Don’t sign EPA in haste – Catholic Bishops caution government
The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference says government should exercise extreme caution in taking a decision on the EU’s trade agreements.
The Conference said government should warily study the contents of the Economic Partnership Agreement to know its merits and demerits before proceeding to sign or not to sign it.
“In this way, we would have taken care to forestall any challenges or difficulties that may arise out of any of the decision we take on this issue,” the Conference noted in a statement commemorating Workers’ Day celebrations which fall on Thursday, May 1.
Below is the full statement issued and signed by President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu:
PRESS STATEMENT BY THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
ISSUED ON WORKERS’ DAY, MAY 1, 2014
On the occasion of this year’s May Day celebration marked on May 1 as a universal Day for all workers across the globe, we, the members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, wish to salute all workers of Ghana and congratulate them on their commitment to work and their readiness to sacrifice time, talents and energy to help Ghana to become a prosperous nation. We take this opportunity also to encourage all workers of Ghana to continue to work hard to increase productivity and improve the living standards of our people.
Theme of this Year’s Celebration
The theme chosen for this year’s celebration of Workers’ Day in Ghana is,“Ghana’s Economy: A Concern for All.”Undoubtedly, this theme is an appropriate one and it could not have been chosen at a better time than this.
Ghana is enjoying relative peace and calm compared to other parts of Africa which are witnessing insecurity, violence and destruction. While we are happy about the fact that Ghana is relatively stable and peaceful and while we pray that wewill do all we can to maintain it and even improve upon it, we also believe that the time has come for the country to translate its peaceful, stable and investor-friendly climate into concrete and real economic transformation. In this vein, we believe that something has to be done about the state of our economy which, in our opinion, is not in the best of shape.
Single Spine Salary Structure
Many Economists and Civil Society Organisationshave expressed worry and reservations about the sustainability of the Single Spine Salary Scheme currently in place. Government itself has also admitted that it is a huge burden on the public purse and something needs to be done with regard to its sustainability.We recall that these concerns culminated in a high level stakeholders’ dialogue in Ho last year.
While commending the Government for facilitating that dialogue and the stakeholders for participating in the process, for sharing ideas and recommendations on the way forward for the Scheme, we wish to encourage Government to share the fruits of that dialogue with all relevant stakeholders, including Religious Bodies and Civil Society groups, and to put in place the necessary measures to implement the recommendations that came out of that meeting. In this way, we will all be contributing to helpsecure the way forward for the pay structure of the Ghanaian working public.
Employment and Related Issues
We are concerned about the rising incidence of youth unemployment and call on Government and the private sector to help find practical solutions to this phenomenon. The GYEEDA programmeif structured and implemented well could go a long way to solve youth unemployment in our country. It is, therefore, urgent to fast trackthe proposed restructuring of the Authority so as to serve its intended purpose. In the same vein, we wish to encourage our Government to do something about the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) programme to help bridge the poverty gap between the North and the South as well prevent the unbridled migration of some youth from the North to the South to seek non-existing jobs.
Knowing that unemployment can and often leads to many of our youth engaging incriminal activities, including, cyber fraud, armed robbery and prostitution, and having been witnesses to political upheavals in other parts of Africa and the Middle East due partly to youth unemployment , we wish to appeal to Government to expedite action on this problem of unemployment.
As Religious Leaders, we are also very concerned about the issue of street hawking engaged in by a number of our youth. We know that this phenomenon of street hawking has been with us for a long time now but theincreasing numbers of our youth on the streets selling all kinds of items, from dog chains to toothpicks, is a big worry to us. We call on all stakeholders to help find practical solutions to this phenomenonas soon as possible.
We have also noted with anxiety and worry the increasing incidence of people erecting “stores” and “containers” all over the place, especially, in our cities and towns. This is an indication that our economy is fast becoming one of buying and selling, and we know that no economy can develop by buying and selling the wares of other countries.We are of the opinion that what we need is structural transformation to accelerate the process of producing goods in Ghana and the patronage of same by all Ghanaians.
It is our opinion that one way to address youth unemployment, unbridled migration and food insecurity is for Ghana to make policy priority for Rural Agricultural development. International agencies, including the UN, AU, G8 and ECOWAS, are articulating priority for agriculture in 2014. However, we are yet to see how this translates into domestic policy prioritization and programme development. We urge that nothing untoward be done to compromise Ghana’s food sovereignty and security. This is one reason why we continue to advise the need for caution in passing new legislation that will affect our food value chain.
Economic Partnership Agreement
We wish to join the calls made by other individuals and groups for the exercise of caution by Government on the signing of theEconomic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. We must study carefully the contents of this agreement to know its merits and demerits before proceeding to sign or not to sign it. In this way, we would have taken care to forestall any challenges or difficulties that may arise out of any of the decision we take on this issue.
17.5% VAT on Non-Essential Banking Services
The furore surrounding the introduction of the 17.5% VAT charges on non-essential banking services is yet to die down. Admittedly, the lack of proper education on the matter is to blame for the confusion that has characterized the exercise. We are happy that the same exercise has been suspended to allow for more education on the matter and hope that the right thing will be done to avoid further confusion. Knowing that the vast majority of our people are unbanked, we trust that the banking sector will collaborate with the Government to resolve this problem amicably to erase any fears that customers may have and to pave the way for workers who may yet not have bank accounts to proceed to have them.
Since the state of the economy is the concern of all, irrespective of one’s political affiliation, tribal or ethnic background, we call on all Ghanaians to discuss the issues of the economy in a dispassionate manner,always devoid of rancour and political mischief.The state of Ghana’s economy should be the concern of all Ghanaians and we all must help find solutions to it.
While saluting our gallant workers on this day, we call on them to work hard to increase production to place Ghana’s economy on a sound footing to accelerate our forward march to become a Middle Income Country in the next few years. We also urge organized labour to exercise restraint in negotiations on the minimum wage and the Government to engage in dialogue always.
Once again, congratulations to all workers of Ghana. May St. Joseph the Worker, the Patron Saint of all workers, whose feast we celebrate today, intercede for us and for all workers.
God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong!
MOST REV. JOSEPH OSEI-BONSU
BISHOP OF KONONGO-MAMPONG &
PRESIDENT, GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
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