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Feature Article of Thursday, 21 February 2013

Columnist: Ackon, Paa Kow

The challenging task of President Mahama

In less than few hours, the President of Ghana, H.E. John Dramani Mahama will deliver his State of the Nation Address in Parliament House in fulfillment of Article 67 of the 1992 Republican Constitution which provides that, "The President shall, at the beginning of each session of Parliament and before a dissolution of Parliament, deliver to Parliament a message on the state of the nation."

Furthermore, Article 36(5) directs that: For the purposes of the foregoing clauses of this article, within two years after assuming office, the President shall present to Parliament a co-ordinated programme of economic and social development policies including agricultural and industrial programmes at all levels and in all the regions of Ghana. Many Ghanaians believe that the President will only be fulfilling a constitutional mandate but, critics and fans are waiting neurotically to see whether President Mahama will rise to the occasion and leave his footprints on the sands of time or he will perform below ordinary and beneath our expectations as he did before the dissolution of the last Parliament.

To a large extent, I agree without a flaw with Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, a former Chairman of the National Development Commission from 2001-2003 that, if all our Presidents account annually to Parliament and to the nation on how they are implementing the principles of state policy and also show how the co-ordinated programme promotes these principles, there will be less anxiety than exists presently over the need for a national development agenda that transcends political parties.

It is my avid sanguinity that the President will use the opportunity to explain to Ghanaians how he hopes to fully ensure the realization of Chapter six of the 1992 Constitution. In relation to the Constitution, Article 35(3) for instance, says inter alia that the state shall promote just and reasonable access to public facilities and services in accordance with law. We live in a country where there are few basic public facilities like toilets.

It is disgraceful that after 56 years of Independence, people still have to form long queues each morning and sometimes in the evening to have access to public toilets popularly known as KVIP or better still, Kumasi Ventilated Improved Pit, thereby putting severe pressure on these facilities. Not too long ago, it was reported that one person died whiles four others suffered various injuries when a ramshackle 28-seater public toilet caved in at Kasoa in the Central Region. Besides dealing with the provision of public facilities, what would the President do practically to ensure that 4,000 children do not die every year from diarrhea, which is caused by contaminated water and poor sanitation practices? Indeed, it is estimated that 80% of all diseases in Ghana are caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation whereas only around 13% of the population have access to adequate sanitation facilities. What will the Mahama-Amissah-Arthur administration do about this inexcusable situation? Are we just going to maintain the status quo and allow our people to suffer in perpetuity or some drastic measures will be instituted. As tax-payers, we are interested in knowing.

Surprisingly, clause 7 of Article 35 states that “As far as practicable, a government shall continue and execute projects and programmes commenced by the previous Governments”. To my incredulity, clause 8 of Article 35 also states that “The state shall take steps to eradicate corrupt practices and the abuse of power”. This to me is fundamental. I was absolutely broken down when the Daily Graphic of 19th March 2009 reported that, construction work on about five school projects in the Kwahu West Municipality of the Eastern Region were abandoned because a new administration was in place. The construction of classroom blocks at Amanfrom, Fodoa Methodist Mpraeso, Nkawkaw Brotherhood Primary and Danteng M.A Primary which were started under the previous administration were said to have been abandoned by the contractors soon after the new government took office in 2009.

There are several instances where successive governments of both the NDC and NPP have contravened this constitutional arrangement and have unashamedly abandoned projects that were initiated by preceding administrations. The effect in this case is that, it is the tax payer that suffers. If we all agree that Rome was not built in a day, why do we create an impression as if we can fulfill all our promises within four years when we know it is not possible. All successful economies have evolved over a period of time. We must move away from politics of the stomach and handiness to politics that benefits all Ghanaians. This is why continuity of projects initiated by an administration is indispensable. The main reason why most Asian countries such as Malaysia, Japan, Singapore and China are developed and have done so well economically is because they did not abandoned projects initiated by previous governments. It is dishonorable that we are envious of where they are today even though we all started with some of them from ground zero. It is not unanticipated that some people have even questioned the primary objective of government, if it is not the provision of social amenities aimed at improving the welfare of the ordinary people on whose mandate they were elected. Arguably, in the exercise of this mandate, our President is expected to prudently manage the resources of this country so that it benefits all Ghanaians.

Corruption and abuse of incumbency is a big issue in Ghana and at some point in our history we were guaranteed of zero tolerance for corruption but not too long, we were also reminded that corruption was as old as Adam. Whichever lens one may want to look at it from, as President, he has a duty to initiate zero tolerance for corruption, indiscipline, mediocrity, sketchy life of people who rely on the consolidated fund for their living and above all, for complacency. Several anti-corruption organizations like the Ghana Integrity Initiative have cited judgment debts, bloated contracts and unutilized funds as examples of corruption.

The hour has come for the President to explain to us how he intends to implement the proposal of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) for the decoupling of the Attorney-General’s Department and the Ministry of Justice to remove partisan politics from deciding whether to protect anyone for alleged offenses against the state and the people of Ghana or prosecute them fairly and squarely as by law established. Moreover, the President should consider amending the 1992 constitution to allow for the election of district assembly members and district, municipal and metropolitan chief executives to ensure local accountability and rapid development. This is a necessary prerequisite and government cannot convince any objective minded person that this cannot be implemented like ROPAL.

As employers of the President, we would expect him to tell us how he hopes to build a society of disciplined individuals with a passion for excellence. The President must demonstrate to us, how he aspires to achieve the goal of building a society that is capable of raising the average income of its citizens to a matter-of-fact middle-income levels and not a decorative middle-income with a specific timeframe. Moreover, what alternative approach is the President going to adopt for us to reach the destination of prosperity. The President can save all of us the agony of sleeping in darkness and avoiding interrupted power supply by paying Volta River Authority (VRA) GH¢1,086,423,500, for the bulk sales of electricity made to VALCO, Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA). I cannot believe that the government of Ghana owes VRA GH¢509million, yet monies were freely given to people during the electioneering period. He should explain to us when the Asogli plant which has the capacity to supply about 180 megawatts of power each day will have gas to generate power. What is really holding the President back from providing the needed funds of US$50million to VRA to enable them to import 400,000 barrels of crude oil every 20 days so that we can have stable power? In the same way, what has happened to Tema Oil Refinery that we are unable to refine crude in Ghana? When we discovered oil, so did we not know that we needed to upgrade our capacity and equipments so that we avoid incessantly becoming drawers of water and hewers of wood on the international market? Was the recent increase in fuel price necessary at all without a corresponding pay rise? If yes, when will workers be cushioned?

Considering the fact that Ghana is blessed with vast water resources like Pra, Ankobra, Sene, Bosomtwe, White and Black Volta, Pru, Bia, Tano, Oti, Densu, Ayensu etc, one wonders why Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) is not able to increase the current water supply from 35% to about 85% as required by the millennium development goals. Analysis from the GWCL, however, indicates that if the desired coverage levels are to be achieved over time, about US$100million per year has to be invested in sector infrastructure development. Government also needs to inject a capital of $717 million into water production to help increase current urban coverage to about 100% country-wide by 2025. We would be expecting President Mahama to tell us the policy interventions and programmes his administration has put in place to reduce the high unemployment rate, rising levels of public debt, high interest rates, infrastructural deficits, poor transport network, high public sector wage bills and volatile international commodity markets and its attendant effect on foreign exchange earnings. What specifically will he do, to guarantee a fair and realistic remuneration for production and productivity in order to encourage continued production and higher productivity; undertake even and balanced development of all regions and every part of each region of Ghana, and, in particular, improve the conditions of life in the rural areas, and generally, redressing any imbalance in development between the rural and the urban areas as required by Article 36 clauses 2(a) and 2(d) respectively. The President owe us a big explanation on why governments over the years have failed to implement Article 25 and 38 which deals with the provision of equal educational opportunities and facilities at all levels and in all the Regions of Ghana, and to the greatest extend feasible, make those facilities available to all citizens. I would expect President Mahama to give us concrete reasons to believe that at the end of his four (4) year mandate, he would have put into action the proviso of Chapter 6 of the 1992 Constitution. In moving forward, we need to get the right balance between what we have to do in the short-term and keeping our eyes on tomorrow by focusing on the long-term. We must balance the daily fire fighting and keep the balance between the urgent, and very often not important, and the important but usually not urgent. This is what we need to get right and be clear in our conscience. With the right kind of Leadership and right mental attitude of the people, Ghana will take its rightful place in the comity of nations and become Africa’s hope of a better future. Awake Ghana! Paa Kow Ackon Paaksteve@yahoo.co.uk

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