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10.08.2004 Regional News

¢10 Billion Youth Fund For Ashanti Region

By Palaver

... The things that create the perception of ethnocent

The Daily Graphic of Saturday July 24, 2004, reported as follows:

"Government has voted ¢10 billion of the Youth Fund to be disbursed as loans to skilled youth in the Ashanti Region. Mr. Amankwa Frempong, the Acting Ashanti Regional Coordinator of the National Youth Council (NYC) announced this at a meeting with the Regional Management Committee responsible for the disbursement of the Fund in Kumasi on Tuesday. The meeting was to draw strategies on how the money is to be disbursed to prospective youth who wanted to access it.

Mr. Frempong pointed out that it was the first of its kind in the history of youth work that funds were going to be made available to skilled youth and urged members of the Committee to be transparent and avoid favouritism--He announced that the Ashanti Regional NYC had embarked on an anti-malaria campaign in all parts of the region through community clean-up exercises and sensitisation of the people to cleanliness".

From the current fracas on the NUGS front back to the history of NYC operations in the heady days of Ignatius Kutu Acheampong in the 1970s, the NYC has been a hotbed of political agitation, division and confusion.

Indeed the CPP battled the churches and other religious establishments for the control of the minds of the youth. The CPP under Kwame Nkrumah declared the then Anglican Bishop of Accra "persona non grata". The latter and his colleagues in the church leadership had resisted certain aspects of what they saw as the Nkrumah deification and apostasy. Kwame Nkrumah installed Dr Stephens, later to become Head of the Methodist Church, to be in charge of the NYC.

In the 1970s, a lot of slush monies passed through the NYC in an attempt by the various political and diplomatic interest holders to control and dominate this important institution dealing with the single largest segment of the society.

Come President Limann and later the PNDC early years, and the political battles still raged at the NYC. Hibernating for a while, the above echoes from the Ashanti NYC tickle sensitive noses.

What is happening in this quicksand? The NYC is suddenly "awash" with "dole" - ¢10 billion has been coolly deposited at the NYC, Ashanti Region (Kumasi) in an election year, 5 months to elections, to be precise.

Good news!!!

Question - But for what?

Answer - To be disbursed as loans to skilled youth in the Ashanti Region.

Question - Where are they?

Answer - Yet to be identified.

Question - How is the money to be disbursed?

Answer - A Regional Committee has been set up "to draw up strategies on how the money is to be disbursed to prospective youth who wanted to access it.

Great husbanding of resources and of our national wealth!!! ¢10 billion wired to NYC, Kumasi, to determine how the money is to be disbursed!

Talk about accountability and zero-tolerance for corruption in an election year! To hand over ¢10 billion to a prospective Committee to disburse to prospective skilled beneficiaries who are yet to be identified in an election year in the regional stronghold of the ruling party, which is also the ethnic region of the President, simply smacks of corruption, cronyism, favouritism, diversion of the funds, and fuels the perception of Ashanti ethnocentrism, as charged by NPP MP Agyare Koi Larbi.

Mr. Frempong, the Regional Coordinator of the NYC himself, seems to smell a potential rat and thus "urged members of the Committee to be transparent and avoid favouritism".

Why should he not fear, when ¢10 billion has been made available from the Central Government without any guidelines whatsoever for disbursement?

By the way, how much has and will go into the "anti-malaria campaign in all parts of the region through community clean-up exercises and sensitisation of the people to cleanliness"

What about the chiefs and the District Assemblies? How resourced are they to undertake these same exercises? Of course let us not forget that the chiefs have already got a US$5 million World Bank "Grant", a portion of which is for health sensitisation.

As ¢10 billion "goes down the political drain", if not properly monitored, that is, if it is meant to be utilised at all - after all how do you monitor monies released for unspecified purposes to an unspecified group of people with unspecified guidelines - Buruli Ulcer is disfiguring and dehumanising Ghanaians as reported in the same issue of the 'Daily Graphic' at page 19 on "Noguchi acquires Limex Mercury Analyser".

Thanks to UNIDO, the country now has a Limex Mercury Analyser "which is used to detect diseases of the nervous system caused by mercury in the human body".

"Formerly, samples to detect mercury levels in the environment and the human body were sent to France for testing". This was made known by the Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research during a tour of the Institute's facilities at an open day to celebrate 25 years of its existence yesterday 23 July 2004.

Care to wonder why this 25th anniversary was of no public interest? Because it has little political significance, at least to the vote seekers. Listen to the Director:

"--he was unhappy about the Institute's financial state, saying "as an institution that is funded from Government subvention, we are generally on a shaky limb when it comes to money for everyday running of the Institute. The sorest part is that we never get what we need for research, yet we are constantly being asked by herbalists and other persons to investigate one thing or the other".

But note that their research results are said to have "influenced immunisation policies for children, infant nutrition and breast feeding, etc". The Institute has been selected as one of the three centres for the Global Parasite Control Institutes also known as the Hashimoto Institution.

But, weep not Ghanaians. Thanks to the Japanese Ambassador, "she would endeavour to generate more funds from her country to help research into Buruli Ulcer. Yet this is an Institution that focuses on health problems "such as malaria and diarrhoeal diseases as well as researching into non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, sickle cell and alcohol-related problems as well as environmental pollutants and their effects on health, including lead, mercury and other heavy metals on public health".

So who decides how the HIPC and other public monies are allocated? So far, the NPP Government seems to be holding on to this their "HIPC war trophy" and other "spoils of war" and they distribute and invest them at their Government's discretion.

Almost every Minister, including the Senior Minister, has an accountable or unaccountable discretionary HIPC Fund for their disbursement.

Minister of Women and Children's Affairs Mrs. Gladys Asmah says currently "about ¢100 billion in loans and grants was circulating among women in farming and other income generating ventures whilst her Ministry itself has "since September 2003 disbursed ¢12.5 billion in micro-credit to women who have income generating skills throughout the country".

Mrs. Asmah claimed the money was part of a ¢26.6 billion Japanese grant to the Ministry for disbursement as micro-credit to women.

Goodie!! What about the HIPC support disbursable by and from the Ministry for Women and Children's Affairs? Who monitors all these huge disbursements and has Parliament an effective monitoring role in all this?

More goodies!!! The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning "has released ¢6.4 billion out of the HIPC funds for the drilling of 70 boreholes in guinea worm endemic communities in the Upper East Region. This is to promptly pay the selected contractors for the drilling of the boreholes".

As usual, the political magic words are present in the report: "--the funds would also be used in community sensitisation, mobilisation, caretaker training and pump installations".

Interpretation - Bribery, vote buying and election rigging.

Maybe what the NDC should do in order to have an even electoral playing field is to start a "community sensitisation and mobilisation programme" in the Ashanti Region and the Upper East Region to be called the "Anti-Violence Political Campaign Organisation (AVPCO). Will Finance Minister Yaw Osafo-Maafo please wire some money from the HIPC account to the AVPCO's account in Kumasi.

On receipt of the money, the AVPCO pledges to form a Committee to draw up strategies for identifying trainees to train skilled ex-politicians and all former DCEs from 1960 for a crash one-week intensive training to combat the deadly threat to our political stability.

Of course, the AVPCO has already started "sensitising and mobilising all the communities in these two regions about the upcoming exercise". The AVPCO intends inviting Vice President Aliu Mahama to do what he knows doing best these days - open the Conference with a keynote address.

Presto - ¢4.5 billion HIPC money, please!!!

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