Akontombra and Bibiani/ Ahwiaso/ Bekwai constituencies. This is just a way of introducing the Constituency to other veteran hon. Members.
Mr. Speaker, my constituency forms part of what the COCOBOD classifies as “Western North Region”. As hon. Members will well know, the Western Region has the highest level of cocoa production in the country. It is because of this high level of production that the region is the only cocoa-producing region to be divided into two sectors by the
Mr. Speaker, there are other economic resources as well. The Sefwi area contributes immensely to the foreign earnings capacity of the country not only from cocoa production but also from timber and minerals.
Mr. Speaker, it is regrettable to say that our massive contribution to the nation's earnings is not matched in return through investment in the people by way of economic and social developments.
Mr. Speaker, I must say that the people of my constituency are ill-served. In spite of this, my people over the years have remained patient, hoping upon hope that governments, not only this government alone will realise this act of unjustice and therefore act to correct it. Mr. Speaker, this has not been the case most especially during the past four years.
Mr. Speaker, there was an attempt to improve the well-being of the people of my constituency after decades of neglect in terms of upgrading some roads, provision of potable water and extension of electricity to farming communities but this effort was halted from the year 2001. We now have the worst feeder roads and very difficult terrain leading to sister
Mr. Speaker, the constituency lacks telephone network and this makes communication extremely difficult. Mr. Speaker, if I may ask, why did the President himself on Sunday, 21st November, 2004 officially award the rehabilitation of the Sefwi-Wiawso Bechima junction road at a very beautiful durbar of chiefs and people at Sefwi Boako to Interbeton company but the contractor abandoned the work a day after the sod-cutting ceremony?
Mr. Speaker, I am drawing the attention of the Minister for Road Transport as well as the hon. Western Regional Minister who doubles as the Member of Parliament for Amenfi East to this unfortunate situation. Mr. Speaker, in spite of all these, we have remained true to the country and have continued to contribute to its wealth. But we have never felt more neglected, deceived and oppressed as in the last four years.
Mr. Speaker, my constituency has one main government hospital and one mission hospital. Some years ago, there used to be at least two doctors in the hospital at any one time. For the last four years, this was reduced to “zero doctors” until quite recently when a doctor was posted to the hospital. Mr. Speaker, in this year's Budget, Sefwi-Wiawso was mentioned only twice; the first in connection with some alleged restoration and management of “sacred groves” to “attract tourists” and the second in connection with the “demarcation of settler farmlands in Sefwi-Wiawso and Juabeso-Bia districts”. There was no mention of any significant economic investment that will improve the well-being of the people.
Mr. Speaker, the people of my constituency are fed up to their teeth
with claims by the Government to liberal democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and social justice, when they know that the Goverrnment denies them those very rights and fail to fulfil its promises.
Mr. Speaker, since the Government is preaching “free enterprise economy”, I will suggest that cocoa farmers are allowed to take their produce to the free market where prices are determined by the principle of demand and supply. Why is it that the Government which claims to be a champion of “free enterprise economy still determines the price of cocoa when cocoa farms are owned by the farmers, and they work in them with their own labour, blood and sweat, pain and sometimes tears? Surely that cannot be deemed as good practice in the arena of the “free market”. If my opinion is right, then this situation is tantamount to pure slavery.
Mr. Speaker, there are two main principles that should guide good governance; either you believe in “to each according to his need” or “to each according to his work”. The Government should tell us which one it believes in - whichever principle the Government believes in. Mr. Speaker, we are demanding a fair return for our investment in the cocoa industry. If they believe in neither, they should tell us so.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to end by saying that unless the political system can offer some prospects particularly to our hard- working cocoa farmers by way of social and economic investment, the farmers will find other means of expressing their frustrations. Part of such display will be farmer's inability to produce more. I am therefore inviting the Government to move alongside cocoa farmers; and I hope the process will be painless for all. Government should make good its word because the farmers and, for that matter, the people in the Sefwi-Wiawso
constituency deserve no less.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity.
Deputy Minister for the Interior (Capt. Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey (rtd)): Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to associate myself with the sentiments expressed by my hon. Colleague from Sefwi-Wiawso.
Mr. Speaker, I must confess that until
I came to Achimota Secondary School, I was a cocoa farmer -- [Laughter.] I used to follow my mother to the cocoa farm almost every weekend. And in the Jinijini area of Berekum, there were so many cocoa farms and we toiled regularly just to make sure that cocoa plantations were kept productive.
Mr. Speaker, I am very familiar with
the travails of the cocoa farmers and so, as the hon. Member was speaking, I could imagine the toils that cocoa farmers go through. It is unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, because over the years, it is as if successive governments have taken cocoa farmers for granted.
There is something called Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB) Scholarships meant for the children of cocoa farmers. Invariably, research and statistics would show that the majority of the beneficiaries of CMB scholarships are children of “big men” wearing suits, sitting in offices whilst the real beneficiaries of the scholarships are left in the bush.
But Mr. Speaker, whilst recounting these toils, it is important not to forget that when it comes to development of a particular area, the base, the primary function is the District Assembly. When you talk about Sefwi-Wiawso and for that
matter when you talk about Berekum or any locality in this country, the centre- piece for planning and development is the District Assembly.
I am prepared to put the full blame, not on previous governments, not on even the present Government, but on the District Assemblies. My question then is, who have been the District Chief Executives of Sefwi-Wiawso all these years, successively? [Hear! Hear!] My question is, what resolutions and what has been the budget of the Sefwi-Wiawso District Assembly all these years?
Mr. Speaker, it is sad; yes, the
deprivation is very disturbing. But who have they been electing as Assemblymen to go to the District Assembly? Or who have they been electing as their Member of Parliament to come here? And who have they been having to serve as the District Chief Executive? Mr. Speaker, unless we in this country start seeing local government as the base for development then, Mr. Speaker, we will have a long way to go.
The way my hon. Colleague is crying over conditions in Sefwi-Wiawso, I do not know whether he has been to South Dayi constituency or North Dayi constituency. I do not know whether he has been to Zabzugu-Tatale -- [Laughter] -- or for that matter, Nadowli constituency. In fact, Mr. Speaker - [Interruption.]