Debates of 17 May 2005

PRAYERS 10:10 a.m.




Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
Hon. Members, the Votes and Proceedings of Friday, 13th May 2005. Are there any corrections to be made? Pages 1…6. If there are no corrections to be made, we will assume that the Votes and Proceedings reflect what took place. We move on to Urgent Questions.
Majority Leader (Mr. Felix Owusu- Adjapong) 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. Minister is not available. As all of you are aware, he is in Abuja. He told us on the floor of the House last Friday that he would be away in Abuja.
Mr. E. K. D. Adjaho 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, again, these are some of the problems some of us on this side of the House are not happy with. This Question was filed before we went on recess. The hon. Minister has got Deputies and the Constitution is clear that the Deputies are supposed to assist Ministers.
On several occasions, on the floor of this House, we have allowed Deputy Ministers, with the permission of the House and Mr. Speaker, to answer Questions on behalf of the substantive Ministers. And so I think that the Majority Leader should have a better reason to give to this House as to why this Question cannot be answered.
Where are the two Deputy Ministers?
Mr. Owusu-Adjapong 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker,
I believe the hon. Member has asked a Question. I will verify and see where they are and let him be aware later on.
Mr. Adjaho 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, clearly, the Majority Leader does not seem to be in charge. He is in charge and he knows that the hon. Minister is in Abuja. He should know where the two Deputies are and why they could not come to answer these Questions. If he is now going to find out where they are before coming to tell this honourable House their whereabouts, then clearly, he is not in charge.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
Do you want to speak for the Majority Leader?
Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu) 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I know the Majority Leader is in firm control. He is in control of the factors that contribute to the welfare of this Parliament - [Laughter.]
Mr. Speaker, as he said, the hon. Minister responsible is outside the country. And as I was leaving Abuja yesterday, one of the Deputy Ministers had also come there, hon. Dr. Akoto Osei. I established contact with one of the Deputy Ministers, and he told me that indeed, for that Question, he did not have responsibility for it.
So he would want, in all sincerity, to be very honest and sincere with the House, that the Deputy Minister responsible or perhaps the hon. Minister himself comes to handle the Question. And I believe that will help the House better than maybe the man coming and maybe subsequently being asked, and he saying, “please hold on, let me go and enquire”. I think it is a better arrangement.
But for emphasis, the Majority Leader is in control. He is in control of everything.
Mr. John Tia 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, this morning very interesting things are unfolding. I am surprised that the two hon.
Members sitting there and Leadership are not communicating properly. Information is being withheld by each of them. I thought that the Chief Whip could have fed this information to the Majority Leader who then would have been in control of the information. But certainly, we can see that the disarray fever that has caught up with the party is manifesting itself here.
Mr. Speaker, talking about welfare matters, well, the Leader may very well be in charge, but that is not what we are dealing with now. When the time comes we will let him also show his prowess in that field.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
I think that should end it all now. Let us now move on. [Interruption.]
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
One last word from you.
Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu 10:10 a.m.
Precisely, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, certainly there is no disarray fever. There is no fever of any sort in this House and there is no fever of disarray, which has caught on with whichever party or whichever angle or whichever body.
Mr. Speaker, we are calm and composed and we are in charge, and let everybody be served that notice.
Dr. Ben Kunbuor 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, it seems this drama that has unfolded this morning in this House suggests that the hon. Chief Whip is still having an Abuja hangover. He does not seem to be abreast with the developments in this House, let alone this thing. But on a more serious note, I think we have time and again in this House indicated that hon. Colleague Ministers should always, as much as possible, give priority to their obligations to attend to the business of this House.
I am not sure the explanations that have been offered by both the Majority Leader and the Majority Chief Whip are sufficiently satisfactory in relation to a very important Question like this, on which the hon. Ministers have had notice. Perhaps, we are yet to be convinced, in terms of the priority, whether it is the Abuja commitment or this national august House that should take priority.
Mr. Owusu-Adjapong 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the hon. Member for Lawra/Nandom is beginning to forget the events of last Friday very fast.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. Minister for
Dr. Kunbuor 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I am actually not -- [Interruption]. Mr. Speaker, I am making a correction. Thank you Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Owusu-Adjapong 10:10 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. Minister indicated that he would be out of Ghana for an equally important assignment, and therefore he would not be in Parliament today. That was around 11.30 a.m. 12.00 o'clock. And he intimated that he would try and see whether he could make arrangements for a Deputy Minister to be around.
The fact that I have not heard from any of the deputies may mean -- and do not forget that he said he was supposed to leave for the airport and be at the airport by 1.00 o'clock. So possibly he had only one hour to work. If the man was trying to do what is humanly possible, to get the response to this Question, and things have not worked that way, I do not think anybody should begin to comment the way it is being done.
But let me assure you that the Leadership of the Majority is in firm control of events here; and we have the proper leverage to ensure that whatever we need to do with the Executive is achieved. Except that in all matters, time is of the essence.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:10 a.m.
I think that should be all for the question of the hon. Minister attending to this House to answer Questions. We should reschedule him for some other time to come and answer those Questions.
We have a short Statement from the Chairman of the Committee on Com- munications.
STATEMENTS 10:20 a.m.

Chairman, Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications (Mr. Akwasi Afrifa) 10:20 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for granting me the opportunity to make this Statement as part of this year's celebration of World Telecom- munications Day which falls today, 17th May 2005.
The day is observed each year by member countries of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to commemorate the founding of the Union in 1865. The celebration of 17th May provides us an opportunity to reflect on telecom-munication development particularly with respect to the application of ICT to improve the well-being of our citizens.
This year's celebration is on the theme “An Equitable Information Society: Time for Africa”. It has been selected to draw attention of all stakeholders to transform the political will expressed during the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) into long- term commitments.
Mr. Speaker, in December 2003, Ghana, led by His Excellency the President was among 175 countries that

Plan of Action in Geneva embracing the idea of universal and affordable access to ICT. This was the outcome of the first phase of the World Summit which was convened under the auspices of the United Nations in recognition of the enormous opportunities provided by ICT to address global poverty and help attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Much pol icy a t tent ion on the international scene is now focused on bridging the development divide between developed and developing nations and within countries in terms of their access to ICT, commonly referred to as the “digital divide”.

The second phase of the WSIS will be held in November this year in Tunis to mention the progress made in fulfilling the specific objectives made at the Geneva phase and also to conclude discussions on ICT indicators and the issue of internet governance. Mr. Speaker, it is noteworthy that your Committee also actively participated in the various processes at the first phase and hope that with the kind of this honourable House and other stakeholders, we can continue to participate actively in the upcoming events.
Mr. Speaker, Ghana has facilitated with the ECA an online discussion on 10:20 a.m., so as to collate as many views points as possible on the outstanding issues for WSIS. Honourable Members may also wish to join in the online discussions.
One positive outcome of the first phase of WSIS has been the adoption of Africa's proposition for the creation of a Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) and its subsequent launching on 14th March to complement existing financial mechanisms for intervention in social sectors and disadvantaged areas which otherwise will
not attract private investment.
This Fund rel ies on voluntary contributions of Governments, local authorities, private sector, civil societies and international organizations and would be accessible by all countries.
It would be recalled that Ghana was honoured to host the Africa Region Preparatory Conference in February this year under the mandate of the African Union. The Conference was attended by ICT stakeholders from all over the continent including some Heads of State and 25 Ministers of Communications who helped to build consensus over issues of particular concern to the continent including the development of the African Regional Action Plan on the knowledge Economy (ARAPkE).
Mr. Speaker, subsequent to this meeting, Ghana has been accorded the role of presenting Africa's position in the WSIS negotiations and recently, on 10th May 2005 in Cairo, Egypt, solidarity with the African position was received during the Pan-Arab Preparatory Conference for WSIS where it was agreed to work together on all levels to stress and highlight the importance of the issues of common concerns during the World Summit.
The Joint communiqué issued at the end of the Conference reinforced Government's commitment among other things to:
Declare that the ICT sector should be a priority item Foster an enabling environment that allows for reliable electronic commerce by 2008
Acknowledge the importance of the development of infrastructure, including rural areas, universal

communication including adequate access to the Internet through competitive market environment

Ensure that computers and Internet are made available at low and affordable cost

Develop the content industry through the use of open source software among others

Develop human resource as a major cornerstone for building the Information Society

Ensure Government's use of ICT at all levels to promote efficiency and transparency and provide cost- effective ICT-based information services to citizens

Promote ICT education in schools and universities and ICT skills training in the workplace

Encourage appropriate measures to ensure interconnection of the communication infrastructure of countries by 2008.

Mr. Speaker, in February 2004, this honourable House considered and gave overwhelming endorsement to the National ICT for Accelerated Development Policy. The Policy, which was developed through extensive consultation with stakeholders including honourable Members, is very comprehensive in its coverage, and one notes with pride that the elements of the WSIS discussions have been captured in our policy document even though its development preceded the whole WSIS process. The contribution of the House is very well appreciated.

In furtherance of the Policy, ICT implementation strategies are also being developed for electronic governance, e -commerce , hea l th , educa t ion , agriculture, and, in security in conjunction
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:20 a.m.
Hon. Members, that is the Statement; any contribution thereon?
Mr. Abdul-Rashid Pelpuo (NDC - Wa Central) 10:30 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to associate myself with the Statement made by the hon. Member on the celebration
of World Telecom-munications Day in Ghana.
Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that communication is a critical element of development now in the world, and for Ghana to be able to move forward, it is best we liberated our energies to ensure that communication is really entrenched in the Ghanaian society.
Mr. Speaker, his call for internet connectivity or information centres to be established with V-SaT communication in rural com-munities is a very important call and I would like to back it, because a people are developed if they are informed, and a people are underdeveloped if they are uninformed. If you are uninformed, it is impossible for you to liberate your energies to be able to understand what is happening around you and to be able to take opportunities that abound, especially in this communication age.
So Mr. Speaker, I would like to, on
this note, call on the Government to ensure that this policy of Information Communication Technology (ICT), which it wants to use to reduce poverty is taken more seriously than it is now. Places like the northern regions, especially in the Upper West Region where communication activities are low, especially in the area of internet connectivity should be taken more seriously. Government has a respon- sibility to set up the required infrastructure to ensure that such infrastructure supports private people to be able to establish such networks that would ensure that information is brought to the doorsteps of the ordinary person.
But it is also important to note that such information, as we derive from the internet, would be jammed information and would be doing a lot of harm to our culture if such information is not harnessed to the benefit of the Ghanaian society. Not all information derived from the internet or extracted from the internet is important

until we find that such information has something to do with our development. Therefore, it is important that as we call for such infrastructure to be put in, and for such information to be made available to everybody, we should be careful what type of information is drifting into the system.
Mr. Mahama Ayariga (NDC - Bawku Central) 10:30 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to associate myself with the Statement that has just been made by the hon. Member, except that I want to also mention that when we think of information, telecommunication and so on and so forth, we often focus on the big things and we lose sight of the very little things that can help advance our objective in this direction. I wish to mention in particular the situation of community radio programmes.
It has come to my notice that the National Communications Authority has ceased the allocation of frequencies for small community radio programmes, and this is affecting the efforts of organisations that are working towards promoting community radios. And so I wish to use this occasion to call on the Authority to speed up the process of ensuring that community radios are able to have frequencies allocated to them so that they can establish these small radio networks in communities so that they can aid the process of sharing information in these communities.
Mr. Speaker, you would realise that our urban centres now enjoy the sharing of a lot of information through the existence of private FM stations. It is not the same with most of the rural areas and most of the regions beyond the Brong Ahafo Region. In fact, in the Upper East Region, I do not think we can boast of any serious private FM station and so we all rely on the state- owned one. And of course, we know all the problems associated with that.
Therefore if communities are able to set up their own small private FM stations that can just cover a small radius, it is
Mr. I. K Asiamah (NPP 10:30 a.m.

Mponua): Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity. I would like to associate myself with the Statement on the floor.

Mr. Speaker, the Government's vision of making sure that we have a knowledge- based economy would only be realised if communication is well improved. I am very much happy with this year's Budget because an amount of ¢26.4 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of Communications to improve com- munication in the country.

Mr. Speaker, let me also touch

on communication and its attendant problems. We are all enjoying the latest in communications in our country, but let us not forget that of late, there is this issue of Internet fraud involving sometimes our school kids. What are we doing about this thing?

There is also the issue of the promotion of pornographic pictures on our internet facilities. Mr. Speaker, it is surprising that school children close from school, go and sit behind the computers, and you would think they are learning but if you get closer to them, the pictures you would see would be very much amusing. So these are the areas the country should really focus on, in our quest or in our effort to promote communication, because they have the potential of destroying the moral fibre of our society.

So I am appealing to the Ministry of Communications to institute measures

to make sure that these problems that confront the communications sector are dealt with so that we have very responsible people in the near future.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to touch

on communication in my constituency capital, Nyinahini.
Mr. Mr. K. A. Okerchiri 10:30 a.m.
On a point
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:30 a.m.
Hon. Member, you are out of order. You would not know what was on his mind. Yes, continue.
Mr. Asiamah 10:30 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, it is
about communication in my constituency capital, Nyinahini. It is very shocking. You get to Nyinahini and there is no telephone facility; you get there and you cannot link up to the rest of the country. So I am appealing to the Ministry of Commu- nications to make sure that Nyinahini gets its fair share of telecommunication facilities.
Mrs. Gifty Eugenia Kusi (NPP - Tarkwa Nsuaem) 10:40 a.m.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement on the floor. I wish to congratulate the hon. Member for making the Statement to commemorate the World Communications Day.
Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that there has been an improvement in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) globally and for that reason it is yielding profound positive impact on poverty reduction in our country, Ghana.
Mr. Speaker, Ghana Post has improved
dramatically and I want to commend them for that. Even though, there are some knots yet to be tied, I think they are doing very well these days. Ghana Telecom has followed suit with a lot of improvement which is already yielding fantastic results. Sometimes, in most rural areas, you can make telephone calls to wherever you want to call.
Mr. Speaker, in talking about the
internet, there are some people who use the internet negatively, which has even resulted in Ghanaians not being able to use credit cards here. I learnt that in Nigeria, most of the internet cafés have staff from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) around, who are always observing what the young ones are doing; and you can be easily arrested when it is found that you are using the internet in a way that it should not be used. So I think that the Ministry of Communications should take it upon itself to find ways of tracking these people down because they are disgracing the country.
Mr. Speaker, there are also some people
who have the habit of stealing wires and other communication gadgets that render most of our telephone systems useless at the time that we need them. And I would want to urge everyone, in fact, we should all be our brother's keeper and then look round and report these people so that the efforts of these companies do not go in vain.
Mr. Speaker, I think that globally, this
ICT development has helped a lot and
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:40 a.m.
hon. Member for North Tongu.
Mr. C. S Hodogbey (NDC - North Tongu) 10:40 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment on the Statement.
We always talk about ICT and most of the time, we think only of the cities. When you capture information and you are not able to transmit it from one place to another, that is a shortfall. As I am speaking here now, the popular radio station in the Volta Region, called the “Volta Star Radio” has been sitting down there yet the people are not able to receive or to send out information to the populace. I therefore call upon the Ministry responsible to ensure that that facility starts functioning.
Now, I come back to our own network
system. If you go outside Accra, as soon as you get to kasoa, Dodowa or Aburi Barrier, you do not get network for your cell phone. I would therefore call upon the Ministry responsible to ensure that at least, in the immediate environs of the city people should be able to access or use their cell phones to communicate. When you go to even the regional or district capitals, you cannot communicate from your constituency or even from your district headquarters to Accra.
These are the things which I think we should concentrate on first so that we will all be able to communicate to our people wherever we are instead of always thinking or always talking of ICT without actually pinpointing the basic things. Using fibre optics which is very expensive anyway, but gradually starting from the cities and the regional capitals,
I think the country would move forward.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:40 a.m.
Members, that should bring us to the end of Statements - [Interruption]--- Make your contribution and let it be very brief.
Mr. K. Appiah 10:40 a.m.

Akrofuom): Mr. Speaker, I would like to associate myself with the Statement made by hon. Member for Fomena (Mr. Akwasi Afrifa).

I take note of this because of the important role of communication in development management, productive activities and distribution of goods and services, and the fact that the basis of ICT development success is the availability of telephone links in the country.

Unfortunately for us, like what the other Members just said, the distribution of telephone links in this country has been skewed towards the cities. As regards rural communities, a great many of them are still without telephone links. I remember very well the wish of His Excellency the President that every town with a senior secondary school should be able to have telephone linkage with other parts of the country.

This is indeed a very excellent opportunity that we must take advantage of. I therefore call on the telephone companies in this country - the Ghana Telecom, mobile phone companies -- to indeed, take this challenge and move ahead to serve all areas, not only with the availability of the telephones themselves but also with quality service.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:40 a.m.
Members, that brings us to the end of
Mr. Owusu-Adjapong 10:40 a.m.
Thank you,
Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I have the authority of the Chairman to lay this Paper on his behalf.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:40 a.m.
Majority Leader, go ahead.
PAPERS 10:40 a.m.

Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:40 a.m.
I think that brings us to the end of Public Business. We shall now have committee sittings, and on that note, Leader of the House or any Member should move for adjournment.
Mr. Owusu-Adjapong 10:40 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, we may recall that last Friday we scheduled the Committee of the Whole to discuss the GETFund today. It is really critical that we undertake this exercise. I therefore move that this House do now adjourn till tomorrow 10.00 o'clock in the morning to enable us look at the GETFund which is before the Committee of the Whole.
Mr. First Deputy Speaker 10:40 a.m.
Any seconder?
Mr. Lee Ocran 10:40 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, I second
the motion.
Question put and motion agreed to.
ADJOURNMENT 10:40 a.m.

  • The House was accordingly adjourned at 10.49 a.m. till 18th May, 2005 at 10.00 a.m.