By Frank Amponsah
President Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo Addo, yesterday appealed to the major political parties to as soon as possible-preferably next week- meet to develop measures to curb the recurring negative activities of political party vigilante groups in the country.
He said: “I want to use the platform of this Message to make a sincere, passionate appeal to the leaders of the two main political parties in our country, NPP and NDC, to come together, as soon as possible, preferably next week, to agree on appropriate measures to bring an end to this worrying and unacceptable phenomenon of vigilantism in our body politic.”
The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces mentioned that the events of last Monday, in Kumasi, where a meeting of the national and regional executives of the opposition National Democratic Congress were chased out by acts of violence, leading to the tragic death of a citizen, have reinforced the urgent need for a path of solving the vigilante Menace.
Speaking at the 3rd State Of Nation Address (SONA) in Parliament and particular reference to the infamous Ayawaso West Wuogon by-elections which was characterize by violence, the President said his first instinct was to let the police investigate, but that the police battling complicity in addressing the menace and wide skepticism surrounding their capacity to do so, was why he opted for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the violence.
“My first instinct was to let the police do their investigations, and then prosecute, if they found evidence of criminality. The narration that this was another incident of “normal by-election violence” caused me to expand my response,” he noted.
He therefore called on political leaders to value the legacy of peace bequeathed to Ghanaians by their forbears saying that “Our children and grandchildren will not forgive us, if Ghana descends into chaos.”
The Commission is in its second week of its televised hearings in Accra.
The President praised his choice of Commissioners as independent, spirited Ghanaians and hyped the inquiry as “the only way” to comprehensively tackle the canker.
“The time has come to put an end to political violence in our system,” he said amidst wide applause in the chamber.
He averred that the recent by-elections in Akwatia, Atiwa, Chereponi, Talensi and Amenfi West had been marked with violence, and some people still have their physical and emotional scars to show for it.
According to him the time has come to put an end to the phenomenon of politically-related violence and the only way in the system to begin to deal with such a situation is through the work of a Commission of Inquiry.
Nana Akufo-Addo said vigorous debate and the exchange of ideas should be the true basis of political dialogue and competition in the country, not the activities of party vigilante groups.
Speaking on the progress of the economy, the President said production in the economy, as measured by real GDP growth, has picked up very strongly in the last two years moving from 3.4% in 2016, real GDP growth increased to 8.1% in 2017.
He said in 2018, provisional data for the first three quarters indicate a strong real GDP growth of 6.0%, higher than the annual target of 5.6%. Real GDP growth for 2019 is forecast at 7.6%.
“Ghana’s recent GDP growth has placed it amongst the highest in the world. The fiscal deficit is being brought down from the 7.3% of rebased GDP in 2016 to a provisional 3.9% of GDP at the end of 2018. The debt-to-GDP ratio has declined from the 56.6% of GDP in 2016 to 54.8% at the end of 2018,” he said.
In respect of the successes chalked as far as the growth of the economy is concerned, the President averred that with continuing discipline, we shall sign off from the deal in April.
He said “The economy is at the heart of all we seek to do, it is the success of the economy that will guarantee an improvement in the quality of the life of our people. I believe we are all now agreed that the fundamentals have to be sound if the economy is to flourish.”
Addressing the issue of inflation, Nana Akufo-Addo said Inflation has dropped from 15.4%, at the end of 2016, to 9% in January this year, the lowest in six years, as announced by the Ghana Statistical Service last week and that interest rates are declining.”
He said government is prepare to exit from the IMF programme in April, and it is the expectations that the impressive figures and good performance will continue.
He told Ghanaians that government has decided to institute a legal framework to help with the fiscal discipline hence the passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Law, Act 982, which will help cap the deficit at 5% by law.
“Our efforts are bearing some fruits, and the world has taken notice of the improvement in our economic fundamentals. In September last year, after almost a decade, we received our first Sovereign Credit rating upgrade from Standard and Poor (S&P). This upgrade saw us move from B minus to B with a stable outlook. In December 2018, we also hosted the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, a visit that was historical in every sense, as this was the first time that an IMF Managing Director had ever stepped foot on Ghanaian soil,” he added.
On career and human resource development, the President averred that all is set for the construction of 10 state-of-the-art Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) Centres this year.
He lamented that governments over the past have preached about the importance of TVET without doing very much to demonstrate this importance, hence send young people to go to poorly equipped TVET centers.
He said: “The new TVET centres would be world class, and attractive to assure young people that they are not being sent to second best options.
We are also bent on demystifying science, mathematics and technology. Ten Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) centres are being built around the country to provide support for the introduction of STEM into basic education after the completion of a successful pilot phase.”
“Mr Speaker, we shall bring before Parliament this year, a tertiary education policy Bill that will bring all the public universities under a common law, and make the administration of the public universities less cumbersome,” the President said.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo also touched on health delivery, banking sector growth, Menzgold Saga, housing, sanitation, SME growth and power generation.
He said under the Presidential Support programme, one thousand, three hundred and fifty (1,350) start-ups and small businesses have benefitted from a special government business support programme with the beneficiaries receiving between ten thousand (GH¢10,000) and one hundred thousand Ghana cedis (GH¢100,000) each, at a special interest rate of 10%, instead of the average prevailing market rate of 26%.
He said: “This is designed to help grow and expand their businesses, and will create about thirty thousand (30,000) direct jobs. Eighteen thousand (18,000) jobs have already been created under this programme. This is the first time in Ghana’s history that there has been a deliberate, systematic and coherent national support for start-ups and small businesses.”