Mixed reactions greet State of the Nation Address

General News of Friday, 27 February 2015

Source: Graphic Online

Bagbin Kyei Mensah Fresh

The Minority and the Majority sides in Parliament have expressed different views on the President’s State of the Nation Address delivered in Parliament yesterday.

While the Minority described it as a “wish list” which failed to address the real problems facing the country, the Majority considered the address an “excellent message embodying the spirit and soul of the nation”.

Minority

The Minority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, told the Daily Graphic that the President failed to tell the nation the emergency measures he was putting in place to revive the economy and address the power shortages.

“Most of the issues he was talking about were medium to long-term measures. Undoubtedly, medium to long-term measures are good, but a lot of the things we need now are short term. We need to survive now and the measures we need to revive the economy now were what we expected.

“If a person is in an emergency situation, we need to revive the person immediately. I am disappointed,” he said.

He said the President had, in the past, spoken about “putting people first” and building a resilient economy, but had been silent on those issues in his address.

The Minority Leader said the President pushed aside issues bordering on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate, rising interest rates, high taxes, unemployment, rising cost of living and falling standards of living.

According to him, the President also failed to address the issue of transparent and accountable governance.

“The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) just released a report damning the Presidency and referring to it as the second most corrupt institution in Ghana, yet the President was silent on that,” he said.

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said there had been many incidents of sole sourcing in government procurement which had fuelled corruption under the current administration, but the President had failed to address them.

“This culture of impunity when it comes to corruption must stop. We need very bold and decisive leadership to fight corruption,” he said.

In the area of health, he said more than 200 people had died from cholera in 2014, adding, “It is surprising that the President never made reference to that.”

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the Minority did not heckle the President or carry placards into the Chamber as it had done in times past because it feared that such behaviour might lead to a degeneration of proceedings.

He told the Daily Graphic that in advanced democracies, no legislator went to Parliament with placards, as was done by the Minority in 2013.

“You don’t see Parliament festooned with placards in advanced democracies. As for heckling it is allowed but the language was degenerating and I thought it was something we needed to watch, ” he said.

The Minority Leader added that if the heckling was not controlled, the proceedings could degenerate and end up in an MP insulting the President someday.

“As MPs we have the forum to put our grievances across and, therefore, need not come into the chamber with placards, ” he added

Black clothes

With regard to the black clothes worn by the Minority, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said it was to signify the darkness in which the nation had been plunged by the Mahama administration.

“It was to reflect the dumsor; the ‘dum’ being the black clothes we wore and perhaps the ‘sor’ being the white worn by the Majority,” he said.

During the presentation of the State of the Nation Address by the President in 2013, the Minority entered the chamber with placards with “stealers” written on them.

They displayed the placards as soon as the President entered the Chamber and walked out boycotting proceedings.

Last year, they heckled the President consistently a situation which nearly led to the disruption of proceedings.

Majority

The Majority Leader, Mr Alban S.K. Bagbin, said the address reflected the state of the nation.

He said even the ambiance in Parliament was a pointer to the state the nation was in.

According to him, the President gave an indication of where the nation was and where it needed to go.

He said President Mahama drew attention to the problems in the power sector and how, with the resilient spirit of the Ghanaian, the nation would prevail.

“He told us to, with our indomitable spirit, rise above the difficulties. He reminded us that we have come this far as a result of the unity and tolerance that we have demonstrated and that we should not allow ethnicity and religion to divide us,” he said.

Mr Bagbin said President Mahama stated clearly the measures he had put in place to address the problems facing the nation and the investments being made in the energy sector, adding that the results of those investments would soon become manifest.

He said the fight against corruption was being waged and the President made reference to the measures being put in place to address the canker.

He acknowledged the fact that due to the failure of the government to fulfil some promises, there was skepticism and cynicism but said there was no need for that.

“It is a very good message. If we focus on the positives, we will go far,” he said.

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