The members of the Assembly were clearly disappointed that only 150 people had shown up for the big town hall meeting in Takoradi. Besides the poor attendance a lot of issues were brought up for discussion.
The attendance was poor when the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly had called all its citizens in for a town hall meeting on Thursday the 18th of September. At the Takoradi Efiekuma, the Sub Metro Administrator, Linda Acquah, vigorously welcomed everyone.
» A lot of citizens are complaining that their living standards have not improved in the recent years despite all the promises made from the government. I hope that you will use this meeting to raise your questions and concerns so that we can try to fix them in the future. I hope that this meeting will have harmonious and fruitful discussions.« she said.
Even though the Sekondi-Takoradi Assembly had put up tents and bought refreshments for all the people that had shown up, only around 150 people were present at the meeting that was supposed to involve the whole community. This fact was impossible for the Metropolitan Chief Executive, Captain Anthony R. Cudjoe, to ignore, and he therefore addressed this issue in his speech.
»It makes me very disappointed that so few local citizens have shown up today. When I look around I see only local NGO’s and members of the assembly sitting on the chairs around me. This meeting was not meant as an occasion for the assembly members to get together and pat each other on the shoulder. This meeting was supposed to give the community members influence on the programmes that we are going to implement in the near future«, said the Metropolitan Chief Executive, while he shook his head.
He further addressed the importance of the attendance of the community members with a clear example.
»It simply makes it hard for us to contact the individual community members and tell them that their issues have been solved, when they do not show up at these meetings. If we do not get a house or a phone number of the people that have an issue, it is simply impossible for us to find them afterwards,« said Anthony Cudjoe.
The Metropolitan Assembly is a product of the decentralisation of the decision-making process that the Ghanaian government started a couple of years ago. In the recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of local advocacy in developmental issues and the importance of getting the democratic decision-making processes closer to the people affected and involved. The town hall meeting was meant as a step in the preparation of the new Medium Term Development Plan.
Issues on the table
Besides the poor attendance, the local citizens and NGO’s that had shown up brought a lot of issues up for discussion. A major issue was the condition of the roads and the general wish for more medical clinics in the district. UCSOND, that was one of the sponsors of the meeting, were present with more than 15 members.
The Chairman of one of the unions under UCSOND, The Ghana Federation of Persons with Disabilities, James Osei, asked if the assembly were to include activities and make improvements for persons with disabilities in the future. Two percent of the budget of the Assembly is already labelled for helping people with disabilities, so he wanted to hear whether it was possible to get additional financial support from the Composite Budget.
The Assembly representative clarified that the funds from the Composite Budget were already included in the 2%, but that the Assembly would focus more on ensuring that the money were spent in the best possible way in the future. This was an issue that had both something to do with the way some persons with disabilities unfortunately perceived and used the given money in an unconstructive manner. But the way the money was being distributed and handed out also needed a re-evaluation. He insured that these two issues would be dealt with in the future.
A lot of the community members addressed the huge problem with disposal of waste and the general level of sanitation. This made the Metropolitan Chief Executive rise from his chair again. He was shocked that so many community members thought that it was the responsibility of the Assembly to clean up for them. In his opinion the solution to this problem was a change of peoples mind-set. He used the condition of the park outside the Polytechnic as an example:
» Look at that park and how it has turned into a refuse dumb. People even use the gutter as a toilet. No wonder we are now faced with an epidemic of cholera when the youth that should be the enlightened future for this country do things like that,« said the Metropolitan Chief Executive.
He further noted as a funny comment that he was surprised that God had stopped Ebola from spreading into Ghana, when people acted like that.
In general, the overall disappointment that hung in the air at the town hall meeting was the fact that so few of the invited community members had showed up at the meeting, it was clearly a frustrating issue for the Assembly Members. As was the widespread perception and misunderstanding among a lot of the community members that the Assembly could fix all of their problems, and that they therefore did not have to make any effort themselves to improve their livelihood in the future.
»It is important that we all make an effort and take responsibility, in order to make a change on the way things are, right now,« was the last comment from the Metropolitan Chief Executive.