01.01.2004 Feature Article

Why The Hulabaloo About Location Of New District capitals?

Why The Hulabaloo About Location Of New District capitals?
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A GNA Feature By Mrs Justina Paaga
Cape Coast, Dec 31 GNA - Many Ghanaians, on Wednesday November 19 2003, received the news of the creation of 19 new more districts with mixed feelings.
Some took the announcement as a new plan of the government to win votes in those areas, and others too, as the execution of Section One of the local government Act of 1999, Act 462, which empowers the President to create more districts on the recommendations of the Electoral Commission(EC).
Yet others more, took it to be the government's efforts to bring governance to the doorsteps of the people to enhance the decentralization process, or open the areas to development in order to create jobs for the unemployed.
Of the 19 new districts, the Ashanti region got three, Western two, Central one, Eastern two, Greater Accra two, Upper East two, Upper West one, Volta two, with the Brong-Ahafo region receiving the highest, of five new districts.
This is just a tip of the iceberg, as the Mministry of Local Government and Rural Development, had received 72 petitions requesting the creation of new districts in the country, but has been able to approve just 19 so far.
One may ask which town is qualified to get a district capital status, or what criteria is used in the creation of a new district ? It is clearly stated in the Local Government Act, Act 462, that the criteria for the creation of new districts, include among others, a population threshold of about 10,000 people, economic viability with an impressive volume of market tolls, the ability of an area to provide basic infrastructure and the potential for sustainable revenue generation, as well as geographical contiguity and ethnic homogeneity. With the criteria clearly spelt out, it is puzzling that some people in the Central and Brong-Ahafo regions, agitated against the siting of new district capitals, and that in Prang in the Brong Ahafo region, the chief is even reported to have led his people to demonstrate against the siting of the district capital at Atebubu.
It is however heartening that the people of the Upper West region were thankful to the government for giving them a new district. But as the adage goes, "there is no smoke without fire". And those who took to the streets, obviously wanted their towns to be chosen as the new capitals to accelerate the provision of basic amenities like potable water, electricity, schools, health care centres, telephone facilities, tarred roads and all other development projects, as other towns, apart from the existing capitals, have not been so fortunate.
For instance, in the Jirapa -Lambussie district the existing district capital is at Jirapa, which has almost all facilities, while Piina another big town in the Lambussie area, has a Senior Secondary School but no electricity, pipe-borne water or telephone facilities, while its roads are unmotorable.
It is therefore obvious that this problem of demonstrations against siting of new capitals, could be stemmed if the issue of uneven development and lack of equity in the distribution of services and infrastructure, is addressed.
Programmes and projects should be evolved to ensure that not only district capitals benefit from the development projects, but all other areas in a district.
The government should devise a formula to ensure that area, town, urban and zonal councils, have their fair share of financial resources, like the district assemblies common fund and the HIPC relief fund for the development of their areas.
The towns which have been designated new district capitals are however cautioned not to rest on their oars, as it entails a huge capital to ensure that a new district has the capacity to perform its functions effectively. They should therefore help in making this a reality. To those who are demonstrating against the siting of the district capitals, I will advise them to reconsider their stance, since the creation of new districts is very crucial and affect the creation of new constituencies.
With the creation of the districts as an on going exercise, who knows their luck will shine the next time new ones are created?.

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