Sekondi, May 05, GNA - Mr Clement Dandori, Shama-Ahanta East Metropolitan Coordinating Director, has said although economic growth is a pre-requisite for poverty reduction, growth alone is not enough unless the people participate in the growth process.
He stated this in an address read for him at a one-day workshop on "Reducing Poverty Through Citizens' Participation in Local Government" organised by the Metropolitan Office of the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) in Sekondi on Wednesday.
The workshop formed part of the activities marking the fifth constitution week in the Metropolis.
"It is only when people are offered the opportunity to participate in the creation of the national wealth that they share in the benefits that accrue from the process".
He said any strategy to reduce poverty by getting citizens to participate in local governance should seek to empower the people through the creation of opportunities for self-realisation and fulfilment.
''The strategy should also Create the environment for free expression and ventilation of views, the provision of social services and safety nets to accommodate vulnerable groups like women, children and the socially and physically handicapped.''
Mr Dandori said in recognition that a large segment of the population was out of the decision-making process, Ghana adopted a decentralization policy as a development approach that sought to bring governance to the community level.
"In my humble estimation, the decentralization policy is the best offer policy makers have ever made to the poor of this country". Mr Dandori added "The design and structure of the policy has won the admiration of many nations who have come to learn from us".
He said participatory democracy or citizens participation in local governance has played a significant role in reducing poverty. Mr Dandori said the district assemblies since their inception in 1988, have championed the cause of local governance by leading the people to plan and execute projects that address their felt needs. He said a critical problem confronting the district assemblies is the question of how to finance the numerous demands and services from the people.
Mr Dandori said the District Assembly Common Fund constitute only 5 percent of total national revenue that is allocated to the districts for development but it has become the panacea of development aspirations at the local level.
He said the central government has virtually ceded the financing of almost all national programmes and events to the districts and this is financially burdensome to the assemblies.
"In the face of weak institutional capacities of the assemblies to generate internal revenue, many assemblies are reeling under severe financial stress".
He said sub-district structures exist in name and most unit committees do not exist.
Mr Dandori noted, "The citizen's participation in local governance will continue to be constrained unless the sub-district structures that form the base of our local governance system and are closer to the people are made active and functional".
Mr Kwaku Baa Owusu, Regional Director of NCCE, said the sub-structures of the assemblies must become the effective channels through which government is brought to the doorstep of the citizenry. He said it is important for citizens to understand the structures, functions and roles of institutions of local governance ensure the success of the decentralization policy.
Mr Owusu said citizens must be well informed about democracy, human and civic rights to enable them participate effectively and meaningfully in local governance. 05 May 05