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06.05.2005 Feature Article

Letter From The President: Waste management economics

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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, polythene producers and 'pure water' drinkers, please forgive me for being under the impression that the AMA boss, Nii Aridji, had ran out of ideas. Apparently, he has not. He still has some ideas on how to manage the filth in the national capital even though he's failed to fulfill his promise to clean the city up within hundred days of assuming office. It's sad however to note that his ideas are at best unworkable and at worse myopic, uneconomical and, to say the least, idiotic.

Nii Aridji has never failed to disappoint me. So his decision to place a ban on 'pure water' is the least of the disappointing steps his taken since he came into office blabbering and stuttering with all sorts of promises. Why does he want to do something as economically suicidal as that? How could he even think about it?

I think Nii Aridji and the fringe minority who support his moves to ban 'pure water' need a few lessons in the basic economics of sachet water production and sale. I am no economist but one does not need to be well-endowed with common sense to know these things.

You see the 'pure water' industry provides employment for hundreds of thousands of Sikaman citizens. Being ingenious these 'pure water' producers and sellers have realized that I can't fulfill my promise to create hundreds of thousands of jobs. So they've decided to employ themselves. They produce their pure water in sachet from their backyards, bedrooms, kitchens and even public standpipes. Hundreds of thousands of people are then engaged to sell the water in sachets. Millions of Sikaman citizens who do not have the luxury of working in air-conditioned offices – those who walk through the scorching sun for hours to make a living depend on 'pure water' to quench their thirst. Simply put, 'pure water' production is a million dollar industry in Sikaman. Nii Aridji doesn't seem to know about this simple fact. He must either be ignorant or dumb or both to contemplate an action which will throw hundreds of thousands of people out of jobs. This, coming after his ill-adviced decision to chase hawkers off the streets and his demands for the sachet water producers to pay special levies puts me in no doubt that Nii Aridji is more efficient at making people unemployed than managing the city. The man has lost focus. I therefore need a new mayor for Accra.

I need a mayor who will recognize that the filth in Accra can be turned into a gold mine. You see, all I need the mayor to do is to make proposals which will make recycling an essential (and indispensable) part of the campaign to rid our city of filth. We could, for example, throw out an invitation to companies interested in recycling to come and help us rid our city of filth. We should present the filth in Accra to such companies as a viable business opportunity which would bring them good returns on their investment. If need be, we should even offer tax breaks to all recycling companies – they will not pay import duties on their machinery and they will not pay taxes for the first five years of operation. I think that if the mayor of Accra just stopped talking for while and went to China, for example, to make proposals to companies there, few recycling entrepreneurs will turn down an offer like this. Instead of forcing the sachet water producers out of business, the mayor would be helping to create more jobs – for the hundreds who could be employed by the recycling companies in addition to those who are already involve in sachet water production and distribution. By my own guestimation, recycling can create about 200 thousand jobs in Accra alone.

Apart from his failure to realize the economic potential in the filth in the national capital, the Mayor of Accra appears to be under the illusion that banning sachet water will make Accra the one of the cleanest cities on earth. It will not. If we ban sachet water, we will still have garbage from milk and sardine tins, orange and banana peels, mineral water bottles, used newspapers, used feminine pads, unserviceable computers etc. How does he propose take care of all these? I bet you, if this Mayor stays in office for any much longer he will place a ban sardine and milk sellers, newspaper vendors, orange and banana sellers etc.

Nii Aridji's ineptitude and lack of vision has gone beyond pardon. I really need a new mayor for Accra. A mayor who will cure the disease instead of concentrating on the symptoms. Why can't the AMA even set up an incentive scheme to reward companies and individuals who collect the most filth and make good use of it? Other countries are doing it. Why can't we do it? In some countries, garbage collection is a well-paying job for teenagers who are not satisfied with the allowances given them by their parents. We can do the same here in Sikaman – the recycling companies will pay them. What annoys me most is that in his haste to ban sachet water, the mayor of Accra said that the ban will come into force in June unless the sachet water producers start using “biodegradable plastic”. Biodegradable plastic? I didn't know that there is anything of the sort in this world. For the mayor's information no white man has been able to produce plastic which is biodegradable. If he knows how we can produce biodegradable plastic, he should kindly show us – it will do him a lot of good and indeed, the whole human race (especially those of us with dark skins) will be very proud of him. To conclude, I will say that the decision to ban pure water production will do our country (and my government) more harm than good – just like his decision to hound hawkers off the streets. The pure water ban should never come into force. It's quite heartening for me to know that the AMA boss hasn't run out of ideas. If only his ideas were practical and economically harmless, he would keep his job. Am afraid, I can't work with him any more. His job is therefore up for grabs. Anyone who thinks he/she can be the mayor of Accra should please send an application to the office of the Chief of Staff. As for Nii Aridji, I will advice him to shut up and give up before he makes me throw up over his dumb ideas. He should start looking for a new job somewhere else. He should either jump or I will be compelled to push him.

'Pure water' drinker,

J. A. Fukuor Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

J. A. Fukuor
J. A. Fukuor, © 2005

The author has 204 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JAFukuor

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