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My Charge...Of Free SHS And The Heritage Fund
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A needless discussion has been generated by comments from the “Senior” Minister hinting that the Akufo-Addo promise of making Senior Secondary Education in Ghana would be funded from proceeds in the Ghana Heritage Fund established under the Ghana Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011; Act 815. To think of it that the core rationale for the establishment of an office called Senior Minister is to provide guidance on conduct as well as communication and this needless discourse was provoked from that office leaves a lot to be desired.

First, why anybody assumes that funding education today is the same as the intendment of the establishment of the Ghana Heritage Fund is not only being convenient but cheap and lazy as well. Reading the Law, there cannot be any ambiguity;

                Establishment and object of the Ghana Heritage Fund

10. (1) A Ghana Heritage Fund is hereby established.

(2) The object the Ghana Heritage Fund is to:

(aJ provide an endowment to support development for future generations when petroleum reserves have been depleted; and

(b) receive excess petroleum revenue.

(3) The Ghana Heritage Fund shall receive from the Petroleum Holding Fund a percentage petroleum revenue which be determined by Parliament as savings for the purpose of this Act.

(4) Despite section 20, Parliament may by a resolution supported by the votes of a majority of members of Parliament at intervals of years 15 years from the date of commencement of this Act, review the restriction on transfers from the Ghana Heritage Fund and authorise a transfer portion of the accrued interest on the Ghana Heritage Fund into any fund established by or under this Act.

Experience has shown that the exploitation of mineral wealth or natural resource especially in the extractive sector comes with serious cost of long-term environmental consequences to generation without much or anything in some cases to show for except the pain, suffering and negative effects. Taking cognizance of this truism, many of the memos presented to Parliament as well as the report of the committee that drafted the Petroleum Revenue Management Law recommended the need to ensure that NOT only do pass on cost, but add or include a part or portion of the profits of today to these innocent generations.

Suffice it to note, that we also sent scouts around the globe to study how oil endowed nations have managed the revenues accrued from the exploitation of same. The reports submitted tilted towards the Norwegian model which so far has huge prospects for future generations that even the present day generation could feed in if there are emergencies.

But can we classify the funding SHS as an emergency? Are there no others innovative ways by which we could fund it? Don’t we have existing mechanisms we can easily rely on to fund ‘free’ SHS if only we shall be prudent and prioritize our needs? The ANSWER to all these is a big YES!

We already have funds coming from COCOBOD through the COCOBOD SCHOLARSHIP SCHEME; GHANA EDUCATION TRUST FUND; THE GHANA GOVERNMENT SCHOLARSHIP SECRETARIAT; CORPORATE SUPPORT OR ASSISTANCE TOWARDS EDUCATION; NATIONAL ANNUAL BUDGETARY ALLOCATION TO EDUCATION plus many other innovative ways that could be introduced at the National, Regional and District levels. We cannot afford to be lazy and claim that we are going to make Ghana work again. That calls for rethinking and moving away from the old ways of doing things.

All we need to do as a people which we implore the government of the day to employ them to fund the ‘free’ SHS programme. I have heard some argue that the Heritage Fund idea was suggestive and nothing more. Well, to have that thought alone cannot be left unquestioned. Why conceive of it in the first place if we truly appreciate the object for its establishment?

Worse of it is that this unsustainable suggestion came from no mean a person as the “Senior” Minister whom we are made to believe is to serve as the arch-minister-advisor to all other ministers. Am I being hard on the Minister? NO! Unto whom much is given, much is expected. If the minister did what he did to test the waters for such an idea, then too bad. Could he not have left that for a lesser officer of the forming government of better still a party activist? If he had done that, he would have been the right person to be called upon to straighten the goof. Why he chose to do that and be contradicted by an MP who is also a key member of their Finance team though younger NOT ONLY brought his image into question but additionally questioned the essence of the establishment of his office with all the aura around it.

The Heritage Fund is synonymous to the contributions of a worker to his/her pension. That is a retirement package mutually built by the employee and employer. No matter the urgency or imperative a situation, the pension cannot be entered until retirement. That is what the object of the establishment of the Fund was unambiguous in the clause; “when petroleum reserves have been depleted.”

My admonition this week to the leadership of the Ghana Government from the President through his the Vice President and all their appointees is culled from the Friday, 17 February 2017 lesson of the Seventh Day Adventist Sabbath School Lesson; “……the spirit is an affectionate, lovable disposition, a radiant spirit and a cheerful temper, a tranquil mind and a quiet manner, a forbearing patience in provoking circumstances and with trying people, a sympathetic insight and tactful helpfulness, generous judgment and a big-souled charity, loyalty and reliableness under all circumstances, humility that forgets self in the joy of others, in all things self-mastered and self-controlled, which is the final mark of perfecting….” This is the character we expect our leadership to manifest knowing that they are human as we all are and thus susceptible to error and mistakes. I pray God grants our leadership divine guidance.
Source: The National Forum

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