By Frank Amponsah
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, yesterday, told Ghanaians that his government has allocated a GH¢1 billion to address the urgent issues of security and sanitation in the country.
According to the President, the state of sanitation in the cities of the country is “wholly unacceptable”, and that there is the urgent need for public authorities to find means of making our cities clean, and, in the case of Accra, fulfilling his pledge to make it the cleanest city in Africa, by the end of his term.
The President made these observations when he delivered to the people of Ghana the State of the Nation’s Address in Parliament.
He said government was working with various private sector operators to tackle this major challenge, with strategies that are intended to effect a change in the attitudes of Ghanaians towards waste generation, as well as to improve dramatically the country’s methods of waste management.
This, the President stated, will be complemented by the strict enforcement of sanitation rules and regulations. Urgent attention will be given to clearing of rubbish all around the country.
Thus, apart from the systematic efforts being made to resolve the legacy of inherited debts in the sector, President Akufo-Addo indicated that Government has set aside a special, initial amount of GH¢200 million to address, this year, the vexed issue of sanitation.
President Akufo-Addo was confident that “by the time I come back next year, God willing, an appreciable improvement would have been made in the sanitation situation in the country.”
Police, Ghana Armed Forces
He revealed that the police service will receive GH¢800 million within the next six months to purchase modern equipment like motorbikes and ammunitions to help fight crime.
He noted that the Ghana Police Service will also purchase drones and helicopters, believing that acquiring these equipment will facilitate police visibility and mobility to ensure a safe environment.
This comes in the wake of on-going countrywide police recruitment, which is expected to rein in about 2,000 recruits.
On the Ghana Armed Forces, President Akufo-Addo said works on the Barracks Rehabilitation Project has started. It is however on record that the Ghana Armed Forces in the previous government started benefitting from a government-private partnership project to build new homes.
With Ghanaian citizens having a right to expect to go about their daily lives in an atmosphere of peace, President Akufo-Addo indicated that a Ghanaian has the right to expect that those who break the law must be subjected to the sanctions laid down under the law.
“The police, the prosecution services and the judiciary owe it to all of us to make us feel and be safe. I do not need to repeat that crime wears no political colours, and I am certain that message has gone down to all. Mr Speaker, the law enforcement agencies will crack down very hard on all those who would disturb the peace of our nation,” he said.
President continued that one thousand (1,000) vehicles, motorbikes, and ammunition are being provided to the police adding that the equipment is to facilitate visibility, mobility and improved responsiveness of the police to ensure a safe, secure and peaceful economic and social environment for Ghanaians to work and thrive.
He continued, “Already, the successful renegotiation of existing contracts has enabled us purchase, forthwith, 100 vehicles for the Police.”
In the medium to long-term, the President told Parliament that “we will purchase drones and helicopters to assist the police combat violent and environmental crime. The crime laboratories will be modernised, and properly equipped to provide the necessary support. The police intelligence unit will also be strengthened. The perennial problems associated with police accommodation will be tackled, and a compensation package introduced to cover officers in their line of duty.”
Whilst acknowledging that the entire nation is extremely anxious and perturbed by the activities of the migrant, nomadic herdsmen, President Akufo-Addo revealed that his government is rehabilitating the kraals or ranches that were abandoned after the Kufuor-led NPP government left office in 2009.
“They will become operational shortly to provide secure, grazing places for cattle. At the same time, efforts are also being intensified to find an ECOWAS-wide solution to an issue, which goes beyond the boundaries of our country, and is affecting the entire West African region,” he said.
The President assured that “we shall not allow miscreants of any sort to terrorize our population; and I promise that there will be no hiding place for criminals. I am certain that the interventions we are introducing will boost morale in the service, and I urge the House and all citizens to support the police to deliver the service we deserve.”
The President pointed out that his administration has been able to prove skeptics wrong following the rebound of the economy as a result of pragmatic policies and programs his government put in place and continue to pursue.
He indicated that the NPP government inherited an economy that was dying; “Mr. Speaker, we inherited an economy that was in distress; chocked by debt and with macroeconomic fundamentals in disarray. You will recall that I said we would have to implement some tough, prudent and innovative policies to get us out of the financial difficulties we are in. I made some brave predictions – I said we will reduce significantly the budget deficit and I said at the same time that we will grow our economy.”
According to him in spite of the ‘stinky’ nature of economy they inherited from the NDC government, the Vice President and his Economic Management Team have risen to the challenge “and the hard work is beginning to show positive results.”
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo revealed that the country’s economy is beginning to show positive results as a results of the hard work by his government, stressing that all indications points to the positive strides which reveals that “the Black Star is shining again, and the world is taking notice of Ghana’s economic strides”.
He mentioned that government has reduced taxes, bringing down inflation and interest rates, economic growth is increasing, from the alarming 3.6% at December 2016, to 7.9% in our first year, and the indications are that it will be even better this year
“The indicators are that it will even be better this year (2018)”, he maintained, and added that his administration has been able to increase the country’s international reserves, maintained relative exchange rate stability, and reduced the debt to GDP ratio and rate of debt accumulation.
In addition to that, his administration has been able to pay “almost half of the arrears inherited and crucially, we are current on our obligation to statutory funds”.
The IMF supported extended credit facility program began in 2015, he noted, will come to end, stressing that due to pragmatic policies they are determined to put in place, there will be no need to turn to the global financial body for assistance again.
He said “The relatively good macroeconomic performance in 2017 will strongly support our successful completion of the IMF program. We are determined to put in place measures to ensure a sustained macroeconomic stability so that we have no reason to seek again the assistance of the powerful global body”.
President Akufo-Addo added that with the optimistic economy, they have been able to tame their “skeptics and professional naysayers”.
He said: “We have, nevertheless, been able to meet my promise made last year to the House, and reduced the fiscal deficit from 9.3 percent to an estimated 5.6 percent of GDP. The annual average rate of debt accumulation, which, in recent years, has been as high as 36 percent has declined to 13.6 percent, as at September 2017. As a result, the public debt stock as a ratio of GDP is 68.3 percent, against the annual target of 71 percent for 2017, and end 2016 actual figure of 73.1 percent.”
“As a result of appropriate policy, and the normalization of the power situation in the country, they have also engineered a spectacular revival of Ghanaian industry, from a growth rate of -0.5 percent in 2016 to 17.7 percent in 2017,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo stressed that his administration was determined to maintain the economic milestones chalked and would measures that would ensure that the country stays on that path without development assistance.
He said the relatively good macroeconomic performance in 2017 will strongly support our successful completion of the IMF programme, expressing satisfaction that the 3-year IMF-supported Extended Credit Facility Programme, begun in 2015, comes to an end this year.
“We are determined to put in place measures to ensure irreversibility, and sustain macroeconomic stability, so that we will have no reason to seek again the assistance of that powerful global body,” the President said.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo also said his government has begun the difficult process of making housing affordable for Ghanaians, averring that the concept of affordable housing was introduced in 2005 by the then New Patriotic Party (NPP) government led by President John Agyekum Kufuor which was part of interventions for the housing sector aimed at providing accommodation for low- to middle-income earners who were mostly government employees.
Meanwhile, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) also came into power to continue with its own version of affordable housing but the scheme has failed over the years to target the appropriate segments of the markets and the housing deficit in the country, according to statistics, continues to increase; currently estimated at over 1.7 million housing units.
But to make housing affordable, Nana Akufo-Addo said: “Government, last year, abolished the 5 per cent VAT/NHIL on real estate sales, and continues to create conducive environment that is reducing interest rates on mortgage loans.”
Nana Akufo-Addo also said that discussions are also ongoing between the Pensions Regulatory Authority and the banks to underwrite an effective mortgage system so as to facilitate access to housing for the ordinary Ghanaian, and assured that government will continue to create the enabling environment that will promote private sector investment in cheaper housing for the people.
The President reiterated his commitment to uphold the principles of Freedom and Justice, Probity and Accountability.
According to him, he has made it publicly known that anyone, who has information about acts of corruption by any of my appointees, should bring it forward, and should be prepared to back it up with evidence, for I will have it investigated.
He said “So far, every single alleged act of corruption levelled against any of my appointees has been investigated by independent bodies, and, in some cases, by Parliament itself, and the findings made public.
It is important to note that, in my first year of office, despite having a clear parliamentary majority, two separate bi-partisan probes in Parliament have been established to inquire into allegations of corruption, as against zero in recent years, notwithstanding the persistent calls by the then Minority over several allegations.”
Labour, Job Creation:
Addressing this issue, the President averred that government has been able to transfer some GH¢3.1 billion of Tier 2 pension funds into the custodial accounts of the pension schemes of the labour unions, funds that have been outstanding for six years, and about which the labour unions had been loudly complaining.
He explained that there were engagements with organised labour, to ensure that the National Daily Minimum Wage was determined and approved before the laying of the 2018 budget.
“Happily, Mr. Speaker, there were no strike actions last year. We will continue the constructive dialogue with organised labour to find mutually satisfactory solutions to their concerns, in order to guarantee industrial peace.”
He said government is creating the atmosphere needed for the creation of jobs, easily the most urgent problem that faces the government and the nation, explaining that the subject of job creation has to be at the top of his agenda.
He stressed that government will equip the youth with the skills that will enable them to be productive as ggovernment has already established the Nation Builders Corps to employ 100,000 young persons, in 2018 alone, to assist in public sector service delivery in health, education, agriculture, sanitation and the revenue collection department of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
Nana Akufo-Addo also revealed that government has to build the roads to open up and link up the various parts of the country, expressing surprise that the Eastern Corridor roads is nowhere near completion, even after seven years of work.
“And, yet, this is a strategic road that would provide a much shorter and cheaper link between the southern and northern parts of our country, and a suitable, alternative route for our land-locked neighbours.”
He pointed out that the network of roads has suffered from deliberate, unproductive propaganda and that there is a crying need for work to be done on all roads.
He said “The Western Corridor, the Central Corridor, trunk roads, feeder roads, town roads, around the country, all require urgent attention. We are determined to bring our road network to a befitting status, and this year we shall witness much more activity on the roads.”
The President, Nana Akufo-Addo also touched on gender, tourism, agriculture and foreign policy among other areas and indicated that “Our nation is on the right path. We will build a Ghana beyond Aid.”
He said government has taken the clear and unambiguous mandate given to it by the people of Ghana as a spur to take some long promised actions to be able to open up the country and transform the economy, promising that this year his government is determined to take the decisions that would change the destiny of the country.