Railway development, how far?

Countries all over the world recognide the importance of an effective railway system. Railroads have the potential to positively impact transportation, incomes, infrastructure, development, productivity and trade.

Ghana inherited a functional railway system at the time of independence. But by the mid-1970s, the system began to see a decline due to poor management, lack of maintenance, and the competition from roads.

Decades of neglect by post-independence governments have brought the sector down to its knees, and amid the growing fervour for intra-African trade the sector’s importance of in facilitating trade is being revisited.

Railway lines will reduce transportation costs of many production businesses, making export markets more profitable.

Three years into the Akufo-Addo-led administration which rode on the back of a lot of promises, and promised to rehabilitate the country’s rail network and even extend it nationwide, adding on from where the colonialists left off – sadly, very little evidence exists to demonstrate the commitment made even though an entire ministry has been dedicated to railway development.

Since we are in an election year and will go to the polls in December, this Paper would like to renew its question to duty-bearers as to exactly when will Ghanaians see the much-touted railway sector development?

Indeed, we would like to direct this question to the Minister for Railway Development, Joe Ghartey, and find out what is hindering the proposed rehabilitation of the country’s rail network? Is it the usual problem of accessing funds, investors or what?

Questions are a-begging, and we need to know why railway development doesn’t seem to be on the table but for a few sleepers being thrown down here and there. In mid-2017, a US$19bn deal with China was signed. We were to give China 5% or less of bauxite reserves in exchange for a variety of infrastructure projects which include railways network expansion, bridges, new roads etc.

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Ghana has 960m tonnes of bauxite resources, valued at US$460bn. Ghana also signed a US$3bn deal with South Africa in November 2018 for the famous Accra Sky Train Project. These are laudable undertakings, but the population needs to be updated as to the progress of such undertakings since officials will again canvass votes from the electorate come December 7.

A progress report of some sort would inform the electorate as to how they should cast their votes, and we need to take cognisance of this.

 

Vigilance has to be intensified for COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to ravage communities and countries alike, the World Bank Group is making available an initial package of up to US$12billion in immediate support to assist countries coping with the health and economic impacts from the global outbreak.

The financing is designed to help member-countries take effective action to respond to and, where possible, lessen the tragic impacts posed by the COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Ghana’s northern neighbour, Burkina Faso, has confirmed that two patients have been quarantined in an isolation facility at the Tengandogo University Centre Hospital in the capital, Ouagadougou. The case in Burkina Faso increases to 10 the number of countries on the continent which have recorded coronavirus cases.

The other affected countries in Africa are Egypt, Algeria, South Africa, Senegal, Morocco, Cameroon, Nigeria, Tunisia and Togo. In neighbouring Togo, one case has been reported.

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The coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting 115 countries and territories around the world, and there is no need to feel complacent as our neighbours are each confirming incidences of the virus in their jurisdiction – and Ghana has to access the US$12billion initial package from the World Bank to assist the country cope with any eventuality.

The whole of Italy – a country of some 60 million people – was placed under quarantine as its government stepped up efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 463 people and affected more than 9,000.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency raised the risk level for local contagion of the new coronavirus to ‘very high’ from ‘moderate’ and said it is seeing signs of community spread in the Nordic country.

Harvard University asked its students not to return to campus after Spring Break, and said it will begin moving to virtual instruction for graduate and undergraduate classes amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The United Nations announced on Tuesday that it will close its New York City headquarters to the general public, and will limit the number of staff working in the complex amid coronavirus fears. All this demonstrates that rapid spread of the virus means it is confounding even the most advanced economies. How much less weak and vulnerable health systems as prevails in Africa?

There is no time to dilly-dally.

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