The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also called the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that everyone enjoys peace and prosperity by 2030. It was adopted by 193 countries, including Ghana. The SDGs came into effect in January 2016 with the objectives to ensure social inclusion, protect the environment and foster economic growth.
The Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development which preceded the adoption of the seventeen (17) SDGs, provides a global framework for financing sustainable development. It also supports the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including the SDGs. The Agenda aligns all domestic and international resource flows, policies and international agreements with economic, social and environmental priorities. The second section of the agenda referred to as the “Action areas” identifies seven (7) ways resources can be mobilized at all levels to facilitate the implementation of Agenda 2030, and more specifically the SDGs. The Domestic Public Resource is one of the seven (7) ways resources can be mobilized to support the implementation of the SDGs. In respect of the domestic public resource, the Action Area states among other things “For all countries, public policies mobilization and effective use of domestic resources, underscored by the principle of national ownership, are central to our common pursuit of sustainable development, including achieving the sustainable development goals.” In this spirit, the government of Ghana introduced “The Sanitation and Pollution Levy”. Two years on, is the levy raising the needed resources to support the achievement of the country’s SDG 6 targets? What is the Sustainable Development Goal 6?
Sustainable Development Goal 6
Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) entails ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. It is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 to achieve clean water and sanitation for all. The goal has eight targets to be achieved by 2030, which will be measured by eleven (11) indicators. The targets are Safe and affordable drinking water; end open defecation and provide access to sanitation and hygiene; improve water quality, wastewater treatment and safe reuse; increase water-use efficiency and ensure freshwater supplies; implement Integrated Water Resource Management; protect and restore water-related ecosystems; expand water and sanitation support to developing countries; and to support local engagement in water and sanitation management. In 2017, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs assessed access to sanitation. In the assessment, it reported that 4.2 billion people in the world lacked access to safely managed sanitation. On the other hand, UNICEF and WHO’s Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) reported that 23 million people lacked access to safely managed sanitation in Ghana.
In March 2018, António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, launched a global call to action for WASH in all healthcare facilities (HCFs). The call noted that healthcare facilities are essential tools for reducing disease. Without adequate WASH services, healthcare facilities can instead contribute to more infections, prolonged hospital stays and preventable deaths, including mothers and babies. The 2022 JMP on WASH in Healthcare Facilities reports that 73 percent of healthcare facilities globally have systems for segregating waste. The report continues to state that 39 percent of healthcare facilities in sub-Saharan Africa had basic services in 2021. This means that 682 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lacked a basic waste management service at their healthcare facility, including 66 million people with no waste management service. For water, the report states among other things that “basic water services were available in 59 countries and three out of eight SDG regions, representing 37 percent of the global population. On this basis, it is estimated that nearly four out of five healthcare facilities (78 percent) had basic water services in 2021. This means that 1.7 billion people still lacked basic water services in their healthcare facilities”.
For Ghana, the report indicates that 55 percent of HCFs had basic waste management services and 67 percent of HCFs had basic water services. The 2022 JMP report also states that “all patients, visitors and staff need to be able to safely use toilets while at healthcare facilities. Many patients will have infections that could potentially be spread through faecal-oral route. Sanitation infrastructure need to safely isolate excreta from human contact and ensure faecal pathogens do not contaminate the healthcare facility environment”. Yet the report posits that globally, 1 in 10 healthcare facilities, and 780 million people, had no sanitation service. In sub-Saharan Africa, 22 percent of healthcare facilities lack sanitation services. It is extremely sad to state that the report did not mention sanitation coverage for Ghana. This insinuates that sanitation coverage for healthcare facilities in the country is zero as per the report.
Delivering on the SDG 6 requires sustainable financing instruments including levies, hence the introduction of the Sanitation and Pollution Levy (SPL) by the government. Now permit me to explain in simple terms the levy system operationalized by the Government of Ghana before zeroing in on the SPL
Government of Ghana’s Levy System
A levy, in general terms, is an obligatory payment to the government or another organisation. Ghana is a unitary state, and as such, the Government of Ghana sets tax policy and collects tax revenues for the whole of the country. The government receives revenues from a wide variety of sources, which can broadly be split into two categories: tax revenues (including levies) and non-tax revenues. The collection of taxes (levies) is the responsibility of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), which was established in 2009, following the merger of three pre-existing revenue agencies and the revenue agencies’ governing board. The GRA quarterly revenue bulletin 2021 has it that total tax revenue for 2018 was GHC39.2 billion representing 13.4 percent of the country’s non-oil gross domestic product (GDP). For 2019, the total tax revenue was GHC45.6B representing 13.6 percent of non-oil GDP whilst that of 2020 was GHC47.5B representing 12.8 percent of non-oil GDP. The three years’ tax revenue to non-oil GDP was all less than 15 percent, which is far below the average tax revenue to GDP recorded for OECD countries in 2020, which was 33.5 percent.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies in their IFS Report R189 states among other things that “Ghana’s relative tax collection remains lower than many comparator countries in the region, and countries with similar income levels”. The tax system has a crucial role to play in terms of domestic revenue mobilization, hence the Government of Ghana’s aim to reach a tax-to-GDP ratio of 20 percent by 2023. It is in this spirit that the Sanitation and Pollution levy and other revenue generation measures were announced by the government during the budget reading for 2021.
The Sanitation and Pollution Levy (SPL)
The Government of Ghana announced the introduction of the Sanitation and Pollution Levy in its 2021 budget presentation at the Parliament of Ghana. The Sanitation and Pollution Levy was announced at a time when the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Investment Partnership, working with the Government of Ghana published the Country Financing Roadmap (CFR) for the SDGs in June 2021. In the report, the total cumulative 10-year cost from 2021 to 2030 for achieving the SDGs in Ghana is estimated to be $522.3 billion, averaging around $52.2 billion per year. The CFR for SDGs report continued to state that the total funds budgeted for SDG implementation in 2019 were $9.3 billion, which was increased to USD$9.7 billion in 2020. This indicated that the SDG budget for 2019 represented 18 percent of the estimated yearly cost, whilst that of 2020 represented 19 percent. The announcement of the Levy was referred to as a “necessary evil” by Atta Arhin, the vice-chair of the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) at the time. This according to the vice-chair is because “the additional tax will make life difficult for Ghanaians, however, it is a “necessary evil” since sanitation issues have to be tackled. Energy Sector Levies (Amendment) Act 2021 section 5B subsection (3) states Funds accruing in the Sanitation and Pollution Account shall be used to:
(a) improve air quality in urban areas of the country and combat pollution;
(b) design, construct and reengineer solid and liquid waste treatment and disposal facilities including compost production facilities, recycling facilities, landfill sites, medical and other special waste treatment facilities
(c) construct sanitation facilities to eliminate open defecation;
(d) support disinfestation, disinfection and fumigation of public places, schools, lorry parks, health centers and markets; and
(e) provide dedicated support for the maintenance and management of major landfill sites and other waste treatment plants and facilities across the country.
The Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources (MSWR) is the main sector Ministry responsible for improvements in WASH Infrastructure and Services and by extension the SDG 6 targets.
In reference to the Ministry of Finance’s (MoF) 2021 annual report on the management of the energy sector levies and accounts, the levy recorded total revenue of more than GHC264 million for the year ending 2021. This amount when compared to the GHC588 million budget allocated to the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources (MSWR) for the same year, represents 45 percent. For Q1 to Q3 of 2022, the levy accrued a total revenue of GHC345 million with a projection to year end of GHC435 million. The 2022 projection of the levy represents 54 percent of the overall GHC801 million budget allocation to the MSWR. Analysis of the 2023 budget statement by Send Ghana stated among other things that 92.22 percent of the budget allocation for the MSWR is expected to come from development partners whilst the government’s allocation has reduced from 8.48 percent in 2022 to 1.8 percent for 2023. The report continued to state that for 2019 and 2020, only 6.32 percent and 18.9 percent of the approved budget were respectively released but jumped to 86.00 percent for 2021.
SDG 6 is closely linked to the other Sustainable Development Goals. Whilst the current annual budget of the MSWR falls short of the recommended annual estimate of GHC1.7 billion for the WASH sector, the revenue from the levy has the potential of supporting the government to resource the sector alongside other incomes from Development Partners (DPs) who now provide more than 90 percent of the Ministry’s budget. Furthermore, if the total income from the levy is allocated to the Ministry and there is transparency and accountability in terms of its utilization in line with the Energy Sector Levies (Amendment) Act 2021, citizens are more likely to be motivated and more willing to contribute beyond the levy to support the government to achieve SDG 6 target for the country.
Written by David Aidoo, Funding Manager, WaterAid Ghana