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Business News Wed, 23 Jun 2004

Kufuor calls for thorough study of Ghana's economic base

Accra, June 23, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Wednesday called for a thorough study of the country's economic base, the pay structure and the size of the workforce before arguments for or against the restoration of CAP 30 and rejection of SSNIT Pension Scheme could be made.

He said the Government had decided to set up a well informed, transparent and independent Public Commission, which would take all the necessary factors into account, to enable it advise the nation and the Government on a decision that would avail the country with a sustainable pension scheme.

President Kufuor made the call when he addressed a day's Conference of Public Service Chief Executives in Accra.

The Conference jointly organized by the Public Services Commission (PSC) in collaboration with the Office of the Senior Minister and the Head of the Civil Service was in commemoration of the United Nations Public Service Day and Africa Day of Administration and Civil Service. The United Nations Economic and Social Council adopted the Day in 2000.

President Kufuor appealed to teachers, Civil Servants and all other groups contemplating joining the demand for the immediate re-introduction of the CAP 30 Pension Scheme to suspend action to enable the Commission to work as quickly as possible for the nation to make a headway.

He gave the assurance that the Government was as concerned as everybody else in finding a lasting solution to the low and unrealistic remunerations of both working and retired public servants.

President Kufuor said in the past, discipline and scholarship, political neutrality and job security were some of the hallmarks of public officials.

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"In those days, the public services were the magnets, which attracted into their fold some of the very best of our youth from our schools and colleges and even from some companies in the private sector", he said. He said unfortunately, over the past three decades, the services had lost much of these sterling qualities and political neutrality and strict adherence to the Public Services Code of Conduct within the professional sector had become woefully endangered.

President Kufuor said this had resulted in a deep crisis of confidence between the political leadership and the professional services.

He expressed regret that the sense of common mission that must drive both sides in tandem to formulate and execute policies proficiently in the interest of the state had tendered to be undermined.

"Leakages of classified information, even Cabinet documents are so rife these days that they do not cause even a stir within the society. Thinking through problems, sharing visions, which should engender medium to long-term planning and purposeful execution of programmes with commitment have become rare attributes of the public services", he said.

President Kufuor said: "I am not suggesting in any way that the public services of today are completely devoid of capable and very hard working individuals. The truth, however, is that, in many ways work ethics and productivity levels within the services do not compare favourably with those in the private sector."

He said attempts were made to explain this anomaly away in terms of poor and unrealistic remunerations, some would even argue that within the constraints of the country's fragile economy, the public services were doing their best.

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"Even in our difficult economic circumstances, without work ethics and reasonably high levels of productivity it becomes virtually impossible to meet expectations of improving remunerations", President Kufuor said. On the celebrations, President Kufuor said he was optimistic that it would be celebrated in such a reflective and introspective manner as to harmonize and strengthen mutual trust and co-operation between the political leaders and the professional services.

Professor George Gyan-Baffour, Director-General of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), said Ghana's Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) was currently the operational development policy framework in the country and had received much acceptance from both the public and donor communities.

He said the GPRS was the development agenda for moving people out of poverty through wealth creation and to provide managers of institutions charged with the responsibility for delivering public goods and services with opportunities for effective performance of their functions.

Prof. Gyan-Baffour noted that while acceptance, ownership and associated commitment by the people made implementation of the GPRS easier for public sector managers, the discipline imposed by the expectation of results by society posed a great challenge to them. He said the GPRS provided public sector managers with an opportune development policy framework that would guide them in the performance of their planning functions and the formulation of sector policies, aimed at delivering public services and providing public goods that fitted in a coherent logic of development.

The Director-General stated that it was a great challenge to sector managers to ensure the careful selection of programmes and projects that were not arbitrary and random, but programmes that were in harmony with each other and in consonance with the logic of developments inherent in the GPRS.

He called on public sector managers to pay particular attention to and be involved in their institutions' budget preparation process. "The practice where junior officers in the accounts offices prepare budgets for Ministries should give way to Chief Directors getting involved in budgeting, to ensure that budgets were not based on what a Ministry received last year for the rate of inflation, but are based on policy shifts which the Chief Directors should be the champions," he said.

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Prof Gyan-Baffour noted that the challenge of ensuring that individual interests of public officers coincided with national interest was that there must be an enhanced leadership of managers, adding:

"Leadership by example was the best way to change attitudes of subordinates to forge the link between personal and national interests."

He stated that major implementation bottlenecks were attitudinal in nature and required "soul-searching" to ensure that individual interests were synonymous with national interests.

Mr Kofi Blankson-Ocansey, of the Private Enterprise Foundation (PEF), said with the Public Sector Reforms it was imperative to form partnerships to be able to compete with the increasingly liberalised environment.

He said the greatest challenge of the private sector was the issue of cost reduction in doing business and how to put their companies in a competitive position in the global market.

Mr Blankson-Ocansey said, however, that the private sector relied very much on the output of the Public Service and, therefore, expected that services rendered should be complementary, rendered in a timely way and at a cost that was appropriate and manageable.

"The business community has accepted the increase in electricity and water tariffs in the last few years and we have had to adjust our operations to the new levels, however, the expected improvement in services as a result of the increase has not been observed by business operators," he said.

Mr Blankson-Ocansey re-echoed the request of the PEF for the continuation of the efforts to promote friendly laws and regulations to facilitate the operation of private business. 23 June 04

Source: GNA