President says no to $200M chamber for parliament
Sources inside Jubilee House tell the Daily Statesman that President Akufo-Addo is set against moves by Parliament’s leadership and other senior figures in the House to embark on building a new debating chamber for MPs.
The proposed chamber, which parliamentary leaders hoped to build within three years, was expected to cost US$200 million. They argued that the present chamber in State House was not fit for purpose because it lacks adequate facilities and poses certain security risks.
However, credible sources from within the Presidency and close to senior ministers say President Akufo-Addo has clamped down on the project.
“The President is intent on ensuring that the government focuses on its priority projects – roads, education and training, agriculture, rural development, water and housing,” said one top-level source. “The proposal for this building project hasn’t even come to cabinet for discussion, let alone been given cabinet approval.
“The major announcements of business in the last two weeks will tell you where the focus of this government is.”
Homes for the military
On Thursday, the President launched work on a $100m housebuilding and rehabilitation project for the Ghana Armed Forces at the Teshie Military Academy and Training School.
The project, financed with a facility sourced through two Chinese construction companies, will provide 580 new homes for servicemen and women in garrisons across the country under the government’s Barracks Regeneration Project policy.
Sixty-four new homes were promised in the first phase of works under the policy, launched in 2017. Sixteen of these are complete and the remaining 48 are on schedule for delivery before the end of this year. The works are also creating jobs.
The homes in the second phase of works include a military hostel with 240 self-contained rooms, 176 two-bedroom flats and 160 two-bedroom houses.
The Military Academy will benefit under the same scheme from an administration block with 48 offices and conference rooms, an auditorium to seat up to 640 and a new classroom block. The Academy grounds will also be walled off and secured.
Progress on cocoa
On Wednesday, the Ghana Cocoa Board announced that together with its strategic partner Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana has reached initial agreement with buyers, processors and cocoa product manufacturers on mechanisms for structuring a new floor price for cocoa.
The decision on a floor price is being taken in the interests of farmer welfare, the two countries said.
A $400 share from each tonne sold at the floor price is to be set aside as fixed income for cocoa farmers.
Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire said last month that they will fix a minimum of $2,600 per tonne free-on-board. Effective from the start of the 2020/21 season, chocolate companies must pay this price for rights to source cocoa from the two countries’ 65 per cent share of global supply, including premium Ghanaian produce.
Pan-African free trade On July 7, the President accepted an invitation to Ghana by the African Union Commission to host the secretariat for the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The launch of AfCFTA will create the world’s single largest trading bloc, of 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion.
The spin-off benefits for Ghana in the jobs, increased investment and boosts to exports that the free trade area will bring are expected to be significant.
GHC1.6 billion for roads
At the end of June, the Ministry of Finance approved GHC1.6 billion for 14 key road projects, to be executed by the Ministry of Roads and Highways. Payment for the work will be staggered over a number of years.
The projects involve reconstruction, rehabilitation and upgrading of 381 kilometres of road network, spanning the Ashanti, Bono, Eastern and Northern Regions. The biggest of the 14 projects involves upgrading the road between Salaga and Bimbilla, a stretch of 71 kilometres.
Information from the Ministry of Finance seen by the Daily Statesman shows a further 13 road projects in the pipeline.
Announcement of the plans for a new chamber for Parliament took the public by surprise and provoked widespread criticism. Some members of the House disagreed with the leadership over the building project.
Questions have been raised about how well-informed MPs were about the new chamber. Although the project had the backing of the Speaker, Mike Oquaye, and both the Majority and Minority Leaders, the NDC’s chief representative in Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu, has been conspicuously absent from the debate this past week.
Nor did the scheme have official backing from Parliament.
The MP for Okaikwei Central, Patrick Yaw Boamah, Deputy Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, told reporters that a new 450-seat chamber for Parliament was not a priority and should not be considered by the government at this point in time.
Principle of chamber in the future not new – Deputy Speaker of Parliament