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Maiden Town Hall Meeting Opens in Bolgatanga   
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The Upper East Region on Thursday formally launched the Town Hall Meeting programme, to enhance public participation in local governance and strengthen the pillars of democracy by deepening the understanding of the people to appreciate government business.

The Regional Minister, Mr. Mark Owen Woyongo who opened the forum expressed worry about the wide development gap between Northern Ghana and Southern Ghana in almost every sphere of life.

He said it was for this reason that government was determined to adopt bold initiatives such as the establishment of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) to address the imbalance.

He made reference to the mode the colonial masters introduced secular education to the country as a glaring example of the deliberate policy by the authorities to under-develop the North.

Mr. Woyongo said there was a wide educational deficit of about 160 years between Southern Ghana and Northern Ghana, saying “whereas the first castle school was established in 1737 in Cape Coast, the first school in Northern Ghana begun in 1907 in Navrongo.

He said SADA would identify and harness all the economic potentials of the Savannah areas of Ghana to enable the local authorities to pursue a relentless and massive infrastructural development that would trigger off a decent development agenda especially for the Upper East Region.

Mr. Woyongo said the region would be celebrating its 50 years anniversary in September next year and in connection with that, he has made series of proposals to government for consideration, including the upgrading and improvement of some state infrastructural amenities such as residential facilities and roads, which are in serious state of disrepair.

On agriculture, Mr. Woyongo indicated that because the region was disadvantaged ecologically with just one rainy season, government sought to encourage the youth to go into dry-season farming.

He said government had therefore awarded eight major dams for rehabilitation in some selected districts in the region.

He said another intervention in poverty reduction was a 107 million- dollar support programme from donor partners for the Northern Rural Growth Programme, which was intended to help the people to initiate practical business programmes to create wealth and improve on their lives.

The Minister noted that even though the region is relatively peaceful, the unpredictable conflict in Bawku consistently draws back progress chalked out.

Mr. Woyongo said the country’s dream of breaking the poverty cycle and attaining middle income status could only be realized in a peaceful and stable environment.

He said as part of efforts to get lasting peace in Bawku, an Inter-Ethnic Peace Committee was formed early this year to encourage dialogue.

He said the committee was resourced by the Regional Co-ordinating Council, adding that a 35-seater bus was procured from the National Security Council for members to facilitate their work.

As part of measures to ensure that the region is secure from serious criminal activities, the Minister said there were frantic collaboration with security personnel from Ghana and the neighbouring countries to check cross-border crimes that had the potential to disturb the peace in member countries.

The Bolgatanga Municipal Chief Executive (MCE), Mr. Epsona Harry Ayamga said the assembly spent a chunk of its revenue on the provision of educational infrastructure, scholarships, and sponsorship for educational activities.

He said despite the massive investment, records on educational pursuit were not encouraging.

The MCE therefore called for an educational forum that will encompass all stakeholders in the sector to dilate on the performance of first and second cycle schools and map out pragmatic strategies to address the problem.

Mr. Mahama Ayariga, Presidential Spokesperson said the town hall meetings were a furtherance of the assembly concept through the decentralization programme started by the erstwhile Provisional National Defence Council to get more people to participate in the decision-making process.

He said throughout history mankind had sought alternative systems of governance that were workable and suitable for their proper development.

Mr. Ayariga commended former President John Agyekum Kufour for initiating the People’s Assembly Concept and indicated that the system had its own problems and that people in authority availed themselves of public scrutiny only when “they had misappropriated, misused and abused the country’s resources”.

Members of the public asked questions including the expensive cost of building materials, clear policy on education, improvement in education through improved conditions of teachers, relocation of the Bolgatanga General Cemetery at Yikene and compensation for lands used for government business.

A contributor at the meeting, Mr. Nicholas Awiseh complained about the cost of a bag of cement, which sells for 16 Ghana cedis, exorbitant cost of iron rods, paints among other things.

He suggested the need for government to arrange a uniform pricing system for building products in the country.

Source: GNA

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