STATEMENT BY THE NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT FORUM ON CRITICAL DEVELOPMENT ISSUES AFFECTING THE ACCELERATED DEVELOPMENT OF THE NORTH
Executives and members of the Northern Development Forum;
Distinguished invited Guests;
Friends of the Media;
It is my special privilege as Chairman of the Northern Development Forum (NDF) to welcome you to this Press Conference on behalf of the Executives and members of the NDF.
The NDF, as many of you know, is a non-partisan advocacy group which was founded during the devastating floods that affected Northern Ghana in 2007. With the support of several Ghanaians from all corners of Ghana, the NDF lobbied the then President, HE John Agyekum Kufour to initiate legislation to establish the Northern Development Fund, which culminated in the establishment of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), which has recently been transformed into the Northern Development Authority (NDA).
We have invited you to this Press Conference to highlight three issues which the NDF has identified as some of the critical barriers to reducing poverty and transforming the economy of Northern Ghana. These issues are:
- The Perennial Flooding in Northern Ghana
- The Deplorable State of Infrastructure
- The Exorbitant Prices of building materials like cement and iron rods in Northern Ghana
The Perennial Flooding in Northern Ghana
NDF was founded as a response to the devastating flooding in Northern Ghana in 2007 which resulted in the deaths of about 22 people, the destruction of 11,000 homes, the inundation of 70,500 ha of farmlands leading to the loss of 144,000 tons of crops. In 2010, another flood disaster led to the loss of 5 persons in the Northern Region alone, the displacement of 48,000 people, damage to 2,400 houses and the inundation of 8,000ha of farmland. This year the losses are still being tabulated but we are aware of the deaths of at least 34 persons, thousands of hectares of farmlands, including matured rice and maize farms inundated and destroyed. In addition to these losses, the real tragedy of the perennial Northern floods is the waste of the most important resource for agricultural transformation in the North – water.
NDF is appealing to government to accelerate all processes towards the construction of the Pwalugu Multi-Purpose Dam (PMD). This project has been on the drawing board since 1964. The PMD and similar medium-sized dams, many of which have been studied, at least to pre-feasibility level, are the solution to the needless loss of lives and property and the alarming increase of poverty in Northern Ghana as was recently revealed by the Ghana Living Standards Survey, number 7 of 2018. While poverty is diminishing in the rest of Ghana, it is increasing in Northern Ghana leading to the widening of the development gap between the north and the south.
Between 2012/2013 and 2016/2017 while poverty declined in Ghana from about 24 per cent to 23 per cent, poverty in Northern Ghana increased. For example, in the Northern Region poverty increased from 50 per cent to 61 per cent. Poverty in the Upper West Region is the highest in the country at 71 per cent. Indeed, 67 per cent of all the extreme poor in Ghana are in the three Northern Regions
Experts have identified water conservation, harnessing of flood waters as well as groundwater for irrigation as the key to unleashing the immense agricultural potentials of the Northern Savannah. This would translate into food security for all Ghanaians, reduced imports, enhanced incomes for all, the stoppage of the continuous migration of Northern youth to the south and the attendant social and security challenges and the development of agri-businesses. This will lead to the transformation of Northern Ghana from a perceived inconvenient weight on the shoulders of Ghana to a valued contributor to the accelerated advancement of our country. The NDF therefore takes this opportunity to welcome the promise by the Government to build the Pwalugu Multi-Purpose Dam and appeal to Government to announce a roadmap to ensure that the project is finally off the shelves. We urge all Ghanaians to support this crucial infrastructural intervention in Northern Ghana.
The Deplorable State of Infrastructure in Northern Ghana
A recent report published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) titled Northern Ghana Human Development Report 2018 revealed some very startling statistics about the deterioration in living conditions in Northern Ghana. This situation is very disturbing in view of the fact that while poverty is declining in Ghana in general, it is increasing in Northern Ghana. Whilst the rest of Ghana is in a middle-income status, northern Ghana remains in least developed country (LDC) conditions. NDF has studied this alarming increase in poverty and underdevelopment in Northern Ghana and believes that the virtual absence, or deplorable state, of infrastructure in the form of motorable roads, bridges, electricity, ICT, water transport infrastructure account significantly for the low levels of private investments and limited productive capacity in the area.
The correlation between the absence of infrastructure and increased poverty is very clear if you superimpose the poverty map of Ghana over the infrastructure map of Ghana. Invariably, all the very poor parts of Ghana lack decent roads, health facilities, electricity, etc. Take note that 61 years after independence, there are still two regions in Ghana which are not linked to their neighbouring regions by tarred roads and they are both in the North of Ghana i.e. between the Upper West and Upper East regions and the Northern and Volta Regions. Lack of infrastructure affects all human activities negatively, namely; it makes production and the movement of goods expensive thereby causing out-migration, denying the inhabitants services from skilled professionals in the health, education, business and manufacturing sectors, further worsening the economic and development prospects of the North. Poor ICT infrastructure in the north undermines innovation and frustrates creative young people. Roads leading to the borders, except the Tamale-Paga one are in terrible shape undermining regional integration. The roads in the Bolgatanga township (regional capital of the Upper East) and virtually all smaller towns are in a terrible state of disrepair. The NDF believes that the infrastructure budget of the country should be managed in a manner that ensures that basic infrastructure like roads, hospitals, schools and electricity are distributed fairly across the country to ensure equitable development, a norm which H.E President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has enunciated in his vision of a Ghana Beyond Aid. The provision of infrastructure is vital for Northern Ghana to grow to a level whereby it will no longer depend mainly on aid. We also call upon Development Partners to increase, re-channel and coordinate their development assistance to infrastructure to unlock the development potentials of Northern Ghana to enable it to transition beyond aid.
The Exorbitant Cost of Cement and Iron Rods
Closely related to the deplorable state of infrastructure is the exorbitant cost of infrastructural inputs like cement and iron rods in Northern Ghana. While a bag of cement costs Ghc29 in Tema, it costs Ghc 40.00 in Zebilla in the Upper East Region and in Tumu in the Upper West Region. This means that a building in the North will cost at least 25% more than the same building in Accra. So, the poorest people are compelled to pay 25% more for physical infrastructure in Ghana. This situation is untenable and can, and should be corrected. This is in view of the fact that the State has used policy to ensure that beer is sold at the same price throughout Ghana irrespective of distance from the breweries. A bottle of beer in Nandom is the same as a bottle of beer in Ashiaman. Again, the state has used policy to ensure that the price of petrol is the same throughout Ghana. Therefore, we are appealing to the Government to use the same Cross Subsidy policy intervention to ensure that the price of building materials are the same throughout the country.
This Press Conference is in response to citizens’ demand for evidence to be provided them regarding efforts being made to address the Northern Ghana Development Agenda. Some of these demands are reaching an agitation proportion which have the potential to threaten the peace if a way is not found to give objective feedback on progress being made and suggestions for improving the development activities in the three northern regions of Ghana. We also feel that Government, our Development Partners, Civil Society Organisations, Parliament and Political Parties need objective analyses and avenues to dialogue on what needs improving in the three regions in particular and the country in general.
Finally, the NDF is drawing attention to these issues because we are passionate about ensuring that we actualize the vision of a Ghana Beyond Aid. Without close attention to the issues we have raised in this Press Conference, half of Ghana, which is Northern Ghana, will slow down the pace of development in Ghana. The country will become even more inequitable with potential cost to not just the economy but to lop-sided migration and long term peace and stability. Consequently, it is in the interest of Ghana that no part of Ghana is left behind as we devote all our energies to move our country forward and surmount basic development challenges like protection from the ravages of floods, water conservation for irrigation, non-existence of infrastructure and unequal pricing of key development inputs like cement and iron rods.
We thank all of you for having responded to our invitation and we wish you a good day.
Presented by Major Albert Don-Chebe (Rtd)
Chairman, Northern Development Forum