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Extending The National Railway System To The Northern Regions; About Time It Was

I never thought a day would come when a sitting Ghanaian government would decide to extend the national railway system to the northern regions. It is long overdue. Previous administrations procrastinated, made grandiose promises and paid lip service to building this infrastructure.

The news is a breath of fresh air, and we should all leap up with joy and heap praise on the ruling New Patriotic Party, the NPP, for finally tackling a problem that has been on the drawing boards for decades.

Now, I don’t want to come across as sounding too optimistic about a project that is yet to take off. The NPP government is busy as reports have it, organizing capital to fund the project which estimates put at billions of dollars.

The government should not turn to the Western capital markets for loans to finance the project. Rather, it should turn to the Chinese capital markets for financial assistance; the Chinese are generous, and unlike the IMF and the World Bank, the Chinese don’t attach conditions on their loans.

It is not a shame to turn to China to develop an important cog/part in our economy. After all, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Uganda sought the help of the Chinese to revamp their colonial era railway systems.

Amid the euphoria and excitement, it is worth pointing out that this is a monumental decision, a major move that will profoundly transform the economy of Ghana and by extension the regional economies in the vast sprawling north. Lives, indeed, will dramatically be impacted.

I have never understood why extending the railway system to the northern regions was such a huge problem for previous Ghanaian governments. The idea must have been on their drawing boards, but it never saw the light of day nor translated into reality.

It was certainly not a case of money because those governments borrowed billions of dollars from international lenders to fund pet projects in other regions. And, it was surely not a case of the topography —the land mass — in the northern regions.

As many experts, geologists and surveyors, will readily attest, the land in the north is for most part flat and therefore very conducive to the construction of railway lines.

Many reasons abound for the absolute and shameful failure of past Ghanaian governments to allow the north to benefit from the country’s railway system and they include among others the condescension and disdain with which officials in Accra hold the northern regions. The northern regions aren’t deserving of a railway system was the official mantra until now.

Have you ever thought about the bureaucratic red tape that has surrounded the construction of the Tamale Airport? How long it has taken authorities to construct a pint sized building that holds the arrival and departure halls?

I really don’t want to be told those spineless officials in Accra did not know anything about the inherent benefits of a railway system. The advantages are too numerous to be captured in a two minute radio commentary.

The NPP government has taken a bold decision and ought to be complimented for daring to undertake a project that previous administrations bypassed and shunned.

I am hopeful that the railway system once extended to the north will completely transform the regions, bring them up to par with the rest of the country in terms of economic opportunities, jobs and development. The northern regions have waited for far too long.



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