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30.03.2005 Press Review

EDITORIAL: Where is the National Identification Project?

By Ghanaian Chronicle

About two years ago, there was a serious argument between government officials on one hand and the Electoral commission and other stakeholders on the other, over the right to introduce an all-purpose national identification system.

Since the period preceded an election year, suspicions were rife, especially when the identification exercise was also to be used to determine who qualified to vote. The Electoral Commission (EC) saw the idea coming at a time it was due to carry out a voter registration exercise, as an attempt to usurp its powers.

A national database would without doubt offer the most credible source of voter registration information. It would make our estimation of the total voter population more apt than the current situation.

Having a national identification database would, to a large extent, solve for us the problem of citizenship that rears its head mostly around elections time even though there are so many areas of concern as well that we tend to overlook.

For instance, certain businesses are to be the preserve of Ghanaians, so it should be easy to check and identify infiltrators into such areas once a national identification database is in place.

We have always had problems with our population census exercise, as a result of the lack of proper training of enumerators or inadequate rewards offered them, leading to boycotts and, or, lukewarm approach to the exercise. A national identification exercise with an improved births and deaths registry should go a long way in solving these problems for us once and for all.

Statistics on taxpayers in this country is nothing to write home about. For only about 1.5million of a country with an adult population of over 10 million people (qualified registered voters in the 2004 elections), to be paying taxes is nothing to write home about. A national identification exercise should help us rope more persons into the tax net.

We have had continued incidents of passport fraud and impersonation. Apart from some Ghanaians impersonating fellow Ghanaians, we have had incidents where foreigners have also done it to Ghanaians. Since the national identification exercise would provide citizens with unique means of identification, the incidence of passport fraud, and impersonation would be minimized.

The social security laws of this country enjoin all employers of five or more persons, to contribute towards the pension of their employees. Many employers flout this rule with impunity. We believe that the introduction of the national identification database would help trace employers in this category, and also improve on the Social Security and National Insurance Trust's (SSNIT) database, to eventually improve on the pension lives of many more Ghanaians.

Knowledge of the age distribution of any country is a very powerful planning tool for its future development. This helps in determining unemployment levels, children of school-going age, and goes a long way in planning how many schools, health centres, industries etc. that need to be set up, and where.

Now that the elections are just behind us, we believe that there would be less suspicion and mistrust and therefore call on all the stakeholders to get back to the table and look for common grounds.

Those on the government side must listen to and take on board the concerns of the other key stakeholders like the EC and SSNIT, for it not to appear that they may be harbouring some ulterior motives when there may be none.

Let us have the national identification project now.

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