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25.01.2006 Business & Finance

Government creating land banks

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Accra, Jan. 25, GNA - Government has secured about 20,243 hectares in Accra and some of the regional and district capitals as part of a nationwide programme to acquire and create land banks to facilitate the delivery of houses.

The land sourcing programme comes in the wake of a current housing deficit of 500,000 units. This is against a rapid population growth and uncontrollable rate of urbanization that have made housing one of the most critical issues facing the Government.

Mr Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, made the announcement on Wednesday at the opening of a three-day international twin-exhibition dubbed, "Water Africa 2006" and "West Africa Building and Construction 2006" at the Accra International Conference Centre, Accra.

The exhibition, organized by Compass Ventures and ACE Event Management, with support from the Ministry is showcasing housing and water engineering equipment and materials like pipes, pumps, tanks, monitoring equipment, laboratory kits, well-drilling and lining equipment, treatment plants, as well as general and consulting services. The exhibition has the theme: "Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa: Water and Housing Construction". Exhibitors are from Africa, Europe, India, the Middle East and North America.

Mr Owusu-Agyemang said to address the imbalance in the housing service delivery; the Government made provision of 150 billion cedis last year and was making more commitment this year from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Fund for the construction of affordable housing throughout the country.

For a start, work has begun at Borteyman, near Nungua in Accra, for the construction of the first phase of 113 four-storey flats containing 1,138 units. Work has also started for the construction of another batch of 1,400 units at Kpone, near Tema.

Mr Owusu-Agyemang announced that a new construction programme was to begin at Ayigya, near Kumasi, next week.

He said other regional capitals would be tackled before the end of this year, with district intervention programmes coming off early next year.

The Minister said the projects would be self-sustaining communities with the entire necessary physical and social infrastructure including commercial centres, schools, security posts, light industry and mini-shops to eliminate kiosks.

He said some proposals submitted by some investors in the housing sector were quite advanced with some of them building prototypes to enable Ghanaians to evaluate the technology before delivery.

Mr Owusu-Agyemang named Sithru (Malaysia) SDN BHD, which intended to invest one billion dollars to construct 60,000 units, and Agnus Dei/Renaissance Management Group, which were also ready to invest a total of 250 million dollars to construct 7,550 units as some of the investors.

He said the Government was also bent on protecting and safeguarding lives and property from the hazards of floods.

Consequently, last year, Government committed 19 billion cedis for the construction of culverts and channel improvement works to alleviate flooding in flood-prone areas in Accra and other regional capitals. The Minister said the Tamale Storm Water Project Drainage Project covering about 14 kilometres had been completed.

Mr Owusu-Agyemang said the Government hoped to inject 530 million dollars in water systems for two years (2005 and 2006), and named some them as Kumasi, Cape Coast, Koforidua, Kwanyaku, Berekum, Sunyani, Wa, Tamale, Kwahu Ridge, Kibi, Kpong II, Accra Rural, Accra East and Accra West.

Professor George Gyan Baffour, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, underscored the multiplier role of the building industry.

He announced that Government had recognized the need to review the national shelter policy with the goal to provide adequate and affordable housing.

Prof. Baffour said improving access to water and sanitation, in addition to housing and construction, was vital to achieving the ideals set out in the Millennium Development Goals.

He announced that the Community Water and Sanitation Agency completed the construction of 1,647 new boreholes, rehabilitated 49 and constructed 35 new hand dug-wells.

It also completed the construction of 4,655 new household latrines and 539 new institutional toilets.

Government also funded the provision of water and sanitation facilities in Dangme East and North Tongu Districts and work had continued on the rehabilitation of a number of water systems. Professor Clement Dorm Adzobu, Chairman of the Water Resources Commission, who chaired the opening ceremony, reiterated the need for a water policy.