President John Mahama yesterday used his State of the Nation address to lambast persons he perceived to be ‘enemies’ of his government, particularly politicians and members of the academia.
He said these groups of people were constantly using the airwaves to criticise his government for his alleged landmark failure to address the country’s economic problems that had brought untold hardship to Ghanaians.
He said politicians and professors at the university who should be imparting knowledge and imbuing in the youth a sense of nationalism were rather jumping from one radio station to another to engage in unbridled cynicism and mischief just to distort the reality and pollute the minds of the populace in the face of the current challenges the country was going through.
He said such cynics must rather demonstrate unconditional love for the nation and show a high sense of patriotism with the hope that the nation would get out of its economic doldrums because many great nations of the world also went through similar economic crises before reaching where they are now.
The chamber, in black (minority)and white (majority)
The President was however quiet on the state of the economy, the declining GDP and ballooning public debt which currently stands at GH¢76 billion from GH¢9 billion in 2008.
He indicated that despite the widespread criticism of his government, foreigners still had great confidence in the economy, adding that foreign direct investment contributed $3.57 billion to the economy, which was a marked improvement on previous years.
He indicated that foreigners were not the only group seeing improvement in the economy, but many Ghanaians as well, who would still vote massively for him in 2016.
He said he was very sure of securing a second term as president and so he would implement economic transformational programmes that would take him up to 2020, and also undertake major infrastructural programmes especially in the road sector which would be completed in 2019.
The President admitted that the current energy crisis had badly affected the economy and brought hardship to many Ghanaians, especially businesses that depended on electricity; but stressed that he was firmly in control and would fix the problem once and for all.
Nana Akufo Addo and Dr Bawumia
‘Industrial and residential consumers of electricity are all feeling the pinch of the power crisis and I intend to fix it. I will not manage this problem but I will fix it,’ he said.
According to him, this was not the first time the nation was going through such a problem, stressing that it happened in 1983, 1998, 2006 and 2007 and that all those challenges were overcome.
The current energy crisis is the longest ever witnessed, from mid 2012 till now, getting even worse in 2015.
The President had said that the power crisis would be a thing of the past by 2013, but three years after the promise, the dumsor is still with Ghanaians.
He accused the opposition of taking advantage of the situation to jump on the rooftops and into the streets to run the government down even though the government was doing its best to solve the problem, reiterating that the problem would soon be over because of the pragmatic measures being put in place in the short and long terms to resolve it.
He said 1,000 megawatts would be added to the generating capacity in the next two to three months, with Asogli, Amandi, Ceint and Kpone coming on board to contribute that capacity while by the next eight years 3,665 MW more would be added to generation.
He said the other alternative to reduce dependence on the hydro and thermal energy would be to promote the use of solar energy and that was one thing his government would strongly pursue in 2015 to reduce pressure on the national grid.
According to the President, his government, in partnership with some private entities, would install 200,000 rooftop solar panels for artisans and households to use.
He said 120 million cubic feet of gas from Atuabo would also be ready to power the thermal plants in the country soon.
He however urged Ghanaians in the face of the current situation to embrace energy conservation.
‘We need as Ghanaians to adopt the practice of conserving energy by sparingly using appliances that use a lot of energy such as air conditioners and deep-freezers or refrigerators.’
On education, he said he would fulfil his promise of implementing the progressively free secondary education in the 2015/2016 academic year.
He said 367,000 day students would benefit and therefore not be paying school fees in the 2015/2016 academic year and that adequate provisions had been made for the success of the programme.
He also noted that a new university named University of Environment and Sustainable Development would be built in the Eastern Region this year.
As usual, the President took a greater part of his two-and-a-half-hour presentation to enumerate the projects his government was undertaking and that included a number of hospitals like the Legon Hospital, Ridge Hospital as well as the Police Hospital, all in Accra, and a military hospital in Kumasi as well as some regional hospitals.
He enumerated a number of roads that were to be constructed with GH¢1 billion cocoa fund this year across the country.
He indicated that the Tema Motorway would be redeveloped into a six-lane highway with inter-change this year.
He spoke about the achievement of his government in the agriculture sector, trade sector, communication sector, sports sector, adding that his administration would do more to improve those sectors in 2015.
On corruption, he said his government was very much concerned and therefore approved of the Whistle Blowers Bill, the Right To Information Bill and the Criminal Offences Bill which were currently under consideration in Parliament and when these bills are passed, they would help in the fight against corruption.
According to him, there was a practical example that his government was serious in the fight against corruption with the exposure of payroll scandal in the National Service Scheme by the BNI, in which he claimed GH¢20 million had been saved.
Throughout the President’s delivery, he failed to speak about the fiscal policies or interventions to bring about improvement in the economy; but rather indicated that negotiations with the IMF were almost completed.
He also failed to talk about the country’s monstrous debt which is putting the future of the country in jeopardy.
True State Of The Nation
Reacting to the address, the Minority said it would present a ‘true’ State of the Nation address on Wednesday, March 4, 2015.
Minority Leader Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu said the content of the President’s message would ‘certainly be discussed, but the true state of the nation will be unveiled on Wednesday.’
The Minority members were sombre in their black and red attires, which was to protest over the power crisis and the poor state of the nation.
Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu indicated that his side was unimpressed with the President’s address because he made these same comments during the 2014 State of the Nation address.
‘The President told us that we have been here before. Last year he said the same things. We wanted to hear from the President that we were there before and we have put it behind us.’
Government for the first time announced plans to review the 2015 budget and the minority leader said this was an indication that all was not well with the nation and more needed to be done.
Speaking on the loud silence of the Minority throughout the President’s presentation—which was quite unusual—Mr Kyei Mensah-Bonsu said the decision to remain quiet during the President’s delivery was a sign of respect to the House and the President.
He said ‘for the avoidance of doubt, it is important to state for the record that we [Minority] in this House have agreed to listen to the President’s insight. This self-imposition is to protect the dignity of the House and indeed the presidency.
‘Let nobody tomorrow say that the President so much mesmerised the House that we couldn’t do anything but listen to him in silence,’ he added.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr
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