Thursday, February 14, 2008

President Bush Begins Visit Tuesday

By Stephen K. Effah
Thursday, 14 February 2008

United States President George Bush is due in Ghana next Tuesday, February 19, for a three-day state visit.

The visit forms part of his five-nation tour of Africa also covering Liberia, Sierra Leone, Benin and Tanzania.

President Bush’s visit will be the second time Ghana will be hosting a US president. The first was in 1998 when President Bill Clinton paid a day’s visit to the country.

The Foreign Minister, Akwasi Osei-Adjei, at a news conference in Accra yesterday, said President Bush will be accompanied by his wife, Laura and US business executives.

He said during the visit, Mr. Bush and his host and their respective teams will hold bilateral talks at the Castle.

The talks according to him, will focus on policy initiatives such as the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), President Bush’s Malaria Initiative Programme, the African Education Initiative and Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief to which the US has committee over 40 billion dollars support for anti retroviral treatment globally.

The achievements made between Ghana – US private investments, he said, would also feature prominently during the summit.

Mr Osei-Adjei said the summit will review some international topics of interest to both countries, especially Ghana’s role in addressing security concerns in troubled regions since both countries benefit greatly from major military training support in Ghana – US military co-operation.

"Relations between Ghana and US are now at an all time high. Ghana remains poised to take full advantage of the many initiatives of the current administration geared at Africa’s development," he said.

The Foreign Minister said Ghana was currently a focal point of many initiatives under US policy on Africa designed to help the continent to develop with the framework of four main priority areas.

He named the areas as support and promotion of democratic governance and political freedom, expansion of economic growth and opportunity through trade and investment and the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

What Will The President Tell The Nation?

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Thursday, 14 February 2008

President J.A. Kufuor’s State of the Nation Address to Parliament this morning, will focus on how his vision for a humane and prosperous nation has been realised in the past seven years, Andrew Awuni, Press Secretary to the President, has said.

It is his last address to parliament before he hands over to the next president on January 7, 2009.

The State of the Nation Address is a statutory requirement under the 1992 constitution.
Addressing a news conference in Accra yesterday Mr Awuni said "the president will have a lot to share with the nation when he appears before the august house" on his leadership, inspired by development in freedom with emphasis on rule of law and good governance.

He said the President will emphasise on the 2008 budget statement, the economic policy, and his New Year message to underscore the fact that "Ghana today is a healthier state."

The president, will also encourage Ghanaians to tap into the fortunes that have accrued to the nation as a result of seven years of sound economic management and good governance.

"Thus, the president was definite when he declared that Ghana is at the threshold of great prosperity and it requires all Ghanaians to pull together and seize the opportunity to make a giant leap."

One key undertaking worthy of note, this year he said is the President’s continued efforts to strengthen the purchasing power of Ghanaians to further improve on standards of living taking advantage of the policies targeted at mitigating hardship.

GT Relocates Payphones To Deprived Communities

By Stephen K. Effah
Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Although the advent of mobile phones and their increasing availability is perceived by the general public as a huge blessing, it is having a heavy toll on Ghana Telecom’s (GT) payphones in the country.

Due to the extensive penetration of mobile phones in the country, patronage of GT payphones has reduced drastically in recent years.

Disclosing this to the Times in an interview in Accra yesterday, Joseph Wireko, Manager of Marketing Communications in charge of Fixed Network Services of GT, said the company as a result, is relocating 40 per cent of its public payphones countrywide to schools, hospitals and deprived communities for better utilisation.

However, GT also operates a mobile phone system known as One-touch.On the state of payphones and their patronage in the wake of mobile phone penetration, he stated that payphones are no more economical, saying "we are not making profit from them.

"Payphones have come against heavy competition which we cannot close our eyes to. In the current competitive industry, it has come under severe pressure because of the impact of mobile phones," he pointed out.

Although, he said, the company is not making profit from payphones GT does not deem it appropriate to phase them out since they are indispensable, especially in emergency situations.

Mr.Wireko said that there are two phone cards of the company designed for fixed lines which can also be used on payphones apart from the normal cards for the payphones.

That, he explained, gives people who have those phone cards the opportunity to use payphones at anytime, especially in emergency cases where one has run out of mobile phone credit or battery.

He said the relocation exercise which started last October, will see 20 per cent of the payphones being moved to schools and hospitals and other strategic locations nationwide.

He said 10 per cent would also be taken to deprived communities where GT have existing fixed lines system in place, noting that additional 10 per cent, which would be a GSM (a digital telephone system for transmitting mobile voice and data) based powered by solar energy, would also be sent to communities without fixed lines.

Mr Wireko said that the GT is hoping to add more value to payphones in the future, for example by the addition of voice mail, noting that one can receive calls on payphones which is an advantage to those in deprived communities.

Illegal Structures On GWCL Pipelines To Be Demolished

By Stephen K. Effah
Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Illegal structures along the area earmarked for Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) pipelines from Awoshie through to Abeka in Accra, face demolition, the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Boniface Alhaji Abubakar Saddique, has stated.

This is to facilitate the laying of pipes from the Weija Treatment Plant to Accra East to ensure free flow of treated water in the area.

Owners of affected structures to be demolished were unable to provide permits on their buildings when contacted by officials of the GWCL and the contractor.

Alhaji Saddique said this in Accra yesterday when he inspected progress of work on the Accra East and Accra West Inter-connection project being funded by the governments of Ghana, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The project encompasses expansion of the Weija Treatment Plant and laying of pipes from Mallam Junction to the Legon Booster Station. Started last year, the project will be completed in November, this year.

Alhaji Saddique said the water requirement of Accra is 150 million gallons daily but current supply is about 55 million gallons.

"Accra’s population is growing at 2.1 per cent while that of water is only one per cent," he noted.
He said 180 million dollars is needed to expand the Kpong Treatment Plant to produce about 40 million gallons of water daily to Accra to augment the inadequate supply.

He said the project when completed, will ease the problem of water shortages in Accra East, which covers Madina, Legon, Haatso, Agbogba and its environs.

Mr Pinkney Raymond, Construction Manager of Ballast Nedam, a Dutch firm and executors of the project, said about 60 per cent of work is complete and assured the Minister that work is on schedule.

Prof. Mike Oquaye, MP for Dome-Kwabenya, who accompanied the Minister, was happy about progress of work so far, noting that the issue of water shortage in the Accra East would soon be over.

He noted that Taifa, for instance, has for years experienced acute water shortage in the metropolis making life unbearable for residents. He urged the contractors to speed up work for water to flow to the people in the area soon.

Korle-Bu Hospital Problems Compound

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Monday, 11 February 2008

The normal known challenges of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital have been the lack of doctors, nurses, and other staff, but now it has emerged that another challenge is that of the 50-year-old lifts which break down intermittently, making health service delivery cumbersome.

The breakdown of the elevators in storey buildings at the hospital is hampering work there, says Dr. Benjamin Annan, acting Chief Executive of the hospital.

"Currently, the 32-bed capacity medical and Surgical Emergency Ward is not in use because its elevator is down."

Dr. Annan expressed these concerns when the Health Minister, Major (rtd) Courage Quashiga, last Friday inspected projects completed and ongoing at the hospital.

He said when the elevators are not functioning, personnel of the hospital are obliged to carry patients up the stairs for treatment.

The hospital has contracted an engineer in Switzerland to fix the elevator at the Medical and Surgical Emergency Unit, within two weeks, he said.

At the newly refurbished Gynaecology Theatre, Professor Lassey Anyetei, acting head of the department, said out of the three theatres, only two are functional. The ward needs a diathermy machine, which controls bleeding during surgery, and accessories to make it function.

The minister inspected a five-storey medical ward being renovated by the hospital at a cost of GH¢1.5 million. The building, constructed in the 1960s will after renovation, accommodate the intensive care unit, pharmacy and conference hall among others.

Dan Seedah of Macdons Engineering Consult, contractors for the project, told the minister that work started on the building five years ago but was delayed until two years ago due to infrequent cash flow.

A major problem has been the procurement of materials because of the slow procurement process but said that is being fast-tracked, noting that work is expected to be complete by July this year.

The minister inspected a 16-block housing project being undertaken by the Health Ministry.
Mr Jackson Amankwah, head of Capital Investment and management unit of the ministry said seven blocks have so far been completed for allocation.

He said that they have run out of funds and thus requested ¢14.5 million from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to complete the rest of the blocks in three years.

He said the blocks would be allocated to health workers, especially doctors to solve their accommodation problem.

Dr. Annan appealed to the ministry to allocate about 90 per cent of the blocks to health workers of the hospital since they were instrumental in the projects and also because they are close to the hospital.

Maj. Quashigah said the blocks are useful for, especially new doctors’ accommodation, adding, "We will make sure the hospital gets the majority of them."

He urged them to draw a maintenance plan for all their projects to ensure that proper maintenance work are carried out all the time as would be spelt out in the plan.