Minister Speech at NALAG Workshop

DISTINGUISHED CHAIR

PRESIDENT, NALAG

GENERAL SECRETARY, NALAG

REPRESENTATIVE OF ASSOCIATION OF CITIES IN NORTHRHINE-WESTFALIA (STNRW)

REPRESENTATIVE OF GIZ

CHIEF EXECUTIVES OF MMDAS PRESENT

RESOURCE PERSONS,

DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

On behalf of my Ministry, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, I would like to add my voice of welcome to all of you to this workshop. A special welcome to the delegation from the Association of Cities in Northrhine-Westfalia. I hope you enjoy the hospitality in Ghana.

I wish to seize this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to NALAG for inviting me to this important workshop on Local Economic Development (LED) and am happy to be on a platform offered by NALAG as a former President of this organization. I consider my participation a memorable occasion because it is my first official assignment outside the Ministry since I assumed office as Minister of Local Government and Rural Development. It is also important to me since the topic for discussion at this workshop-Local Economic Development-is one of the critical activities outlined in the NDCs 2012 Manifesto (Advancing the Better Ghana Agenda) to be undertaken by this administration. I must say that I am passionate and committed to LED as a strategy to create jobs and income.

Ghana has over the past two decades practiced decentralisation with the view to bringing development closer to the people. Indeed the Constitution of Ghana identifies political, administrative and fiscal decentralisation  as a means to fostering democracy and affording people the opportunity to participate in decision–making at all levels of national life and in government as well as engender economic development. This constitutional provision has been given further meaning by the Local Government Act of 1993, National Development Planning Act of 1994, District Assembly Common Fund Act of 1993, and Local Government Service Act of 2003.

As you are aware, the Local Government Act (Act 462) enjoins all District Assemblies to;

–       Formulate and execute plans, programs and strategies for the effective mobilization of resources necessary for local development

–       Promote and support productive activity and social development.

–       Monitor the executions of development projects under approve development plans and assess and evaluate their impacts on the people’s development, the local, district and national economy.

In spite of these legal frameworks which aim at making MMDAs  growth centres,  District Assemblies continue to be constrained by challenges such as limited capacity(quality and quantity of staff) over reliance  on central government and donors for funding and inadequate participation of the citizenry  in decision-making for  development planning, implementation and monitoring.

The provisions in the Local Government Act (ACT 462) also provide a framework for the assemblies to focus on using local resources for local development. Over the past two decades, District Assemblies have focused on their administrative and legislative functions, to the detriment of their local economic development functions thereby hindering their effort to improve quality of life and to offer greater opportunities for economic empowerment of their residents. The process of development envisioned in the decentralization program is a ‘bottom-up’ approach, where development programs are initiated from the local level based on the identified needs of local inhabitants. In local government authorities’ quest to achieve a sustainable “home grown” development program, Local Economic Development (LED) has been the method of choice.

The introduction of LED could be seen as an alternative development strategy, to fully harness the economic potentials of the districts, for job creation and faster poverty reduction. Local Economic Development, according to Ghana’s National Decentralization Policy (2010), is the process by which local governments, local businesses and other actors outside the locality join forces and resources to enter into new partnership arrangements with each other or other stakeholders to create new jobs and stimulate economic activities in municipalities, towns and villages.   Policies to promote job creation, the establishment of local industries as a base for industrial development and the facilitation of intra and inter district trade as well as strengthening the competitiveness of the local private sector are all part of the mandate of MMDAs in the area of economic development.

It is interesting to note that, Local Economic Development has been identified globally in the current development trends and dynamics of developing countries as the best option to facilitating economic growth, employment and income generation to promote household welfare and alleviate poverty at the local level if well articulated.  At the recently held conference of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum on 15th – 18th March, 2011 in Cardiff; local economic development was identified as the key to transformation of the economies of developing countries.  This realization gives a further impetus to the adoption of LED as alternative development model for local communities.  The Communiqué dubbed the ‘CARDIFF CONSENSUS’ outlines the important role of local government in local economic development and key actions and strategies to enable local governments play a full and successful role in LED.

LED has therefore become a very important component of our decentralization which enjoins MMDAs to provide the facilitating environment for local economic development (LED). Policies to promote job creation, the establishment of local industries and the facilitation of intra- and inter-district trade are all part of the mandate of DAs in the area of LED. The time has therefore come for all Ghanaians to assess and re-examine the focus of our decentralization agenda and determine what is actually lacking as far as empowering the MMDAs to carry the mandate of creating the enabling environment to spur up development at the local level is concerned.

 

I do believe that with our present realities, challenges and priorities (in line with our efforts to create a BETTER GHANA), District Assemblies have a critical role to play in entrepreneurial development in order to create aGhana in which equitable opportunities, transparency, accountability, sustainable environmental management and responsive growthprevails.

I believe that LED needs can provide the tools for:

–       Communities/citizens access to resources needed to initiate real productive and developmental activities.

 

–       Local people to identify and initiate locally tailored or specific and relevant entrepreneurial projects, so that as far as practicable, local solutions are used for solving local problems.

 

It is against this backdrop that The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Local Government Service with the support from the UNDP and ILO put in place a process to develop National Framework for LED to strengthen economic development at the district level. This framework seeks to guide all MMDAs in promoting local level development and mainstream LED in their Medium Term Development Plans

As I speak, there is an inaugurated LED Advisory Council chaired by Mr. P V Obeng Special Advisor to the President and Chairman of NDPC which has been working around the clock to give strategic policy direction on LED. There is also in place a Cross-Sectoral Multi-Discipline Technical Committee on LED which has been facilitating the LED processes. In fact the committee has in collaboration with the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS) developed LED Operational Manual and National LED policy which will be put before Cabinet for approval this month. The Ministry as part of its effort to give meaning to the LED processes has also established LED Secretariat in the Ministry to spearhead the process.

I am reliably informed that NALAG and GIZ are not serving on this committee and therefore would like to use this platform to invite them to nominate representatives to serve on this Committee to bring their abundant expertise and experiences to bear on the work of the committee since they are practically working to achieve the same objectives of the LED.

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development see today’s workshop by NALAG and STNRW as part of the efforts and activities earmarked to ensure that LED becomes part and parcel of the MMDAs development agenda. This will go a long way to ensure that all MMDAs treat LED with the urgency it deserves to help galvanise the needed support from the private sector at the local level to spur local development.

I want to use this opportunity to advise and encourage all Hon. District Chief Executives, District Co-coordinating Directors, Development Planning Officers and other actors in the MMDAs,   to provide the overall leadership, direction and supervision to ensure that the LED is properly mainstreamed into their   Medium Term Development Plans (DMTDPs). It is also imperative to note that plans are far advanced to include the issues of LED as a Minimum condition in the Functional Organisational Assessment Tool (FOAT) for the District Development Facility (DDF) so that MMDAs that shows promise in mainstreaming and implementing LED get more funds for local development.

As stated earlier, this is my maiden speech since I assumed office and I wish to take advantage of this platform to invite the attention of all MMSDAs to some critical areas in their functions which we will be focusing on as key performance indicators.

–       Environmental Sanitation with special reference to open drains in residential areas which do not match up to our status as a middle income country. Even though the construction is within the purview of the Urban Roads, the assemblies by their powers can enact by-laws that can prohibit the construction of open drains in residential areas. Steps will therefore be taken by the Ministry and MMDAs to ensure that all existing drains are covered as well as discouraging the construction of such drains through enactment of by-laws.

–       Mainstream the concept of Local Economic Development to facilitate, develop and implement employment creation programmes based on natural resource endowments and competitive advantages of every district.

–       Continue and complete the Street Naming Project to enable the assemblies to mobilise more revenue from property rates for Local Economic Development.

–       Construct new markets and convert the major one in the country into limited liability companies using the Public-Private Partnership approach involving Rural and Community Banks, Market Women’s Associations, Farmer Based Organisations, Traditional Authorities and Landing Beach Committees where appropriate to ensure the efficient management and mordenisation of markets for increased revenue.

–       Pavement of Residential street roads through PPP arrangements for consideration of Metropolitan and Municipal Assemblies.

–       Move beyond composite budgeting to larger issues of fiscal decentralisation and especially ensure the finalisation and implementation of the inter-governmental fiscal transfers and;

–       Strengthen the capacity of the MMDAs for accountable, effective and efficient performance and service delivery.

In conclusion Mr. Chairman, I want to use this platform to state that I am very passionate about the LED concept and approach to local level development and therefore pledge my full and unflinching support to the process and promise to do everything possible to ensure that the LED Policy is fully implemented to bring the needed development at the local level.

Once again, I wish to express my profound gratitude to the NALAG, Association of Cities in Northrhine-Westfalia (STNRW), UNDP and all other stakeholders for their support to Government in the LED drive.

On this note, I wish you fruitful deliberations tomorrow.