Mr Kwasi Jonah, a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) has called on Political Parties to pay critical attention to development issues and factor them in their manifestos as they plan to lead the country.
He said the parties could also hold annual policy retreats while engaging qualified unbiased researchers, made up of graduates of the various universities who would undertake proper research to inform the developmental programmes of the political parties.
“Political parties should not only exist to plan on how to win the next elections- this is what our political parties in Ghana do,” Mr Jonah on Thursday said in a presentation on “Ghana’s Proposed Constitutional Amendments: How Developmental Are They?
The Economy of Ghana Network (EGN) in collaboration with the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana held the workshop to discuss whether the proposed amendments would move the nation from a political to a developmental Constitution.
Mr Jonah, who is also a Senior Lecturer at the Political Science Department, University of Ghana, said the central theme of the recent report issued by the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), did not reflect the overriding theme of “from Political to Development Constitution”
The terms of reference for the CRC is the clearest evidence that in spite of the theme of the report, “From Political to Development Constitution,” development was really not central to the review exercise and that governance issues dominate in the amendments while development issues were very few.
He said most of the amendments made by the people to 1992 Constitution are rather tilted towards governance, human rights as well as on the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), with most of the issues raised for the independence of the NDPC being rejected by government through its white paper.
He said analysis of the Constitution Amendment (Entrenched Provisions) Bill 2014 clearly indicates that far from focusing on development related issues the preponderant proportion of the amendments are on the Presidency.
Indeed a little over 40 percent of the amendments centre on the powers, prerogatives, obligations, assumption of office, succession to office, etc of the presidency.
Also, the amendments to the entrenched provisions that are directly relevant to the country’s development are those relating to article 85-87 of the existing Constitution that deal with the NDPC and its planning function with the CRC advancing sustained and sustainable national development by making popular and far reaching recommendations on the status, role and functions of the NDPC.
Mr Jonah explained that the new amendment further allows the President to be sworn in at anywhere apart from Parliament in exceptional cases and also by any justice of the superior court of judicature in situations where the chief justice was not available to administer the oaths.
“This is very dangerous for the country,” he noted.
He said although government accepted the vast majority of the CRC’s recommendations and rejected a few with reasons; all those which were rejected were the voices of the people which should have been critically considered.
“Next to the presidency most of the amendments relating to entrenched provisions concern human rights. Some 18 percent of amendments of entrenched provisions are designed to affirm or introduce human rights. The most controversial is the amendment of article 13 of the existing Constitution to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment.
A lot of other interesting rights entrenched by the amendments include the right to food and reasonable sanitation, clean and safe water and clean and healthy environment (Article 24), as well as the right to goods and services of reasonably good quality and the right of the aged to live in dignity.
Mr Jonah said too many obstacles also lie in the path to the amendment of the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution which include the Constitutional Instrument for the establishment of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) being the subject of a case before the Supreme Court.
Secondly, Parliament and the government harbour a certain level of uncertainty on how to proceed with the amendment of the entrenched provisions and there exist conflicting interpretations of article 290 of the Constitution which provides for the amendment of entrenched clauses.
“Thirdly, with a major election ahead in 2016, no government will like to take the risk of conducting a referendum for constitutional change. The referendum is likely to be politicized one way or the other and the risk is not worth taking” he explained.
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