Chinese Firms Get School Uniform Contract

While the Minister of Trade and Industry, Miss Hannah Tetteh is visibly worried about the downward trend of Ghana's textile industry; allegations that the Ministry of Education has awarded the printing of free school uniforms to Chinese companies is a direct negation of the Trade Minister's efforts. Recently when the Minister of Education, Mr. Alex Tettey-Enyo, inaugurated boards of five agencies under the Ministry, he told the media that the free school uniforms for one million basic school pupils announced in the 2009 budget will be ready for distribution when the 2009/2010 academic year begins in September. Perhaps, what Mr. Tettey-Enyo did not tell the media was that his Ministry had awarded the contract to Chinese companies, in the same style as the previous government side-stepped local industries and awarded the printing of the Ghana@50 anniversary cloth to Chinese companies. The initiative was intended to benefit pupils from deprived communities, as well as local textile manufacturing companies. Sources at the Ministry of Education blamed the government's decision on what they claimed to be the huge quotation by local textile companies. This newspaper has however gathered that the underlying reason for awarding the contract to the Chinese is that government needed companies that could pre-finance the printing to meet the September deadline. Little wonder that the Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Union (TGLEU) are accusing faith and challenging it to rather look into the factors that contribute to the so-called huge estimates by the local companies. "If government is seriously committed to ensuring the growth and survival of local industries, and the creation of jobs for the youth to eliminate armed robbery, then it should look into factors that make production cost so high. It must look at the quality of fabrics and the numerous taxes imposed on local manufacturers," stated Mr. Abraham Koomson, General Secretary of TGLEU in Accra. Information doing the rounds indicates that the government actually ordered the uniform from China before inviting the local textile companies, a replay of the Ghana @ 50 cloths, perhaps. This explains why ATL, GTMC and GTP declined the offer. Only PRINTEX took up the challenge but it run into the trap when it allegedly quoted a huge amount. According to Mr. Koomson GTP, GTMC, PRINTEX and ATL can together produce good quality and any quantity of uniform needed for pupils in basic schools throughout the country. "We are helping Chinese to create jobs at the expense of our people. Importing and selling is not good. In the long term it will not be good for our economy. Public Agenda has learnt that the Ministry of Local Government claimed it does not have a hand in the contract but only waiting to distribute to the district assemblies. At Press time on Friday efforts to get the Ministry of Education to confirm or deny the allegation proved futile. This reporter personally went to the Ministry on two occasions, during which the Ministry's PRO promised to get back to her. Subsequently, several calls on the PRO's mobile phone went unanswered. Ghana's textile industry continues to face challenges. Despite the sector's struggles to hold its own against multinational companies, the situation worsens each day. "Where lies the fate of tertiary graduates who pursue Industrial Art course with textile option on the labour market as the sector faces total collapse?" asked Mr. Koomson. He said it is about time government paid attention to what is happening in the industry so as not to create any further unemployment in the economy. The textile industry in Ghana used to contribute significantly to the Gross Domestic Product, (GDP) and employed a chunk of the teeming unemployed youth. No more.