Wednesday, August 27, 2008

LOTTO-GLOA's Claim False, says NLA's Director of Finance (Front Page)

THE Director of Finance of the National Lottery Authority (NLA), Mr Charles Mensah, has described as “totally false and misleading” the claims by the Ghana Lotto Operators Associaiton (GLOA) that as many as one million jobs will be lost if private lotto operators were outlawed.
He told the Daily Graphic in an interview that”the totality of private lotto operators that existed before the promulgation of the NLA Act did not and could have employed more than 3,000 people”.
He was reacting to a Daily Graphic report on August 22, 2008 which quoted the GLOA as saying that one million jobs would be lost, if the Accra Fast Track High Court's ruling which outlawed the activities of private lotto operators was not reversed.
Mr Mensah said a number of companies, including some members of GLOA, had availed themselves of that opportunity and pointed out that so far, seven provisional licences had been issued and many others had also been considered by the Board of Directors of the NLA for issuance.
He named the seven companies which had been issued with provisional licences as the National Lotto Receivers Limited, Lotteria Company Limited, Super 06 Company, Obiri Asare and Sons, the National Association of Lotto Agents and Writers, West End Discount Limited and Kwahu Farmers Lotto Company Limited.
Mr Mensah said the impression being created that it was a court of law that was outlawing private lotto was false, adding that, “What the courts have done is to reinforce what is contained in the NLA Act of 2006”.
“It must be pointed out that with the promulgation of the National Lottery Act, the NLA is the only organisation permitted by law to operate lotto in Ghana, but it can, among other things, license interested companies to sell its lotto on its behalf,” he stressed..
He stated that while it was possible that some existing banker-to -banker and other private operators may be unwilling to register with the NLA , and therefore, be unable to maintain their existing employees, many others, including new companies, were being incorporated and were employing many people to sell lotto on their behalf across the country.
On the National Lottory Act (Act 722), Mr Mensah said it allows lotto companies and any other business entity interested in the lotto business to be registered to work with the authority without any hindrance.
He said the objective of the law was to improve and expand lotto operations in Ghana, increase government revenue, expand job opportunities in the lotto business and also improve the business operations of the various licensed marketing companies.
The Director of Finance of NLA, said that the Ghana Lotto Operators Association (GLOA), like all other lotto operators in the country, were allowed under the law to register and work with the NLA.
Mr Mensah explained that the work of the NLA was improving, adding that within the last three-and-a-half years, the authority had directly contributed GH¢18,400,000 to the Consolidated Fund and paid taxes to the tune of GH¢7 million in addition to the payment of commissions to lotto agents and marketing companies to the tune of GH¢50 million as their commission of 25 per cent on the sales they made.
Additional information made available to the Daily Graphic by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning stated that lotto agents who had been operating in partnership with the NLA had shot up from 5, 020 to 12, 610 within the past few years.
“ In the new state-private partnership, the Department of National Lotteries has been dissolved. Products which were operated by the DNL will be operated by the NLA. The personnel of the defunct DNL have the option to be licensed as a Lotto Marketing Company,” it stated.
Similarly, it stated that private lotto operators licensed under the old regime had the option to be licensed as Lotto Marketing Companies upon applying to the Authority.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Food Prices Soaring -Despite Govt's GH¢150m life-line (Front Page)

A $150 MILLION life-line extended by President Kufuor to mitigate the effect of the world food crisis on Ghana, is not yielding the desired effect.
The GH¢150 million is the revenue the government is to lose due to the removal of duties on some imported items, which was announced by the President last May to ease the effect of the crisis on the Ghanaian consumer.
Items covered by the move are fertilisers and agricultural inputs. Some petroleum products also saw reduction in prices.
But the reality is that the measure is not benefiting consumers as the prices of food keep soaring on the local market, a situation the Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, attributed to the greed of some business entities who were cashing in to accrue huge profits at the expense of consumers.
The move was announced by President J. A. Kufuor, on May 23, 2008, with the subsequent amendment of the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) Duty and other Taxes Act to remove import duties on rice, wheat, yellow maize and crude vegetables for soap and food manufacture to become law.
Thereafter, Finatrade Group of Companies, a major importer of food items in the country, announced a reduction in the prices of all its rice brands with immediate effect.
A statement from the company indicated that a 50-kilogramme bag of Vietnamese rice, which was selling at a wholesale price of GH¢53, would go for GH¢49, while Thai rice of the same weight would go for GH¢50, instead of the previous price of GH¢55.20.
Texas rice, the highest quality rice, was to sell at GH¢57, instead of GH¢61, per 50-kilogramme bag at the wholesale.
But a visit by the Daily Graphic to shops around CMB and Okaishie in Accra painted a contrary picture as a 50-kilogramme bag of Vietnamese rice sold between GH¢52 and GH¢60 while Thai rice of the same weight sold between GH¢54 and GH¢62.
A litre of Obaapa and Gino cooking oil, which used to sell at GH¢2.20 some few weeks ago, is currently being sold between GH¢2.80 and GH¢3.00, a five-kilogramme bag of perfumed rice (Sultana) that sold at GH¢7.00 in June, is currently selling between GH¢7.50 and GH¢8.50 and a small size of Salsa or Gino tomato paste, which was at 15Gp in May, is currently being sold between 22Gp and 25Gp per tin.
Announcing the reliefs, the President took the opportunity to urge all Ghanaians, particularly importers, to co-operate so that the benefits could be felt by all.
Following that, Parliament amended the Customs and Excise (Duty and other Taxes) Act 2008 to remove import duties on rice, wheat, yellow maize and crude vegetables and was assented to by President Kufuor a day after.
A statement signed by Mr Andrew Awuni, the Press Secretary to the President and Presidential Spokesman, and issued in Accra, said, “With this law now operational, it is expected that importers will benefit from the removal of duties and other taxes and subsequently pass on such benefits to the end consumers.”
“Importers are reminded that it should be criminal for anybody to re-export these duty-free items,” it added.
The statement said the removal of the taxes was aimed at reducing the prices of those commodities on the market for the benefit of consumers, in the face of rising food and fuel prices globally.
Later, a report in the Daily Graphic quoted the Managing Director of Finatrade, Mr Nabil Mourkazel, as saying that it was criminal for the company’s clients to continue to sell at the old prices to consumers, saying “we expect the change to reflect on the market”.
In a reaction, Mr Baah-Wiredu, who confirmed the loss of revenue, said it was unfortunate for some individuals to take advantage of the government’s good intentions to benefit unduly while the state lost so much.
“All things being equal, prices of those items which are now tax free should have gone down but the information we are getting indicates that after some few days, the prices began to move up again. The unfortunate thing is that whiles the government continues to lose revenue because of those exemptions, some individuals are gaining,” he stressed.
The Finance Minister said another area of major concern was the attitude of some importers who after paying low taxes because of low levels of the cost of items they declared at the ports, rather sold the items at exorbitant prices and thus accrued high profit margins.
A case in point, according to the minister, was the selling price of a one-litre bottle of a foreign alcoholic drink, Courvoirsier VSOP, which stood between GH¢65 and GH67 but had a Cost, Insurance and Freight ( CIF) value of GH¢1.92 and duty cost of GH¢1.24 paid to government.
He said looking at it, one could realise that although the seller might incur other expenses such as rent, transportation cost, salaries to workers and utility bills to get the item to the consumer, the profit margin of more than GH¢40 on each bottle of the drink was too high.
He lamented that the attitude of those traders was in addition, affecting the national economy negatively and called for a vibrant consumer association as existed elsewhere in the world, to check the trend, adding that the government would have to provide the needed information for the benefit of the consumer.
He explained that because of the high profit those traders accrued from their sales, they readily offered higher prices at the black market for foreign currencies and thus, forced the cedi to weaken against those currencies, which caused rise in inflation.
In a related development, some consumers the Daily Graphic spoke to in Accra complained about the increase in prices of items that were manufactured locally by Unilever Ghana Limited and Nestle Ghana Limited, which they said were being increased on weekly basis.
According to them, prices of basic items such as Pepsodent and Close-up tooth paste, cakes of soap such as Geisha, Sunlight, Lux, Lifebouy and a bar of Key Soap, as well as Milo, Ideal Milk and Frytol cooking oil, were gradually pushing away the ordinary consumer from buying them.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Corruption Thrives in Absence of Checks (Page 28)

THE Chief Executive of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA), Mr Adjenim Boateng Adjei, has said that people are tempted to corrupt if there are no stringent measures to serve as checks on their activities.
Quoting a British policeman’s response to a question on corruption, Mr Adjei said “all things being equal, five per cent of the people in the nation are corrupt; five per cent are not corrupt; whilst 90 per cent are only waiting for the opportunity to be either corrupt or incorrupt”.
He stressed that, “Thus, it is important for a regulatory body like the PPA to commit a lot of effort into monitoring to ensure that those 90 per cent of the people who are in waiting are not tempted to corrupt the laid down system”.
Mr Adjei was delivering a welcoming address at the 2008 Public Forum of the PPA in Accra. The forum, which was on the theme, “Effective and Efficient Monitoring of Public Procurement for Sustainable National Development”, was attended by members of the governing board of the PPA, officials of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, officials of the Internal Audit Agency (IAA), state-owned enterprises and stakeholders within the private sector.
Highlighting the importance of public procurement for sustainable national development, the PPA boss said studies had shown that public procurement in Ghana utilised about 80 per cent of the national tax revenue, represented about 24 per cent of total imports, represented between 50 and 70 per cent of the national budget (after deduction of personnel emoluments), as well as accounted for about 17 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He said according to research findings, five per cent savings in procurement was equivalent to about 20 per cent increase in sales volume in relation to organisational profit .
“To the commercially oriented organisation whose aim is to maximise profit, procurement is strategic management function because of the impact it makes in its success and growth. To the non-profit organisations like subvented organisations where profit is not the objective, savings in procurement means more resources are available to undertake additional infrastructural projects for sustainable development,” he observed.
To achieve its objective, Mr Adjei noted that the PPA had approached the task of monitoring in a systemic, incremental manner, adding that the process of monitoring and evaluation began by developing an assessment tool called the Procurement Model of Excellence software, which allowed the qualitative and quantitative measurement of procurement systems.
He said to satisfy itself on the capabilities of the assessment tool, the PPA conducted a pilot assessment on 100 entities in 2005, which comprised both high and low spending institutions within the Greater Accra Region, and subsequently assessed 213 entities in 2006.
He said this year, the authority had assessed a total of 515 entities for the year 2007 and found that the results were encouraging. He backed that notion with a number of public tendering advertisements the entities made, which he said was clear indication of increased levels of transparency.
Delivering the keynote address, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, observed that the public forum, which was the third of its kind, was significant considering the opportunities they offered for interaction on issues that bordered on public financial management and its implications on the national economy.
The minister said since public procurement constituted one big expenditure component of the national budget, any opportunity to avoid waste and spillage should highly be applauded.
He stated that Ghana being a developing country whose national budget was 20 to 30 per cent supported through development partners, and international and local borrowing, there was the need for prudent use of funds through effective and efficient procurement systems.
The chairman for the function, who is also chairman for the PPA board, Mr Kwesi Abbey Sam, said the PPA had over the years worked assiduously to create awareness and improve public procurement activities in the country, adding that “this has been confirmed by the growing reportage on procurement activities in Ghana covering the views of the general public, the media and even Parliament on the management of public procurement in the country”.
As part of the programme, representatives from some of the high spending entities in the country presented reports on their experiences in implementing the Public Procurement Act of 2003 (Act 663), and these included the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, Send Ghana, a civil society organisation, and Ultimate Supplies Limited, a private sector procurement agency.

Anti-Smoking Campaign Here (Page 3)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Sat. August 22, 2008)
A Group of campaigners from the world anti-smoking coalition, have arrived in the country to partner the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the media to push the tobacco-free agenda forward.
The objective of the group is to advocate for the passage of the National Tobacco Control Bill in Ghana to give meaning to the ratification of the tobacco control treaty introduced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2003.
The WHO treaty, known as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, has the objective of reducing the public health toll from tobacco, since the treaty obliges the countries that ratify it to adopt measures that include bans on advertising tobacco products, requirements that all ingredients used be listed on packaging and broader legal liability for manufacturers, which include payment of higher taxes.
The anti-tobacco team — which is made up of members of the Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria — have already met officials of the Food and Drugs Board (FDB), the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), the Ghana Health Service (GHS), some media houses and other stakeholders to push the issues of smoke-free environment in Ghana forward.
During a visit to the Daily Graphic in Accra on Thursday, the Executive Director of the Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, Ms Cynthia Callard, said that there was the need to protect the lives of non-smokers from the activities of those who had chosen to die through smoking and, therefore, called for the immediate passage of the bill.
She said countries should not be deceived by the few dividends they received from tobacco manufacturing companies, since they ended up spending even more on the health of the people because of the effects of tobacco.
Ms Callard said Ghana’s failure to pass the bill was making the rest of the countries in the sub-region to adopt wait-and-see attitude, since many of them considered Ghana as a pacesetter when it came to policy formulation.
She said it was important that stringent measures were adopted to free the world of tobacco, since 50 per cent of people who smoked globally, would eventually be killed by tobacco if they did not stop.
Other members of the team that visited the Daily Graphic were the Research Director of the Physicians for a Free-Smoke Canada, Mr Neil Collishaw; the Programme Manager of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi; a Senior Health Research Officer and the Focal Person for Tobacco Control of the GHS, Mrs Edith Koryo Wellington; and a Health Promotion Specialist of the GHS in Tamale, Alhaji Abdul-Rahman Yakubu.
Ms Callard reiterated the fact that tobacco was dangerous to human life and called on governments to attach the same seriousness being attached to the fight against HIV/AIDS and other health-related issues.
On his part, Mr Oluwafemi said it was unfortunate that after drawing a draft National Tobacco Control Bill about five years, Ghana had not been able to pass it into law, a situation he described as disappointing.
He said apart from the ill effects associated with smoking, the habit also affected the smokers and their families financially, since funds needed for the upkeep of households were spent on tobacco.
A paper made available to the Daily Graphic by the team indicated that tobacco contained nicotine, tar and other chemicals, and other 4,000 dangerous compounds, which include ammonia, carbon monoxide, formalin and mercury, which caused cancer.
It said the irony of the situation was that between 70 and 75 per cent of smokers lived in developing countries where majority of the population was poor.
Tobacco, it said, was the second major cause of death in the world, the fourth most common risk factor for disease worldwide, killed one in 10 adults worldwide (five million deaths each year), killed one person every 6.5 seconds worldwide and also shortened one’s lifespan by about 20 to 25 years.
On its effects on society, the paper said tobacco would cause 10 million deaths per year by 2025 if unchecked, seven million of which would be in the developing world, adding that the use of the product would be the leading cause of mortality globally.
It also stated that death from tobacco would overtake the combined deaths due to pneumonia, diarrhoea, tuberculosis (TB) and pregnancy complications.
The paper described types of smoking as active smoking, which also involves chewing of tobacco, and passive smoking, which is involuntary smoking, which exposed non-smokers to the effects of smoking.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ghana-Nigeria to hold business summit in Oct (spread)

PRESIDENT J.A. Kufuor is expected to open a three-day Ghana-Nigeria Business Summit scheduled to take place in Accra between October 6 and October 8, 2008.
The purpose of the summit is, among other things, to facilitate the improvement of bilateral trade relations through the signing of a trade agreement between the two countries.
The summit is being facilitated by Vintage Visions Ghana Limited in conjunction with the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana.
At a press briefing in Accra yesterday, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Vintage Visions, Otunba Michael Ajayi, said the summit was expected to provide a platform for conducive business environment for small, medium and big businesses operating in both countries.
He said the Nigeria-Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry was also expected to be formally inaugurated at the end of the summit.
In addition, Otunba Ajayi indicated that the summit was expected to address trade barriers between the two countries and to accelerate economic integration and development through public and private sector collaboration.
Highlighting the event, he said there would be presentations from government policy makers and experts, three days of exhibitions, networking and investment opportunities, as well as issue a communiqué to a bilateral trade agreement.
Other areas which the CEO touched on were growth opportunities in key sectors such as oil and gas, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, mining, telecommunication, construction, transportation, information technology, small and medium scale enterprises, as well as financial and non-financial services.
The Ghana High Commission to Nigeria, Mr George Kumi, in his welcoming address, commended the organisers and expressed the hope that the summit would further strengthen the existing relationship between the two countries.
He also pointed out that the summit would cement the long-standing relationship between the two countries, adding that “this will take away the fear and suspicion from both Ghanaian and Nigerian investors, who are doing business in the respective countries”.
Mr Kumi said the summit had come at the appropriate time now that oil had been struck in Ghana and that the country could learn from its Nigerian counterparts, whose experiences within the oil sector are rich.
He, therefore, called on all stakeholders to support the initiative, since it was in a right direction for the good and greater partnership between the two countries.
The Nigeria High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr Muhammed Musiliu O. Obanikoro, in his remarks, said the two countries shared a common economic, political, social and historical background and therefore, remained the strongest countries to move regional integration forward.
He challenged both governments to use the summit to create more avenues for the public-private sector integration.
Mr Obanikoro advised both countries to put aside isolated resentments and rather work towards better collaborations.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Trade, Industry, President’s Special Initiative (PSI) and Private Sector Development (PSD), Mr Francis Kusi of the ministry said the two countries should work harder to create an environment that would encourage their citizens to avoid embarking on dangerous journeys abroad.

Call on govt to promote bio-medicine (Page 47)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
A United States-based Ghanaian scientist, Dr Peter Atadja, has appealed to the Government of Ghana to have interest in bio-medicine and promote it, since the country’s diverse forest resource gives it an advantage over many of the countries that are currently benefiting from that field of medicine.
He said with Ghana’s rich history of traditional medicine, the country stood the chance of gaining immensely, since foreign companies paid high premiums and future royalties for medicines that came from natural sources.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra, he said when efforts were made toward improving on the country’s traditional medicine, Ghana would attract major sponsors who were ready to sponsor the development of new medicines to benefit mankind.
Speaking in the company of Mr Abraham Quarcoo, a lecturer at the Accra Polytechnic and a member of the Ghana Bio-medical Society, Dr Atadja said, “We cannot go anywhere with the kind of herbal medicines produced and sold in vehicles which are said to cure all manner of diseases without any scientific proof”.
Dr Atadja, who is currently a Group Leader and a Senior Research Investigator at the Novartis Institute for Bio-medical Research in the US, explained that as there already existed in Ghana institutes and expertise in natural products, the country could easily collaborate with other Ghanaian scientists in the Diaspora in newer technologies.
He stated that a visit to the Centre for Research into Plant Medicine at Mampong Akuapem in Eastern Region confirmed that Ghana was leading many other countries in the area of natural medicine, adding that it was refreshing to note that the centre had both clinic and basic science units to complement each other.
He said unlike other developed countries where researchers had to travel elsewhere to experiment with plants, there abounded a wide variety of plants in Ghana that could readily be researched into.
He stressed that institutions should set aside about US$100 billion to help find new medicine globally and urged Ghanaian researchers to take advantage of such moves to come out with new traditional medicine of international standards.
He stated that natural product drugs such as those provided in bio-medicine offered a lot of opportunities in the drug discovery process.
Dr Atadja pointed out that he was ready to help establish a centre of excellence in Ghana to promote further research into bio-medicine and called on Parliament to institute and implement what he termed “a brave science policy”.
As part of a paper that he presented in Accra, Dr Atadja recommended that Parliament should legislate permanent funding for scientific research for competitive grants and suggested setting aside one per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for such a venture.
He pointed out that to achieve the desired objective, there was the need for a strong and passionate lobbying of policy makers made up of preferably, scientific and professional associations to ensure that research activities found it rightful place in society.
He called for the promotion of science education through all the levels of education in addition to proper support for graduate education in science.
He said challenges facing bio-medical science in Ghana included little tradition of translational bio-medical research and development, inadequate support structure such as non-availability of reagents and equipment, among others.
He also mentioned little emphasis placed on basic science education at the graduate level, lack of funding for basic research and low levels of remuneration and recognition for scientists.
He also talked about brain drain, the problem of pseudo-science and superstition attached to traditional medicine practice and poor scientific intellectual property regimes.
Dr Atadja, who said he had developed a bio-medicine that decreased the growth of cancer cells in humans, expressed the hope that the medicine, which had gone through all the stages of trials, would be approved by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Vodafone Seals Deal-Settles 70 % Stake in GT (Front Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah

VODAFONE International Holdings Company Limited of the United Kingdom has made a total payment of $900 million to the Government of Ghana to cover the cost of the 70 per cent Ghana Telecom shares the company purchased.
The payment was made on August 15, 2008, barely 24 hours after Parliament had voted in favour of the sale.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, the Controller and Accountant General, Mr Christian Tetteh Sottie, said the payment was done through a bank transfer to the Bank of Ghana (BoG) on Friday, a day after the parliamentary approval was given.
The interview was prompted by a statement made by the Head of Corporate Communications and Customer Care of GT, Major Albert B. Don-Chebe (retd), to the effect that the two companies started working together on Monday, August 18, 2008.
Mr Sottie explained that after the payment was made, the BoG subsequently informed the Controller and Accountant General’s Department, which is the custodian of state funds and also has the responsibility to disburse such funds.
“The money has been paid and is now in government chest ready for disbursement,” he said.
He stated that now that the necessary payments had been made, Vodafone and GT could legally start their joint operation without any hindrance.
An approval was given to the GT-Vodafone deal after days of intense and hectic debate between the government and staff of GT on one side and some members of the opposition parties, as well as some identifiable groups, on the other side.
By a majority decision, Members of Parliament (MPs) approved the sale agreement on August 14, 2008, endorsing the government’s request to sell the shares to Vodafone.
Whilst 124 MPs voted for the approval of the agreement, 74 of them voted against it.
When the Daily Graphic visited the premises of GT on Monday, the atmosphere was that of excitement as workers of GT, including those from the regions, were preparing to have their first official meeting with a team from Vodafone UK at a workers durbar in Accra.
The purpose of the meeting was to enable the staff of GT to interact with the officials of Vodafone as the two companies got ready to start working in a new partnership.
A source within GT said the two groups would waste no time but quickly move into serious work now that Parliament had given approval for the deal to be effected.
Meanwhile, $40 million is to paid into an escrow account towards employee resettlement in the event of redundancy under the Ghana Telecom-Vodafone deal, reports Emmanuel Bonney
The Corporate Communications of GT, Maj (retd) Don-Achebe explained that the Communications Workers Union (CWU) of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) had remained apprehensive about the government holding the money for the workers.
He said in case there were layoffs, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) of the workers would be applied strictly, hence there was no cause for alarm.
He said the workers, who knew the telecommunications industry very well and knew the status of GT, had been very supportive.
At the moment, he said, the GT management was trying to familiarise the workers with the corporate governance structure of Vodafone which had its own ways of doing things, adding that Vodafone is also taking the opportunity to learn about the GT environment.
“We are drawing a programme of activities with objectives and timelines,” he indicated, adding that the issue of people waiting for broadbands, and fixed lines among other things would be a thing of the past.
Apart from upgrading infrastructure and improvement in broadbands, he said, the company would work towards reducing power outage to its cell sites to the “bearest minimum or none at all”.
Major (retd) Don-Achebe said the quality of service was a major priority and that the company would make customers kings and queens.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Excitement greets GT, Vodafone 1st meeting (Front Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE atmosphere was that of excitement when workers of Ghana Telecom (GT), including those from the regions, had their first official meeting with a team from Vodafone UK at a workers’ durbar in Accra yesterday.
The purpose of the meeting was to enable the staff of GT to interact with the officials of Vodafone as the two companies got ready to start working in a new partnership, by which Vodafone is taking over 70 per cent of GT shares.
A source within GT said the two groups would waste no time but quickly move into serious work now that Parliament had given approval for the deal to be effected.
As early as 9:15 am, when the Daily Graphic team got to the premises of GT, the company’s compound had been besieged by workers dressed in red and white Vodafone T-shirts with matching red caps. Few of the ladies were in red shoes to complement their outfit.
As the workers came out of their offices, some were seen patting each other at the back, while others exchanged pleasantries or shook hands with one another.
Some few minutes to 10 am, a combined team of GT officials, led by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Dickson Oduro-Nyaning, and top officials from Vodafone, moved from the main building to the durbar grounds, all wearing Vodafone T-shirts.
Before the meeting, held behind closed doors, the Daily Graphic spoke with some of the workers and the feeling was that the workers were excited about the deal.
When the Daily Graphic approached Mr Nyaning in the company of the Vodafone team on their way to the durbar, he reiterated his confidence that the Vodafone group would inject new life into GT to enable the company to have adequate strength to compete with others in the industry.
The Western Regional Manager of GT, Mr Emmanuel Adusei Essel, said in addition to other enquiries he had made, interactions he had with some foreign nationals currently working with oil companies in the Western Region confirmed the competence of Vodafone on the international market.
On his part, the Brong Ahafo Regional Manager, Mr Agyeman Prempeh Agyekum, said with the two brands, the combined efforts of GT and Vodafone would move the company higher on the telecommunication industry.
A member of the Corporate Affairs Department, who wanted to remain anonymous, said in spite of the fact that some workers might be laid off, they could at least receive some end -of-service benefit based on the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) instead of waiting for the company to completely collapse for the workers to be sent home empty-handed.
“The issue was not about funds alone where Ghanaians could be allowed to raise funds to purchase the shares nor was it about managerial incompetence. The issue was about the need for international collaboration to enable GT to acquire the desired technological leverage to compete evenly with others globally. That is what we have now acquired through the deal with Vodafone,” he stressed.
Three hours of intense and hectic debate amidst heckling and jeering from both sides of Parliament last Thursday put to rest the debate on whether or not the government should offload 70 per cent of its shares in Ghana Telecom to Vodafone.
By a majority decision, Members of Parliament approved the sale agreement on August 14, 2008 , endorsing the government’s request to sell the shares to Vodafone International Holdings Company Limited of the United Kingdom for $900 million.
Whilst 124 MPs voted for the approval of the agreement, 74 of them voted against it.
Significantly, Messrs P. C. Appiah-Ofori, NPP member for Odoben-Asikuma-Brakwa and Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, CPP member for Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abrem, who is the party’s flag bearer, left the chamber before the voting took place.
Nii Adu Mante, who moved the motion, told the House of the benefits the country would derive from the approval of the agreement, stressing that because the transaction was on cash-free and debt-free basis, the government was taking steps to recapitalise GT as part of the process.
According to him, the technical team from the Ministry of Communications informed the Joint Committee that Ghana Telecom was currently insolvent because its debt obligations exceeded the value of its assets.
He further explained that as a result of that situation, the company was unable to attract the capital that was needed to enable it to grow and expand its operations.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Choosing between high maternal mortality and population growth (Feature August ........., 2008)

Article: Lucy Adoma Yeboah

THE government’s policy of free maternal health care, which is seen as God-sent by many Ghanaians, especially poor women within child-bearing age, is being considered as a recipe for population boom and, therefore, raising eyebrows in certain quarters.
Since the introduction of the policy on July 1, 2008, almost every individual who has had the opportunity to comment on it, has touched on the issue of population growth and the need to educate women not to abuse the system.
That argument is being supported by a United Nations report which put Ghana's annual population growth rate for 2000–2005 at 2.17 per cent, a situation likely to push the country's population to 26,359,000 in year 2015, if not checked.
A Daily Graphic editorial comment on July 15, 2008 indicated that closely linked to the policy of free pregnancy care were the concerns expressed by the Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah (retd), over the steady drop in the rate of contraceptive use in the country, which to the paper, could further increase the size of the country’s population.
The rate of contraceptive use, according to the Health Minister, had dropped from 19 per cent in 2003 to 14 per cent in 2007, and because of that, the minister was con???
The paper went on to point out that those statistics were already disturbing and placing it??? under the already spiralling number of pregnant women registering under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). There was, therefore, the need for a careful analysis of the situation in order to avoid population explosion.
To the paper, the government could be dealing with an even greater population, which would mean a greater strain on the scarce resources, with the attendant issues of unemployment and food insufficiency.
Much as it is important for the women to be educated in order not to have more children because of the policy, some of us would want to argue that between increased population and high maternal rate, we would bargain for the former, since we believe that there is the urgent need to save our women and their babies from preventable deaths.
The reason for that position is the fact that in Ghana, just like any other developing countries, maternal mortality remains one of the major health challenges to human resource development.
Health experts define maternal death as the death of a woman while pregnant, or within 42 days (six weeks) of termination of the pregnancy from any cause related to, or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management. Deaths of pregnant women through accidents or incidental causes are not considered maternal deaths.
Although the current maternal mortality ratio is still unknown, it is estimated to be between 214 and 540 per 100,000 live births (LB).
Between 2006 and 2007, institutional maternal mortality (records from health facilities) was 197/100,000 live births.
The maternal mortality ratio indicates the risk of death a woman faces with each pregnancy. In areas with high fertility, such as sub-Saharan Africa, women face this risk many times in their lifetime.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the probability that a 15-year-old girl will die from a complication related to pregnancy and childbirth during her lifetime is highest in Africa - one in every 26.
Statistics indicate that about 585,000 maternal deaths occur globally every year, and 99 per cent of these deaths are in developing countries, which include Ghana.
Looking at these figures, it will be quite difficult for everybody to refuse appreciating the significance of the recently introduced policy of free maternal care, in spite of the fear of adding to our already fast growing population.
Indeed, the pain of losing a mother or child because of a lack of medical care is enough to call for a change in policies to effect a change.
Although some women might want to get pregnant because of the free medical care, it is also important to note that those women who were said to have moved in large numbers to register under the policy became pregnant when there was no such policy.
That reminds me of the story of a group of young men who lived in a town in the Brong Ahafo Region who were accused by the elderly of drinking too much at the burial of a baby. The response they gave their “accusers” was that before the baby died, they were drinking at that same level, so why should anybody link their drinking to the death of a baby.
The policy, to some extent, can encourage some women to have more babies, especially those whose only interest in having babies is to organise outdooring ceremonies after delivery and then abandon the babies for others to take care of. Indeed, those type of women should be a source of worry to all of us, but the fact still remains that there are many responsible Ghanaian women who are aware that there is more to the act of bringing forth many children.
That is the more reason why many Ghanaians, especially women within child-bearing age welcomed it when the government recently announced the commencement of the policy of free medical care for pregnant women under the NHIS, beginning July 1, 2008.
At a meet-the-press programme organised on July 17, 2008, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Mr Ras Boateng, stated that the authority had recorded a total of 50,924 pregnant women who had registered under the programme since its inception on July 1, 2008.
Mr Boateng said the figure represented what the authority had, at that time, received from some of the districts.
Statistics presented by the NHIA boss indicated that the Ashanti Region was leading with 12,164 registered women, followed by the Greater Accra Region with 8,211; the Central Region, 6, 843; the Eastern Region, 5,870; and the Western Region, 5,012.
The rest are the Upper West Region, 3,608; Northern Region, 2,720; Upper East Region, 2,473; Brong Ahafo Region, 2,434; and the Volta Region, 1,589.
The CEO stated that there was the possibility that many of those women would have failed to go for ante-natal care if the policy was not introduced, a situation he observed was likely to create problems for them and their babies.
So now the question is, do we leave our women to suffer because of the fear of population growth or do we have a responsibility as a nation to save them? Have we also considered the point that some women decide to give birth to many children with the fear that some might not survive? To some of us, it is possible that many of the women would decide to bring forth to a fewer number of children if they are sure that there are better conditions to protect them.
Let us advise our women (and in fact, some of the men) to be responsible when it comes to child bearing, but at the same time, let us welcome the policy of free medical care, since it came to save many women and their babies from premature deaths.

Some Youngmen at La cash in on long queues at registration centres (Sat August 9, 2008)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
SOME young men in La near Accra, are allegedly taking advantage of the presence of long queues at voter registration centres to collect money from willing late-comers and allow them to jump the queues to register.
Information gathered by the Daily Graphic at the La Wireless cluster of schools indicated that a group of young men had made it a habit to join the queue early in the morning on daily basis and later allow others to jump it ahead of them for a fee.
Nineteen-year-old Naa Adoley, a resident of La Abomi whom this reporter overheard having a conversation with a friend said after trying for three days to register at the La Olympia registration centre without success, she decided to try the La Wireless School where she had to pay GH¢.50p to pave the way for her to register.
When she was approached for details of her experience, Naa Adoley said after waiting for more than four hours, she got tired and went behind the school block to rest where she met other young ladies also resting on a veranda.
“ It was there that a group of boys approached us individually and suggested that we pay GH¢.50p each to enable us join the queue at an appreciable position”, she said.
According to Naa Adoley many of the ladies refused but after she and other five ladies had paid, the young men pointed to them (the ladies) where they (the young men) were in the queue and advised that they come individually and at intervals to join directly ahead of each of them.
Naa Adoley explained that when she joined the queue some minutes after the young men had left them, some people already in the queue started complaining but the young men quickly told them that she (Naa Adoley) was in the queue when he (the young man) joined.
“The complaints continued for a while but the people kept quiet after some few minutes and less than 20 minutes later, I had the opportunity to register”, she told.
Another young lady Naa Adoley said was her witness confirmed the story but said she did not pay but was allowed to jump the queue because she knew one of the boys who allowed her.
A young man who refused to mention his name but this reporter heard someone referred to him as Richmond, said a friend of his had been in the queue since Monday to “help people to register for something small”.
Looking suspicious and with shaky hands “Richmond” said his so called friend got up at dawn every day to join the queue but always moved back when it was his turn to register in order to continue to be in the queue to “help” others.
The Electoral Commission (EC) on Thursday, July 31, 2008 started registering those who have turned 18 and other eligible voters who are not registered.
On August Wednesday, August 7, 2008, the Daily Graphic reported that large numbers of people continued to form long queues at the various registration centres in Accra seven days into the voters registration exercise.
Some prospective voters interviewed at several registration centres in the city cited the slow pace of the registration exercise and shortage of materials as some of the reasons for the long queues.
Long winding queues of tired and frustrated prospective voters were the scenes that greeted Daily Graphic reporters during a tour of some centres.
Most registration centres were without any comfortable seating areas and waiting proved very tiring for the eager applicants. The resultant stress generated petty quarrels, irritation and fights.
Some of the applicants who were in the queues as of 2 pm on August 6, 2008, said they had been in the queues since dawn.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Boom in Construction Industry Good Sign for Economy (Page 34)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu has said the rate at which massive construction works are going on throughout the country is an indication of an upward growth in the country’s economy.
He said the national economy rested on three sectors, which he named as agriculture, industry and services, and stressed that an improvement in any of those sectors should not be glossed over, since each was considered an important economic indicator.
Mr Baah-Wiredu placed construction together with quarrying and mining, manufacturing, electricity, as well as water supply, under the industrial sector and observed that there had been so many activities in that sector in recent times.
The minister said this when he toured some construction sites in and around the Accra metropolis to see at first-hand, the developments taking place in the construction industry.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said he was prompted to undertake the tour by an article that appeared in the Daily Graphic on Saturday, August 2, 2008 with a headline: “The Life of a Construction Worker in Accra”, which stated that the construction industry had become very vibrant in the country, especially in Accra and other major cities.
The article continued that everywhere one passed there was some form of construction work going on. It is either a house, a bridge or culvert under construction.
It added that because of the boom that the industry was experiencing it had offered employment to many youth.
The tour took Mr Baah-Wiredu to the site of the Presidential Palace under construction, the Airport City where magnificent buildings, which are mostly hotels, are being put up and other sites along the Airport-Legon road, as well as the University of Ghana campus where four huge hostels to house about 1,600 students were under construction.
The total workforce recorded at the sites visited, run into thousands of people, mostly the youth. Those working on the hostel project at the University of Ghana alone were almost 2,000 together with about 700 engaged to work on the Presidential Palace.
The Finance Minister, who was in the company of some officials from his ministry, toured the five-storey Presidential Palace where Mr S. K. Singh, the Project Manager of Shapoorji Pallonji and Company Limited, the contractors working on the project, took him round.
Apart from offices and residences that were being given finishing touches during the visit, the palace has a banquet hall, a press briefing room and a general service centre that contains a clinic, a restaurant, shops and a fire post.
At the time of the visit, workers of an Accra-based furniture company, Pee Wood Limited, were seen conveying furniture into the office complex.
Mr Baah-Wiredu also inspected rehabilitation work within the old Flag Staff House, which was occupied by the first President of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
At the Airport City where most of the buildings were said to be first-class hotels and commercial centres, the minister and his team were fascinated by the kind of modern structures being put up.
One particular structure (Telecom Emporium), which is being constructed through funding from various investors including Ghana Telecom and the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), is expected to have 11 floors with two underground car parks.
Briefing the minister during the inspection tour on the University of Ghana campus, the Project Manager of Adanko Contractors Limited, Mr Larry Djangmah, said unlike in previous times, Ghanaian construction companies were currently being offered big contract works, which was good for the local construction industry.
He expressed the hope that the hostel project would be completed by early next year to enable the various banks that assisted the University of Ghana financially toward the project to get back their money, adding that the hostels would be rented out to students.
Mr Djangmah said the main purpose of the project was to ease accommodation problems on campus but added that other facilities such as swimming pool and tennis court would be provided.
At all the sites, Mr Baah-Wiredu took the opportunity to advise the workers to work hard to earn a decent living.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Importers Accuse CEPS and Police of Bribery (Front Psge)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Saturday, July 2, 2008)
A NUMBER of Ghanaian importers have made serious allegations of extortion against some officials of the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) and policemen operating at the various borders and barriers.
The importers made the allegations at a public forum organised by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in Accra.
They alleged that officials of CEPS usually charged them various sums of money at the different points where they cleared their goods, without issuing the corresponding receipts, while the police demanded bribes before allowing them to travel with their goods.
In the presence of the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, one of the importers (name withheld), who said she plied along the Ghana, Nigeria and Togo routes, narrated the difficulty she and her colleagues went through before they were allowed to bring home their goods
Other officials at the forum were the Chief Director of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Nana Juaben-Siriboe Boaten; the Director of Budget, Mr Kwabena Adjei-Mensah, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Revenue Agencies Governing Board (RAGB), Mr Harry Owusu.
Others were top officials of CEPS, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Value Added Tax (VAT) Service, the Venture Capital Fund, the National Lotteries Authority, the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department (CAGD) and the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).
Among the participants at the forum were members of the Ghana Union Traders Association (GUTA), the Positive Traders Association of Ghana, Consumers’ Advocacy Group, importers, students, journalists, some public servants within the ministries area and the general public.
It was part of the financial literacy programme contained in the 2008 budget statement, with the objective of offering the public the opportunity to learn about the state of the Ghanaian economy, offer suggestions and also talk about the challenges facing them in their day-to-day economic activities.
When the floor was opened for questions, complaints and suggestions, the participants were told tales of how some CEPS officials demanded duties without any proper valuation of goods and also how policemen took bribes from traders at all the nine barriers erected between Aflao and the Tema Motorway Roundabout.
They also touched on the requirements one had to fulfil before getting access to loans from the banks, high interest rates, the attitude of the police towards drivers, conditions at the Tema Station, the lack of social amenities at the Hawkers Market, among others.
Responding to the allegations, an Assistant Commissioner of CEPS in charge of Research and Monitoring, Mr S. A Yankyera, said, without attempting to defend the staff of the service, that it was mostly traders who wanted to cheat the system who usually found problems with CEPS officials.
He explained that the officials required the traders to pay the right amount of duty if they realised that the goods had been under-declared.
According to Mr Yankyera, another group of traders who tried to under-declare the cost of their goods so that they could pay less tax and those who would want to be given preferential treatment also paid bribes to some CEPS officials.
He advised the traders to take note of any official who abused his office and report him or her to the authorities, adding that there was the need for the traders to do the right thing to avoid being taken advantage of.
He pointed out that a lot of measures had been put in place at the border posts to check any official who might want to engage in any criminal activities and urged the traders to write down the names of any officer who would want to cheat and report them.
Reacting to the allegations in an interview, Mr Baah-Wiredu said, “They are a serious indictment on all of us,” and challenged the revenue collecting agencies to rise above reproach.
In his opening address, Mr Baah-Wiredu said it was important that the public was involved in discussing the economy, since some individuals, although they were not necessarily professionals, were good at offering important suggestions which, if taken into consideration, could be of immense help to the development of the country.
He said Ghanaians were very interested in issues of the economy, adding that apart from football, the economic sector was one area where almost every Ghanaian freely commented on.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said the government appreciated the role each Ghanaian had to play in the sustenance of the national economy, hence the decision to provide such a forum to enable the public to bring out ideas and suggestions.
The minister touched on the effect the high cost of oil and food had on the Ghanaian economy and stated that it was necessary for the people to be told the story as it was to enable them to realise the need to help sustain the economy.
He reiterated that while the government budgeted for $85 per barrel of oil, it was being forced to buy the product at an average of $135 per barrel, a situation which he said had the potential of creating serious shortfalls in the budget.
On the issue of extortion at the borders, Mr Baah-Wiredu advised the traders to be bold to report any incident of extortion and gave the assurance that the ministry would investigate all such complaints and the necessary action taken.
Addressing the issue of requirements for bank loans, he said collateral was essential to ensure that debtors paid back their loans and added that people could also secure loans by using the organisations and associations they worked for as guarantors.