On Thursday February 16th 2012 president Mills addressed the nation as mandated by article 67 of the 1992 constitution. A jovial Mills told citizens that the nation was stable and in good condition even though many took great pain to let the world know what they believed was the true state the nation was in. After this speech and a while later, news filtered in that President Mills had joined his ancestors.
But earlier, a confident Mills had disclosed that the highest growth rate of the country 14% took place under his watch as well as stressing that the rate of inflation of 8.55% in 2011 was the lowest for 42 years. He added as at the end of September, the budget deficit was 2% of GDP as compared to 14.5% of GDP in 2008.
The president also highlighted that fact that the government has managed to attain the macroeconomic projections contained in the 2008 NDC Manifesto for a Better Ghana.
According to President Mills investor confidence in the country was at an all time high citing the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre released figures showing an increase in projects registered at the GIPC amounting to over$7billion in foreign direct investment.
On basic education and in the city of Accra the President stated that efforts have been made to bring an end to the school shift system which has been a drawback in the fight for quality education. He said several classroom structures have been constructed providing accommodation for hundreds of pupils who now benefit from a full day classroom teaching. He continued contracts for the construction of over 1,700 classroom blocks for schools under trees have been awarded throughout the country.
On completion, he said the 4,320 schools under trees that existed in 2009 would be reduced by about 40% adding that the government was on course to eradicating the schools under trees phenomenon. He continued over 3 million school uniforms have been distributed to needy pupils nationwide adding that with a basic school population of about 5.2 million, school uniforms have been supplied to three out of every five children in basic school.
Explaining further the “asomdwe hene” explained that under the free exercise books scheme, over 40 million exercise books have been supplied to all public basic schools stressing that on the average, 8 exercise books have been supplied to each pupil per year in both 2010 and 2011.
In respect of the school feeding programme, we have rationalized selection even as coverage of the programme has been expanded.
Being an academician himself, Evans Mills placed some urgency as regards the second cycle level of the education with the commissioning of 672 emergency classroom blocks and dormitories across the length and breadth of the country with many nearing the phases of completion. But that will not be all as “Agya Atta” stated that between 2013 and 2015, the government intends establishing additional community second cycle schools throughout the length and breadth of the country, particularly in under-served districts.
The one programme or initiative which the National Democratic Congress (NDC) can boldly tout or make noise about is the LESDEP initiative. Thus, besides emphasizing formal classroom education, Mills highlighted that they are using the National Apprenticeship Programme, LESDEP, and other programmes for the teaching of employable skills. So far, these programmes have made a great impact on youth employment in the informal sector of the economy, the president added.
He then changed gears to look at science, communication technology and innovation, tertiary education, human resource training and development, job creation, agriculture with emphasis on (crop farming, cotton output, irrigation, cocoa production and sheanut production), fisheries, water availability and distribution, energy generation and distribution, oil and gas industry, the weight of the single spine salary structure, special development areas, health management in the country-National Health Insurance Scheme, health infrastructure), roads construction, security, law and order- touching on welfare of police, immigration, military, fire personnel and prison officers, Governance- touching on foreign policy: Ghana’s pioneering in Africa.
On sports, the president touched on successes chalked and failures that came the country’s way, explaining the reversal of the ban on the Ghana Olympic Committee by the International Olympic Committee paving way for their participation in the London Olympics as a huge success. The Black stars however failed to win the Africa cup of nations.
On Parliament the president touched on the much delayed JOB 600 which is to serve as offices for parliamentarians to aid their work even as National Service Personnel will be posted to parliament to serve as research assistants to the MP’s. His dream to be the first president to address parliamentarians with such offices never materialized due to death’s menacing ways.
“Fereni kwegya” on the work of the Constitutional Review Commission acknowledged receipt of the work adding that a Technical Implementation Committee has been put in place to assist cabinet develop a white paper for the implementation of the recommendation without delay.
Sounding very much like a man determined to achieve a stated goal, president Mills assured the citizens that this personal resolve to fight corruption cannot be side tracked or befuddled. Under his tutelage the president asserted that Ghana will be unattractive for drug peddlers adding that lessons had been learnt from the abortive Ghana @ 50 prosecution hearings. He further stated that missing parcels of cocaine from a police vault and 77 parcels of cocaine on MV Benjamin will be investigated till the true circumstances leading to the disappearances are disclosed to Ghanaians.
The professor on Justice called on players in the noble profession to uphold their calling and eschew corruption and other vices which could undermine that crucial piece of the governance system.
In conclusion the president called on all stakeholders especially those contesting the 2012 general and parliamentary elections to shun violent tendencies and accept results when declared by the Electoral Commission.
After a hard fought “battle” president Mahama was declared winner of the December 7th and 8th polls by the Electoral Commission. The result did not however go down well with the opposition New Patriotic Party whose operatives contend the elections were skewed in favour of the National Democratic Party (NDC) and by extension John Dramani Mahama. After boycotting the inauguration of the president, the minority also partially boycotted the state of the nation address by president Mahama, asserting that once they have sent the case to the Supreme Court for adjudication, it will be an exercise in futility to give credence to a person and system they fault for their loss.
So it was that despite the minority’s absence from the chamber, the president addressed the nation on Thursday the 21st of February 2013 to the 6th parliament of the 4th republic. Just like Mills before him, Mahama derived duty of addressing the nation from Article 67 of the 1992 constitution.
After addressing key personalities around, president Mahama gave a brief summary about Ghana’s democratic journey so far after the turbulence of the 70’s, 80’s. He gave due recognition to Jeremiah Rawlings for guiding the nation in the fourth republic adding that organizing six relatively successful elections is no mean achievement
The president then zoomed into the four key areas he will be focusing on in his first term of being in office. The four include:
Putting people first, having a strong and resilient economy, expanding infrastructure, offering transparent and accountable governance.
Putting People First: According to the President since the NDC is a social democratic party, it believes human resource is it’s most treasured asset hence social policy and human development revolving around healthcare, education, social security and offering protection to the meekest and weakest in society such as women, children and the disabled in society. He also charged relevant authorities to provide relevant and updated data to inform policy formulation.
On Education, the president acknowledged that competition is rife in a global village hence a critical need to expand educational facilities, offer commensurate remuneration and packages to education facilitators or agents, eliminate the phenomenon of schools under trees by 2016, enforce compulsory basic school attendance, embark on pro poor interventions like distribution of free school uniforms, free exercise books and free computers adding that the free school feeding programme will be gradually extended to all public basic schools especially in rural areas to boost the nutritional levels of pupils.
In addressing the issues which have bedeviled our secondary school education, the president disclosed his government’s commitment to build 200 community day Senior High schools. At the tertiary level president Mahama intimated that a fully fledged University will be established in the Eastern region whiles all 10 public polytechnics will be converted into technical Universities.
For health the president acknowledged deficiencies with the system but assured that in 4 years his regime will work to improve access, service quality, increased personnel and enhanced working condition for professionals in the sector. Due to the impact of Human Immune Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) on the population especially the havoc it wrecks on the labour force, the government will use 180 million Ghana Cedis to implement strategic plan to give Anti-Retroviral therapy as well as among others enrolling infected persons on the National Health Insurance Scheme for free.
Other sectors he touched on include Social Protection, Youth and Sports development, the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority and the Western corridor roads development.
PILLAR TWO: Strong and Resilient Economy
After gains chalked with growth rate and impressive GDP figures, the president stated that his duty is to move Ghana form a lower middle income country to a fully recognized middle income country. According to the first gentleman of the land, the country’s reserves increased from 2 billion cedis in 2009 to 5.5 billion cedis. As has become the cliché, the private sector according to his plans stressing that the private sector’s involvement has led to accelerated growth and development of the economy. Other areas he touched on included accelerating agriculture development for job creation, maintaining the historic feat of hitting one million tonnes of cocoa production or increasing it, making manufacturing to take it’s place as the nerve sector of the society with tax reforms, permit grants etc, breathing life into the tourism, culture and creative arts sector with rebranding, restructuring and equitable distribution of resources.
Of the four thematic areas, the third has to do with expanding infrastructure and here the president looks at developing and expanding infrastructural bases like roads, rails, sufficient and efficient energy, stable water supply and seamless communications and ICT platforms as well as government relying on information technology to support urban renewal, land use management and environmental protection.
Many of the uninitiated roads and uncompleted roads are to receive attention from this regime whiles the president plans for the nation to return to using rail transport as it is a mass friendly means of transport. He touched on the country’s housing deficit and stated resolve to help reduce the deficit. It is common knowledge that mining has not led to massive transformation of the economy and reflected positively in the lives of the people but the president states that safeguards will be put in place let gold benefit the citizens.
Others which got mentions were energy and petroleum sectors which have been a source of heated public debates. The erratic supply and shortages of these products has caused grave hurt to many Ghanaians but the president says he is as much concerned about the situation as any Ghanaian and has tasked the regulators to do what they must to return production and supply to normalcy.
The fourth Pillar covers strong and transparent governance. Like Mills before him, President Mahama called on the various executives in the governance structure to play their part for the wheel of democracy to move on. It has to be said however that the fire service approach to ruling a nation is headed for failure and doomed because it cannot be sustained.
That a section of the public which shouts/agitates or causes the most trouble gets their needs met is a recipe for disaster. What is needed which great leaders such as Guggisberg and Nkrumah did is to have a developmental plan for 4, 5, 8 or 10 years which can be worked on irrespective of the political party and president at the helm of affairs. It serves as a check on what to do and what has been done. It also enables better scrutiny from observers and watchers who can take the leader to task.
Both state of nation addresses are nice attempts to give a balance sheet of sorts but sadly do not reflect the true aspiration of the people and at what levels we ought to have been at. Unemployment is drowning the masses, security of the state is relatively weak with porous borders not being taken seriously, corruption is still the elephant in the room and this nation is still lacking a visionary leader after Nkrumah. May Allah however be with us and bless us.