Opinions Tue, 25 Sep 2007

Excellent idea: Govt to give ?20bn to the poor

Although our current Government is trying to do it best to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor using various strategies, certainly, by setting aside 20 billion cedis in the 2007 budget to give out as free hand-outs to persons classified as "extreme poor and vulnerable" in society need a a more clarifications.

How, when, who and where questions and answers are needed for this..

I admire Nana Akomea the Minister of Manpower, Employment and Youth for coming up with such an intiaitive. However, on the other hand, It could be be argued that, Ghanaians are proud to earn for their money as easy come easy go does not motivate people in the long term round. It could be argued that this rather send the wrong message.

The idea behind this gesture is great. "Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Programme" to provide direct cash transfers of between US$15 to US$30 a month to extreme poor and vulnerable such as care givers of orphans and vulnerable children, extreme poor incapacitated aged 65 years and above and persons with severe disability. Indeed we need such a scheme to take care of our vulnerables within our country and would endorse it. However, it appears that the idea was adopted from British Department for International Development (DFID), UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank (WB). Neverthe less, it would alleviate the suffering the vulnerable go through in life. Could it be this National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS) would also help families who are unable to buy hospital bills at a crucial time when they need the service. In their desperation our system the patients in whenter they are newly borns or old as prisoners in hospitals. Have there been any discussions about how we as a nation could work in partnership with the same body forging National Social Protection Strategy. Surely, this is also another area is tackle one would think?

Ghana currently desperately needs an equity of service delivery as the inequalities we see are just unbearable. People who have the means are really enjoying in their peace haven Ghana but then for those without life is hell. Our women in particular, the single mothers, people of pensionable age without children are really suffering. Do w ehave offer mother incentives for looking after their children? Do we have a state pension for everyone as we are contributing to the economic growth of Ghana? Another area worth exploring would be this area.

When I asked a 72 yrs widow of former of a Ambassador how what her late pension she collects was? To my surprise she said she receives as pension of 200,000 cedis from foreign affairs. Does our governemnt even takes inflation into accounts with regards to pensions. Pensioers are enjoying in the west while our lot are struggling to meet ends meet. How can one live on such amount of money for the whole month?. Sadly, this lady husband also died in the 1970, did build a home for her. Without a child of her own she offered her services to extended families but unfortuntately for those they helped have been ungrateful. She lives in a rented single mud hut room which she pays 60,000 cedis a month. I bet these stories are all over the place.

However, one would assumed that these are the sort of people and families we should be targetting.

One admires the way Nana Akomea department is going about things by liaising the various MDAs, MMDAs, NGOs and Civil Society Organisations and educating the Public on the NSPS thus and identifying possible beneficiaries. We need to forge relationships with everyone to achieve our aims. The more the integration the more ideas are shared and thus enhancing Ghana in a big way.

Infact when one arrives home and sees our fellow Ghanaians in extreme poverty begging on the High Street in their wheel chairs when our international Airport is just a stone through….! I am lost for words here. Fellow Ghanaians this scenes is totally unacceptable. As we can all see there is money earmarked to cater for these group all along and other vulnerable within our society. Why have others Governments not followed what Nana Akomea have just identified?

Indeed the situation we see and assume is okay, is actually not okay. Seeing a young mother with an infant on our high street begging in a wheelchair does not speak well of us, as a nation even though some of us we live in huge mansions. If we say it is not my problem we are lying. These are some of the issues the tourists who visit our country judge us Ghana on. We should make no mistake in this. Quite clearly spelt out too by Nana that,” the situation was indicative of a society dysfunction and an indictment on the conscience of those who have”. Free education is good free feeding programme is good but what about the uniforms to wear and attend the school. In some homes even buying the uniforms is a problem because the bread winner earns low wages. Let invest in education 100% to transform Ghana.

On the issue of beggings on the streets, Nana also noted that, the law completely prohibited begging and the ministry would enforce the law to the letter, but with a human face. Would it be better to offer free vocational training for all these group of people, to learn a profession for example art and craft, painting to sell to tourists , weaving, even engaging them in sports as there is competition for disabled bodied sporting activities natioal and internationally, training marketing skills for our street hawkers, engaging the pensioners in playground activities for them to earn a living and enjoy their living. Everyone have that potential however small that would be. It is something to be achieved to as ones’ own effort.

Nana Akomea also pointed out that “"Those who are not able to learn a trade at the centres would be kept at the reception centres or in their regular homes and be given free cash handouts on monthly basis just to keep them off the streets". Everyone want to do something and sight seeing would help those who are unable to learn to be creative with what they see around them.

Indeed Ghana is a caring society and the ministry therefore intended to capitalise on the caring nature. However, there is also elder abuse he has not mentioned. How do the elderly report those who they claim to be their children or loved ones who torture them to die early and claim their properties? It is good to hear that, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) of the Ministry operated a credit facility for persons with disabilities, paid their National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) premium with funding from UNICEF, and that so far 88.2 million cedis NHIS premium had been paid on behalf of 2,347 orphans and vulnerable children and 1,225 care givers. There are so many disabled bodied people in Ghana. Do we have a register in all hospitals to send details of such group to the social services. Is child survelllience routinely to ensure we have a healthy community of children. Surely with an effective database management in place this facilitate retriving details of any one with any disabilities.

This is another area worth mentioning for future invest ments. A yearly survellience of all children established as a system within health care would facilitate such names needed for such his scheme.

Thank goodness for some NGOs, who are working tiredlessly to provide safety nets for the poor and vulnerable. However with no monitoring of the NGO and an effective evaluation their effectiveness in the country no wonder some of them are lining their own pockets with funds provided by government and other financiers.

It is good to hear that measures were being taken to regulate the formation, registrations and operations of NGOs more efficiently to rule out the notorious ones.

Accountability and AGM would expose the NGO’s who are not fit for purpose. It is reassuring to know that a Trust Commission would be in place to monitor and regulate NGOs more closely and to ensure they delivered to their clientele.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Bolus, Mercy Adede