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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Major Split In GNAT

By Stephen K.Effah
Thursday, 31 May 2007


There seems to be a split on the front of the largest teachers’ trade union in the country-Ghana National Association of Teachers. This follows the formation of a group known as National Progressive Teachers Association (NAPTA).

The acting National Coordinator of the new association, Budu Yaw Asamoa, said NAPTA has been in existence since the latter part of last year, and has a membership of 60,000, although it is yet to be launched officially.

He noted that the formation of the association, stems from the failure of GNAT to meet the genuine demands of teachers over its 76 years of operation.

At a news conference in Accra on Tuesday, Mr.Asamoa alleged that the Teachers’ Fund set up with contributions from teachers was not accessible to most of them because "the rate chargeable for loan from the mutual fund, attracts 35 per cent way above the Bank of Ghana prime rate.

" Also teachers aged above 45 years cannot access the fund yet "they can still contribute to the fund."Mr. Asamoa alleged that a number of plots of land bought with funds from the mutual fund are nowhere to be found, adding that, they have been resold among the leadership, creating the impression that there was a litigation over the land.

He said that GNAT has failed to partner government to sponsor teachers for further courses, and rather turn round to blame government.

Mr. Asamoa said the association has decided to take a legal action against the GNAT over what it termed "unlawful" deductions from the salaries of NAPTA members.

He told the Times that NAPTA has consulted its lawyer for the preparation of the necessary documentation for the action.

Currently, he said GNAT through the Controller and Accountant General deducts membership dues immediately new teachers names are entered in the Ghana Universal Pay Structure, after training without their consent.

Quoting the Ghana Education Act 506, he said: "No amount shall be taken from the emolument of an employee without the consent of that employee in writing through the Minister of Education."

He added, "Joining GNAT has been compulsory. Teachers have no option than to become automatic members after initial training," explaining that such action is in contravention of the constitution, which guarantees freedom of association.

"This to most members is not the best and must be stopped due to the introduction of the new Labour Act," he said and added that it takes a teacher six months to officially notify GNAT in writing that he or she is not a member of the association and therefore should stop the deduction of dues from their salary.

Mr. Asamoa expressed the association’s confidence in the new pay and educational reforms.

Reacting to some of the concerns raised by NAPTA, a source at the GNAT headquarters said although all GNAT membership dues are deducted upfront, article 32 of the GNAT constitution gives a teacher the opportunity to write officially to GNAT with the necessary documentation for the deduction to be stopped.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ECONOMY RECORDS GROWTH

By Stephen K.Effah
Tuesday, 22 May 2007


The Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr. Paul Acquah, has described the economic activity in the first quarter of the year as robust, in spite of the ongoing load shedding exercise.

He said that the first quarter showed significant growth in imports and exports and strong corporate performance while the bank’s Composite Index of Economic Activity at the end of the quarter was up by 1.8 per cent and attributed it to employment, exports, commercial bank credit, imports and tourism.

He however noted that there were declines in port activities like cement sales and electricity consumption.

Presenting the Monetary Policy Committee report for the first quarter in Accra yesterday, Dr. Acquah said the country’s current debt stands at 2.7 billion dollars and added that total merchandise exports at the end of March amounted to 1,044.8 billion dollars which was an increase of 12 per cent over the fourth quarter of last year.

Total imports at the end of the quarter, he said, amounted to 1,822.71 billion dollars, a growth of 15.8 per cent over that of the first quarter of last year.

"Crude oil imports amounted to 415.43 million dollars, about 24 per cent above the 379.79 million dollars recorded in the first quarter of 2006, reflecting an increase in volume, as the average price declined by 6.7 per cent," he said, adding that the country’s trade deficit narrowed from 842.25 million dollars in the fourth quarter of last year to 778.63 million dollars at the end of the first quarter of this year,

The country’s external current account he said, recorded a deficit of 482.8 million dollars compared to a deficit of 181 million dollars before debt relief recorded in the first quarter of last year.

On the 2007 budget, Dr Acquah said, provisional banking sector data on its implementation indicates that total receipts for the first four months of 2007 amounted to ¢14,402.7 billion.

He said total revenue and grants amounted to ¢10,758.9billion and total payments for the first four months of 2007 amounted to ¢15,962.7 billion, all of which resulted in a deficit of ¢1,560 billion.

The governor said headline inflation continued to be stable on its downward trend but showed an up-pick in April to 10.5 per cent due to unusual increases in food prices attributed to supply conditions.

He said the BoG has formally announced the adoption of an inflation targeting framework measuring inflation as its principal variable for tracking underlying inflation in the country.

He said the monetary policy committee has decided to keep the prime rate unchanged at 12.5 per cent as the risks in the outlook are well balanced.

The Governor said the total assets of the banking industry rose by 41.6 billion per cent to ¢56,275.7 billion over the year to March 2007 compared to 24 per cent a year ago.

"Net loans and advances increased by 58.1 per cent to reach ¢26,354.7 billion in March 2007, compared with 41.8 per cent for the preceding year," he said.

He said the quality of the banking industry’s loan portfolio improved while non performing loans ration declined to 6.9 per cent from 7.9 per cent in December, last year.

Dr.Acquah noted that the country’s reserve money broadly declined at a somewhat more rapid pace in the first quarter of the year.

Friday, May 18, 2007

25 Trafficked Children Re-Unite With Families

By Stephen K.Effah, Ekumpoano
Thursday, 17 May 2007


After years of servitude with fishermen at Kete-Krachi in the Volta Region, 25 children were on Tuesday re-united with their families.


The children, aged between six and 16 years, were ‘loaned out’ to the fishermen through middlemen for various sums of money. They were from the Eastern, Greater Accra, Western and Central Regions.


It was a mixed feeling of guilt and regrets as the parents gathered here to receive their children who were rescued by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a non-governmental organisation.


Some of the children, their families and the crowd that gathered to witness the ceremony wept while others empathised with them when some of the parents narrated the reasons for giving out their children into servitude.


The re-integration followed the end of a three-month rehabilitation programme at the Department of Social Welfare Rehabilitation Centre at Madina in Accra.


The children, among other things, were also taken through a psychosocial counselling and guidance session at the centre to enable them to overcome the trauma they went through, help build trust, gain their self-worth and take decisions that affect their lives.


Joseph Rispoli, head of the Technical Cooperation Unit of IOM, said the re-unification exercise is to give the children the opportunity to grow and develop within the family setting in a loving and caring home environment.


"We strive to get to the point where all children enjoy being nurtured and cared for by loving, warm and generous parents who put their children’s interest before their own," he said and added that, since the rescue project started in 2002, 612 trafficked children have been rescued, rehabilitated, returned and re-integrated.


He said the parents and guardians of the children, have also been provided with micro-credit assistance in the form of community revolving loans, inputs, skills training and credit management training.


He said the IOM is working closely with the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs and other relevant stakeholders to finalise a national plan of action on human trafficking and to contribute to the newly created Human Trafficking Board and Human Trafficking Fund.


While advising parents to uphold their responsibilities towards their children and live up to their roles as primary caregivers, Mr. Rispoli also urged the children to respect their parents and the elderly in their communities.


Ms. Sharon Abbey, Principal of the rehabilitation centre, identified signs of abuse on the children saying, "Their hairs were unkempt, had skin rashes, ear infections, ulcer, craked lips, soles and bilharzia."


She said health screening and medical treatment were conducted on the children to ensure that they were cleared of diseases.


She said the children were also introduced to classroom work to enable them to adjust well in the normal schools after re-integration adding, "23 out of the 25 expressed the wish to go to school while two have decided to learn a trade".

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ghana's Decentralisation Lacks Implementation - Dr. Gariba

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 12 May 2007


The Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Alternative, Dr. Sulley Gariba, has said in spite of the strong legal basis for Ghana’s decentralisation, its implementation so far has been lagging.

That, he attributed to weak capacity for implementation coupled with lack of sufficient resources and personnel among others, adding "there is not much physical decentralisation".

He observed that there were some contradictions in the decentralisation legislations and called for the need to harmonise them.

He indicated that there has been a marginalisation of metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies in the implementation of the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy as the various ministries have been assigned the lead role.

Speaking at a best practice workshop on decentralisation in Ghana on Tuesday, he said that, for in stance there is no prescribed role for MMDAs on HIV/AIDS under the GPRS, although the national AIDS strategy has considerable focus on district level strategies and actions.

The two-day workshop is being organised by the Institute of Local Government Studies and sponsored by CIDA with support from the District Capacity Building Project (DISCAP).

It seeks to increase popular participation in governance, improve public accountability and increase public sector effectiveness.

Dr.Gariba further expressed concern about the flow of resources to the MMDAs which is done through the central ministries for projects implementation.

He also noted that there is incomplete transfer of financial and human resources to MMDAs and with continuing legislative overlap.

He explained that some personnel who owe allegiance to the central ministries and ought to have been transferred to the MMDAs as indicated in the Local Government Act have still not been transferred.

"Even within the current context, it is possible to enhance decentralisation and achieve improved results," he pointed out.

He said as decentralisation policy is fully implemented best practices should continue to provide useful lessons and models.

Dr.Chris Brown, a Canadian Team Leader of DISCAP, indicated that as a result of these challenges, the desired outcome objectives of decentralisation has not yet been achieved.

He said policy process for and about local government is still dominated by the central governments.