General News of Wednesday, 22 February 2017
The maiden State of the Nation address delivered yesterday by Nana Akufo-Addo, the fifth President of the Fourth Republic in parliament – which attracted two former Presidents John Agyekum Kufuor and Jerry John Rawlings, the immediate past Vice President Amissah-Arthur and former speaker of parliament, Ebenezer Sakyi-Hughes among others – has been described by some Members of Parliament (MPs) as one of the best in recent history.
The president’s delivery, confidence, focus and being on the spot with facts, in spite of some hecklings by the minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) MPs, caught the attention of many Ghanaians gathered at the public gallery, including former Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur. The president sometimes repeated ‘critical flaws of the past government’ to the chagrin of the minority members.
Most MPs interviewed from both sides of the political divide lauded the address, especially the bold attempt by the president to condemn in no uncertain terms acts of violence by supposed supporters of the ruling party.
Conspicuously missing at the event was former President John Dramani Mahama.
President Akufo-Addo was blunt on the economy which he said was in ruins after the NDC government had left a staggering debt of GH¢122 billion within eight years from GH¢9.5 billion in 2009 when it took over power, noting that the NDC administration had 10 times resources more than what was available to the previous NPP government between 2000 and 2009.
The minority tried hard to disrupt the president by singing the hit song of Kofi Kanata, “Ewurade begye steer noo,” paraphrasing it as “Mahama b?gye steer noo efis? Nana abr? oo, Oreye watenase oo.” (The Lord must take over the steering wheel because Nana is tired).
The majority members hooted at the minority and also burst into chorus of “Aba mu awie, Onyame b?hy? no aba mu awie.” (God’s promise has come to pass).
President Akufo-Addo said for instance, that he was very much surprised when the previous government promised not to repeat its “reckless public expenditure” in an election year as witnessed in 2012, but brazenly broke its own promise and overspent its budget of GH¢43.9 billion for the 2016 fiscal year by a whopping GH¢6.4 billion, making the total GH¢50.3 billion.
He said looking at the way the economy has been destroyed by the previous government, he was in a hurry to put in place a government to start tackling the problems of unemployment, high debt, increased depreciation of the cedi, high cost of food, housing, utilities and high non-performing loans and symptoms of deeper structural problems that will require a range of reforms.
He said the government would have to implement some tough, prudent and innovative policies to get the country out of this “financial cull de sac” and rescue the economy, restore fiscal discipline and debt sustainability as well as increase economic growth.
He announced that the Takoradi-Paga railway line connecting the Eastern and the Western corridors would be initiated this year to open up the country and also help create more jobs for the youth.
This announcement was greeted with a loud ‘hear, hear.’
President Akufo-Addo said he would be inaugurating the newly constituted Council of State in the course of this week so that he would be able to complete all his appointments by the end of March in consultation with the council
“I have heard it that I am behaving like a man in a hurry. Mr Speaker, I am indeed in a hurry. I am in a great hurry. The times in which we live demand that we all be in a hurry to deal with the problems we face,” he stressed.
He said he would cooperate fully with the other arms of government especially parliament, to effectively promote the development of the country.
Commenting on the president’s address, the NDC Member of Parliament for Keta in the Volta Region, Richard Quashigah, said despite the calm heckling by the minority, the president was very composed and delivered the address with a lot of confidence.
He however, described the address as a mixture of hope and hopelessness.
According to the MP, the president’s claim that he would use agriculture as a tool to transform the economy and create more jobs was very reassuring and the fact that he would also focus on trade instead of focusing on aid was welcoming.
Mr Quashigah said the hopelessness aspect of the address was the president announcing that the government was going to implement some tough policies to help bring the economy back on its track.
“This means we have to tighten our belts because we could foresee tax reforms and high cost of electricity and fuel,” he said.
The Keta MP indicated that he was very disappointed that the president never mentioned any plans for the water sector, stressing that his people at Keta were expecting the president to say something about the water situation in Ghana and how the people of Keta could be assisted to get potable water.
“My people at Anyako are in dire need of potable water and the president should have given assurance of extending potable water to all these places,” he suggested.
The NPP MP for Manhyia North, Collins Owusu-Amankwah, commended President Akufo-Addo for such a “wonderful address.”
According to the MP, the president was very candid and truthful with the real economic situation in the country.
He said the head of state’s promise to fix the economy quickly and would not resort to complaining or nagging was very assuring.
Debate on the State of the Nation address would start on Thursday but the minority demanded that it should start immediately after it was delivered because they said they had a lot of criticisms to make.