CHIEFS GIVE APPROVAL TO SADA BILL
Story: NURUDEEN SALIFU, Tamale
Chiefs in the three northern regions have given their backing to the draft Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) Bill and entreated Parliament to pass it into law.
According to them, the bill, when it becomes law, would mark a historic move towards bridging the development gap between the north and south.
The chiefs advanced their position at a consultative forum organized in Tamale during the weekend to educate the chiefs on the content of the bill and enable them make informed inputs into the bill, pending parliamentary approval.
Key among the recommendations made by the chiefs was the need to place much focus on education, which they noted, was a critical element in nurturing the requisite human resource to champion the development of the region.
The need to provide enough incentives to the private sector to encourage investments in the area of natural resource exploitation, agric, education and energy was also discussed.
Shea nut procession and value-addition was among the key resources that the chiefs said, if given the needed attention, could enhance the economic fortunes of the north.
Again, the chiefs raised the issue of the funding mechanism put in place to run the programme, which relies heavily on direct funding from the government purse.
They noted that relying on government funding would endanger the programme, because such funding could not be guaranteed due to increased strain on the government budget.
The chiefs, therefore, suggested the need for a more sustainable funding arrangement that would ensure regular funding to support the authority’s programmes.
Explaining the various funding options that had been proposed, a Development Policy Advisor to the Government on the SADA, Dr. Sulley Gariba, noted that so far two mechanisms seemed plausible.
“The first is for Government to levy 1.5 percent of all –nonpetroleum imports, while the second is to designate a proportion of the Value Added Tax (VAT) for SADA, as has been done for the Ghana Education Trust Fund and the National Health Insurance Scheme,” he stated.
Dr. Gariba said implementing any of these mechanisms had implications, “and so we will continue to analyse them and explore other funding methods”.
He said other sources of funding incorporated in the bill included interests to be accrued from the authority’s investments, loans, responsible for finance may approve.
The President of the National House of Chiefs, Professor John S. Nabila, who chaired the 0deliberations, reminded the chiefs of the critical role they would play if SADA programmes were to make the desired impact.
“It is we the chiefs who own and facilitate the implementation of the programmes at the grass –root level so we need to appreciate and give it the needed support,” he said.
One area in which the role of chiefs would be much needed is in the allocation of lands for the numerous proposed agric, energy, roads, health and educational projects.
The chiefs thus pledged to their readiness to make land available because, in their estimation, the projects would inure to the benefit of their people.
The SADA Initiative is a multi-pronged approach which focuses on transforming northern Ghana through modernized and market-based agricultural systems, utilization of the north’s tourism, mining sector and human resources, private sector investment and improved livelihoods through pro-poor and social –protection initiatives.
It would as well seek to improve infrastructure in critical areas such as in roads, transportation, energy and irrigation to facilitate the development process.
Daily Graphic, page: 51 Monday, July 12, 2010.