and have nots, continue to grow because of a system predicated on serving a ruling elite class in mega-urban cities at the expense of the rural poor living in the out-backs with an imposed leadership that panders to the President and not the community?

For how long will the populace look on as society disintegrates at its core of the family unit, where values that promote virtues of truth, integrity, empathy, hard work and discipline are sacrificed on the altar of greedy pursuit of instant wealth and satiation of every indulgence of base human pleasures as part of a global acculturation to modernity?

For how long will the partisan struggle for dominance be allowed to subsume and submerge the emergence of genuine democratic expression through the gross monetization of politics and corruption of the electoral process?

NIM’s grass roots campaign is to engage the public on these questions to ensure that Ghana is able to navigate its way from stagnation to resurgence through a medium of comprehensive constitutional reforms. Such fundamental reforms will permit a new paradigm for development and a level playing field for political engagements. The latter are essential ingredients to the renaissance that Ghana and Africa needs if its youthful generation are to realize the dream of vigorous dynamic evolution for the total economic emancipation of the continent and its people.

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Job creation is our focus – Ofori-Atta



Ofori-Atta will be presenting the 2022 budget today

This is in accordance with Article 179 of the 1992 Constitution and section 21 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921)

The budget will focus on solving the rising unemployment rate in the country

Finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta has disclosed that the 2022 budget will address the rising unemployment issue in the country.

He said the creation of jobs for the youth will be at the centre of the 2022 budget.

Also, the government will create an entrepreneurial environment for the youth of the country to venture into.

“I don’t think we can wait any longer, because the time is now on how to create an entrepreneurial state and deal with this issue once and all,” the finance minister is reported to have said by Joy Business.

“Certainly, the issues of youth and jobs will be the centre of this budget presentation,” he added.

He also said the budget will focus on improving the revenue situation in the country.

Ken Ofori-Atta will present the budget statement and economic policy of government in parliament today, November 17.

The presentation is in accordance with Article 179 of the 1992 Constitution and section 21 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921).

Meanwhile, economic analysts have asked Ghanaians to lower their expectations of freebies in the 2022 budget.

According to them, the nation is broke and needs to be revamped.

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Ken Ofori-Atta presents 2022 budget today



Ken Ofori-Atta will be presenting the budget statement today

This is in accordance with Article 179 of the 1992 Constitution and Section 21 (3) of Act 921

The budget is described as the most anticipated budget in Ghana’s history

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta will on behalf of the President lay before Parliament, the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of Government today.

This is in accordance with Article 179 of the 1992 Constitution and Section 21 (3) of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016, (Act 921).

The budget, which is termed as the most anticipated in Ghana’s history is said to focus on expanding Ghana’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Finance, ahead of the budget reading in a statement hinted that the budget will among other things dwell on “creating a climate-friendly entrepreneurial state to address unemployment and import substitution.”

It also mentioned the “digitalisation of the economy, skills development and entrepreneurship as among the key issues in the presentation.”

Ken Ofori-Atta in a Joy News report monitored by GhanaWeb stated that the government of Ghana is committed to putting in place measures that will help deal with the unemployment situation in the country as well as recent challenges with the employment of fresh graduates for the public sector.

“I don’t think we can wait any longer, because the time is now on how to create an entrepreneurial state and deal with this issue once and all. Certainly, the issues of youth and jobs will be the centre of this budget presentation,” the Minister said.

Ken Ofori-Atta, however, noted that creating an entrepreneurial state has been a challenge for the government, and hopefully the 2022 budget to deal with this problem.

Some interest groups including financial and economic analysts as well as professional and trade organisations have expressed varied expectations on the budget.

Whereas some analysts have urged the Government not to introduce new taxes, the Ghana Union of Traders Associations (GUTA) has, for instance, appealed to the government to implement policies that would reduce the cost of doing business in the country.

Other groups have also called for the widening of the tax net to enable the government to meet its revenue targets.

The Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) has also called on the government to review the payment of road tolls in the country.

Godfred Abulbire Adogma, the GPRTU general secretary, said Ghana should substitute paying of road tolls with a one-pesewa increment on the Energy Levy.

“When you come to the issue of road tolls, even if the government decides to raise the current amount of GHC1 to GHC2, that wouldn’t be enough.

“So, we have itemised all the reasons and the government could scrap all the toll booths and rather charge an amount per litre of fuel. That can be another measure to prevent revenue leakages,” Adogma was quoted in an Asaase radio report.

On his part, the Chief Executive of the Chamber of Pharmacy, Thony Ameka, in a Joy News report monitored by GhanaWeb, warned prices of medicines will increase if the government goes ahead to scrap the 50% discounts.

Eric Anti, Secretary of the Spare Parts Dealers Association at Abosey Okai in Accra, also expressed similar consequences.

But what is contained in the government 2022 budget?

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Biden and Xi Jinping virtual meeting: US president says the goal is to ensure competition with China ‘does not veer into conflict’



The two leaders met on a video call amid rising tensions between the US and China, which have long had a strained relationship.

US President Joe Biden has held a virtual meeting with China’s Xi Jinping and began on a positive note – saying their goal is to ensure competition “does not veer into conflict”.

The two leaders met on a video call amid rising tensions between the US and China, which have long had a strained relationship.

Mr Biden has criticised Beijing over human rights abuses against Uyghurs in northwest China as well as the suppressing of democratic protests in Hong Kong and military intimidation towards the self-ruled island of Taiwan, among other things.

President Joe Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Image:President Joe Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping

In response, Mr Xi‘s deputies have lashed out against the Biden administration for interfering in what they believe are internal Chinese matters.

“It seems to be our responsibility as the leaders of China and the United States to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended, rather than simple, straightforward competition,” Mr Biden said as he opened the meeting.Advertisement

He added: “It seems to me we need to establish some common sense guardrails. To be clear and honest where we disagree, and work together where interests intersect, especially on vital global issues like climate change.”

Mr Biden said the US is “always going to stand up for our interests and values and those of our allies and partners,” before inviting Mr Xi into a discussion where his administration has concerns, “from human rights to economics, to ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

Mr Xi, who warmly greeted the US leader by referring to him as his “old friend”, said the two sides needed to improve communication.

President Joe Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, listens. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Image:Mr Biden discusses his concerns with Mr Xi, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) listens

He claimed a healthy and stable bilateral relationship is necessary for dealing with global challenges like climate change and COVID-19, and added he would like to work with Mr Biden to guide the positive development of US-China relations.

“I stand ready to work with you, Mr President, to build consensus, take active steps and move China-US relations forward in a positive direction,” he said.

“A sound Chinese-US relationship is required for advancing our two countries’ respective development and for safeguarding a peaceful and stable international environment, including finding effective responses to global challenges, such as climate change… and the COVID pandemic.”

Mr Xi pointed out that both China and the US are at critical stages of development, and the “global village” of humanity faces multiple challenges.

The more than three-hour virtual talk saw Mr Biden bring up the issue of human rights “multiple times”, according to a US official, and he made clear that he sought to, “protect American workers and industries from the People’s Republic of China’s unfair trade and economic practices”.

The two also spoke about key regional challenges, including North Korea, Afghanistan and Iran. Beijing’s behaviour towards Taiwan was also discussed, although nothing new was established.

BEIJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 04:  Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shake hands with   U.S Vice President Joe Biden (L) inside the Great Hall of the People on December 4, 2013 in Beijing, China. U.S Vice President Joe Biden will pay an official visit to China from December 4 to 5.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Image:Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shake hands with then US Vice President Joe Biden (L) in Beijing in 2013

The two leaders previously travelled together when both were vice presidents and know each other well – and Mr Biden would have preferred to meet Mr Xi in person.

However the Chinese leader has not left his country since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The White House suggested the idea of a virtual meeting as the next best thing to allow for the pair to have a candid conversation.

Ahead of the meeting, the White House said Mr Biden would abide by the longstanding US “One China” policy, which recognises Beijing but allows informal relations and defence ties with Taipei.

It comes after Chinese military forces held exercises last week near Taiwan in response to a visit by a US congressional delegation to the island.

Mr Xi may be looking to stabilise US-China relations in the near term with Beijing set to host the Winter Olympics in February, as well as the Chinese leader expected to serve a third five-year term as president next year.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki earlier said that the “condensing of power” in China made the leader-to-leader conversations essential.

Meanwhile, Mr Biden has some domestic issues of his own after seeing his polling numbers fall over concerns about the lingering coronavirus pandemic, inflation and supply chain problems, and is looking to find a measure of equilibrium on the most consequential foreign policy matter he is facing.

The White House set low expectations for the meeting with Mr Xi, and said no major announcements or even a joint statement were anticipated.

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