Monday, August 20, 2012

August 20th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

It has been postulated that we each use up one persons ‘lifetime-carbon-footprint-allowance’ every time we fly transatlantic. I am not sure if that is true, but I do know that we must all take our part in reducing the carbon footprint of mankind seriously.

The development of Ghana is having an impact on our carbon footprint. Yet, I wonder how quickly we can really transform the rural areas of our nation, what impact it will have on our carbon footprint, and what can we do to implement concepts that not only reduce the carbon footprint, but also improve the chances of development at the same time.

It is wonderful that we want to see rural developments – and I am the at the forefront of the proponents for techno-industrialisation of the rural areas, they not only need it, they deserve it.

It has been proven time and time again that businesses are the bases of growth. It is hoped that Government will create the enabling environment for growth, and I am sure that much thought goes into how to make that happen.

Running a small, social-entrepreneurship focusing on techno-industrialisation, engineering, education and health promotion in rural Ghana. I am the first to put up my hand and to declare ‘It isn’t easy!’

Infrastructure is a challenge. For example, when we enquired about connection to the grid, the estimate was close to $25,000 – hence the decision to remain with our own power-gen solutions, since that was way outside of any reasonable Return On Investment (ROI) potential.

Of course, running a business is not about the day-to-day operations only. Our administrative systems are such that development of the rural areas will, apparently, require a lot of carbon footprint enlargement. Each journey, generally needing to be a dedicated one, enlarges the carbon footprint.

We have to drive to our local SNITT and IRS offices at least once per month, and we have to complete, what appears to me, a lot of pieces of paper, many of them duplicates.

Our local SNITT and IRS offices are, conveniently, located in the same building – a very positive thing. All the same, it is a minimum commitment of two hours to go there, pay the SNITT contributions and IRS PAYE – and to get receipts. It is also a journey of over 20km. The men and women at IRS and SNITT have a large geographical patch to cover in a rural setting. Yet the return on their efforts is minor compared to the smaller, more densely populated, zones in the urban areas. The ROI on over-regulation of rural areas, is far from as positive as it is in the built-up areas, which is to be expected. Is there a better way?

It is important to reduce the informal sector and grow the formal. But it is also important to simplify life for those trying to grow a formal sector in the rural environment. Every person, in a rural setting, who has to go to their ‘nearest’ IRS and or SNITT office is forcibly travelling, burning fuel, increasing their carbon footprint, consuming ‘productive’ time. Of course, when they have to return the next day, to furnish additional papers or collect a document (which happens), they have to travel again. The rural roads are not as well kept as the urban roads, making the cost of going to the administrative offices higher than that of the city based counterpart. Vehicle wear and tear is substantially higher.

Sadly, it appears that some of the administrative outposts are not as well treated as their city brethren, either. Some of the desks in the Somanya IRS office are broken – even with sloping tops, missing pieces of wood, nails protruding – apparently simply waiting to collapse to the floor. The condition of the local office is such that, should it be a commercial operation, it may well be shut down on health and safety grounds. Counterpart offices in the city are luxurious in comparison. Yet, these rural workers are expected to promote the growth of the rural business, and are not equipped to support even their own horizontal desk surfaces – nor, it would appear, do they have enough filing cabinets for their paperwork.

Should there be a sudden rush on formalisation in the rural areas, it appears that IRS simply would not be able to cope, through lack of basic support for their infrastructural needs!

SNITT is, by comparison, much better equipped, and far more computerised. Their desks, offices and computers are in very good condition. There is a marked difference in their approach to their approach to work. Perhaps partly connected to the conditions under which they carry out their duties.

All the same, SNITT does appear to be a ‘carbon criminal’. Considering that SNITT is so incredibly well computerised, I am surprised that they still have boxes of carbon paper in their drawers for the many ‘duplicates’ needed! So many bits of paper are still being completed prior to entry to the computer – even for a small monthly entry, 6 sheets of paper or more are consumed! Of course, their greater computerisation provides greater efficiencies and they still rank as my ‘Number one favourite official office to deal with’. I am told, by a reliable source, that SNITT is currently working towards the eradication of much of their current paper-trail, for which they must be commended.

One suggestion that I have made repeatedly, but it appears to go un-noticed, is the concept of quarterly submissions for rural operations with less than twenty employees. Imagine the savings for ‘approved’ smaller companies in the rural areas to submit their SNITT and IRS every THREE months. Straight away it would save many motor vehicle trips on rural roads, a minimum of several working days per company, reducing paper, preparation time and above all it would release the companies to be more productive – and GROW. Of course, on-line submissions, thanks to the increase in 3G mobile data coverage, and electronic bank transfers, would be icing on the cake! As a Nation, we are close to being able to ‘not travel’ in order to be in the formal sector, but only if the e-systems will allow it.

Rural development is needed. It is needed now. However, would it not be fantastic if there was a blanket support for the rural businesses AND the rural workers?

Currently cattle farmers, cocoa farmers and the like get great support for ‘doing something to boost rural development’. Don’t you think that all sectors, including painters, plumbers, construction, engineering, training, etc. should ALL be encouraged. If we really want to promote the desire to grow the rural areas, we need to see the WORKER getting a benefit as well as the COMPANY. Imagine for a moment that there was less taxation on a rural worker, as recognition of their desire to remain in the rural areas. Imagine the change in desire of the individuals of the nation to cease their migration to the cities. Imagine a more equitable spread of jobs as companies desire actively to relocate to greener (literally) pastures!

Perhaps we can manage our carbon footprint, grow our businesses and promote rural developments all in one green package!

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

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