The proposed Sanitation and Pollution Levy cannot be said to have come at the opportune time when donor inflow to fund the sanitation sector which constitute over 80% has stopped coming due to the middle income tag put on Ghana.
The 10 pesewas on the price per liter of petrol/diesel under the Energy Sector Levies Act (ESLA) will go a long way to change the face of sanitation in Ghana. This levy is no doubt a game changer because it does not only affect the sanitation sector but also touches on other sectors such as health, finance, tourism and employment.
One of the major problems of central government with regards to sanitation is the source of funds to finance sanitation projects.
Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the year 2000, the international community has committed itself to improving health, reducing poverty, promoting equality and supporting socioeconomic development, for which, improved WASH services are central.
The global community has devoted significant resources and energy to achieving the fundamental targets of ensuring access to safe, affordable, acceptable, available and accessible drinking water and sanitation for all by 2030 (UNCG & CSO 2017) since every human has the right to safe drinking water and improved sanitation (UN Human Rights Council 2002).
Although significant progress has been made since the MDGs era until now, billions of people worldwide are still faced with daily challenges accessing even the most basic of services.
Recent statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Joint Monitoring Platform (JMP) indicate that over 844 million people still lack access to potable water and 2.3 billion people lack access to improved sanitation.
It is evident that on the global scale, sanitation lags behind water as only 68% of the world’s population has access to basic sanitation compared to 88.5% with access to basic water services.
The current situation in Africa is even more disturbing as only 28% of the people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to basic sanitation (WHO/UNICEF 2017). Like other African countries, Ghana faces serious constraints to meeting the challenge of providing adequate and improved sanitation for its rural and urban dwellers.
The economic growth in Ghana has been accompanied by rapid urbanization, putting a strain on infrastructure and the provision of sanitation facilities (Mariwah 2018) Among competing demands for public investment (including education, health, transport electricity and water), sanitation has not been prioritized. Thus, not much progress has been made in achieving the sanitation target with the current coverage of 21% which still put Ghana behind the MDG target of 54%.
Current sanitation service levels in Ghana (Source: GSS2018).
Inadequate sanitation leads to the transmission of pathogens through faeces and to a lesser extent, urine (Hutton & Chase 2016).
An estimated 842,000 people in low- and middle-income countries die each year from diarrhoea and other causes associated with inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene, with children under five years bearing the greatest burden (WHO 2018).
In Africa and Ghana, diarrhoeal diseases cause about 16% and 25% of deaths among children under five years, respectively (Binka et al. 2011). In addition to the health risks, poor sanitation causes considerable financial and economic losses.
The WSP (2012) reported that the annual economic loss to Ghana due to poor sanitation was US$290 million, equivalent to 1.6% of GDP. (Hutton & Chase 2016) argue that as the world moves into the post-2015 era, greater understanding of the challenges facing the world to meeting the universal access to sanitation is needed.
Considering the current sanitation coverage in Ghana and the ambitious targets of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (to ensure access to safe water resources and sanitation for all by 2030), there is the need to explore the factors behind the low sanitation coverage if the ambitious targets of the current Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on sanitation are to be achieved by 2030.
In spite of the critical role effective human excreta management and, for that matter, sustainable environmental sanitation plays in human development, the MDGs target on basic sanitation was widely unachieved.
The Ghana registered an increase in access to adequate basic sanitation over the 15-year period of the MDGs from just 11% in 2000 to 15% in 2015.
This means that sanitation coverage only increased by 4% since the year 2000 (at 11% coverage) to 2015 (WHO/UNICEF 2015). Currently, available data show that the total access to basic sanitation in Ghana is estimated at 21%; with rural and urban coverage of 17% and 25%, respectively (Figure 1) (GSS2018).
There has been an increment of 6% after the MDG era with the remaining 79% left defenseless against the inevitable consequence of poor sanitation. Only one in every five households in Ghana has an improved sanitation facility for their household (GSS2018).
One huge challenge which has and keep drawing the sanitation progress of Ghana back is lack of a dedicated finding source.
In past sanitation contractors have to halt operations due to non-payment of funds.
It’s an open secret that the successes chalked in Ghana’s water and sanitation sector have been largely fuelled by strong donor support.
At least about 90% of funding for the WASH sector has been contributed by donors and creditors while actual government expenditure remains below 0.5% of GDP.
Even though the country has a strong policy and institutional framework guiding developments in the sector. Nevertheless, the dwindling donor support, poor cost recovery mechanisms in the sector, coupled with poor environmental sanitation across the country threaten to unwind the progress made in the sector.
Although access to basic sanitation has been steadily improving over the past two decades, Ghana still lags behind most of the developing countries despite steps by government and other development partners to address the sanitation challenge.
Without a paradigm shift in sanitation financing, these could potentially derail little efforts made at achieving and sustaining universal sanitation coverage.
The key factors attributed to the low sanitation coverage in Ghana among others include; low investment, and high operational and maintenance cost which undoubtedly have had negative impact on the already porous situation.
Sanitation and Pollution Levy
It is based on the above mentioned factors that I entreat every Ghanaian to joined sector players such as Environmental Services Providers Association (ESPA), Sewerage Systems Ghana Ltd (SSGL) and Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) to welcome the tax initiative which I know when use for its intended purposes will change the old narratives on sanitation as the levy would provide a dedicated fund for waste management which is currently nonexistent and therefore the sector relies solely on loan and government subvention to fund its activities.
It is an open secret that a dedicated fund for the sector will mean service providers would be paid on time and in full to enable them to take care of their operational costs timeously.
With a dedicated fund for the sector, things will be done differently, today tax initiatives like the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GetFund) levy, National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) levy and the Energy Sector Levies Act (ESLA) have become the game changer in the education, health and the petroleum sectors.
So why can’t we do same in the sanitation sector which holds the master key to our wellbeing? Yes the sanitation tax is going to be painful especially the situation the country finds itself currently, but we have to sacrifice to improve sanitation in this country if it’s managed well, it will be worth it.
Again available data, has shown that construction of engineered landfill sites, managing poorly landfill facilities as well as putting up more sustainable state-of-the-art waste treatment plants both for solid and liquid is capital intensive venture.
With the ‘Borla’ tax in place and well managed, government will have no excuse to run away from it mandate in ensuring that our cities, and small towns are clean at all times.
What we stand to gain from the Borla Tax
The accumulated funds from the Borla Tax will be used to: construct waste recycling and compost plants across the country, construct more sanitation facilities to accelerate the elimination of open defecation, construct final treatment and disposal sites for solid and liquid waste, provide dedicated support for the annual maintenance and management of major landfill sites and other waste treatment plants and facilities across the country, and construct medical waste treatment facilities to prevent generation of infectious diseases, especially under the Coronavirus Treatment Programme.
Again the funds will be used to improve urban air quality and combat air pollution; support the re-engineering of landfill sites at Kpone and Oti; support fumigation of public spaces, schools, health centres and markets.
With the absence of donor financing support for the sanitation sector, the proposed Sanitation and Pollution Levy (SPL) of 10 pesewas on the price per liter of petrol/diesel under the Energy Sector Levies Act (ESLA) have become very critical investments that ought to be made for the benefit and dignity of all Ghanaians.
Also, it will ensure sustainable sanitation management, improve the quality of life and reduce the number of deaths and diseases from poor sanitation.
I know very well that once a new taxes is introduced it burdens everyone particularly the poor people.
I think the additional taxes will make life difficult for the people, especially in this era. However, you, you and you have to sacrifice to improve sanitation in this country.
I’m for the sanitation tax because it has the potential of changing the face of Sanitation management in the country if embraced by all.
Article By: Franklin ASARE-DONKOH
The author is the National Organizer of the Ghana Watsan Journalists Network (GWJN) and a member of the Parliamentary Press Corps (PPC).
Email: [email protected]