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Feature Article of Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Columnist: Appiah-Kubi, Kojo

The Misleading President’s State of the Nation Address

KOJO APPIAH-KUBI, PHD kojoappiah@yahoo.co.uk

On 16th February 2012 President Mills addressed the nation for the third time on the state of the nation in fulfilment of article 67 of the 1992 constitution of Ghana. Analysts attest that the delivery of the president showed a marked improvement from the past two addresses, since that of 2012 was devoid of the usual numerous mispronunciations of terms. Apart from that many analysts consider the address to be in synch with the usual propaganda that the NDC party and government are noted for. Indeed by all indications the address was really misleading and, therefore, did not fully meet the requirement of article 67 of the constitution.

Right from the beginning the president applauded himself that “under my watch, Ghana has recorded the highest ever growth rate in the annals of our nation’s history with a provisional growth rate approaching 14%”. That assertion is totally misleading because it is factually not correct and the president knows that. In 1973 under Acheampong’s regime the country achieved a real GDP growth rate of 15.3%, which was a non-oil driven but far higher than the oil driven growth rate of 14% achieved by President Mills. (Ernest Aryeetey and Augustin K. Fosu, Economic Growth in Ghana: 1960-2000, Cambridge, March 2005.) Even with this growth rate the president does not pass the test he set for himself and his government for 2011. The disaggregated picture of the growth rate reveals that the realised non-oil growth rate was below 7% and less than the 8.5% annual average growth rate the President set for himself in his own Coordinated Programme for Economic and Social Development Policies, 2010 – 2016, and also in the medium term policy framework: The Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda 2010-2013. The achieved provisional real non-oil GDP growth rate of about 7% even falls short of the budget target of 7.6% for 2012. Indeed the President misled the country for failing to give us the real state of the nation’s economic growth. That the non-oil real GDP growth rate he inherited from the previous Kuffour regime was 8.4% in 2008 and that he was able to do only about 7% in 2011. Not only that but also of possible concern to any Ghanaian, and that should engage the serious attention of the President, is that the year 2011 even realised a decline in non-oil GDP growth rate from 7.7% in 2010 to about 7% in 2011. Is it a symptom of the dreaded Dutch disease, given the poor performance of the various vital sectors of the economy? That notwithstanding the President talked very well as having “... made progress on the agricultural front”, which dominates the Ghanaian economy. This is, however, a sector whose state cannot be said to be good at all because its growth rate has declined successively, under the Mills government, from 7.4% in 2008 to 2.8% in 2011, with the food, fishing, and forestry and logging sub-sectors performing worst.

The President also characterises inflation as the worst economic nightmare. This is the priority setting of Prof. Mills government for you. What is worst a nightmare than joblessness, poverty, deprivation and destitution, which seem to have deteriorated under this regime? Not knowing how to get food for oneself and the family to eat because of no money in the pocket. According to an ILO Report, the youth unemployment rate has peaked 48% and still rising? A recent Gallup survey on Ghana even polled that about 12.7million (53%) of the Ghanaians cannot afford the cost of food and that the proportion of the population who cannot cope at all with the suffering has increased drastically by from 11% in 2007 to 34%? Indeed one is right in asking whether the President was not misleading Ghana when he failed knowingly to tell Ghanaians that poverty levels and that the proportion of people below the poverty line, according to the estimation of his own government, has increased by more than 500,000?

The President also misled Ghanaians because his assertion that his achieved “...rate of inflation of 8.55% for 2011 being the lowest in 42 years since 1970” is factually incorrect. Single digit inflation rates have severally been achieved in Ghana before since 1970. For instance, the inflation CPI was 3.5% in 1970, 5.1% in 1971 and 1.6% in 1973. But why the incredibly great emphasis on inflation, when unemployment, poverty and manufacturing growth indicators are deteriorating and non-oil sector growth is stunted far below 10%, when other are making it big even in Sub-Sahara Africa.

Once again the President’s assertion that “as at the end of September, the budget deficit was 2% of GDP as compared to 14.5% of GDP in 2008” is totally misleading if not propaganda. Because whilst the President uses the higher rebased GDP for the calculation of his own budget deficit to make his record look very good, he, however, uses the old lower GDP series to make the record of the previous administration look very bad. He then compares the two records, even though the professor knows very well that, that is unscientific and not done, since it would be like comparing apples to oranges. This is indeed really misleading, particularly, when his minister for finance reported, on his behalf, to parliament and Ghanaians in November 2011 on page 4 of the 2012 budget statement that “at the end of 2008, the fiscal deficit on cash basis was 8.5 per cent of GDP”. Moreover, what is more misleading with that comparison by the learned professor is that the President chose to compare his 9 month provisional deficit with the 12 month provisional budget deficit outturn of the previous regime in order to look good, while concealing the fact that a large chunk of government expenditure always takes place in the last quarter of the year. Indeed a fair comparison would have been for the President to set his own available projected 12 month deficit outturn of 4.8% of GDP in 2011 against the correct provisional 12 month deficit outturn of 8.5% in 2008 of his predecessor. Or was the President trying to be mischievous?

The President also tells Ghanaians that Ghana’s 14th FIFA world ranking and 1st in Africa in the course of last year, “… has so far been Ghana’s best ranking in world football”. That is also factually incorrect. Ghana has been equally best rated by FIFA and 1st in Africa before and truly just after the CAN 2008. The President also stresses that “contracts for the construction of over 1,700 classroom blocks for schools under trees have been awarded throughout the country”. This is, particularly, misleading, especially, when the President himself knows very well the large difference between contract awards and project completion. For instance, as at the end of 2010 only 175 schools were reported by the Minister for Finance in his 2011 budget statement to have been completed, out of about 1,226 school projects under construction. Mr. President, Ghanaians want to know: what was the total number of schools completed in 2011? Furthermore, according to 2012 budget statement reported in November 2011, 1,226 school projects were under construction for the elimination of schools under trees. By the end of January 2012 the number had shot up by more than 474 projects to over 1,700 in less than 4 months. That is incredible given the paucity of resources available to complete these projects.

The President also talks about having “...distributed over 3 million school uniforms to needy pupils nationwide” and “this means that with a basic school population of about 5.2 million, we have supplied school uniforms to three out of every five children in basic school”. This is serious and a misleading statement to have come from the President, if not mischievous. Is the President telling Ghanaians that 60% of all children in basic schools are needy and must be assisted with school uniforms? This assertion cannot be supported by the evidence on the ground, poverty incidence levels are about 26%. It is also misleading because the President had earlier told Ghanaians, as reported on his behalf by the finance and economic planning minister on page 141 of the 2012 budget statement, that the population of 5.2 million children in basic schools comprise children in both private and public schools. So when and where did the government supply school uniforms to children in private schools? Moreover, fact is that the government does not supply uniforms to children in the schools owned by the missions. So how did the President come by that estimate of having “...supplied school uniforms to three out of every five children in basic school”. Social analysts even dispute the figure of over 3 million school uniforms and believe the government may be doing double counting of both top and down school dresses as two instead of as one set of uniform.

In fact the blunders of the President in the 2012 State of the Nation Address were too many and very disgraceful because they were avoidable. This article just mentions a few of them contained in the address. My advice to the President is that: He should get his staff to do better research to save him from further embarrassment and stop telling Ghanaians it is a cow, when they are indeed looking at a goat. The reality is that Ghanaians are crying for jobs, businesses are complaining of rising production costs and declining sales and are therefore closing down. Life is becoming unbearable for many Ghanaians. Hopelessness has gripped young graduates and corruption is on the rise and has assumed a gargantuan size. These are the challenges facing Ghanaians, which should engage the attention of the President and which the people of Ghana need to know how far the President is meeting them. Recognising the true unpleasant state of affairs and not the painted facade makes Presidents honest and great leaders because that allows them to develop credible effective measures and mobilise their people towards achieving their set vision.

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