Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion for the Zongo Development Fund Bill, 2017 to be read a Second time, and to urge Hon Colleagues to support the Bill.
Mr Speaker, it is consistent with Government's policy as was announced in the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) Manifesto that a Zongo Development Fund would be created.
Mr Speaker, I would like to refer to the fifth paragraph of the explanatory memorandum. I believe that, inhabitants of the Zongos would be expectant that their living standards would improve “ that there would be basic infrastructure such as schools, roads, electricity, water resources and good sanitation; job creation opportunities would all be enhanced; and poverty would be reduced.
Mr Speaker, I have perused the Bill, and it is more diagnostic. It is loaded with the diagnosis of the problem, but very low on solutions to the problem.
So, if we would want a Bill that diagnoses the anatomy of what the problems are in the Zongo, then it does very well; but it is very low on what to do in order to cure what has been diagnosed.
Mr Speaker, if we read the first paragraph, it says that, there is no dispute about the fact that from time immemorial,
the needs of Zongos were not adequately captured in national development planning. Rightly so, but conspicuously lost in this Bill is “inner city”.
It is not for nothing that the Hon Minister who is sponsoring this Bill is referred to as “Hon Minister for Inner City and Zongo Development”.
It is because of the deprivation and poverty that reflect in the inner cities like Krowor; it may not be a Zongo, but there is poverty. If we go to parts of Ledzokuku, they may not be a Zongo but there is poverty; if we go to Sekondi-Takoradi, there are inner cities there which are not Zongos but there is deprivation and poverty.
So, first of all, where is the commitment of this Government? Their first commitment was to develop Zongos and inner cities. Are they abandoning the development of inner cities? I leave it as a multi-million question. This is because this Bill no longer focuses on inner cities; it is now Zongo. It is diagnostic. It should be ‘inner city' because statistical research of the Ghana Statistical Service is replete with research findings of the worrying levels of poverty in the Zongos and in the inner cities.
So, my first disappointment, Mr Speaker, is that, I do not see in this Bill a commitment to the development of inner cities; it is only to Zongos.
Mr Speaker, Zongos are like any other community in Ghana, even though, it may have deprivation in terms of improvement of social amenities. If we take, for instance, the development of the Nima gutter --
In fact, just last week, there was -- I hope I can give the credit -- either a Metro TV or TV3 documentary on the bad roads
and bad drainage system behind the President's current home, which runs into Zongo.
If we have US$50 million as seed money, we would need not less than US$50 million to do only that bad drainage behind the President's house. So, that supports the argument that, the resource allocation to this Fund is woefully inadequate. Therefore, Hon Colleagues justifying the increase of budgetary allocation cannot be overemphasised.
We should not go far away -- the President's house, where he stays around the Nima Police Station -- If we walk behind it -- I use that road every day. It is a drainage system that would link up to Nima from Kokomlemle. We would need more than US$50 million to fix that.
If we go to Kumasi, what the Agence Francaise is developing closer to the Hon Member's Constituency, the French Government has given some funding for the development. It is over Ł30 million just to do that. So, when they say seed money of US$50 million, it does not demonstrate the kind of commitment we expect from Government. So, those who have called additional resources and financing -
Mr Speaker, job creation is a national problem; but in the Zongos, it is deprivation. Maybe, for their women, we should look at micro-credit in terms of special support, and I believe that if the Ministry is resourced, the Hon Minister may reach out to a number of women who are just looking for money for petty trading. If it is well done, maybe GH¢5,000 or sometimes GH¢2,000 --
Mr Speaker, I have always wondered, as I drive in the same Nima Zongo, that if one sees a banana or orange seller, one seldom asks one's self how much she
would take home. The whole of that orange or banana tray is less than GH¢100. It explains our level of poverty, which we take for granted. A woman selling pawpaw or textiles -- We expect that when they say they would want to improve economic enterprise, they would deal, particularly with the women and youth in that particular area.
Mr Speaker, as for unemployment, it is not a Zongo phenomenon; it is everywhere in the country; it is a national security crisis. We better get interventions that assure young people of jobs, whether it is One District, One Factory. Whatever intervention that creates jobs, has our wholehearted support, and we should support it.
Mr Speaker, when we have this Bill “ I am sure when we come to deal with the Consideration Stage, we would be able to do it. So, the Hon Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation, Government and development partners on earmark --
We say that Government must demonstrate additional commitment beyond seed money, and not the usual budgetary allocation at the pleasure of the Hon Minister for Finance. When we have an Hon Minister for Finance whose cry is “I do not have the fiscal space”, where would it find the fiscal space.
No Hon Minister for Finance ever finds it; but for the purpose of the commitment, they have made to the Zongos and inner cities, earmark -- we are not asking for too much or one per cent; we say maybe two per cent. It could be the Annual Budget Funding Amount or a portion dedicated from the District Assemblies Common Fund for that purpose.
So, we say that seed money -- The Hon Minister for Finance has been at the Ministry of Finance himself. He knows