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Ghana halts $200-million parliament plan after outcry

Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo is seen during the opening day of the International Labour Organization’s annual labour conference in Geneva, Switzerland June 10, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Ghana on Monday shelved plans to spend $200 million on a new parliament building following a public outcry over the cost.

An online campaign by cultural figures and civil society under the banner #DropThatChamber drew widespread support that the West African nation had more pressing needs.

Parliament said it had halted the project due to the backlash ahead of a planned street protest on Saturday.

“We are a listening institution and after gauging the views of the people, we decided to shelve the idea,” Kate Addo, the acting director of public affairs of parliament, told AFP.

“People should rest assured that we are listening to their concerns. We’ve realized that people think there is no need for a new chamber now, but it isn’t as if we don’t need a new chamber,” she added.

“Going forward we’ll engage people more.”

Officials said the project was required to expand on the capacity of the current 275-seat facility and would be funded by a loan from the Indian government.

Those planning the protest said they would still hold it unless parliament released an official resolution dropping the project.

“We’re writing to them for full disclosure about the project and it is only right that they write back to us and inform the public about what informed their decision rather than just shelving the idea,” said Bilkis Nuhu, a member of the organizers told AFP.

“The march is to let our leaders know we can’t be taken for granted any longer in this country,” she added.

Ghana was one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies in 2018, fueled by a surge in oil and gas production. The former British colony is also a major producer of gold and cocoa.

The World Bank says GDP per capita last year stood at just over $2,200 and that the country had slashed those living under the poverty rate of $1.9 per day to some 13 percent by 2016.

Ghana — one of the most stable democracies on the continent — will hold presidential elections late next year that look set to see former leader John Mahama take on incumbent Nana Akufo-Addo.

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