Christian Council calls for independent dev’t commission
The Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) has made a strong case for an independent National Development Planning Commission that will create a framework for the country’s development.
It has, therefore, urged the Constitution Review Implementation Committee (CRIC) to revisit the issue to ensure that the commission is entrenched in the Constitution to guide the country’s development framework.
Making the submission at a meeting with the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Advisory Committee on Winner-Takes-All System in Accra yesterday, the CCG said such an independent commission would ensure that political parties derived their manifestos from the commission’s plan.
Currently, the Head of the NDPC is appointed by the President, and the country has no long-term development agenda.
The IEA Advisory Committee is currently holding stakeholder consultations on the winner-takes-all system, described by its critics as divisive and a threat to the country’s nascent democracy.
The committee was set up to re-examine Ghana’s winner-takes-all system and supervise the conduct of a nationwide public consultation process. A report on the consultation will be submitted to the government and Parliament to influence the constitution review process.
The CRIC, under the chairmanship of Prof E.V.O. Dankwa, was inaugurated in October 2010 to implement the recommendations of the government’s White Paper on the Constitution Review Commission (CRC).
A date for the referendum to approve or reject the process is yet to be announced.
After a year-long consultation process, the CRC recommended, among other things, the need for a comprehensive, long-term, strategic, multi-year rolling national development plan, the need for such a plan to be entrenched in the Constitution and the need for the plan to be binding on all successive governments and enforceable at the instance of any person or institution.
The government, in its White Paper released in June 2012, agreed with the multi-year rolling plan but rejected the entrenchment and its binding powers, arguing that such a move “will have the effect of a command model of development planning and tie the hands of successive governments to the ideological interests and policies of a particular political party."
But the Chairman of the CCG, Rev Prof Emmanuel Martey, had a contrary opinion.
“It benefits some politicians, so they would like us to be in the dark, so that they will do whatever they want to do. But there is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come. It is long overdue for us to have a national blueprint. It is only those who don’t love the country who will speak against a meaningful plan for the country.
“I don’t know why we kept so long, but we plan for our churches, we plan for our parties, our homes, our businesses, while, for a very important entity such as a nation, we have failed to do that,” Rev Prof Martey, who is also the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, said.
He described the winner-takes-all system as a weapon of exclusiveness used by politicians to exclude others so that they could share the national cake.
“It is not helping the country. The time has come for us to sit down as citizens and find a solution to this. It is a political disorder which should be reversed,” he added.
He observed that the current system vests so much power in the hands of the President, to the extent that it was the President who had to appoint the Chief Justice.
The General Secretary of the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA), Ms Angela Bannerman, called on the CRIC to slow the constitution review implementation process to ensure that concerns expressed against the government’s White Paper could be addressed.
“I was excited about the national development plan. Something like this should be entrenched, so that political parties will buy into it,” she said.
Proportional representation — an electoral system that seeks to create a representative body that reflects the overall distribution of public support for each political party — has been touted as the alternative to the current system.
Some political pundits have even suggested that an additional 125 seats should be created and added to the current number of seats in Parliament to make the number 400. However, the 125 seats should be dedicated to propositional representation to ensure inclusiveness in the country’s governance system.
However, Rev Mrs Agnes Philips, a representative of the Legon Interdenominational Church, said such a venture had cost implications for the country’s coffers, given the extra expenditure that would be incurred.
For his part, Rev Joe Tetteh, the National Treasurer of the CCG, said while proportional representation might be the antidote to the challenges that came with the current system, the sovereignty of the electorate to choose people of their choice should not be sacrificed.
Contributing to the discussions, a member of the Executive Committee of the CCG, Ms Sheila Minkah-Premo, said Ghana could create its own system of proportional representation, which had been implemented so well in other countries, including India, in such a manner that people with different interests and backgrounds would be well represented in the country’s governance.
A member of the IEA Advisory Committee, Prof Ivan Addae-Mensah, stated that even though the government’s White Paper had rejected the recommendations of the CRC, the NDPC itself had been advocating that it should be made independent.
Mr Justice Francis E. Short observed that the winner-takes-all system was very pervasive, to the extent that some politicians in opposition preferred the status quo to remain, so that they could exploit it, in the same way, when they won power.