28 January 2013

Ghana: Prez Must Maintain Status Quo


Sometimes, it helps to look at the glass as half-full than half-empty. And so, it is important to point out that President John Dramani Mahama is on course with his appointments as far as competency and inclusiveness are concerned. For this reason, the President must continue on this path.

Public Agenda shares the views of those who believe the President has done pretty well selecting competent people for the various positions he has named so far. And this is the sole reason the country is not seeing the resentment that usually accompanies appointments.

For the first time in many years, Parliament's Appointment Committee has not been inundated with petitions against ministerial nominees. This also goes to support the claim that, overall, the President's appointees are persons we can say come with little or no excess baggage like corruption, sheer arrogance and greed.

As indicated in our lead front page story, the appointees' attested level of competence would perhaps forestall any description of the team as a "Team B" as happened to the team previously picked by President Mahama's former boss, late President John Evans Atta Mills.

Again, President Mahama has come for praise for the inclusiveness of his team, considering that a region as small (in population and size) as the Upper West Region has four Ministers-designate. Equally, his ability to weave persons from outside of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) into his team is considered remarkably admirable.

In terms of gender considerations, President Mahama appears to be a lot conscious of the fact that women empowerment largely depends on involvement in decision-making, hence the naming of eight women who many consider to be well-qualified among the first 37 ministerial appointees.

Also, the President's decision to appoint a woman for the Health Ministry is perhaps an acknowledgment of the fact that Ghana is lagging behind in the attainment of several important MDGs, such as child and maternal mortality, as well as sanitation. And as attested by the President himself in time past, gender disparities, which mostly manifest themselves in unequal access to economic opportunities and high maternal mortality rates, also remain high.

But we wish to caution the President not to let the praise-singing lead him to complacency and momentary loss of concentration. He must stay the path. The President should be keen not to depart from the focus he has so far kept on competency and all-inclusiveness when appointing his deputy ministers. It would be suicidal if he engages in any pandering.

More importantly, there must be an improvement in the representation of women. The eight women appointed so far represent only 21.6 per cent, quite a distance away from the 40 per cent target for gender representation that would be acceptable to many facets of society, particularly gender-based advocacy organisations.

Public Agenda wishes to emphasise that improving the representation of women is particularly important within the context of the 1992 Constitution. The framers of the Constitution were very clear in their minds that the advancement of the nation could be hampered if any section of the society was excluded from the decision-making process.

Thus, the provisions of Chapter Six of the Constitution - The Directive Principles of State Policy. Indeed, under the Chapter, the Constitution provides (Article 35 (6b)) that the State shall take appropriate measures to "achieve reasonable regional and gender balance in recruitment to public offices."

If this provision is read together with that of Article 76, the meaning that is drawn is that every President must strive to ensure fair representation from every region of the country. Article 76(1) states: There shall be a Cabinet which shall consist of the President, the Vice-President and not less than ten and not more than nineteen Ministers of State. So far, so good! But JM must maintain the status quo.

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