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The Savannah Accelerated Development Agency (SADA) was recently excoriated for allegedly mismanaging funds earmarked for projects in the northern regions. The projects, one designed to raise guinea fowls on a large scale for domestic consumption and the other planting trees to thwart the rapid desertification of the regions are floundering, critics charged, because of massive corruption at the agency.

SADA’s response to the accusations was tepid at best and woefully inadequate given the highly-charged nature of the accusations.  A forceful rebuttal by way of a media blitz – would have gone a long way to discredit subtle suggestions that the agency is less transparent and irredeemably corrupt.  

The jabs at SADA at their face value are steeped in ignorance and influenced to a large measure by the astounding belief that the north does not deserve a development agenda. Before SADA’s detractors begin lobbing more verbal grenades at the agency, it is crucial to examine some of the reasons behind its creation.

For decades the northern regions were neglected by national governments. This indifference to the plight of the regions has its genesis in the colonial era when British administrators largely viewed the north as a source of labor for the resource-rich southern regions.

The ensuing economic stagnation in the north widened the gap between the region and the south, a fact that is as true today as it was decades ago. Faced with what was essentially a stain on the nation’s conscience, governments, civilian and military, initiated policies to bring economic development to the north.

Some of the policies did succeed and the most notable was “Operation Feed Yourself” put in place by the late General Kutu Acheampong in the early 1970s. There was a degree of economic revival evidenced by large scale production of food crops – rice and maize particularly – as commercial farmers took advantage of easy access to loans from financial institutions to expand and grow their businesses.

The youth was not idle; jobs were plentiful and it was a sight each morning to see groups of young men trooping to their jobs in factories – Rice Mills, Nasia Rice Company, Mencilo Rice Company, Cotton Development Board, Bast Fiber Development Board and Oil Mills all located in Lamashiegu industrial zone.

But in the late 1980s and 1990s hard times hit. Under pressure from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to right the national economy which had slipped into a recession, the PNDC government adopted the highly controversial Structural Adjustment Program better known by its acronym SAP.

SAP was a tool devised by IMF economists ostensibly to help nations in dire financial straits, but at its core it implicitly called for the shuttering of state-owned enterprises and the attendant dismissal of workers.  Not unexpected SAP has come under severe criticism over the years because of its stringent requirements.

It is worth observing that in the north at that time government employed more people than did the private sector. Invariably the north took the brunt of the cutbacks.

And the local economy has never been the same. The consequences have been devastating; large scale farming is now a thing of the past, hordes of young people remain unemployed and their prospects for gainful employment in the short and long term are minimal. Migration to the south in search of non-existent jobs has increased tenfold.

It was against this background that government created SADA in 2010 and charged it with the responsibility of mobilizing the northern regions for an economic takeoff. To date the agency has met its cherished goal of maximizing economic opportunities for thousands of residents in the northern regions and to accuse it of misappropriating funds is as absurd as it is unfounded.



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