Executive Director of policy think-tank, Policy Initiative for Economic Development, Daniel Anim-Prempeh, is asking government to consider a review of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (Act 815) to enable it tap the Heritage Fund to run the under-resourced technical universities.
With such a strong fiscal backing, he argues that government will be able to secure the needed state-of-the-art machinery to equip technical universities to achieve their core mandate of grooming skilled labour to drive industrialisation and national development.
The comments of the economist comes on the back of doubts over the viability of technical universities, which since conversion barely two years ago, have seen little action from the government to ensure they are well resourced with practical equipment to offer practical training.
Speaking exclusively to the B&FT, the economist and financial consultant observed that the present government intends to revolutionise the country’s industrial sector by instituting the ‘One District, one Factory” but that in itself cannot facilitate the industrial take-off that the economy craves for.
He recalled the Nkrumah era when industries were set up across the country like wildfire; but because labour support was not factored, such factories became white elephants.
To avert a similar occurrence, Mr. Anim-Prempeh is appealing to officials not to hesitate to access the Heritage Fund as that action will actually, in practice, be serving the purpose of the fund.
The Heritage Fund was established by the Petroleum Revenue Management Act in 2011 to support development for future generations when the petroleum reserves are depleted.
As at December 2016, the Ghana Heritage Fund had a balance of US$277 million, after receiving US$12.65 million for that same year.
According to Mr. Anim-Prempeh, resorting to the Heritage Fund to build the capacity of middle-level technocrats to take tasks that demand technical proficiency will avert the country’s heavily dependence on foreign expertise.
“The technical universities are not serving the purpose they are set up for as more students enter to offer courses in the humanities more than offering purely technical or professional courses. There is a need to train more engineers etc.
This is critical because the country needs to focus on building the capacity of its middle-level technocrats to take tasks that demand technical proficiency, or we will end up relying on foreign technocrats to run and operate the factories that are being rolled out in each of the 216 districts of the country, and that comes at a cost, he noted.
He cited countries like China and Japan where the focus on education is geared toward supporting industrialisation and development; hence we should provide these technical universities with the teaching and learning material like state-of-the art technology.
The Executive Director of the economic policy think tank also touched on government’s restoration of the nurses’ allowances as promised and observed that though not a bad idea, his thinking is that rather than constrict entrances, government should rather consider expanding training facilities and concern itself less with limiting openings because we need to look beyond the domestic economy.
In his view, Ghana can have a competitive edge in the training of doctors and nurses which we can export to countries in the sub-region like Liberia and Sierra-Leone because of the fragile nature if their economies.
Anim-Prempeh believes a sort of diplomatic arrangement with ECOWAS countries can be made to provide countries with nurses and doctors trained in Ghana for a small remuneration and this will give true meaning to the cliché’ that we are the gateway to Africa. It is also a practical way to integrate economies in the sub-region.
It is a way to develop the country’s human capital and observed that it happens in the developed world also where renowned institutes like Harvard and MIT employ professors mostly from India due to the country’s focus on training manpower for Information Communication Technology (ICT).