General News of Tuesday, 21 February 2017
A slew of Minority MPs have put in an early assessment of President Akufo-Addo’s maiden State of the Nation Address, concluding with one common theme – the speech was too partisan.
Deputy Finance Minister and Ajumako -Enyan- Essiam NDC MP Cassiel Ato Forson, North Tongu MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, and Ningo-Prampram MP Sam George spoke to Joy News, moments after the Parliament adjourned sitting Tuesday.
Ablakwa gets ready to defend Mahama against Akufo-Addo attack
For the former Deputy Education minister Ablakwa, the speech was ‘too harsh’ on the record of former President Mahama’s government.
He observed that after president Akufo-Addo appeared to be praising the former President for ensuring a peaceful election and a peaceful transition, it took a sudden negative turn as he piled condemnation on Mahama’s record on the economy.
“President Mahama should be remembered for more than that. Every leader will have his positives, will have his challenges” he demanded more credit for the Mahama government.
Ablakwa Okudzeto whose political career flourished under Mahama said he is lacing up his boots to mount a strong defence of the former President’s achievements when Parliament debates the address.
“He sought to virtually condemn the legacy of President Mahama and some of us will take very judicial notice of that and will rebut strongly,” he said.
The North Tongu MP said the President’s speech threw up some contradictions because while he pointed out that he had inherited a troubled economy, he still remains confident on delivering financially-demanding campaign promises such as free SHS, restoration of trainee allowances and an ambitious industrialisation plan.
“It is incongruous, it doesn’t add up. it is conflicting,” he stressed the president understated the resources available to his government.
Okudzeto admitted that while the economy has challenges, ‘Ghana is not Sudan, Ghana is not Syria. Ghana is not a failed state’. He believes the President was cherry-picking on the good and bad of the Mahama government.
He expressed hope that in the spirit of national unity and ahead of the [email protected] celebrations, the President would have struck more conciliatory cord with the opposition.
He said the president failed to live up to the theme of the [email protected] celebration ‘mobilising for Ghana’s future’ because his speech was ‘too partisan’.
Okudzeto also noted there were some ‘significant omissions’ in Akufo-Addo’s speech. One of them is the bloody conflict in Bimbilla, the constituency of the Defence minister Dominic Ntiwul. At least 10 people mostly women were killed as the intractable conflict resurfaced two weeks ago.
He said while Nana Akufo-Addo touched on government’s effort to stabilize the political situation in The Gambia, he glaringly left out a local conflict.
“People have lost properties, people had to relocate, large villages have been deserted and the President doesn’t even spare a thought for Bimbila,” he said.
Akufo-Addo remembered Gambia but left out Bimbilla, “I thought that, that omission was costly,” he stressed.
The former Deputy Finance minister Cassiel Ato Forson was even more unhappy about the speech. Ato Forson believes the speech was an attack on his personal contributions to the handling of the economy.
“Let me say that I was disappointed in the way the president spoke today”, he headlined his attack.
“The president decided to pick and choose economic indices that suit him and his party,” he repeated a constant criticism of the NPP’s views on the economy when it was in opposition.
The NDC MP said the gloomy picture of the economy as painted by the president had a “hidden motive” of providing a stand-by excuse should his government fail to deliver on its promises.
Zooming in on specifics, Ato Forson said despite a declining inflation rate and Treasury bill rate, the President was silent them.
“Inflation was a major political talk of the NPP why is it missing today?… T-bill rate is declining steadily and sharply because of pragmatic debt management strategies. Why was he silent about it? Because of politics? Is that not part of the true state of the economy?”, he complained.
“It is a shame” Ato Forson who has vowed to keep the Ajumako -Enyan- Essiam for at least 12 years, said.
He said the Mahama government left more than $350m in the Sinking Fund, a record unmatched by any government. Ato Forson said the president was silent on the economic outlook ‘because the outlook is bright’.
He said new gas and oil fields are expected to help the economy grow by at least 7%, something which cannot be credited to the NPP government.
Cassiel Ato Forson hammered Akufo-Addo for claiming that the debt-to-GDP ratio is 74%. “It is a shame he was emphatic on 74%” he said and explained that government’s data-gathering institutions are yet to finalise and compute the 2016 economic data.
The debt ratio depends on the final GDP figures for 2016. If the GDP figures improve the debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to be lower than 74%.
“Nobody knows the GDP outturn for 2016. The Ministry of Finance is not aware, the President is not aware…even the Ghana Statistical Service that does the measurement doesn’t know because they are now collecting data”.
Ato Forson said he expected the President to have added the word ‘provisional’ instead of making emphatic statements.
He said the debt claims churned out by the president “is contestable, very much contestable”.
The former deputy Finance minister said if the President wanted to discuss the economy, he should have painted a holistic picture.
“Ghanaians deserve to know the true picture, not just pick and choose”, he criticised.
NDC ‘new-comer’ in Parliament calls for free SHS
A debutant NDC MP Sam George focused on education and disagreed on the government’s plan to use the GETFUND to finance free SHS.
“If President Nana Addo wants to do and do it well, he should introduce a new 2.5% tax levy, raise VAT to 20%…if you look at the public outcry, Ghanaians want free SHS”
He said while taxes are not pleasant, “if we want it, we pay for it.” Sam George said if the government fails to sustain free SHS, Akufo-Addo would be “setting up the Ghanaian youth for failure”.
He said he could foresee Senior High Schools close down if government does not have a sustainable plan for funding free SHS.