Wednesday, June 15, 2016

40-year development planning must be binding

The Vice President of Ghana Institutes of Planners (GIP), Alfred Kwasi Opoku, has insisted that unless the long-term national development plan framework is legally binding on governments, it will be difficult for the country to implement its 40-year development plan.
 “A binding national development plan on all governments is the only way to guarantee its implementation to speed up socio-economic development for the country,” he said.

Speaking at a panel discussion programme supported by the Business Sector Advocacy Fund (BUSAC), Denmark Embassy and the United States Agency for International Development, Mr. Mr Opoku said: “After preparation of the plan document, what we can do is send the agreed document to parliament, where a law will be crafted and put on it so that this thing is a national document and accepted by all”. 

This, he said, is going to ensure that whoever comes into power will follow it. The language should be in a regulatory form such that no government can bypass it.

He indicated that the long-term national development plan must be binding on governments, in that the country has seen a number of development - mostly medium-term - plans in the past, but because they were not binding on various governments their implementation was not good.

Currently, the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) is collating views and inputs of Ghanaians from all strata to draft the 40-year national development plan, which many development experts believe is the surest way of ensuring the country’s future is sound. 

Director-General of the NDPC, Dr. Nii Moi Thompson said: “In terms of the issue of whether it is binding or not binding, parliament passed a law, Article 815 2011, which said there must be a long-term national development plan approved by parliament.

“I would like to think that if parliament approves something it is binding on all of us. If parliament passes a law, there are regulations as to how the law is to be implemented. So once parliament approves the plan, it will be their responsibility to prescribe sanctions,” he said.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Private Enterprise Federation (PEF), Nana Osei-Bonsu, maintained that if the country does not have a legal binding on the leadership, all the documentation, the participation and the grassroot canvass and consultations will not have much impact. 

“What we are saying is let’s look at a comprehensive plan that is binding on the leadership, which will make the decisions and cannot deviate from them.” 

Nana Osei-Bonsu said: “We are talking about two things -- the constitution and parliament. Can parliament enact laws that usurp the constitution? I don’t think so. Article 815, 2011, allows certain things to be done, but the President says: ‘I am not bound by it, and I am not going to follow it because the constitution allows me to do ABCD’. 

“So, what we are saying is that can we do a constitutional amendment to ensure a binding requirement on the presidency or the executive, so they cannot deviate from a consensus plan or framework.”

The Executive Director of the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey said:  “If you go to South Korea and even the Indian Development Planning Commission, these are super-nationals. 

“The development plans themselves usually have a strong political leadership behind them, and they are also supported by technocrats, especially in South Korea, India, and Malaysia”.

“In all these countries they are like super-ministries and have enough power, which they derive from the laws or from their founders,” he added.

Dr. Akwetey explained: “Before setting up the institutions, they were able to conceptualise their roles. As the planning authorities of those countries they have access to MDAs, and when they set targets they must be followed and monitored. 

“So, they are the central government’s planning and coordinating authorities with a lot of power. They are the think-tanks of the nations as well. They use that to craft their long-term development plans for their countries, and the implementation is very vigorous; nobody disputes that.” 

He added: “In Ghana, we do not have all these things. After Kwame Nkrumah we have never taken planning very seriously in this country.  We fail to build the institutions, we discard planning, and we don’t have strong champions.

“In the 1990s when the NDPC was set up, the country had just breturned from the era of structural adjustments, and development planning was put back on the table with certain clarity of vision -- 5 years and so.

“But when you look at it carefully, NDCP did not get the kind of political backing needed and was not in a position to drive this; rather, it had a very contradictory relationship with the institutions.”

GRA urges staff to adopt change strategy

The Ghana Revenue Authority’s (GRA) first annual conference for change agents has been held, with a call on staff to adopt a change management strategy to deal with challenges and ensure successful reforms in the integration of revenue agencies.
The Authority has appointed 350 Change Agents to aid in implementing the change management strategy adopted to coordinate all reforms within the authority. The change management strategy follows integration of the erstwhile revenue agencies into the GRA.

Speaking on the topic ‘Sustaining the GRA Reforms: The Role of Change Agents’ Mr. George Blankson, Commissioner-General of the GRA whose speech was read on his behalf said: “With a spread of both management and staff across the length and breadth of the country, and with the many reforms taking place at the same time, it was inevitable there would be resistance and adoption of negative attitudes by staff as a result of challenges in the continuous communication of these necessary changes to staff -- hence the necessity to adopt a change management strategy to deal with this challenge”. 

He explained that the main objective of the change management programme is to build the capacity of the agents to coordinate all change issues, and also to be used as communication channels for reforms within the Authority.

The main duty of the change agents, he said, is to create awareness of the change processes and ensure their implementation and acceptance by colleagues - adding it is the intention of management to build their capacity through the steering committee to develop mechanisms for resolving conflicts that may arise.

He indicated that the team of change agents is expected to be well-informed, willing and committed to embracing the change process arising out of modernisation and integration.

According to Mr. Blankson, the main duty is to create awareness, desire and knowledge of the change process to ensure buy-in and acceptance from their peers in the office. This requires systematic, continuous and sustained communication on change issues.

“It is the intention of management to build the capacity of change agents to coordinate all change management issues within GRA; and through the Steering Committee develop mechanisms for resolving any conflicts that may arise.”

This, he said, can be effectively implemented by a governance structure for change management. “To ensure effective implementation, a governance structure for change management has been recommended in the Change Management Strategy document. This comprises a Steering Group, Change Management Working Group and a Project Management Group, each with specific responsibilities,” he said.

He indicated that though much has been achieved in the sixth year of the reform process: “I must concede that a lot remains to be to be done in terms of processes, procedures, attitudes and behaviour, and evolving the desired organisational culture”.                                                     

Nii Osah Mills commends Asanko Gold

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills, has commended Asanko Gold for its excellent project delivery and shared-value approach it has employed in the process as the mine was commissioned for full-scale production.

“It is our expectation that other investors will take a cue from Asanko Gold’s example, given the limitless opportunities available in Ghana.  Government on its part will continue to work with such investors by providing the needed support and assistance while facilitating strong linkages with local industries and the economy,” he said.

Asanko Gold is currently, the country’s 13th goldmine; it is located at Manso-Nkran in the Amansie West district of the Ashanti Region. The mine is operated by Asanko Gold Ghana Limited, formerly known as Keegan Resources Ghana Limited - which is also owned by Asanko Gold Incorporated, an international company listed on the Toronto and New York Stock Exchanges.

Asanko Gold Ghana has transitioned from an exploration and development company into a gold producer. It poured its first gold in January 2016 after about US$300million was invested in the first phase of the project that employed about 2,500 workers -- 97% of which were Ghanaians, with 37% from the mine’s local communities.

According to the CEO and President of Asanko Gold Inc. Peter Breese: “Successfully building the first phase of the Asanko Gold Mine demonstrates that Ghana has a highly skilled employee base that we have been able to attract to our company”.

Asanko Gold currently produces 2,500 ounces of gold every week, and this is expected to increase to about 3,500 ounces from July 2016. This will put Asanko on a similar production scale to AngloGold Ashanti’s Iduapriem Mine.

The company is aiming to produce about 190,000 ounces of gold annually from 2017 over the mine’s 12-year lifespan.

Mr. Breese added that preparations are far-advanced to establish the second phase of the mine in 2017. “We are still a young, growing organisation. We look to the future with the second phase of the mine already at the planning stage. Phase-2 will increase production by a further 100% in the two stages, and see an additional US$300million invested in Ghana.

“We continue to work with our host communities and regulatory authorities on the finer details of permitting and technical specifications for this project, which will further enhance our contribution to the Ghanaian economy as a whole,” he said.

Dr. Ben Adoo, Non-Executive Chairman of Asanko Gold Ghana, also said: “The development of Asanko Gold Mine offers a golden opportunity to improve the quality of life and support the dreams and aspirations of many local Ghanaians through employment, wide-ranging socioeconomic benefits, and skills development.

“Even before the mine produced its first gold bar, we implemented a number of empowerment initiatives in education, financial literacy, and vocational training to demonstrate our long-term commitment to our host communities.”