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Opinion | Dec 12, 2017

If The UN SDGs Do Not Underpin Ghana's Economic Transformation, Our Nation Will End Up As A Poisoned Wasteland

If The UN SDGs Do Not Underpin Ghana's Economic Transformation, Our Nation Will End Up As A Poisoned Wasteland

Reports in sections of the Ghanaian media indicating that the deputy minister for roads and transport, Hon. Abayefa Karbo, is apparently calling for a "national conversation" about funding the building and maintenance of roads in Ghana, neatly sum up the state of our nation today, a little over a year since the New Patriotic Party (NPP), won the December 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.

If we are saddled with as many as 110 or so government ministers - all of whom were vociferous critics of the regime of President Mahama whiles they were in the political wilderness - surely, Mother Ghana deserves better leadership than that?

The question is: Why does it not strike the geniuses who now govern our nation that instead of allowing small-scale gold miners (one of the most most corrupt and dishonest groups of entrepreneurs ever in Ghana's chequered history) to return to ruining our natural heritage again, for private gain at the expense of the rest of society, they can be trained and brought together in partnerships to bid to build plastic tolled roads throughput Ghana, which they will be allowed to charge tolls for and have tax holidays on their profits for 25 years, in return for maintaining same during the entirety of that period?

For the information of the geniuses who now govern our country, plastic roads - made from mixing melted plastic waste with bitumen - last three times longer than conventional roads; remain pothole-free throughout their lifespan; bear heavier loads than conventional roads; require virtually no maintenace apart from renewing road markings; and, because plastic is impermeable to water, are never washed away by flash floods.

It makes no sense at all for the public-sector to continue funding the building and maintenance of roads in this day and age - not when the banking sector is eager to fund the expansion and modernisation of Ghana's infrastructure.

The entrepreneurs who fund small-scale gold mining (incidentally, only in a nation with a byzantine system such as ours, will gold miners using using excavators to mine be described as "small-scale miners") have all the skills needed to finance and build plastic roads.

The question the Anthony Abayefa Karbos who now govern us must ponder over is: Instead of allowing small-scale gold miners to return to destroying what is left of Ghana's natural heritage, why not train them to build plastic roads - and get them to form partnerships to bid to build tolled plastic roads nationwide, as public private partnerships (PPP): with Japanese road construction companies, which can and are willing to finance such projects in stable democratic nations such as ours, across the globe?

Unlike most Ghanaians, those of us who happen to own large tracts of forestland that border gold concessions, know from bitter experience, just what dishonest entrepreneurs the vast majority of small-scale gold miners actually are. For the sake of future generations of our people, they must never be allowed to return to gold mining deploying excavators. Full stop.

From personal experience, some of us can boldly state - without any equivocation whatsoever - that if the more responsible sections of the Ghanaian media were to investigate how small-scale gold miners came to obtain their concessions and sundry permits, not a single small-scale gold mining company will stand such honest and independent scrutiny - because they were all obtained by corrupting dishonest officials of the regulatory bodies that oversee the industry without exception.

Above all, not a single small-scale gold mining company has the approval of Parliament to mine gold in this country, in any case. So their threats to sue government are hollow. Plain and simple.

Whiles it is true that no fair-minded individual who is also independent-minded, will judge a regime that has been in power for only a little over a year, one nevertheless ought to make the point that if the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) do not underpin the economic transformation of our country, Ghana will end up as a devasted land in which rivers, streams, groundwater, and vast tracts of land across the countryside are poisoned by heavy metals and toxic chemicals such as mercury, cyanide and arsenic.

The government of President Akufo-Addo must not lose sight of the fact that Ghana has the potential to earn tens of billions of dollars annually from responsible tourism - an industry that creates wealth that remains in Ghana and has the potential to create millions of jobs for our younger generations.

For the information of the Hon. Anthony Abayefa Karbos who govern our nation, today, Thailand made U.S.$72 billion in 2016 from its tourism sector, which hosted as many as 31 million visitors that year alone. Focusing on tourism by leveraging our priceless natural heritage and our rich cultural heritage will enable us meet virtually all the UN SDGs by 2030 - instead of ending up as a barren and poisoned wasteland that allowing small-scale gold mining with excavators will inexorably lead to as sure as day follows night, in that selfsame timeframe. Enough is enough. Haaba.

Finally, for the sake of our younger generations and their children's offspring, we must repeat: If the UN SDGs do not underpin Ghana's economic transformation, our nation will eventually end up as a poisoned wasteland. Hmm, Oman Ghana - eyeasem o: asem kesie ebeba debi ankasa.

Kofi Thompson
Kofi Thompson, © 2017

This author has authored 248 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: KofiThompson

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