How to prevent the President’s sanitation Wish List from becoming slogans

The President made two compelling statements on sanitation in his State of the Nation Address last week. These were;

1. “Urgent attention will be given to clearing of rubbish all around the country. Apart from the systematic efforts being made to resolve the legacy of inherited debts in the sector, government will spend an amount of GH¢200 million to address the issue of sanitation.”

2. “Government is working with various private sector authorities to tackle this major challenge with strategies that are intended to effect a change in our attitudes towards waste and filth as well as improve dramatically our methods of waste management. This will be complemented by the strict enforcement of sanitation rules and regulations.”

Clearly, at the core of the sanitation problem is a drive to understand the most basic problem, which is refuse disposal. Domestic and commercial entities in Ghana’s main urban enclaves do not have enough repositories to dispose refuse, leaving a huge problem in the hands of the associated municipal and district authorities. Tackling the ability to dispose of rubbish easily is very key to ensuring at the last mile, assured proactive sanitation activity, making it easier to enforce bye-laws created to ensure clean cities and towns.

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It is interesting to note that an amendment of the Customs and Excise Act in 2013 passed by Parliament determined that an excise duty of 10% of the ex-factory price on imported plastic and plastic products should be levied. The same law indicates that “not less than 50% of the revenue accruing under this tariff should be paid into a fund designated as the “Plastic Waste Recycling Fund”.
By our records, an estimated amount of Ghc265m has been realized since the introduction of the excise duty and had the potential of providing us 950,000 waste bins, which would have reached every household had previous Politicians not entertained funny ideas with the money.

The issue that the Ghanaian public and all stakeholders should interrogate, as part of solving the sanitation problem is, why this “Plastic Waste Recycling Fund” (PWRF) has not been accounted for in the 4 years since the passing of this law, and why it has not been utilized for activities such as last mile domestic and commercial refuse disposal, while the most glaring problems have been the inability to control and regulate effectively that aspect of activity to any level of satisfaction?

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Stakeholders should be able to identify this last mile problem of municipal waste disposal to determine whether the fund can be used to help resolve this last mile problem, which the President clearly identified as one of the prime sanitation challenges.

The right equipment and solutions that will justify the utilization of these funds should be the focal point of stakeholder discussion as well as a call to the government to release funds from the PWRF to effectively provide the necessary infrastructure for refuse collection will go a long way to create the environment that shifts people to the right attitudinal approach to refuse collection and disposal with the help of enforceable statutes and bye-laws.

Several successive initiatives by previous governments, like Sanitation Saturdays have not had the right level of success due to these basic limitations and the fact that they do not proactively attack the problems.

It is good news that the President has voted GHC200 million for sanitation related activity, possibly partially funded from the Plastic Waste Recycling Fund. However this amount is not enough as private players will also need to chip and be allowed to responsibly manage waste at the last mile else we are at risk of not achieving the right objectives with the President’s wish list.

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In support of the President’s sanitation resolve, IMANI is contributing to shaping the discussion on last mile sanitation in mid-March. We will be showcasing the problem and outlining solutions with open floor for stakeholders to participate in. This will be preceded by an inaugural fellowship lecture by our new fellow, Mr. Ato Coleman, on the topic ” Has Ghana’s Sanitation Policy and Strategy Failed? Whither forward?’. The discussion will be moderates by IMANI’s Senior Vice-President, Kofi Bentil.

Ato Coleman has held senior leadership roles including Country Director, Plan International Sierra Leone; Senior Director of Operations for World Vision International for West and Central Africa where as deputy to the Regional Vice President. In 2016, he was awarded the International Non Governmental Organization (INGO) leader of the year by the Sierra Leone Council of CEOs for the leadership and excellence he displayed during the Ebola crisis in that country.

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