In April 2017, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo made one of the most profound declarations ever under his administration that may have reverberated across the whole of Africa.
“The commitment we are making, and which I want you all to make with me, is that by the time we end our four-year term, Accra is going to be the cleanest city in Africa,” he declared after his installation as chief by the chiefs and people of Ngleshie Alata (Jamestown) in Accra.
Standing on grounds where sanitation has been a significant challenge, and wearing a traditional title — Nana Kwaku Ablade Okudzeaman I — which imposes a cardinal duty to rescue his people from all kinds of threat, President Akufo-Addo might be right in flagging environmental cleanliness as a major priority.
What he might not have known at the time was that ensuring environmental cleanliness, even to the point of elevating Accra as the cleanest city — high on the map of the African continent — was not the priority of Ghanaians.
The people wanted water and electricity!
That was one of the findings of a survey conducted by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in March 2017, one month before the President’s declaration.
Perhaps, after getting those priority needs, they may respond to the President’s invitation to join his commitment to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa.
The IEA survey
The IEA survey on “Ghanaians’ expectations from the new government” was to investigate and seek the opinion of the public on their expectations of the new administration based on the promises contained in its manifesto and the 2017 budget.
Furthermore, it was to assess whether the policy priorities of the government were in line with the real expectations of Ghanaians.
The nationwide survey, which involved a nationally representative sample of 1,641 respondents, gauged the expectations of citizens of the new government in respect of managing the rising cost of utilities, providing free SHS, improving the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), creating more jobs, dealing with crime and combating corruption.
Environment is least concern
The IEA survey sought the views of respondents in order of priority on critical issues the government must address in respect of ending ‘dumsor’, ensuring clean environment, improving local water supply and stopping the rising cost of water and electricity.
Among the priority issues surveyed, environmental cleanliness was the least of the concerns, with only 12.3 per cent of the respondents concerned about environmental cleanliness.
Electricity & water
A significant number of respondents (45 per cent) in the IEA survey were concerned about the rising cost of electricity and water, describing the increment as too burdensome.
Their expectation, therefore, was for the government to put in place measures to address the rising utility tariffs.
Although President Akufo-Addo took office at a time Ghana was emerging from an electricity load-shedding regime that plunged the country into darkness and put many businesses in disarray, ‘dumsor’, as the load-shedding exercise was known in local parlance, was still a bother to many people.
It was, therefore, not surprising that apart from the rising cost of electricity, many respondents (27 per cent), especially in the Upper West, Western, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions who were very much affected, wanted the new government to tackle ‘dumsor’ as a priority issue in 2017.
The findings of the IEA survey underlie the need for the government to undertake wide consultations in order to better understand the priority needs of people before formulating and/or implementing policies.
Although the President’s commitment to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa by 2020 is laudable, the findings from the IEA survey suggest some work is required to get Ghanaians on board. The government will need to promote environmental consciousness among the people in view of the findings that environmental cleanliness is not a major concern of the people.
Again, while pursuing the clean environment agenda, the government must equally be committed to addressing critical concerns of the people such as ‘dumsor’, the rising cost of water and electricity and water supply in local communities.
It is, therefore, imperative for the government to streamline its policies to better respond to the priority needs of its citizens.