Since the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party came out with the ‘One District, One Factory’ concept as a pledge he intends to fulfill when voted into power, there has been and continues to be back and forth arguments as to whether this is feasible.
Most at times these arguments have been taken up by political commentators whose arguments have been subtly tainted with political connotations. The purpose of this article however, is to put this concept , as much as practicable, within the context of local economic development as its success will not only create jobs but also stimulate the economies of the districts in which the factories are cited. It is also the hope of the writer that other experts, either be they within the intelligentsia/ or professionals, will also make relevant contributions to this debate.
The concept of industrialization in Ghana begun way back after independence when the then Convention Peoples Party led by the country’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah saw the need to change the status quo by promoting an import substitution industrialization drive as against the legacy of our colonial masters – export substitution industrialization drive. This ambitious economic policy led to the establishment of many industries across the countries that, to a large extent, were state owned. The success or otherwise of this industrialization policy has been widely documented so I will not belabor much on that. Due to the challenges that the import substitution industrialization policy encountered in its implementation, it become necessary during the era of the Provisional National Defense Council government and subsequent governments that came to power under the Fourth Republican Constitution to diversify these industries from state control to either purely private owned or what has now become known as Public/Private Partnership.
It should be understood that the concept of ‘One District, One Factory’ in itself is good; the challenge however, in my opinion, may have to with whether it is feasible or probably overambitious. My interest in this article therefore is to try to look at the concept as a Local Economic Development strategy within the framework of Ghana’s Decentralization Policy that has the full backing of the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution.
Ghana, since 1988, with the passage of the PNDC Law 207 has been practicing a system of decentralization that seeks to transfer power, functions, responsibilities and resources from the central government to the local authorities. The decentralization process was further given the needed boost by chapter twenty (20) of the 1992 Constitution which states, among other things, that the country must put in place a system of government that is decentralized as far as practicable. In pursuant to this the Local Government Act, 1993 (Act 462); the National Development Planning Commission’s Act, 1994 (479); the National Development Planning Commission’s Systems Act 1994 (Act 480); the Local Government Service Act, 2003 (Act 656) among many other Acts and the National Decentralization Policy Framework, 2010 are some of the main legal frameworks that support the creation and implementation of the current decentralization process in the country. The Institute of Local Government Studies Act, 2003 (Act, 647) was also passed to support the process by training the needed manpower for the smooth administration of the process as well as conduct research aimed at enhancing the local government system. Currently the country has two hundred and sixteen (216) Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies. There are also ten (10) Regional Co-coordinating Councils that coordinate and harmonizes the Medium Term Development Plans of the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies based on the guidelines determined by the National Development Planning Commission.
Now let us turn our attention to the topic under discussion: the ‘One District, One Factory’ concept. Generally, Local Economic Development has been regarded by many experts, be they professionals or within the intelligentsia, as a process that stimulates the economies of local areas, be they Metropolitan, Municipal or District. This is done mainly through partnership arrangements between the public and private sectors as well as civil society actors. Through such partnerships it is expected that jobs will be created through the growth of local businesses and the attraction of others into the localities.
Currently, a Local Government Policy is being worked on by the current government and it is hoped that this policy will see the light of day soon. In the absence of the policy however, local economic initiatives have been and continue to be implemented in all the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies across the country. This is so because as part of drawing up the Medium Term Development Plans, the Assemblies conduct an assessment of their economies to identify potential economic resources that when enhanced, could stimulate their economies resulting in growth. With this background it can be realized that identifying the economic potentials of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies for the establishment of at least a factory will not be farfetched.
However, the feasibility of implementing such a concept will depend on factors which the writer will try, within the spectacles of a Local Economic Development expert, to enumerate below:
• The concept must not be the prerogative of a particular political party or government. Neither should it be rushed in its planning and implementation in order to make it sustainable. It is therefore imperative that wider consultations with cross sections of key stakeholders are made. Consensus building should be the watch word in the planning of this concept if really, as a country, we are desirous of ameliorating the unemployment challenges as well as stimulating our local economies through the one district one factory concept.
• Such a concept must be developed within the framework of the Local Government Act and the National Decentralization policy framework. The Medium Term Development Strategy of the government in power must clearly spell out the concept as a strategy with goals and objectives, implementation timelines and evaluation;
• Again it is very important that to come out with a Local Economic strategy, which will provide the framework for the implementation of concept, there should be no further delay in the coming out with of the National Local Economic Development Policy Framework;
• It is also very necessary to consider engaging Local Economic Development experts not only as consultants but also as staff of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to spearhead the process of identification, planning, implementation and evaluation of the concept. In this regard the Institute of Local Government Studies should play a key role in collaborating with other relevant academic institutions, both local and foreign, to train the requisite manpower needed to make this concept a reality;
• There is also the need to establish an institutional framework for the implementation of the concept which should also, as far as practicable, be decentralized. At the apex of framework should be an inter-ministerial committee that will coordinate the planning and implementation of the concept. This should be made up of ministers or their representatives of the relevant ministries such as the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (the lead Ministry); Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning; Ministry of Trade and Industry; Ministry of Agriculture; Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts; Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations; Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Department, the Ministries of Energy and Power as well as the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology.
At the Regional level, the Regional Minister and the regional heads of the relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies mentioned above should also form a committee.
At the District level; the District Chief Executive, members of the District Planning and Coordinating Unit, heads of Department of Physical Policy, Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Legal, Finance and Budgeting and Rate should collaborate to see to the successful planning and implementation of this concept.
These institutional arrangements should not leave out the engagement of relevant stakeholders (at the national, regional and local levels) such as the Institute of Local Government Studies and other relevant academic institutions, the National Planning Commission, industrial players such as the Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Ghana Chamber of Mines, the Ghana Employers Association, the Economic Research Institutions, Civil Society actors at both the national and local levels, traditional authorities, international Donor Agencies and Development Partners; and
It is important to state at this point that the ‘One District, One Factory’ concept should be one of the several Local Economic Development strategies in the districts. There should be the identification of other strategies that will help diversify the economy of the districts in order to avoid the situation of the districts putting all their eggs in one basket. Also, it will be appropriate for governments at both the national and local levels to play a facilitating role in the successful implementation of this concept. The central government should concentrate on implementing national economic policies that will create the right legal, institutional and regulatory frameworks that will attract the needed resources from both within and outside the country in the form of public/private partnerships in the implementation and sustainability of the concept. It can also set up a revolving fund with resources from the Consolidated Fund as well as assistance from of development partners and international Non Governmental Organizations.
Local governments should also support the successful implementation of the concept by facilitating stakeholders’ consultation and engagement as well as making their economies competitive to attract interest from the private sector.
In conclusion, it is in the interest of Ghanaians that the ‘One District, One Factory’ concept is given the needed support for its successful implementation. If it is considered within the framework of the Local Government Act and the National Decentralization policy as a Local Economic Development strategy, with the necessary institutional arrangements and broader consultation for consensus building put in place, Ghanaians will begin to once again ‘feel the economy in their pockets’.
NATHAN APPIAH BOATENG
MSc. Local Economic Development
Institute of Local Government Studies
Obojo – Madina, Accra
Mobile Number: 0243811619/0574320604