The Ghana Institute of Planners (GIP), a professional body of Town and Country Planners and Development Planning Practitioners, is calling for the formulation of a Long Term National Development Plan for the country. Such a plan is expected to span between 20 and 50 years to serve as a framework for the development of the country.
Very few countries have progressed in terms of economic development without a long term development plan. Such long term plans direct a country into its future and tend to integrate action for the short term, medium term and long term. We draw inspiration from the African Union that recently adopted its long term plan, termed Agenda 2063- The Africa We Want, indicating the importance of a long term plan.
Absence of a Long Term National Development Plan- The Issues
Development planning in Ghana currently can be described as piecemeal, ad hoc and on-demand. Planning efforts have not been geared towards developing a long term national perspective vision. A long term national perspective vision will provide the framework within which successive governments and political parties will derive their plans and manifestos
Implementing short term and medium term development plans for a country does not provide continuity in thought, actions and intentions for a planned future.
For development planning to be purposeful, long term national visions other than political decisions must become prime components. A long term national development plan would ensure an overall national approach to development planning. It ensures consistency and continuity in the development of a nation.
The absence of this long term approach has resulted in a number of development challenges in the country. Uncompleted projects of previous governments may not be completed or their completion may be delayed by successive governments. This has resulted in the duplication of efforts leading to a number of uncompleted projects all over the country. Others are:
Energy: Limited generation infrastructure and capacity on the part of producers have largely been attributed to the lack of long term plans for the energy sector. These situations could have been averted if there were long term plans in the energy sector given that it can take up to 10 years for a power plant to be installed and commissioned.
Health: While medium term planning does not seem to effectively address our health challenges, sustaining the National Health Insurance Scheme can only be possible if health financing arrangements are approached through a long-term perspective.
Housing: The failure of the housing delivery system in the country to meet demand over the years is a further indication of the need for long term planning. There is therefore the need for a long term National Housing Development Framework which will provide the road-map for housing provision to be implemented by all governments.
Education: The lack of consistency and continuity in educational policy over the last three decades that has led to many problems in education shows how piecemeal planning can be detrimental to national development. The main explanation to the failure of educational reforms and policies is the lack of coordination in the strategies introduced by successive governments.
Agriculture and Food Security: Issues of high post-harvest losses, lack of ready market, slow agricultural mechanization, etc, have been addressed using inconsistent approaches by various governments. This is because there is no broad and clear national long term agricultural development framework to guide successive governments.
Road Sector: The implementation of short term road construction and maintenance plans has resulted in poor maintenance of roads in the country, leading to pre-mature deterioration of the road network, congestion on roads, especially in the urban areas as well as increase in road traffic accidents.
Urban Management: To be able to build urban settlements that can function effectively now and in the distant future, there is the need for a long-term Spatial and Urban Management Plans.
The research, conducted by the GIP from December 2014 to February 2015 to seek the views of stakeholders on the need for Ghana to develop a Long Term Plan, revealed the following:
Long term development planning is now a common feature in many countries and the high level of development attained in those countries is largely attributed to this. Examples include Indonesia, Hungary, Kenya, Tanzania, etc.
Hundred percent (100%) of respondents of the survey indicated that there is the need for Ghana to develop and implement a Long Term National Development Plan.
In a recent Constitutional Review effort in Ghana, the Review Commission was confronted with the overwhelming request from the public that the nation needs a long term national development plan.
There have also been calls by the President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. John Dramani Mahama, the former Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, the Director General of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), the Christian Council of Ghana, among others, on the need for Ghana to develop a Long Term National Development Plan.
It is evident from the forgoing that Ghana needs a Long Term National Development Plan. The critical question here is that how do we develop a plan that is seen as a national document and not belonging to a particular political party? This is why we have some Long Term National Development Plans in Ghana whose implementations were suspended by successive governments. We therefore need a plan that will be implemented by all governments.
The process of developing the plan is therefore key if it is to be implemented by all governments. In view of this, the Ghana Institute of Planners recommends the following:
• The National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) should be adequately resourced and empowered to prepare a draft long term national development plan
• Subsequently, the plan should be subjected a national stakeholder discussion and the outcome approved and adopted as the national long term development plan for the country.
• There should be legislation by Parliament making it mandatory for any government in power to implement the adopted long term national development plan in the country. This will ensure continuity of development programmes in the country.
We endorse the current decision of government to move economic planning function from the Ministry of Finance to the NDPC. The NDPC must therefore be adequately resourced, strengthened and their capacity improved to perform in their new role.
The GIP, which was established in 1969, is an affiliate member of the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP). Our President (Dr. Stephen Yirenkyi) is the current Vice President of CAP.
In practice we seek to pursue two main agenda. These are:
a) To promote and safeguard professional planning practice and policy in Ghana; and
b) To set and maintain professional planning standards and qualifications at levels internationally acceptable.
We have active membership of over 300 and there is at least one Professional Planner in every District Assembly in Ghana and other institutions including the NDPC.