Tax transparency: Seychelles disagrees with “partially compliant” rating of OECD Global Forum report

Seychelles fervently disagrees with the decision of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes to maintain the island nation’s rating as “partially compliant,” and fears being placed back on the European Union blacklist, said a top finance official on Thursday.

The Global Forum of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is the leading international body working on the implementation of global transparency and exchange of information standards around the world.

In July, the 2023 Exchange of Information on Request Supplementary Peer Review Report for Seychelles was adopted.

The Secretary of State in the finance ministry, Patrick Payet, told reporters that “even if the report recognises that Seychelles has made a lot of progress by putting in place necessary legislations as well as on the implementation of these standards, the Global Forum has maintained the rating for Seychelles as partially compliant.”

He said that this decision is largely based on the demand for tax-related information on an agent previously registered in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.

“The agent left the jurisdiction of Seychelles in 2018 with all the records of companies that were registered to him and this means that SRC (the Seychelles Revenue Commission) could not submit any information to any demand regarding these companies,” said Payet.

In 2019 and 2020, following the publication of the ‘Panama Papers’, authorities in Seychelles received a significant number of requests related to this registered agent.

The director general of the Financial Services Development Division, Odile Vidot, said that if requests related to the agent that ceased operations in 2018 are excluded, the success rate of providing necessary information on legal ownership and beneficial ownership was 99 percent and 91 percent respectively. This was during the Global Forum’s review period – from April 2019 to March 2022.

Payet outlined that the same agent was the main concern for which Seychelles was downgraded from a largely compliant to partially compliant rating when the Global Forum made the evaluation in 2020.

“This is the concern we expressed to the Global Forum – we are being penalised twice on the same basis, even if we have done our utmost possible to get the information. We showed the Global Forum that today, in most cases we have been able to provide tax-related information. It is regrettable that the Global Forum has taken this decision despite all the progress we have made and continue to make,” said Payet.

The European Union (EU) screens countries on several criteria, one of which is the report from the Global Forum, to establish if a jurisdiction is considered cooperative for tax purposes or not. In 2021, Seychelles was moved from Annex 1 – the blacklist – to Annex 2 – the watch list – on the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes.

“There is the possibility that, in October, the EU might place Seychelles back onto Annex 1. Should this happen, international bankers will see that Seychelles might be a risk when it comes to the exchange of tax-related information, and as such they might take more time to transact with Seychelles. This is a concern for us,” said Payet.

Source: Seychelles News Agency

Wassa East health care facilities have no proper medical waste management systems?

Research conducted by Water Aid Ghana on ‘Strengthening Systems for WASH in Health Care Facilities’ within the Wassa East District has revealed the absence of proper medical waste management systems in most facilities in the district.

The district, which has 28 functional health facilities, has only a few mission and private ones with incinerators for proper medical waste disposal.

Mr Richard Amaning, the lead Consultant for the research who presented at a validation workshop, said the situation was capable of derailing most quality health care indicators and hampering the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The study, he explained, established that most of the facilities either burnt their medical waste behind their facilities or left them uncovered in dug pits posing health emergencies to lives of communities and children in particular who may pick the objects for play.

According to the study, approximately four in ten facilities have a functional waste collection container available in proximity for non-infectious waste, infectious waste, and sharps waste with some also practicing waste segregation.

The district also recorded many non-functional toilet facilities, a situation the consultant attributed to building types, frequent water shortage, collapsed toilet facilities or broken doors which did not allow for privacy.

Mr Amaning said records keeping on routine cleaning on toilets facilities was also lagging adding that in some facilities one pit latrine served the needs of both staff and patients, staff alone, other areas had collapsed toilets or abandoned due to irregular water supply.

‘In the meantime, basic water services should be increased, considering the huge investment but issues of operational maintenance with frequent breakdowns could derail some aspects of the progress made,’ he noted.

While more than 67 per cent of the 28 facilities and hygiene services were above the national estimate of 55 per cent, the research recorded that such hand washing facilities were either at the mercy of the weather or sinks falling without any care.

He indicated that environmental cleaning services in Health care facilities were extremely low and many of the facilities had issues with maintaining proper sanitary conditions also majority of the facilities had no personnel or orderlies for cleaning.

The consultant had therefore proposed the establishment of a District WASH standards for all facilities, development of Health Care Key Performance Indicators with the District Health Directorate, train focal personnel and the introduction of a Clean Clinic Model across the District.

Ms Seyram Asimah, Acting Programme Manager Water Aid Ghana said the project was designed to strengthen WASH and health systems, accelerate the coverage of reliable access to safer water and affordable, inclusive, and sustainable WASH services.

That, she noted, would help provide evidence-based information around the sector to inform policy, practice, and advocate prioritization of services in Health care.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Volta Senior High School appeals for infrastructural development

The Volta Senior High School (VOLTASCO) at Dzita-Agbledomi in the Anloga District of the Volta Region has appealed for infrastructural assistance to enhance teaching and learning.

The school lack facilities such as staff common room and bungalow, students’ dormitory, library, computer laboratory, and classroom blocks, and anytime the rains set in, students are forced to move out.

In an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA), Mr Edward Kwadzo Eddah, the Board Chairman of the school, said it was established in 2013 as a community senior high school and was later absorbed by the Ghana Education Service as a public senior high school in 2017.

Mr Freedom Vitashie, the school planning committee member, told the GNA that the Dzita Agbledomi Community had supported the school in many ways.

Mr Spencer Agbemenu, the Headmaster of the school, said the school had a total student population of 179 with 28 teaching and four non-teaching staff.

It offers courses such as Business, General Arts, Home Economics and Visual Arts.

He lamented how some elective classes were held under trees due to inadequate classrooms and desks.

‘The school can boast of only three classroom blocks that we use during our core subject classes,’ he said, and it shared the same compound with the only basic school in the area, which created a lot of challenges.

He explained that intruders, including mentally challenged persons, distracted classes due to lack of a fence wall around the school, a situation which promoted absenteeism.

Some teachers and students the GNA spoke with appealed to the Government, individuals, and the public to, as a matter of urgency, rescue the school from its current challenges.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Ghana benefits from UK’s £210 million funding to tackle anti-microbial resistance

Ghana is one of the 25 countries in the world set to benefit from the £210 million funding by the United Kingdom government to tackle deadly antimicrobial resistance (AMR) over the next three years.

The UK government will work collaboratively with countries across Asia and Africa to tackle antimicrobial resistance and reduce the threat posed to the UK and globally.

The funding is the largest ever investment in global AMR surveillance by any country.

This was in a statement issued by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK High Commission in Ghana, and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra.

The announcement comes as the UK’s Health Secretary of State, Steve Barclay, travels to India for his first G20 Health Ministers’ meeting.

The funding from the UK government’s aid budget will support the Fleming Fund’s activities to tackle AMR in countries across Asia and Africa over the next three years, helping to reduce the threat it poses to the UK and globally.

It will bolster the surveillance capacity in up to 25 countries where the threat and burden of AMR is highest – including Indonesia, Ghana, Kenya, and Papua New Guinea – with more than 250 laboratories set to be upgraded and provided with state-of-the-art equipment.

It said the investment would cover new genome sequencing technology to help track bacterial transmission between humans, animals and the environment.

It will also strengthen the international health workforce by supporting 20,000 training sessions for laboratory staff, pharmacists and hospital staff, and over 200 Fleming Fund scholarships to boost expertise in microbiology, AMR policy and One Health – which recognises the connection between humans, animals and the environment.

The UK’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, said: ‘Antimicrobial resistance is a silent killer which poses a significant threat to people’s health around the world and here in the UK, and will be an important topic here at the G20 in India.

‘It’s vital it is stopped in its tracks and this record funding will allow countries most at risk to tackle it and prevent it from taking more lives across the world, ultimately making us safer at home.

‘It also builds on work the government is doing to incentivise drug companies to develop new antibiotics – a model which some G20 countries are looking to implement.’

Around 1.27 million people around the world die each year due to antimicrobial resistance – where bacteria have evolved so much that antibiotics and other current treatments are no longer effective against infections – with one in five of those deaths in children under five.

In 2019, AMR was found to have caused between 7,000 and 35,000 deaths in the UK alone.

The UK’s Special Envoy on AMR, Dame Sally Davies said: ‘I am proud and delighted that the UK’s Fleming Fund will continue to create real impact to tackle AMR and build pandemic preparedness on the ground across the world, using data to drive action and catalyse investment.

‘This world-leading investment in AMR laboratories, workforce and systems is a vital contribution to realise our vision of a world free of drug-resistant infection.’

The investment will deliver the second phase of the UK-India Fleming Fund partnership alongside India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Worth up to £3 million, it will accelerate collaboration on AMR surveillance across One Health sectors and help both countries to deliver on their 2030 roadmap.

As part of his visit to India, the Secretary of State will go to India’s National Centre for Disease Control, where India’s government and the Fleming Fund are joining forces to combat antimicrobial resistance.

He will also attend a showcase of innovative health technology with representatives from UK and Indian artificial intelligence and digital health firms in a bid to unleash further the tech partnership which is already transforming healthcare in both countries.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Stop waiting to be handed opportunities, fight for them – CPP Chairperson charges women

Nana Akosua Frimpongmaa Sarpong Kumankumah, Chairperson of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), has urged women to competitively compete with men for available opportunities to enable them to participate in the decision-making process of the country at the highest levels.

According to her, it was no longer prudent and appropriate that women waited on their male counterparts to provide them with opportunities to serve at higher levels urging them to ‘take the bull by the horn’ to help achieve gender equality.

‘Women, everything can be done, get up and do it. That is what it is. Let’s stop waiting, let’s stop waiting for our opportunities, it won’t come. Let’s just get up, present yourself, you will get the blows, the dirty slaps, the trash will be thrown at you,’ she said.

‘Somebody must sacrifice, let us be the new generation that sacrificed for the next generation of women so, that the ceiling that seemed to be cracking, we can just smash it and when we smash it the next generation will not be thinking of somebody handing them the opportunity, but they will grab the opportunity because the opportunity will never be handed to you. Since you deserve it, go for it.’

Nana Frimpongmaa said this when she launched the ‘Support a Female President Project’ at the Pillars of Modern Ghana Conference and Awards organised by the West African International Press Limited, in Accra.

The event, which also honoured some 21 individuals, including 16 females and five males, was to recognise the contributions of women to the socio-economic development of Ghana over the years.

The ‘Support a Female President Project’, an initiative of the West African Magazine, sought to promote and advocate gender equality in leadership positions, specifically by delivering a female president for the country in the next few years.

Nana Frimpongmaa, who is also a flagbearer hopeful of the CPP, bemoaned the lack of women representation in higher positions in the country, stressing that, despite women making up almost half of the Ghanaian population, their presence in the nation’s highest political office had been too sparse.

She said they believed that every capable and qualified individual, regardless of their gender, should have equal opportunity to lead the country.

The launch of the Support for a Female President Project, she said was, therefore, not just a mere symbolic act, but rather a ‘call to action’ for all women.

‘It is an invitation to stand up and actively contribute to breaking down the gender barriers that have held women back for far too long. It is a commitment to championing the rights of women, not just during an election season but throughout the entire political journey,’ she emphasised.

‘We understand that change does not come easily. It requires persistence, resilience, and a collective effort.

‘That is why we are here today – to build a powerful movement that will challenge the status quo and create lasting change, a fire that will engulf the rest of Africa for betterment,’ she added.

She called on organisations, activists and influencers, championing gender equality to partner and support the project to realise the objectives.

Mrs Esther Dzifa Ofori, a former Ambassador of Ghana to Equatorial Guinea, said women were critical in the development of the country, stressing that, they were resilient and hardworking, without whom ‘there will be no vibrant economy and disciplined society’.

However, she explained that various factors, including cultural prejudices against women and girls and outmoded cultural practices, continued to hinder them from attaining the ultimate in the political space.

Mrs Ofori called for stronger mentorship systems and women leadership training institute to be established to help in the mentoring of younger women and transfer of leadership skills to enable women compete for opportunities at the highest level such as the presidency.

Mrs Patience Baffoe-Bonnie, Director of Prisons Services, said for women to be trusted with higher leadership positions in the country, they must ‘boldly step out, make their own mistakes, own the mistakes and improve upon the things we do everybody’.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Northern Command receives delegation from Jordan

A joint Military base in Tamale, the Northern Command, and the Airforce Base, have received a delegation from the General Intelligence Department of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to share cooperation and ideas within their jurisdictions.

The two commands were led by the General Officer Commanding the Northern Command, Brigadier General Matthew Essien, and the Base Commander, Air Force Base, Tamale, Air Commodore Joshua Mensah Larkai, and other Staff Officers

The delegation from Jordan was received on August 10, 2023, and was in the region to discuss key areas of cooperation, coordination in joint Military training, including future of Military cooperation between the two armies and other areas of bilateral interests.

It was also to help strengthen collaborations in areas of training and operations to enhance security and intelligence cooperation between Ghana and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

The Jordanian delegation was given a general security brief and operational update to acquaint themselves with the Northern Command’s areas of responsibilities.

The brief further covered some emerging threats within the area of responsibility.

Brigadier General Matthew Essien, on behalf of the Military High Command, commended the General Intelligence Department of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for their support, and assured the delegation of Ghana’s readiness and commitment to a fruitful relationship.

The delegation was later conducted on a flight tour over the Northern Border of Ghana

Source: Ghana News Agency