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Deputy Minister rekindles debate on infrastructure funding

Mr Eugene Boakye Antwi, a Deputy Minister of Works and Housing, has advocated a far more open public debate about infrastructure funding.

He said Ghanaians were ready to engage in more meaningful ways with government about what they want their infrastructure should achieve.

Infrastructure refers to the basic physical and organisational structures and facilities (such as buildings, roads, ports, rails, telecommunications and power supplies, needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.

“Once we have had that discussion, it will be far easier to make sustainable progress into problems of growing congestion in our cities,” Mr Antwi stated on Tuesday in Accra, at a Stakeholder Roundtable on Revitalizing Infrastructure Investments in Ghana”.

“While there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution and work is needed on several fronts, the bottom line is that we need to ensure that we focus on projects that offer the greatest net public benefits, that is, projects that will enhance productivity and ultimately lead to improved living standards for all Ghanaians.”

The workshop, which was organised by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) in collaboration with CoST Africa, was to identify and discuss the benefits of improved infrastructure governance, through strengthened transparency and accountability of infrastructure investment.

The Infrastructure Transparency Initiative (CoST) is the leading global initiative, improving transparency and accountability in public infrastructure.

The CoST works with government, industry and civil society to promote the disclosure, validation and interpretation of data from infrastructure projects.

“It is imperative that we, as a nation, come to grips with our infrastructure funding challenges. In Ghana, there is a ‘profound disconnect’ in attitude towards paying for, and using infrastructure and generally, we are not comfortable with the ‘user pays’ concept” Mr Antwi said.

He outlined the key themes that were crucial to the future of infrastructure development in Ghana to include better identification of priority projects, the role of market mechanisms such as user-pays in infrastructure and increased engagement with the private sector in the financing and delivery of infrastructure.

He said the Ghana Institution of Engineering (GhIE) in their “Ghana Infrastructure Report Card 2016”, had hit the nail right on the head by describing Ghana’s road, electricity and water infrastructure as poor and lacking the capacity to meet international standards.

According to the report, even though some efforts had been made in the road, electricity and water infrastructure in the last few years, “majority of the systems or networks show general signs of deterioration and require attention”.

It indicated that most of the infrastructure in the country exhibited significant deficiencies in conditions and functionality, with increasing vulnerability to risk.

Mr Anwti said the key hindrance to infrastructure improvement in the country was finance; stating that, “although poor planning, operation and maintenance of such infrastructure play a role, the most significant constraints is funding”.

He said the country’s capacity to fully absorb and benefit from increased investments and new technologies depends a great deal on availability, quality and efficiency of more basic forms of infrastructure.

The Deputy Minister said in order to address the infrastructure challenges of the country, there was the need to painstakingly identify the priority infrastructure, to explore ways to improve the operation of markets across the nation’s infrastructure and to find ways to encourage the private sector to play a more significant role in helping to meet the challenges.

Mr Daniel Yao Domelevo, the Auditor-General, said reports of auditing conducted by his outfit on roads infrastructure in the country indicated that they were below international standards.

Mrs Beauty Emefa Narteh, the Executive Secretary, GACC, said one could not talk about anti-corruption without mentioning transparency, integrity and value for money.

“That is why we have always been pushing for CoST to be in Ghana, not because it is a panacea to the solution of anti-corruption but we believe that it can make some additional impact on the works that we are doing,” she said.

Mr Gilbert Sendugwa, Senior Regional Manager, CoST Africa, said infrastructure was the heart of the economy of every nation; adding that, Africa was lacking in infrastructural development.



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