Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a deputy Minister of Information.

The government says it is considering banning plastic materials in the country and revert to the use of paper materials which are more ecologically friendly.
‘An information paper I chanced upon indicates that the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST) is seeking to ban black polythene bags in the country, so that when you shop, it will be paper bag that would be used to serve you. ‘We want to phase out totally polythene bags from the country. It will not cover only sachet water, but all plastic materials. This is a major problem to our country,’ said Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a Deputy Minister of Information, at a news conference yesterday to announce the government’s policies for the next five years.

According to him, the decision by the MEST to ban plastic materials in the country had also been discussed extensively at Cabinet level, where detailed analysis of the pros and cons on the matter were taken into consideration.

He said what was left for the government to do was implementation, but in doing so, it would do further consultations in order to be certain on when and how to approach the issue, before announcing it publicly.

‘MEST was tasked to come out with an implementation plan. We know that MEST has finished with that work, but what is now left is the start point. Should it be gradual or outright plan? And if it is an outright plan, what will be the effect on livelihoods?

‘Most of the people earn a living on sachet water production and on other plastic materials. So we want to discuss and consult more extensively on the approach that we want to use before we announce and commence the implementation,’ he noted.

Sanitation has become an area that the country lags behind in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Cabinet, at meeting held on June 3, 2011, reached a decision that it was important to develop measures for closing the huge gap.

With barely four years remaining to reach the target year of the MDGs declaration in 2000, Ghana is among the countries that are off-track in reaching the MDG target on basic sanitation, which is to ‘halve the proportion of the population without access to improved basic sanitation’ by 2015.

The country also falls short in the areas of solid waste management, sewerage and storm water conveyance, treatment and disposal of wastes – solid and liquid, health-care facility enforcement management, as well as incorporating emerging technologies to reduce, re-use, recycle and recovery from wastes, including bio-gas and landfill gas (LFG) capture and utilisation in achieving a low-carbon economy.

As part of the country’s five-year development plan, spanning from 2011-2015, improving infrastructure bottlenecks, including environmental sanitation, has been identified by the Country Economic Memorandum (CEM, 2007) to boost the short-to medium-term growth of the country.

According to Cabinet, approval for the memorandum on a Strategic Environmental Sanitation Investment Plan (SESIP) 2011-2015 was crucial, since it would provide a platform for development partners to resource and assist the country implement a new direction, and focus on the government’s plan to tackle the sanitation challenge.

Among things discussed by Cabinet on the aforementioned date, according to Mr. Ablakwa, include the approval of a request for tax exemption for a Mixed Credit Facility in the sum of GH¢21,887,520.31 for the construction of the Essakyir Water Supply project.

He said Cabinet also had commenced discussions on available funding options for the Barekese Water Supply Expansion Project.

According to Mr. Ablakwa, Cabinet had approved the request for exemption from the payment of duties, taxes, Value added Tax (VAT) and National Health Insurance levy (NHIL), GC-NET, Destination Inspection and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Levy, totaling $512,758, for the Northern Rural Growth Programme, since it was considered very important in making significant contributions to the development of the area.

Mr. Ablakwa said the decision by Cabinet to consider tax and duty exemptions for the Northern Rural Growth Program also falls in line with the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) initiative.

The Northern Rural Growth Program is co-financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, of which the AfDB is providing a total amount of $60 million.

The programme consists of Commodity Chain Development, Rural Infrastructure, Access to Financial Services and Programme Coordination.

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