Accra — A development economist, Dr Jeffrey Sachs has advised Ghana to invest her oil revenue in development projects such as construction of more schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure that would benefit all Ghanaians.
Speaking at the Millennium Cities Initiative Accra Partners Conference, Dr Sachs said it was important to improve on the country's infrastructure than keep the money in the bank.
The Millennium City Initiative is a project initiated by authorities of Earth Institute, a research and education centre at Columbia University, USA and aimed at helping 11 selected Sub-Saharan cities, to design effective viable strategies to achieve the MDGs.
The project was launched last year, under the theme: "A New Accra for a Better Ghana".
Dr Sachs noted that Accra was a city with great potential but faced with enormous challenges and these challenges notwithstanding, Accra could become an international city compared with any city in the world.
He said when Accra flourished, Ghana and West Africa would follow suit and urged the city authorities to forge a partnership with other stakeholders to accelerate efforts towards a sustainable economic development "bearing in mind that Lagos and Abidjan would always be their competitors".
Dr Sachs called for political will, good economic policies to make the city competitive.
Cataloguing some of the successes chalked by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), the Chief Executive, Dr Alfred Vanderpuije mentioned projects such as the Waste to Energy programme that would deal with waste management, the Accra beautification and the use of swap card system.
The AMA, he noted had decided to go 'sinage', a modern technology driven management system whereby billboards, group directional signs, posters and banners engulfing the city would be re-organised to beautify the city as well as enhance the revenue base of the Assembly.
Dr Vanderpuije touched on steps taken by government and the AMA to minimise floods by removing all illegal and unauthorised structures and noted that so far about 600 structures had been demolished in Chemu, Sakaman, Odorkor, Banana Inn and Mataheko.
On roads, he said several roads, walkways and U-drains had been constructed including an 18-kilometre road along the Spintex, East Legon and Adjirigano in addition to a 12-kilometre road at the Guggisberg Avenue and Dansoman Highway under rehabilitation.
Dr Vanderpuije said AMA would continue to demonstrate its commitment to the vision by undertaking activities such as monitoring streets in the Metropolis to ensure that traders did not takeover, ensure proper environmental standards, and enforce building permits on all constructions.
On the up-grading of communities, he said, Chemuana, Mamponse, Mamprobi and Dansoman where allies and drainage system were being constructed, would be replicated in Nima, Maamobi and New Town adding "the Assembly would not renege on its vision".
These, the Accra Mayor noted were the strengths of the Assembly and needed to be completed on schedule to move the vision for a modern city into fruition.
He said there was a new awakening; a day of responsibility and opportunities and asked Ghanaians to reach for high standards to achieve developmental activities for Accra.
Dr Susan Blaustein, Co-Director of Millennium City Initiative (MCI), and Leader of Earth Institute's delegation, said they were analyzing the peculiar problems of Accra and would design appropriate remedies to help transform the city.
There were solidarity messages from the World Bank, University of Ghana and Cities Alliance that urged the city authorities to take the "bull by the horn" and help transform the city.
Under the project, the Earth Institute will partner with the AMA to address some of the city's urban and environmental challenges, and help residents achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The initiative is being directed by Dr Sachs, who is leading researchers and scientists from Columbia University and their Ghanaian counterparts to identify practical solutions facing the city and therefore examine the current situation in Accra and study the city's history and promise.
From this knowledge building process and thoughtful exchange, the experts will derive a set of policy recommendations that capitalize on both teams- wide ranging technical expertise, as well as newly available technologies for Accra to ensure that its future becomes sustainable urban landmark.