Ghana: Bawumia, Veep Trade Econ Punches

Both Dr. Mahamudu Bawumiah and Vice President Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah Arthur yesterday, demonstrated their prowess when it comes to economic matters, with the duo punching holes in arguments made by each other.

At the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) debate for the running mates of the four political parties with representation in Parliament, Dr. Bawumiah did not waste time in punching holes in the National Democratic Congress' (NDC) economic success story they have been trumpeting upon, when asked to debate on the state of the economy.

Mr. Amissah-Arthur also fought back insisting that the good policies he initiated as Governor of the Bank of Ghana had helped to bring the economy to an equilibrium.

Dr. Bawumiah would however, not accept this assertion, insisting that though inflation had gone down for some time now, it had not resulted in the correspondent decrease in interest rates. He, therefore, wondered the type of economic success the former Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG) was talking about.

As the debate between the two former workers of the BoG, who are also economists, heightened, the People's National Convention (PNC) and the Convention People's Party (CPP) candidates were left trailing behind, as they were dazed with the economic figures being thrown about by the two economists.

Dr. Yaw Osafo Maaso, a former Finance Minister, was to later come to their rescue, insisting that the questions were too technical and did not favour them like the two protagonists -Bawumiah and Amissah-Arthur.

Osafo Maafo, who spoke to the media after the second break, disputed the claim made by Amissah Arthur that though this year was an election one, the government had managed to stabilise inflation, and that the cedi did not tumble rather terribly as it used to be in previous elections.

The former Finance Minister argued that in 2004, the country recorded a lower inflation rate than what had been achieved today and that because there was no follow up question the Vice President went away with that wrong answer.

Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah Arthur, however, insisted that the poor performance of the economy should be blamed on the general elections. Dr Mahamudu Bawumia would again not take this therapy, and asked the National Democratic Congress government not to blame the free fall of the cedi on the structure of the economy, but rather on mismanagement.

According to him, since the inception of the Mills-Mahama government, the country's economy had been subjected to massive poor management, which had led to high unemployment rate, skyrocketing interest rates, and an unprecedented depreciation of the cedi.

He maintained that the economic policies being championed by the current government were having negative tolls on the socio-economic development of the country, saying about 40% of foreign direct investments (FDIs) were in the hands of foreigners.

But, Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur insisted that the free fall of the cedi was a result of the upcoming general elections.

This, he argued, was that the political business cycle of the country was hampered by uncertainties, as the investor community and the general public were worried about whether there would be free and fair elections.

Touching on inflation, the NPP vice-presidential candidate noted that the current single digit inflation being trumpeted by the government did not reflect in the pockets of Ghanaians.

Dr. Bawumia also expressed worry about the calculation of the country's inflation, saying the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) was ill-resourced to produce credible inflation figures for the country.

To this end, he assured Ghanaians that when voted into office, the NPP government would resource the GSS to enable it perform its work well.

Vice-President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, on his part, pointed out that for about 28 months the NDC government had been able to keep inflation at the lowest level, which was good for the growth and development of the country.

This, he said, with the single digit inflation in the country, interest rates of banks were likely to go down, which would make borrowing very easy in the near future.

On the issue of integration in the sub-region, the four vice presidential candidates were spot on, as they each espoused measures that would be implemented to ensure regional integration.

In the wisdom of Dr. Bawumia, he would ensure the removal of trade barriers, by implementing all the various protocols that the country was signatory to, while building infrastructure to ensure easy access to the various corridors of countries in the sub-region.

That, notwithstanding, he said it was time to think outside the box, and set up an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sports team to encourage a sense of patriotism in citizens of the countries in the sub-region.

The ideas of Mr. Amissah Arthur did not differ from that of Dr. Bawumiah.

To ensure the smooth integration of citizens in the sub-region, the ex-Governor of the Bank of Ghana said he would encourage the use of one common language (French), while also removing trade barriers confronting member states.

On the part of Madam Cherita Sarpong, she said she would respect the various protocols the country was a signatory to, and also encourage the consumption of goods produced by member states. In addition, she told her audience that she would encourage the use of a common currency and language among member states, while also making the various road networks linking member countries were accessible to all.

As to how their respective governments would improve sanitation across the country, the CPP running mate said a link between water and sanitation leads to the realisation of good health, so her government would develop modern sanitation systems to focus on sustainable management of liquid and waste management throughout the country.

She said they would strictly enforce local government bye-laws, encourage and support waste recycling to tackle the menace of plastic waste.

She blamed the poor sanitation situation on the lifestyle of Ghanaians developed over the years, and entreated all to learn from the developed countries that generate waste, just as Ghana, but manage waste in a better way.

According to her, a CPP government would ensure that sanitation was taught in schools, whereas producers of plastic waste in particular, would be made to put value on the waste they generate.

She added that school children would collect the waste and receive monetary reward, which the schools could use to embark on projects like the building of Information Communication Technology (ICT) Centers, and the payment of school fees among others. The collected waste would be recycled, she noted.

The PNC candidate, on her part, said her party would also ensure a system that would make people collect waste for monetary reward. According to her, what would lead to a change in habits was education.

Thus, a PNC government would encourage education on sanitation to be started at the basic school level, "where we are going to introduce clean and sanitary practices to our children, and encourage them to keep practicing them."

To further enhance sanitation, the local communities would be encouraged, through monetary reward and awards, for the cleanest communities, she said.

She lauded the current policy to make all households have toilet facilities, saying, "That is a step in the right direction, and it has to be continued and enhanced." Saying her party would also enforce laws to prevent defecation on the beaches to boost tourism.

In all, the PNC would embark on recycling, re-use and refill (3Rs) to help reduce insanitary conditions in the country.

Also, Dr. Bawumia of the NPP noted that Ghana's sanitation situation impacts on health adversely, and so his government would change the system from waste collection to waste management.

According to him, his government would support the private sector to invest in waste collection, management and landfill sites, which were very few in the country, stressing, "We need more landfill sites in place."

The NPP would also use waste to generate power and pursue a waste power generation programme, and additionally make sure that the public health inspectorate works to conduct inspections in people's homes to ensure that sanitary conditions are maintained.

Furthermore, the NPP would embark on public education as a key component towards making Ghana a clean nation, comparable to developed nations.

To further deal with the problem of sanitation, "We will implement a national water policy to increase the supply of water, especially in the urban areas, where the sanitation problems are very acute." This would provide a comprehensive solution to the water problems in the urban areas, he noted.

On his part, Mr. Amissah-Arthur said the NDC government had reintroduced and strengthened the public health inspectorate unit for sanitary inspection in households.

Linked to this would be a system to impose sanctions on people who do not maintain sanitary conditions, especially at the community level, because they contribute to the spread of communicable diseases.

He said his government would continue to pursue the new housing code policy that requires every household to own a toilet facility. This, according to him, would help tackle the issue of open defecation at the cities beaches and other areas.

He said in recognition of the attitudinal problem associated with the creation of waste, the NDC government had embarked on an education campaign that educates people that sanitation conditions are related to their health status, and this would be continued and compost plants and the treatment of waste.

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