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18.07.2005 Regional News

Draw new strategies for Northern Ghana's devt - Dr Jebuni

Draw new strategies for Northern Ghana's devt - Dr Jebuni

Tamale, July 18, GNA- Dr Charles Jebuni, a Research Fellow has stressed the need for economic experts and policy makers to develop new strategies to bridge the economic gap between the Southern sector of the country and the three Northern Regions.

He said in spite of significant efforts by donors and NGOs to improve the economic situation of Northern Ghana since the 1980s and 1990s, the economic fundamentals had not changed, with the three regions still remaining relatively underdeveloped.

Dr Jebuni was speaking at a workshop on economic growth in Northern Ghana, organised by the Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) with sponsorship from the British Department for International Development (DFID)in Tamale on Monday.

The workshop was on the theme: "Bridging the North-South Divide in Ghana."

It brought together Regional and District Economic Planning Officers, Directors, District Chief Executives, members of the Northern Leadership Forum (NLF), NGOs and other stakeholders from the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.

The forum discussed documents prepared by the CEPA and analysed the challenges and potential sources of economic growth, the results which would be provided to the relevant policy makers for further studies.

Dr. Jebuni said economic indicators showed that a large percentage of people in the three Northern Regions were living in abject poverty with no access to health facilities and potable water.

He said bridging the economic gap between the North and the South was not an issue for the North only but a problem of major concern for the entire country, adding that it was only through accelerated economic growth that the gap could be bridged.

He said it was in recognition of this that the Northern Leadership Forum was instituted to reverse the trend while DFID provided additional information that would help in advocacy reforms.

Dr. Jebuni noted with regret that that while the agriculture sector in the three Northern Regions was collapsing no efforts were being made to establish alternative industries in the area to create wealth and jobs for the people.

He said investors were unwilling to invest in the area but rather go where other investors had already located except for a few instances where they site their industries for resource reasons.

Mr. Andrew Shepherd, a resource person at the workshop, noted that there were similarities in the economic growth pattern of the three Northern Regions, saying that these had been influenced by the colonial policy of making the area a source of cheap labour for the extractive industries in the South.

He said modern trends of donor support was now policy-geared rather than project-oriented, adding that it was in line with this that donors were now shifting their budgetary support to capacity building and institutions such as the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS). Dr Ramatu Alhassan an agricultural economist and a researcher, said factors inhibiting agricultural growth in the three Northern Regions were low productivity, low human resource and lack of infrastructure. She said there was the need to change emphasis from food crop production to the cultivation of economic trees such as cashew, shea-tree, mango and guava to improve the poverty situation in Northern Ghana.

Alhaji Abu-Bakar Saddiqque Boniface, Northern Regional Minister, attributed part of the poverty situation in the North to the lack of entrepreneurial spirit among the people, saying: "Most of the businessmen in the area fear to take risk".

He said: "Although the three regions have a lot of potential for economic growth there cannot be any meaningful development without peace, which is central to development."

He cited instances where some major industries, which had expressed interest to invest in the area, had pulled out because of the insecurity in the area.