Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Gov't Acts On Sodom & Gomorrah Squatters

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 29 November 2006 (Page 3)

RESIDENTS of Sodom and Gomorrah, a slum in Accra are to be relocated to Adjen-Kotoku, near Amasaman in the Ga West District by the first quarter of next year.

The Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, who announced this in Accra yesterday, gave the assurance that the necessary social and physical infrastructure would be provided in order not to detach the residents from the source of livelihood.

Speaking at the West Africa High-Level Peer Exchange Conference on Government of Private Sector Lending for Affordable Housing, the Minister said: “Sodom and Gomorrah is certainly not fit for human habitation.”

He emphasized that government’s focus is not only on new housing areas but also on existing slums and informal settlements where the housing environment and conditions needed to be improved.

Mr Owusu-Agyemang explained that the government’s decision to sell over 6,000 state-owned rental low-cost houses in the country to the sitting tenants at affordable prices is to encourage Ghanaians to own their homes and also to raise additional capital to support the government’s affordable housing programme.

Opening the conference, President J.A. Kufuor said that government was providing a radical reform in acquisition and registration of title to land to assure investors of security of their investments.

“As a first measure, government is putting together a land bank which already possesses 50,000 acres throughout the country to support commercial estate developers,” he said.

He blamed weak town and country planning offices for unregistered and poorly laid out urbanization which is rapidly degenerating into slums.

He said that it is critical and urgent that the department concerned is strengthened and empowered to control proper and efficient use of land to guarantee the requisite provision of physical, sanitary and utility infrastructural services.

President Kufuor said that government has identified urban slum upgrading as a priority intervention area to improve lives of the urban poor in line with the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Kentefest Launched

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 25 November 2006 (Times Weekend)

AN exposition to promote Ghana’s foremost colourful indigenous Kente fabric, as an original Ghanaian brand was on Thursday launched in Accra.

Christened: "KenteFest", it will identify Ghana as the place of origin for the unique kente cloth.

It also seeks to expose the rich Ghanaian cultural heritage, history and people to the world.

The festival which takes place from February 13 to 16, next year at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in Accra and Prempeh Assembly Hall in Kumasi, will also feature other handicraft as well as jewellery alongside the Kente.

It is being organized by Davida Expositions in collaboration with the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture Affairs, National Commission on Culture and Office of Asanteman Nkosuohene.

As part of the festival themed: "Discover Ghana…The Homeland of Kente, an annual Kente Excellence Award has been instituted to award Ghanaians who have excelled in their various fields for the past 50 years.

In all 25 deserving nominees in the fields of science, journalism, performing arts, media, personality, innovations, lifetime achievers, business and traditional rulers among others will be the first to be inducted in to a "Kente Hall of Fame".

KenteFest will bring together professionals in the fashion and the mining and jewellery industries as well as tourists, investors and business professionals.

Visitors at the exposition will have the opportunity to see kente weavers and adinkra makers in action as well as skilled craftsmen and goldsmith working on their products from concept to finish using locally made tools in a traditional way.

There will also be a traditional durbar featuring some traditional chiefs in a cultural explosion, receiving visitors and exhibitors alike amidst drumming and dancing.

A modern Catwalk show will also be staged featuring clothes designed with the Kente cloth by some of Ghana’s renowned fashion designers.

The KenteFest will be crowned with a highlife extravaganza involving most of Ghana’s renowned highlife musicians.

The history of Kente dates back to over 400 years ago when a man named Ota Karaban and his friend Kwaku Ameyaw from the town of Bonwire in Ashanti went to a forest and saw a spider waving its web.

The two learned to weave by observing the spider.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

¢100billion Earmarked To Start Students’ Loan Fund

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 22 November 2006 (Page 3)

OVER ¢100 billion is expected to be disbursed under the implementation of the Students Loan Trust Fund (SLTF) for the 2006/2007 academic year which began in August.

A total of ¢5 trillion will be needed by the fund within the next six years to disburse to fresh students in the various tertiary institutions starting from this academic year.

The Fund’s acting Chief Executive, Kokui Adu, who announced this at a media briefing in Accra yesterday, said the initial implementation of the fund is being done in collaboration with SSNIT which has a database.

She said SSNIT will play the role of assisting with the distribution, receiving and processing of application forms and authenticate guarantors.

Mrs. Adu pointed out that only students enrolled in accredited tertiary institutions to pursue accredited tertiary programmes and who are in need qualify for the SLTF.

She said the amount to be given to each applicant will be based on the programme of study, adding, "In the 2007/2008 academic year and beyond, loans will be given based on the genuine need of each student".

To ensure effectiveness, she said the fund would establish campus offices in all the tertiary institutions to serve as enquiry points for students, to pickup and drop off application forms, check for completeness of forms and disseminate information to students in a timely manner.

She indicated that it would be the responsibilities of the institutions to provide office space, verify students’ status and provide any other relevant information that would be useful in the processing of loan applicants.

Mrs. Adu said the funds would be sourced from GETFund, development partners, loans from SSNIT, tax deductible voluntary contributions and loan repayments by beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries will have a two years of grace period after completion of their programme, before they start repaying adding, "The beneficiary will have nine years of repayment period"

Mrs.Adu said that the fund is considering as part of its long term plan, to introduce an internet-based information scheme where a beneficiary would be given an account to enable him to have access to their records wherever they may be.

First Rural Credit Union Inaugurated

From Stephen Kwabena Effah, Agona Nyakrom
Wednesday, 22 November 2006 (Page 9)

The first of 20 rural credit unions to be established throughout the country to support the mobilisation of rural savings was opened at Agona Nyakrom in the Central Region on Friday.

The ¢510 million sponsored initiative by the Barclays Bank of Ghana in partnership with the Ghana Co-Operative Credit Unions Association, is part of the bank’s micro banking programme launched last year.

Under the initiative, the bank will support the unions by funding the first set of deposit boxes for the people, provide office spaces for the unions and pay a credit manager for two years.

The Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, in a speech read on his behalf said that government, under the Millennium Challenge Account, allocated 20 million dollars to rural and community banks for on-lending to micro, small and medium enterprises.

He noted that government has also secured 25 million dollars from its development partners to support small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) to get access to credit at a cheaper cost.

Mr.Baah Wiredu said the bane of the development of the micro and SMEs is access to finance, adding "I therefore see this partnership as key to providing a lot more access to funds for our micro and SMEs".

The Managing Director of Barclays Ghana, Mrs.Margaret Mwanakatwe, noted that mobilization of rural savings has been one of the key challenges facing the finance sector, adding that credit unions are best placed to perform that function.

She said it was as for this reason that Barclays introduced the Micro banking policy to work with and through financial intermediaries to bring banking services and product to the doorstep of most petty traders and market women.

"Since February when we begun working with Susu Collectors in Accra and Kumasi, we have mobilized ¢18 billion in deposits and given out ¢1.5 billion as loans", she added.

The Chairman of the Board of Ghana Co-Operative Associations, Robert Ngissah, said credit unions exist not completely for profit but to provide a safe, convenient place for members to save money and get loans and other financial services at affordable rates.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Pensions Service Company Takes Off

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Monday, 13 November 2006 (Page 3)

PREMIER Pensions Administration Company, a services company for pension plans, has been inaugurated in Accra.

Founded in September, Premier, as it is called, is a private company expected to provide third party administration services, pension trustee services and software development for pensions systems under the pensions reforms.

Inaugurating it, the chairman of the Pension Reform Implementation Committee, T. A. Bediako, urged companies and Ghanaians to brace themselves to meet the challenges and capitalise on opportunities offered by the pension reforms.

"With the pension reforms taking place in Ghana, I believe that many companies will be seeking to establish, redesign or refine their pension schemes," he said.

Mr Bediako pointed out that as result of the reforms, a growing number of organisations would be outsourcing the administration of their pension plans to specialists in the field.

That the demand on a pensions administration have become greater with the ever-increasing complexity of legislation, higher member expectations and greater trustee responsibilities, he said.

He said that pension has become a topical issue in Ghana in recent times because of its implications for life after retirement.

He recalled that it was as a result of agitations and protests by organised labour that government set up a Presidential Commission on pension which also recommended, among other things, a new three-tier pension structure.

Mr Bediako said the committee to implement the recommendation is currently preparing hard toward the implementation of the reforms.

"The committee will facilitate, among other things, the drafting of a new pension reform bill that will give legal backing to all the recommendations requiring the passage of laws," he said.

The Chairman of Premier Pensions Administration Company, Yaw Berkoh Nketia, said the company would provide reliable, customer focused and cost effective pension administration and trustee services that would generate maximum returns for all its stakeholders.

'Don't Publish Low Class Books'

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 11 November 2006 (Page 3)

THE Ministry of Education, Science and Sports has warned publishers against putting low class supplementary books with sub- standard language onto the market.

"Any publisher found to have introduced low class supplementary readers with sub-standard language will be sanctioned," Angelina Baiden-Amissah, Deputy Minister for the ministry said.

She explained that such acts would in the long run "corrupt the intellectual ability of the reading public" and therefore asked publishers to desist from the practice.

The minister gave the warning at the 2006 National Reading Competition organized by the Ghana International Book Fair Trust as part of the 6th Ghana Book Fair in Accra on Thursday.

In all, some 60 pupils from 40 basic schools across the country received awards including reading and writing books, cash, school bags, T-shirts and wall clocks.

Mrs Baiden-Amissah observed that there are some books on the market which have spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and sub-standard language.

She spoke about what she called a silent revolution going on globally where children are now educating themselves through books, game devices, and the internet, and stressed that the Ghanaian child should not be left out.

Children must be enabled, through the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education programme to have access to quality education to be able to read and write.

She said reading enhances one’s vocabulary and raises the intellectual tone of society, adding, "Reading is an inexpensive means of developing the mind and a giant step towards academic excellence for a better future."

Mrs Baiden-Amissah said it is the duty of parents to guide children to mould their life for a meaningful adulthood and called on publishers and book sellers to aid this responsibility by providing children with reading materials and increased access to books.

The chairperson of the Trust, Akoss Ofori-Mensah, said besides helping to increase one’s vocabulary, books give emotional and social awareness, encourage creativity and raise the quality of learning.

Stars On Parade To-night

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 11 November 2006(Times Weekend)

THE stars will to-night shine like never before at the posh Accra International Conference Centre.

The auditorium, if not set on fire, would certainly be close to that experience when over 13 Ghanaian music stars, stage what could be described as a spectacular musical performance expected to be second to none in the recent history of the industry.

Mr. All 4 Real (Ofori Amponsah), Batman, Obrafour, Lord Kenya, Akatakyie, Praye, Obour,Tic Tac, Ewura Esi, Wutah, King Ayisoba and Kwaku Gyasi are the stars billed to perform.

The rest are the evergreen celebrated highlifers: A.B Crentsil, C.K.Mann and Papa Yankson.

Christened: "Joy FM Nite with the Stars", it will be no other’s business than the stars’ showing off their stagecraft, creativity, lyrical and musical powers.

All eyes will undoubtedly be on Batman, Obrafour and Ofori Amponsah who have been nominated from the lots to be voted for by the public as the Best Joy FM artiste for the year 2006.

This year’s contest is expected to be a keen one because all the nominees have carved a niche for themselves for the period they have been in the music industry, and the fact that their latest albums have been a hit.

Last year, it was the contemporary highlifer, Ofori Amponsah, who beat Obour, K.K. Fosu, Castro and Kofi Nti to be crowned the Joy FM Music Star of the year 2005 at the event which gave the audience exactly what they had come for.

For his prize, he took home ¢60 million worth of air time, a plaque, three months supply of Gordon’s Spark drink and three boxes of Lux beauty soap.

Tonight’s event will be no exceptional as it promises to be fun and excitement. Some of the artistes will be pairing with some staff of Joy FM, the organizers of the annual event.

The host of the Cosmopolitan Mix, Doreen Andoh will pair with Ofori Amponsah to perform his hit song "Emmanuella" while the Mr. Tumtum (DJ Black) pairs with Obrafour to remix his finest "Heavy" and Ato Kwamena Dadzie, a member of the morning show team joins Rootsman King Ayisoba to sing the hit song "I want to see my father".

Bola Ray a.k.a Bolex, the host of Joy Drive Time will perform "Samini" with the MOBO Award winner, Batman while Kwadwo Oppong Nkrumah pairs with C.K Mann to do Adwoa Yanki.

Speaking to Times Weekend, the Events and Promotion Executive of Joy, Gabriel Appiah said the Nite with the Stars was introduced in 2000 with the aim of promoting Ghanaian music.

He explained that the nominees for the Joy Music Star Award were selected based on their standings on the Joy Local Chart Show adding ,"It is the public who will be those to choose their star through voting by SMS on a Tigo short code."

Voting will end today at exactly 12 noon.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Students Told To Stop Frivolous Lifestyles

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Monday, 06 November 2006 (Page 4)

Students of tertiary institutions have been advised against unnecessary competition to the detriment of their pursuit of academic excellence.

The Managing Director of Unique Trust Financial Services, Prince Kofi Amoabeng, who gave the advice observed that some students are now competing in fashion and use of flashy cars instead concentrating on their studies.

He questioned: "Who do you want to impress. Is it the world population of 70 billion or Ghana’s over 20 million people?"

Speaking at the fourth matriculation ceremony of the Wisconsin International University in Accra on Saturday, he advised students to avoid craving for unworthy things.

"Control your personal interest. Go at your own pace and do not try to impress anybody," he urged.

In all, 366 students were admitted into the university for a four-year programme in various fields.

Mr.Amoabeng said that leadership in Africa has failed the generation a for not providing excellent education, adding that "the systems to ensure that people who qualify get what they deserve or are put in the right place, have failed us as a nation."

"Those who come out from our educational institutions with the best grades are not the best," he said and explained that some of them get their grades by dubious means like "grade buying".

He advised the students to be realistic in all aspects of life and stay focused.

Always make their grievances known to the authorities and not resort to attempts to overthrow the system.

The Principal of the university, Dr. John Anum Sackey, said that the number of matriculants is the largest intake since the establishment of the university in 2000, bringing the student population to 720.

He said that the university has begun evening programmes for workers who want to improve their professional competencies.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

It's An Offence To Withold Info On Human Traficking

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 04 November 2006 (Page 3)

ARE you aware that failure to disclose information about human trafficking in the country constitutes an offence punishable by law?

Well, the Human Trafficking Act (694) of 2005 says so: A person with human trafficking information who fails to report to the police is liable to a fine of ¢30 million or a jail-term of not less than a year or both.

Mrs Estelle Appiah, Director at the Attorney-General’s Department, revealed this at a two-day capacity workshop on the Act in Accra on Thursday.

She said anyone found guilty of human trafficking or serving as an intermediary, could face imprisonment for a term of not less than five years.

She, therefore, advised people with information on human traffickers to report to either the police, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, or a reputable civil society organisation.

The workshop, which was organised by the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs for religious bodies in the country, was to sensitise them on the provisions of the Human Trafficking Act.

It also sought to empower them to identify issues of trafficking within their communities so as to assist the ministry in its effort to prevent the practice in the country.

A Supreme Court Judge, Justice Sophia O. A. Adinyira, said that although every modern constitution has fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in it as declared by the UN Conventions, yet those freedoms, personal liberty and human dignity of people continued to be abused.

She asked religious leaders, to develop strategies of cooperation with others who seek support, protect and give refuge to those who suffer human rights abuses as an effort to prevent their occurrence in their communities.

Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Women and Children’s Affaris, said an estimated 400 Ghanaian children were suspected to have been trafficked into Guinea and Gabon.

"It is estimated that out of 6.36 million children aged between five and 17 in the sub-Saharan Africa, 2.47 million are engaged in economic activities," she said, adding that in Ghana, over 1,000 of them are involved in dangerous labour in fishing communities and in the sub-region.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Massive Turnout For Immunization

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Thursday, 02 November 2006 (Page 3)

There was a massive turnout in the Accra metropolis for the maiden edition of the Integrated Child Health (immunisation) campaign, which began throughout the country yesterday.

As early as 10 am, long queues of enthusiastic parents with their children had formed at the various centres when the Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Professor Badu Akosa, and the media toured some centres in high-density areas of the metropolis, including Bukom, Nima, Kokomba market area and Sodom and Gomorrah.

Under the campaign, which ends on Sunday, children under the age five are being immunised against polio and measles while those between six months and five years will, in addition receive vitamin A capsules.

Children below the age of two will receive free insecticide treated bed nets as well.

In all, there are 9,500 vaccinators and vaccination centres, and 28,500 volunteers for the exercise

However, it came to light that some parents in their desire to get the free bednets understated the age of their children.

Prof.Badu Akosa expressed the fear that the rush may lead to shortage of the nets for which over two million have been earmarked for the programme, and should that happen it will be difficult for the GHS to procure additional ones.

Briefing the media during the tour, he said that measles cases in the country dropped from 12,000 to 2000 between 2000 and 2002 adding, "Last year Ghana recorded 500 cases and has not recorded any death resulting from measles within the last three years."

On polio eradication, Prof. Badu Akosa said that Ghana has satisfied the three-year polio free record and is awaiting certification, but indicated that as long as Nigeria and other parts of the world at large are not polio free, "Ghana is also not free and has to keep the pressure and immunize our children."

Street Vendors Protest

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 01 November 2006 (Page 3)

THE Ghana Street Vendors Association has accused some officials of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) of illegally registering people for allocation of stalls at the Pedestrian Shopping Mall (hawkers market) at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle.

The association, which is made up of some street hawkers in Accra, warned that if the practice was not checked by the AMA, it could undermine the registration process.

"If care is not taken, the purpose for which the market was built would not be achieved," they said.

Addressing a press conference in Accra yesterday, the secretary of the association, Tony Eshun, expressed dissatisfaction about the process of registration for the allocation of stalls by the AMA.

He said after submitting their completed registration forms with two passport pictures to the AMA, all traders are now being asked to come to the AMA head office and pay ¢200,000 for the registration of the stalls.

He, therefore, appealed to the AMA to explain to the traders what happened to the registration forms that the association submitted to the AMA.

He explained that following a request by the AMA on March 5, 2005, the association registered its members, issued them with membership cards and submitted the names of 600 members who filled the forms to the AMA.

"But our people now fear that they would not be considered in the allocation of stalls, at the market because of the way the registration process is being handled by the AMA," Mr Eshun said.

US Relocates Hangar To Ghana

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 28 October 2006 (Page 4)

The US Ambassador to Ghana, Pamela Bridgewater, on Thursday inaugurated a hangar at the Air force Base at Burma Camp for the mission’s aircraft, which was relocated from Cote d’Voire to Ghana in 2004, following the political unrest in that country.

The aircraft, popularly known as Cobra Zero one, provides regional support for the Us mission in 27 US embassies in west and central Africa.

Ms Bridgewater commended the Ghana Air Force for assistance and support it provided the US Defense Attache’ in Ghana.

She indicated that the aircraft is an invaluable resource to the US embassy in Ghana and the other 26 embassies in west and central Africa that it supports.

The completion of the hangar, she said, would besides providing shelter for the aircraft also offer its maintenance team clean and conducive environment to perform regardless of the weather.

Ms Bridgewater expressed the embassy’s appreciation to the Ghana Air Force for providing the space for the aircraft and maintaining it until now.

Air Vice-marshal Joseph Boateng, Ghana Chief of Air staff, said the GAF appreciates the support by the C-12 team since their arrival in the country and noted that, cooperation between the team and the GAF had been very fruitful.

He said the GAF enjoyed the teams training programme, among other things, and expressed the hope that the cooperation would be maintained further for the benefit of all.

3 Fire Recruits Collapse @ Passing-out Parade

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Monday, 30 October 2006

THREE Fire Service recruits who were passing out at the Fire Academy and Training School (FATS) in Accra last Friday, collapsed during the parade the start of which was delayed for over an hour.

The three, who collapsed in turns apparently due to the heat from the scorching sun, were rushed to an ambulance of the Ghana Ambulance Service nearby, made available for any such emergency, where they were given treatment.

The reviewing officer, was the Minister for the Interior, Albert Kan-Dapaah. The programme, scheduled to start at 8:30 am, eventually started at 9:58 a.m.

Mr. Kan-Dapaah in his address, called on the recruits to exhibit alertness, ingenuity and foresight to help transform the Ghana Fire Service (GNFS) to ensure effective delivery, stressing that much was expected of the service to cope with new and sophisticated circumstances and situations in the country.

He asked the service personnel to exhibit discipline, humility and selflessness to all manner of people they would come into contact with in the course of their work.

He advised them to offer assistance and within the powers given them by the nature of their appointment adding, "Any attempt to go beyond the confines of the law in the name of offering assistance to the public will not be tolerated."

The minister cautioned those who have joined the service due to certain preconceived notions to shed those negative tendencies since any act of indiscipline and corrupt practices would not be tolerated or condoned.

"You must exhibit uprightness, soundness of character and honesty much more than that you must not compromise the integrity of the service," he said.

Stressing that the service had carved a positive image for itself over the years, he urged the recruits to carry out the duty of positively promoting the image of the service.

He commended the teaching and non-teaching staff of the Academy for the training given the recruits.

Recruit Fireman Godwin Kumedzro, who took three awards out of four, was adjudged the best allround recruit while Recruit Fireman Michael Nii Aryee Quaye won the best in foot-drill award.

The 231 recruits of 185 men and 46 women underwent 18 weeks of training in technical and operational fire fighting.