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General News Mon, 10 Dec 2018

'The harm being done on our water bodies is not a joke' - Minister for Water Resources

Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources, Mrs. Cecilia Dapaah has argued that the extent of damage caused by the operations of illegal mining, popularly known as 'Galamsey' can never be underrated.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 5th National Policy Summit held in Takoradi on Sunday, December 9, 2018, Mrs. Cecilia Dapaah bemoaned the deplorable state of water bodies in the country.

The 5th National Policy Summit was under the theme, "Improving Performance of State Owned Enterprise and Agencies".

She stressed that arguments raised of the undesired possibility of lacking clean and portable water in the future, should the country fail to curb or arrest the menace of illegal mining, is not a joke.

“People think it’s an exaggeration but I am standing here to tell you on authority that the harm being done to our water bodies is not a joke”, she reiterated.

She recounted that her journey to the Western Region for the National Policy Summit, was met with a rather threatening site of the River Pra.

“As I got to Beposo, I saw the colour of the River Pra…its like This Way Chocolate drink”, she noted.

“We as adults, in the pursuit of our selfish ends, should not be allowed to do this to this beautiful country that we have. We must leave a good legacy for generations".

She said "Nevertheless, true to his campaign promise to ensure that these activities are regularized, illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey has undergone much scrutiny, not with the view of taking away peoples livelihoods but rather enforcing laws which would in the end lead to long term benefits in the nation. In this sense, it therefore became obligatory for the Government to bring into being a Committee on Illegal Mining. As part of its terms of reference, it defines public lands and the authority over such lands, stipulates the establishment of a Lands Commission and Regional Lands Commissions, defines ownership of lands and the vestment of Stool and Skin lands and property, addresses the issue of protection of natural resources with a provision requiring Parliamentary ratification of all agreements relating to natural resources, and many more.

"The committee has been proactive with visits to four provincial areas after accidents have occurred in such areas. It is rather time for such accidents to be curbed through preventive rather than curative measures, since loss of human lives, the aftermath of such menaces of illegal mining as well as loss of Government revenue are detrimental to nation building. Overwhelmingly, the laxity of regimes to curb these activities has given even foreigners the impression that laws in Ghana are wobbly".

She, therefore revealed that the aim of this government is to have zero tolerance of corruption at disbursing the mindset of advocates of such thoughts by ensuring these discussions are held to unearth long lasting solutions for better Ghana.

"However, with its zero tolerance to corruption, this Government aims at disabusing the mindset of advocates of such thoughts, by ensuring these discussions are held to unearth long lasting solutions for a better Ghana, as well as bringing on board investors in the management of these SOEs where it deems it relevant", she emphasized.

"As a Minister of State, I need to clearly analyze my President's vision and determine what role to play in support of the vision, and I wholeheartedly trust that with the engagement of about eight SOEs in this summit, namely Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Accra Digital Centre (ADC), State Housing Corporation (SHC), Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB), MASLOC, Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP), Committee on Illegal Mining, it is envisioned that the two-day event would yield positive results after brainstorming by astute, enterprising and well-meaning Ghanaians at this event. Moreover, it is said that Without counsel, purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors, they are established".

Read her full statement below

OPENING ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER FOR SANITATION AND WATER RESOURCES HON. CECILIA ABENA DAPAAH ON THE OCCASION OF THE FIFTH NATIONAL POLICY SUMMIT HELD AT THE BEST WESTERN PLUS ATLANTIC HOTEL, TAKORADI ON SUNDAY 9TH DECEMBER,2018.

THEME: IMPROVING PERFORMANCE IN STATE OWNED ENTERPRISES & AGENCIES.

One of the programmes designed by the Ministry of Information to solicit feedback from the elite society through high level engagements with MDAs, quasi-governmental and the private sector to allow the public ascertain the level of attainment of Governments delivery of its promises, critique Government ongoing and envisioned programmes as well as make constructive suggestions to ensure outcomes of such programmes is the National Policy Summit.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the National Policy Summit adopts a nation-wide approach; hence it is organized and held in turns in various regions of the country, taking into account a public-private engagement to ensure an all-embracing or symbiotic posture.

The third and fourth summits which were held in Kumasi and Tamale respectively, as well as this Takoradi event were jointly sponsored by the Ministry of Information and the Universal Merchant Bank (UMB).

It is therefore significant to mention that the National Policy Summits are a channel used in disseminating Government programmes.

The organization of this fifth National Policy Summit would be a two-day event likened to that of its predecessors.

That is, designed to bring together policy makers, business leaders, Industry players, academia, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) among many others.

Emphasis however is this time, laid on State Owned Enterprises, with the summit pivoting on its theme; Improving Performance in State Owned Enterprises & Agencies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, H.E. Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, in his 2016 campaign spelt out a number of policies to be implemented by the then opposition NPP in the event of its winning and coming into power.

The set vision for the implementation of these flagships were indeed rolled out and are being carried out even as we speak, with Ghana becoming a limelight in the view of its nationals as well as international stakeholders, leading to the world turning its macroeconomic interests towards this nation. These indeed were not devoid of the activities of State Owned Enterprises, and the Information Ministry has made a timely and right choice of including selected SOEs in the fifth National Policy Summit.

State Owned Enterprises have in the past been perceived to be mismanaged or turned white elephants or rendered defunct. Over the years, Governments of this nation have lost huge sums of fiscal gains accruing from these enterprises due largely to the perception that it is Aban Edwuma (Governments work).

However, with its zero tolerance to corruption, this Government aims at disabusing the mindset of advocates of such thoughts, by ensuring these discussions are held to unearth long lasting solutions for a better Ghana, as well as bringing on board investors in the management of these SOEs where it deems it relevant.

As a Minister of State, I need to clearly analyse my Presidents vision and determine what role to play in support of the vision, and I wholeheartedly trust that with the engagement of about eight SOEs in this summit, namely Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Accra Digital Centre (ADC), State Housing Corporation (SHC), Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB), MASLOC, Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP), Committee on Illegal Mining, it is envisioned that the two-day event would yield positive results after brainstorming by astute, enterprising and well-meaning Ghanaians at this event.

Moreover, it is said that Without counsel, purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors, they are established.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as you may be aware, GNPC is one of the countrys high income earning state agencies responsible for the exploration, licensing, and distribution of petroleum-related activities in Ghana.

It has therefore attracted vast investments into the country and is therefore expected to cushion the economy fiscally. Even though petroleum extracts and processes have instigated conflicts in certain neighboring countries, it could be said of Ghana that there has been a zero-conflict as far as this activity is concerned.

Credit must therefore go to both the people of Ghana and their Governments over the years.

We would however engage the technical people from the oil sector at this event to throw more light on the way forward in making the best of Ghanas oil, in this era of nation building which attracts investors in higher numbers.

Interestingly, this Government even before the launch of these programmes, cast its Bread over the Waters with positivity. And I am proud to say that looking back to the eve of coming into power, much results have been yielded. This has led to even the most skeptical section of the populace as well as well-meaning Ghanaians to be of the view that change for the better for all Ghanaians has already began.

Ladies and Gentlemen, by brief explanation, the aim of digitization of processes by the NPP Government is to help transform organisations, saving government purse and improving citizens' quality of life.

These can be clearly seen launched and implemented in some sectors such as the Driver and Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA) and the Registrar Generals Department, to mention a few.

And you will all bear with me that indeed digitization to a large extent is proactivity in itself, driving home increased productivity due to lesser time spent on processes.

The Accra Digital Centre therefore would be engaged in discussion to throw more light on its activities, aims and objectives at the Ghana Innovation Hub to enable all have a better comprehension in its activities, laying emphasis to its eTransform Ghana Project.

This, I trust would enlighten those in academia, job seekers, as well as public and private employees and to a large extent support Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Ghana. Consequently, job creation especially in anticipation of producing higher numbers of graduates in the coming years is envisaged. It would also enhance business with the entire world, especially advanced nations who are already digitized.

I am of the view, ladies and gentlemen that you all are aware of the housing challenges facing the nation, especially in the urban centres largely due to the increasing population of Ghana which is currently close to 29 million, coupled with centripetal or pull factors in cities.

The Government has nevertheless been proactive in anticipating an overcrowding of households. To this end, it has initiated steps to bridge the gap in housing deficit at about 1.7 million. To a large extent, this process would enable better and affordable housing facilities which would also eliminate slums with their attendant outbreak of diseases and high crime rates.

To enlighten participants and all viewers of this event is the State Housing Corporation, an establishment which has been in the country for so many years and is still living up to its mandate.

Even though this statement may be true, financing housing projects in this country has not been an easy task. With Governments engagement with the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) provision of financial support to the housing sector would bring smiles to majority of Ghanaians.

These statements may sometimes sound abstract or ambiguous, however with the State Housing Corporations involvement in this summit, all and sundry should be rest assured of clarity of Governments vision through SSNITs involvement in bridging the housing deficit.

I further need to expand on these flagships to allow for better comprehension of all Ghanaians, since the summits linkage with State Owned Enterprises brings to the fore Government engagement with every sector of the economy.

The Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB) been set up to ensure Ghanaians engaged in certain categories of businesses are given a tax holiday, and consequently boost sufficient foreign earnings, a stable currency and a viable business climate.

However, this could only be guaranteed if Ghanaian businesses exported their products and services. Statistics however show regrettably that among the top 100 companies in Africa, Ghana had no representation. However, the alarming influx of foreign goods into the country defeats the purpose of Government to make Ghanas three-pronged approach of self-reliance through abundance production, consumption as well as exportation, a fiasco.

All is however not lost, since a journey of a thousand years begins with a day and thus the representatives of the Ghana Free Zones Board would help allay the fears if any, of all Ghanaians.

To all Ghanaians gathered here, I would like to reiterate the need for a thorough overhaul of the banking sector, and for that matter micro finance institutions in recent times. We as a Government would not turn a blind eye on the hardships of Ghanaians.

In this regard, we deem it a timely intervention as you may agree with me that this summit is one of the avenues which seeks to address this issue to help disabuse the minds of Ghanaians of the view that all micro banks do not perform, or better still under perform.

It is however imperative to know that The Microfinance and Small Scale Loans Centre (MASLOC) principally targets people who fall mostly within the micro, small, and medium enterprises sector, including women, physically challenged and the youth. This is therefore a pro-poor interventional measure.

In January, 2018, a total amount of GH¢38,950,000 microfinance loan was disbursed to beneficiaries at the regional and district levels with flexible conditions and a tenure of twelve months, applicable mainly to commerce, with a one to three months delay depending on the nature of the project.

In order not to take the wind out of the sail of MASLOC, details of their activities would be spelt out for a better understanding to interested parties and stakeholders.

It is key to state also that the activities of MASLOC invigorates Government Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Program (IPEP) as an alternative access to loans with flexible terms.

Mr. Chairman, with clear-cut definitions of regulatory bodies on both public and private establishments, there is normally the penchant for better outputs by such establishments.

The Food and Drugs Authority, which is one of the bodies responsible has therefore a huge task of ensuring the safety of consumers in the country through it vigilance in scientific checking of anomalies to ensure consumers are protected.

These are carried out through enhancing oversight of the authoritys regulated products, improving and safeguarding access to its regulated products to benefit health, promote better informed decisions about the regulated products, and strengthen organizational excellence and accountability.

With these strategic priorities, there is no doubt, or if there are, the Food and Drugs Authorities representative would at the end of this event, clear these doubts by informing on its mandate and also allowing for stakeholder views, critiques, suggestions and even solutions.

We as a Government work hand-in-hand with this establishment to ensure sanity in the country with sanctions to manufacturers and importers of unwholesome consumables. In past and recent times, the Food and Drugs Authority has worked tirelessly and proactively in warning consumers of the dangers of not checking before purchasing unlabeled food items among others.

Mr. Chairman, we as a Government would continue to look for opportunities to reposition the country to attract investors in the center of economic development, and hopefully, this aspect is being carried out concurrently with all the flagships and of course, reassuring Ghanaians that this Government will not forget the local content.

Consequently, the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP) exist to enable new businesses to emerge and give them the space to grow. Aside this, there is in place the financing as well as the development of these businesses through various measures especially through its formative years.

This Government, realizing the wastage which accrues in such business endeavors in the past, is determined to feature prominently in the attainment of its vision in a very positive way and not just preside over a country that spends its earnings on wastage.

This long-term strategic goal of the New Patriotic Party would assuredly improve lives of Ghanaians with spelt out goals such as Incubation Acceleration Programme, Business Competition and Business Support Programme, as well as its Industrialisation Plan. With the implementation of the above plans, Ghanaians must be rest assured that change has really come and come to stay for that matter.

Due to the above benefits, there would be a direct linkage in the patronage of Ghanaian goods and services, increased employment of Ghanaian Professionals by ensuring localization of job opportunities and facilitate technology and skills transfer through training, Research and Development. It is also envisaged that small business startups, if successfully managed would become the supply chain for goods and services to feed the larger industries, and this also we are positive about.

This positivity stems from the fact that our policies are interlinked in the process of implementing our flagships.

Nana Chairman, in just his first term in office, H.E. President Nana Addo-Danquah Akufo Addo has together with his appointed astute men and women done a yeomans job and this is clearly apparent, with greater and more comprehensiveness of programmes to the benefit majority of Ghanaians.

This should be an assurance to all Ghanaians that in the near future, all would benefit from the national cake. I would therefore hinge on this opportunity to assure all and sundry, especially the youth and adults in the working group to take advantage of not just the free SHS and educational systems, but also to engage in sectors applicable to their needs, respectively.

To quote Martin Luther King, Jr., The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, as you may be aware, in years past activities of illegal mining was devastating as water bodies were polluted beyond the human imagination, and lands were irreparable due to their depleted nature. This unpardonable ignorance accounts for the gradual but progressive degeneration of our God-endowed land.

Nevertheless, true to his campaign promise to ensure that these activities are regularized, illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey has undergone much scrutiny, not with the view of taking away peoples livelihoods but rather enforcing laws which would in the end lead to long term benefits in the nation. In this sense, it therefore became obligatory for the Government to bring into being a Committee on Illegal Mining.

As part of its terms of reference, it defines public lands and the authority over such lands, stipulates the establishment of a Lands Commission and Regional Lands Commissions, defines ownership of lands and the vestment of Stool and Skin lands and property, addresses the issue of protection of natural resources with a provision requiring Parliamentary ratification of all agreements relating to natural resources, and many more.

The committee has been proactive with visits to four provincial areas after accidents have occurred in such areas. It is rather time for such accidents to be curbed through preventive rather than curative measures, since loss of human lives, the aftermath of such menaces of illegal mining as well as loss of Government revenue are detrimental to nation building.

Overwhelmingly, the laxity of regimes to curb these activities has given even foreigners the impression that laws in Ghana are wobbly. With representatives from the Committee on Illegal Mining at this forum, one is sure that fears and doubts of a section and majority of Ghanaians that the menace cannot be cured, would be relieved.

Once again, august ladies and gentlemen, even though we have introduced numerous policies, it is key to run them concurrently and enormously to allow for the lost years.

The Government is therefore sending a clarion call to all Ghanaians to help make this vision work, since the outcomes would profit everyone irrespective of religious, political, ethnic, class or societal affiliation. There is even the need to create a bigger awareness to get the population particularly the younger generation to equip themselves properly to contribute to the attainment of the Presidents vision of moving the country forward.

Mr. Chairman, be assured that Ghanaians will see the commendable improvements our policies have yielded with time and endurance on the part of citizens. His Excellency you will also see an array of benefits through the efforts our Government is making if endurance is imbibed by all to the end.

This is not to say, enjoyment of these benefits would be he withheld from Ghanaians for a prolonged period, since the good book tells us in Proverbs 13:12 that hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. This tree of life, will soon bear fruits for Ghanaians, and we will all see the demonstration by other developed nations reflected on us.

Ladies and gentlemen, this summit is going to be a treasure hunt for you. Two days may seem a limited time but the wealth of discussions and interactions if well integrated with contributions, informed and healthy critiques as well as suggestions, a headway is already made.

Enjoy the summit.

Thank You

Source: Daniel Kaku