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25.03.2004 Business & Finance

Woes of State Enterprises

By Chronicle
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- Gov't urged to take action

When the New Patriotic Party (NPP) took over power from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in January 2001 majority of Ghanaians appealed to the new government to reactivate some of the collapsed state enterprises to generate employment for the youth.

It was believed at that time that the NPP would move speedily to stem the retrenchment going on at state enterprises like the State Construction Corporation (SCC), Public Works Department (PWD), Ghana Food Distribution Corporation (GFDC) and others to minimize the deteriorating unemployment situation.

Indeed the government identified certain industries to be rehabilitated, among which were the Asutuare Sugar Factory, the Nsawam Cannery and the Meat factory at Bolgatanga.

It pursued its objectives by conducting a nationwide registration of the unemployed but it turned out that the vast majority of the youth who responded did not have employable skills to get job placements. A special training scheme in technical and vocational education was instituted o equip those without skills.

In the Eastern Region for instance 89,779 unemployed aged between 18 to 55 years were recorded.

Of the number, 51,452 (57.3%) were male and 38,314 (42.7%) were female. The Yilo Krobo district recorded the highest unemployment figure of 65% while New Juaben municipality had the highest number of unemployed females.

When this reporter toured some of the state enterprises in the regional capital, Koforidua, it became evident that many of them, which could have absorbed some of the unemployed after their training, have either collapsed or are on the verge of collapsing.

Right in the premises of the SCC it was observed that the facilities there have long been left to deteriorate. Half of the fence wall has fallen and the whole compound over grown with weeds.

Indications were that some of the office buildings were gutted by fire with the roofing badly damaged. Utility supplies like telephone, water and electricity have been disconnected due to huge unpaid bills.

The few watchmen keeping watch over what is left of the corporation have turned part of the compound into cassava farm.

Another visit to the GFDC and other state enterprises revealed similar problems.

People interviewed suggested that if these enterprises could be reactivated they would be able to employ not less than half of the over 89,000 unemployed in the region.

Others also argued that it would be better for the government to divest these institutions, to make the workers more committed.

Some opinion leaders commenting on the unemployment situation said the youth should first of all discover their potentials and strive to develop them through training to equip them with the requisite skills for employment.

They pointed out that the era of 'white collar jobs' had given way to the use of brains and hands to create wealth, adding that people should stop blaming the government alone for their inability to get jobs.

Meanwhile, The Chronicle has learnt that the Ministry of Employment and Manpower Development is looking at how to turn the social welfare homes in Effiduase, Koforidua, Begoro and Fanteakwa into training institutes to impart vocational skills to the unemployed.