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Sanitation, pollution levy must be welcome news but. . .

BY: Daily Graphic

Since President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo indicated in his first term that he was determined to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa and by extension ensure a clean country, so much reference has been made to that declaration, especially when sanitation challenges come up for discussion.

That has all been in a bid to ensure the President makes good on his words, by showing commitment to that cause.

Many have castigated the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) for paying lip service to ridding the country of filth as the sanitation situation becomes dire in cities and communities across the country. While waste management companies and other stakeholders in the sanitation sector have tried to rescue the situation, they have largely been unable to.

The reasons are numerous, including the fact that waste management involves high initial investment in trucks and other equipment as well as maintenance, high customs and import duties on sanitation equipment; long haulage to final disposal sites, inadequate final disposal and recovery sites, among other challenges.

Coupled with that, the payment for sanitation services by both individuals and establishments has been a hydra-headed problem for years, thereby putting most waste management companies in dire straits.

This is why we believe that the proposed 10 per cent Sanitation and Pollution Levy announced by the government in this year’s Budget Statement and Economic Policy is indeed welcome news. But monies accrued must be judiciously used for the intended purpose.

While the Daily Graphic is not by any way advocating free sanitation services for households and organisations, we are of the view that the 10 pesewas on the price per litre of petrol/diesel under the Energy Sector Levies Act, when approved by Parliament, will go a long way to sustain the work of players in the sanitation sector.

Waste management everywhere in the world is a public good since the service is largely not for profit, considering what is invested and what is paid for such services.

We, therefore, believe that it is incumbent on the government and the populace to ensure that those who are assisting us not to only keep our surroundings clean but also stay strong and healthy, are not made to suffer unduly as a result of the financial burden placed on them.

We couldn’t agree more with the Executive Secretary of the Environmental Service Providers Association (ESPA), Ms Ama Ofori Antwi, who believes that if well implemented, the levy would provide sustainable financing for sanitation and other related activities for players in the industry and significantly bridge the gap that currently exists in funding environmental sanitation activities (see last Wednesday’s paper).

The levy will also enable the government to provide critical infrastructure needed for improved environmental sanitation in the country.

ESPA and other stakeholders in the sanitation sector have been advocating the establishment of an environmental levy to help in efforts to keep our cities clean and free from filth and we see the announcement of the Sanitation and Pollution Levy as a response to that call.

However, as already indicated, managing sanitation is so capital intensive that we need to marshal all resources to get it right. That means we should not bank all our hopes on the levy.

Elsewhere, the polluter pays principle has worked perfectly and we urge the government to ensure that manufacturers of especially consumables are made to pay a fraction of their profits towards keeping the cities and communities clean.

We also posit that all levies must be paid into a Sanitation Fund and administered by a National Sanitation Authority, to ensure equitable and timely disbursement so we achieve our goal of a clean country.