fbpx

Experts differ on scrapping of aviation ministry

BY: Maclean Kwofi
Mr Sean Mendis (left) and Mr Courage Tsegah (right)

The scrapping of the Ministry of Aviation (MoA) after four years of serving as the government’s special-purpose ministry as far as specific policy development to enhance growth of the sector is concerned has generated divided opinion among stakeholders.

While some maintain that the move was a step in the right direction that would help save the government's purse and also facilitate a holistic transport agenda with all the sub-sectors, others totally disagree, saying that air travel and its related industries needed a dedicated ministry to drive its growth.

Ministerial appointment

Last Thursday (January 21), President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo submitted to Parliament a list of proposed ministers and regional ministers for his second term in office.

A press release issued by the acting Director of Communications at the Presidency, Mr Eugene Arhin, explained that some of the special-purpose ministries under the President’s first term have been realigned because they have achieved the purposes for which they were created.

Consequently, the Ministry of Aviation is no more. However, the Ministry of Transport under the new government structure of the President is expected to oversee the activities of the aviation sector and bring it up to speed with the government’s agenda for the ailing sector.

In support

In an interview with the Graphic Business on Friday, January 22 in Accra, an aviation expert, Mr Sean Mendis, stated that beyond saving the government’s purse, the move could also help propel a comprehensive national transport policy.

“I think it is probably a good move. The country’s transport policy needs to be coordinated between different sub-sectors and there was a risk of that becoming more disjointed with multiple ministries.”

“This is not unprecedented of course – aviation was part of roads and transport in 2005 which was the first time it was split away, and then again was merged between 2009 and 2016.”

“Very few countries the size of Ghana has separate aviation ministries, so if the government is looking to reduce in size, this is a logical and good step,” he said.

Asked the role the ministry played in the sector since it was established, Mr Mendis observed that the ministry led the recovery of the aviation sector from the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

He said the ministry in the last four years has truly set Ghana apart as a world leader with the protocols implemented for both domestic and international flights.

“However, the personnel who guided the process are still likely to be able to monitor this under a combined Transport Ministry.”

“I do not really think the absence of this ministry will be noted much at all. The same functions will be managed by professional technocrats who will simply transfer back to the Transport Ministry as they did a few years ago.”

“The expertise is not being lost, it is just under a different heading that is all,” Mr Mendis, who is the immediate past Chief Operations Officer (COO) of Africa World Airlines (AWA), said.

Counterproductive

The Business Development Manager of Krishna Travels, Mr Courage Tsegah, said the realignment of the Aviation Ministry into the Ministry of Transport could be counterproductive to the growth of the aviation industry in Ghana.

Given the contribution of the industry to the economy, he said he did not see why it could not have a dedicated ministry to drive its growth and generate more revenue for the state.

The aviation industry contributed between US$2.7 billion and US$2.5 billion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

“As a Ghanaian, I will say it is a good move that will save us money but as an industry person I am not too happy with the move because the aviation industry will not get the needed attention under the Transport Ministry.”

“If you look at the contribution of aviation in terms of monetary terms to the economy, I do not see why it should not have its own ministry to drive its growth,” he said.

He added that the ministry in the last four years led a lot of policy initiative such as removal of the 17.5 per cent value added tax (VAT) on domestic airfares, passage of Aircraft Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau Act, 2020 and decoupling of Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).

It also embarked on a number of key strategic interventions that had made the country move towards its dream of becoming an aviation hub in the West African sub-region.

Deputy Transport Minister needed

One of the country managers of a regional airline operator in Ghana who spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity corroborated the views of Mr Tsegah, stating that considering the global trend, a separate and dedicated ministry was needed to handle activities in the aviation industry.

“We anticipate that a lot of gains made are going to be lost with this realignment if care is not taken and this is because the ministry was very dedicated and we got timely response to most of the issues raised by these airline operators such as bilateral agreement and international relation.”

The Manager added that the President needed to appoint a deputy transport minister who would be solely in-charge of the aviation ministry to help consolidate gains made over the last four years.