Walking on the streets of Accra the Millennium city of Ghana, one comes across a lot of interesting scenes and sights that leave the individual in awe. The state of sanitation in Ghana is very appalling in the face of growing global health concerns. It is usual for one to see heaps of refuse at unusual places in the country since choked drains, promiscuous littering and uncollected refuse in urban centers and in waste containers is what marks what we call our cities, on ‘sanitation’ days, the tonnes of waste gathered everywhere in the city leaves one with nothing to write home about.
Among many reasons, scholars have attributed the problem to the fact that most citizens are not aware of the connection between poor sanitation and human health, it is hence habitual of citizens to freely litter or push waste into drains at odd hours of the day and during heavy rains. Thus, citizens rush to work to meet their needs and leave the need to keep the environment clean and the perils of poor sanitation on health and all aspects of the economy back at home.
The frequent floods, malaria, cholera outbreak among others are engineered chiefly by our waste management practices. Plastic waste disposed into water bodies that ends up in our sea prevents reefs from growing and causes an imbalance in the marine ecosystem.
The fact remains that some governments in developing countries continue to release huge financial resources into fighting waste management problems especially in the cities, the Ghanaian government is no exception as huge trucks park daily to collect tonnes of waste, mostly plastics from our markets.
The rapid manufacturing process of Ghana is another cause of the many problems and challenges in waste management, most of our products are bagged in polythene materials and such materials do not decompose. In light of this, several stakeholder consultative meetings are frequently held to find lasting functional solutions to waste management problems and challenges but what we need is action.
In Nov 2010, ActionAid UK, working together with ActionAid Ghana launched the Calling Time report, which detailed how the world’s second largest brewery, SAB Miller – owner of brands such as Grolsch and Peroni and Fosters was dodging taxes in several developing countries. The SAB Miller group makes profits of over GBP 2 billion a year, but in Ghana, the site of one of their largest breweries, the company paid no income tax in Ghana in three of the past four years. The amount can fund the provision of ultra modern equipment and materials to curb the deaths caused by the lack of such in waste management.
ActionAid uncovered a complex web of creative accounting that was costing developing countries as much as GBP 20 million per year in lost tax revenue, enough money to set up a facility for waste management in the principal cities of my beloved country. The amount in question can also fund the establishment of a waste separation and recycling plant so that we can reuse what waste was before. It can also be used to sensitize the citizenry on poor sanitation practices and its effects and propose alternatives.
Tax is a sustainable source for funding waste management in Ghana. Tax can pay for compost plants, adequate refuse bins and containers to ensure some sanity in the collection and management of waste in the country. Governments and regulatory bodies must accrue the necessary tax funds due it by revising tax agreements given chiefly to international and multinational corporations whose tax commitments do not match their profits. The ordinary market woman pays more taxes than multinational corporations.
The job of waste collection is not a lucrative and attractive job; taxes from big corporations can help address the issue of meager salaries by supplementing the salaries of workers in the waste management field. Citizens must be responsible and practice good sanitation by sorting rubbish and not littering as well as disposing trash off properly.
The above points when taken into consideration, will lead to an effective waste management system which translates to an Eco-friendly and sustainable environment, putting Ghana on the pathway to implementing, monitoring and evaluating the Agenda 2063 and the new set of development goals, the sustainable development goals as discussed in the recent AU-ECA Conference of Ministers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last week.
Daniel Nii Ankrah
- Financing Extension of Social Protection through Tax Justice actionaid.org/tax-power Nov 2013