The Presidential Address
THE LAST ADDRESS DELIVERED BY H. E. J. A. KUFUOR, BEFORE THE DISSOLUTION OF THE THIRD PARLIAMENT OF THE 4TH REPUBLIC, ON JANUARY 4TH 2005.
National Reconciliation Commission.
The Commission’s hearings were also to generate a record of the activities of the dark days and draw a line signifying the end of those unhappy periods.
I would like to thank members of the Commission for the meticulous work they have done and all the people of Ghana for the support they gave the Commission. Government is studying the Report and will endeavour to implement the recommendations. But the biggest lesson we must learn as a people is proper respect for the rule of law, and a national resolution that never again will violence be employed to solve problems. My prayer is that having gone through the catharsis of the Reconciliation Commission we the people would be reconciled and move on together to tackle the problems that face us as a nation.
Mr. Speaker, let me now turn the attention of the House to the economy which posed the greatest challenge to the people of this country when government assumed office in 2001. The nation was in the grip of an unstable macro-economy, high inflation of over 40% and lending interest rates which hovered around 50%. The rest of our inheritance was a weak and free-falling currency, huge external and domestic debts, and only six days crude oil reserves to fuel the economy.
Benefits from the HIPC initiative are also abundantly manifest. On our reaching the completion point in record time six months ago, Ghana became the immediate beneficiary of the cancellation of US$2 billion of our external debts, with a further US$2 billion to be cancelled over the next twenty years at the rate of US$100 million a year. Funds from HIPC savings are being invested in poverty reduction programmes all over the country. And here, I bet Mr Speaker, that each honourable member of this House has a HIPCfunded project in his or her constituency.
During the past four years, the nation’s image has steadily improved before our development partners, the international financial authorities and investors. Standard and Poors, a renowned international credit rating company, has given Ghana a B+ credit rating, and has put the nation’s credit rating at par with Brazil and higher than Turkey and Indonesia. Mr Speaker, this is no mean achievement.
MILLENIUM CHALLENGE ACCOUNT
Another example of the country’s improving stature is that, Ghana was among the first group of countries adjudged to have qualified to access the first tranche of the US Millennium Challenge Account of US$ 1 billion. Just last week, I received a letter from the managing director of the fund’s company in Washington informing me that Ghana has again qualified for the second tranche to be disbursed this year. This is very significant because each year, a country must meet all the given criteria to qualify to share in the fund.
Mr. Speaker, perhaps the most gratifying endorsement of government’s policies and programmes, is that from our own Ghanaian kith and kin living abroad. From initial remittances of about US$400 million in 2001, last year they remitted over US$2 billion. Much of this money is servicing the private sector, which is attracting new companies into our economy. Among them we count world leaders like Anglogold-Ashanti and Newmont Mining Company. Nestlè Ghana and Coca Cola, which have been in the country for many years are expanding their factories. Other businesses are picking up very briskly leading to more employment opportunities for our people. The Ghana Stock Exchange is doing better and is rated among the top few in the whole of Africa. The listing of Anglogold- Ashanti has raised the Exchange’s operation to a new pedestal with greater international acknowledgement. Government is encouraging other companies to list on the Exchange by a combination of programmes and policies. Government will continue to support the Exchange as a major source of funding for the Private Sector. At this stage Mr Speaker, it is proper to review the government’s five priority areas which, combined with the sound macro-economic management, have yielded the successes that we are celebrating today.
Mr. Speaker, the first of these priorities is Vigorous Infrastructural Development which has translated into building of roads, ICT development, improved provision of energy, ports, harbours, rail and mass transportation. With respect to our roads, the days when some parts of the country remained inaccessible are fast becoming a thing of the past. Steadily, commercial and social interactions within the country are being enhanced because of the massive road developments which are taking place. Government earmarked twenty-seven major trunk roads for construction. Four of them are fully completed and the remaining are at various stages of completion. Work on the three main arterial roads ---- Accra-Aflao, Accra-Yamoransa, and Accra-Kumasi --- is very far advanced. During this administration, every year, about 3,350km of feeder roads have been constructed or improved in the rural areas. In addition, over ¢333.6 billion has been spent on routine maintenance activity during the past four years. Six bridges have been fully completed and work on the Tetteh Quarshie interchange is nearing completion. The rural aspect of this policy is having far-reaching positive impact on agricultural produce throughout the country.
PORTS AND RAILWAYS
Vigorous activity is taking place in the Ports and Railway Sector and Ghana is becoming the preferred entreport for our immediate landlocked neighbours, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali. Rehabilitation work has included the dredging of quay 2 at Tema Port to accommodate very big container vessels. In the meantime, major repair works are on-going at the Takoradi Harbour. A 400---acre piece of land has also been acquired for the Boankra Inland Port which is to help decongest the Tema and Takoradi Ports, and facilitate the handling of the rapidly increasing volumes of trade with the land-locked countries. Within the past four years, these volumes have jumped from 68,000 tons to a current level of over 800,000 tons.
In the railway sector, the long-overdue resuscitation has begun. While government is studying various proposals for the sector’s total rehabilitation, a US$5 million loan has been secured for the rehabilitation of the 30km Accra – Tema rail line. Indeed, work on it has already begun.
I must report that the broken-down mass transportation system which this government inherited has now been revived and is growing steadily. Currently, it boasts a fleet of over 500 buses, and is operational in all the metropolitan areas as well as the Cape Coast and Sunyani municipalities. On average, 4 million people patronise the services of these buses monthly.
COMMUNICATION – ICT
Government, Mr Speaker, has adopted the “Ghana ICT for Accelerated Development Policy” and is vigorously implementing it.
The rural electrification programme is on-going and during the past four years, more than 1,400 communities have been connected to the national electricity grid. So far Ghana has been at the mercy of the volatile international oil market. But there is cause for hope. The West Africa Gas Pipeline Project has taken off. Ghana has paid fully for its 16% equity holding. All things being equal, it is expected that within two years the project will be fully operational. The gas will help stabilise the cost of energy for industrial and domestic uses. Mr. Speaker, this is yet another major breakthrough for our economy.
RECORD YIELDS OF COCOA
Mr. Speaker, sometimes, one is privileged to become part of a historic event. Therefore I wish to place on record that, since the great Tetteh Quarshie introduced cocoa to Ghana more than a century ago, the highest annual production ever, of over 700,000 tonnes of the crop, has been recorded under this government’s administration. This record-setting yield is the result of the mass spraying and high-tech programme. Coupled with the upturn in the prices on the international commodity market, this historic yield earned the country over US$1.1 billion last year, the highest amount recorded so far in our history. I doff my hat to our illustrious farmers, researchers, extension officers, and all those who have contributed to achieving this noble feat.
Mr. Speaker, the third priority is Enhanced Social Services, highlighting Education and Health-care delivery. Education has been at the heart of all that government has been pursuing these past four years. It is the quality of the human capital that will determine the success or failure of all our endeavours and that is why government has placed such priority on education. Government inherited an education sector in deep crisis; broken down infrastructure, a despondent and unmotivated staff and a loss of confidence among the people about the quality of the education being offered in the nation’s schools and colleges. A high-powered committee chaired by Professor Jophus Anamuah Mensah worked very hard to produce a comprehensive report on the state of education in the country. The Government White Paper has now been published indicating the way forward. In the meantime, a lot of resources and attention are being pumped into the sector. The GET Fund and HIPC resources are being used judiciously to upgrade all educational institutions.
BASIC AND SECOND CYCLE INSTITUTIONS
During the past four years, more than 3,000 three-unit classroom blocks have been built throughout the country. These classroom units are also fully furnished with offices for teachers, libraries and places of convenience.
Vigorous infrastructural work is progressing in all the public universities to ease overcrowding and expand access. Lecture halls, libraries, laboratories and offices are being built and rehabilitated, and residential accommodation for staff and students are being constructed. The three older universities are benefiting from a special presidential intervention of ¢20 billion each from the HIPC funds to build lecture halls, student hostels and staff accommodation.
NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE SCHEME
Mr. Speaker, one of the most promising developments during the past four years is the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). Clearly, this is the most humane way of providing quality health-care delivery to all members of the society. Currently, 123 district Schemes are in place and in 15 of them the Scheme is fully operational. Another 34 will reach the fully-operational stage within the next four weeks. I congratulate all those who are administering the Scheme and urge them to keep explaining its operations to clients. This is the only way to build and sustain confidence in the scheme within the society. On its part Government is upgrading health-delivery institutions with infrastructure and incentives to support the scheme.
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN HEALTH
Further, the Ghana Post-graduate College of Physicians and Surgeons has been established to provide specialist training for doctors here in Ghana. Hopefully, this measure should attenuate the heavy brain drain in the sector.
Mr. Speaker, our society is under grave assault from the HIV/AIDS pandemic which rages on. The Ghana Aids Commission has therefore intensified its country-wide public education on the disease and has also commenced the sale of anti-retroviral drugs at substantially subsidised prices. Initially sales are being done only through the major government hospitals but in due course, the policy will be extended to other hospitals and clinics under the supervision of the Commission.
Yet another improvement in the health sector is the introduction of a professional ambulance system. Currently the pilot areas are Accra and Kumasi but the policy again is to extend the service to all the regions in due course.
WOMEN AND CHILDREN
Women and children have been traditionally handicapped over the years. There have been agencies and organisations which have championed their causes over the years. The new Ministry of Women’s and Children’s Affairs institutionalises these efforts in a systematised, sustained and more effective manner right at the centre of government. Government is pursuing with greater vigour, interventions for empowering them with technical and financial support to play a more active role in the nation’s wealth creation programmes as well as in education and other social and political fields.
CIVIL SOCIETY PARTICIPATION
Mr. Speaker, one of the key indicators that Good Governance is being practised is the awakening and participation of key stakeholders like civil society organisations, especially the media, in national governance. Evidence is everywhere that in Ghana today individuals, institutions and organisations are all being alert to the performance of government. In fact, ownership of the polity is being exercised by all the stakeholders as has been displayed by “the power of the thumb, krokromoti power” during the recent election and also by the freely-expressed opinions heard on the myriads of FM stations all over the country daily. This is a good development except that the exercise of these rights must be balanced with a heightened sense of responsibility for the nation’s welfare.
THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
Mr. Speaker, the last time I addressed this House, the honourable minority leader found cause to complain that for once, I did not talk about the fight against corruption. It might surprise him, but I took his comment as complimentary, and as an indicator that this Administration’s commitment to the fight against corruption had become established. On this occasion, I will like to assure this August House that, this commitment has been in place throughout the past four years, and remains. I hope most people appreciate that the heaviest corruption takes place through procurement and the falsification of financial documents in the public sector. So to effectively tackle corruption, the society must be equipped not only at the personal level but also, at the institutional level. This is why to tackle the problem in the Public Sector, government has championed the passage of the Public Procurement Act, and the Internal Audit Agency Act, and has also set up the Financial Administration and the Internal Revenue Agencies Boards. These institutional weapons combine to make the assault on corruption formidable.
POLICE AND ARMED FORCES
Mr. Speaker, a key requirement in ensuring the rule of law is the quality and strength of personnel of the law enforcement services and security agencies. Government’s policy is to develop a service and force of confident, competent and public-friendly personnel. To this end, government is increasing the staff of the police service. Since 2001, 4,000 additional police personnel have been recruited. Government is focusing on training, provision of modern equipment and improved welfare conditions to motivate both the services and forces personnel. The happy development is that firstly our military and police are co-operating very well in the maintenance of peace and security in the society. Secondly, both the military and the police are becoming socially conscious of their proper roles within the community. Lastly, the military’s professional competence and esprit de corp continue to earn both local and international admiration and respect.
PEER REVIEW MECHANISM
Mr. Speaker, it is evident that much of the instability in the sub-region is attributable to the failure in systems of governance to cater for the rights of minorities and other groups within society. Ghana has been on the frontline to support the African Peer Review Mechanism which is being advocated among member states of the African Union as a way of solving the problem, and has opted to be the first country to subject itself to the Review Mechanism. This is a mechanism designed to help participating countries assess the performance of their governance institutions and work toward well-established bench marks of Good Governance. Some of these bench marks are democratic elections, the devolution of power through decentralisation, the rule of law and the general respect for human rights especially of religions, minority groups and the media. The ultimate aim of all this Mr. Speaker, is to generate a feeling of shared ownership among all stakeholders in the nation’s governance and indeed its destiny.
MINISTRY FOR PRIVATE SECTOR DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Speaker, another major development within the past four years is the rehabilitation of the Private Sector. To emphasise the importance of the Sector, government has established the Ministry for Private Sector Development. The Ministry is to facilitate the co-operation between the Public and Private Sectors in the performance of their respective functions for the development of the economy.
Mr. Speaker, our foreign policy has been based on good neighbourliness in respect of the ECOWAS sub-region and the continent of Africa. With the rest of the world, government has pursued strategic geopolitics to the mutual benefit of Ghana and its partners. Our nation has supported initiatives for global peace and has continued to deploy troops on peace-keeping missions. Ghana has been well-acknowledged on the international scene by the UN, the Commonwealth, the G8, and other international organisations. A happy report is that Australia, which closed its Mission in Ghana about three decades ago, has re-opened it. I have also had the honour of chairing ECOWAS for two successive terms. I am very grateful to our neighbours and the international community, especially our development partners for their support and goodwill.
COMMENDATION TO PARLIAMENT
In sum, Mr. Speaker, the term that is ending within the next three days has been successful, and I must acknowledge the contributions of all stakeholders; government, parliament and the entire citizenry of Ghana.
THE TSUNAMI TRAGEDY
Mr. Speaker, every once in a while, often when we humans seem particularly preoccupied with our individual or national problems and successes, Nature reminds us of our limitations and of our common humanity. I refer, Mr. Speaker, to the recent earthquake in the Indian Ocean, and its consequent tragedy of almost apocalyptic proportions that affected not only southern Asia, but also, parts of East Africa. It is impossible to comprehend the enormity of what has occurred, or for our puny human minds to take on board the numbers of people that have been afflicted. This tragedy has also brought home forcibly to all of us that indeed, the world is a global village and that what happens in one place affects others that might be geographically far away. It should teach us to be more careful about the environment and to be more caring about one another, no matter who we are, whether we are Sri Lankans, Nigerians, Ghanaians, Americans or Swedes. Or to come closer to home, it should not matter whether we are Akans, Ewes, Gas or Dagombas; and on the religious front muslim or Christian. We must all feel humble and acknowledge the transient and feeble nature of human power and existence.
Inaugural speech by President John Agyekum Kufuor, Fourth President of the Republic of Ghana at Independence Square Accra January 7th 2001
Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker of Parliament, My Lord Chief Justice, Your Excellencies brother Presidents and Vice President, Nananom, Your Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished guests, fellow citizens and friends,
One hour ago, I took a solemn oath before Parliament to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of Ghana. I swore that I now dedicate myself to the services and well-being of the people of Ghana and to do right to all.
Please join me in giving thanks to the Almighty for bringing us to this new beginning for our country. We demonstrate today our maturity and our cohesion as a nation by the smooth transfer of power from a democratically elected government to another.
This is the first time this has happened in our 43 years of existence. It is an achievement of which we can all be justifiably proud, and which we can happily celebrate. But we cannot rest there. What we can, and must do is to try and utilize the advantages that come from this historic achievement. The spontaneous joy and feeling of goodwill that is in the country since 28th December 2000 should not be allowed to disappear without translating it to tangible improvements in the lives of the mass of our people.
We have work to do and that starts today. Our greatest enemy is poverty. And the battle against poverty starts with reconciling our people and forging ahead in unity. We have gone through turbulent times and we should not in any way down play or brush aside the wrongs that have been suffered. I do not ask that we forget, indeed we dare not forget, but I do plead that we try to forgive.
That way, we can concentrate our energies on the big battle of bringing prosperity to our nation. It is not beyond our capabilities. We have all the ingredients here, a fertile and beautiful land endowed with goodness and richness and blessed with a dynamic and entrepreneurial people. As we strive to realise our potential, I must acknowledge the help and encouragement that our foreign friends have extended to us. I acknowledge their role in the electoral process and the deepening of our democracy. I am grateful for the many messages of congratulations and the universal praise that we have received for the conduct of the elections and the transition.
Having helped us so far to get where we are, our international friends should keep faith with us. They must remember that we face grave challenges with our economy, challenges that are likely to put severe strains on our people's belief and enthusiasm for the democratic process and its slow and painstaking methods. We have been down this road before, in the second and third republics, when adventurers were able to exploit temporary difficulties by promising instant solutions and overthrowing constitutionally elected governments.
We need the continued support and help of our foreign friends and I urge them to consider seriously the appeals that are being made for the relief of debts. This will enable us build our economy. We are currently spending a fourth of all our revenue annually on simply servicing our debts. Such a burden is not sustainable and is likely to dampen the enthusiasm of our people when they do not see any democratic dividends.
It is imperative that our people see concrete evidence that democracy is more than just sweet words. They should see that there is a difference in their lives, they need to be freed from poverty, hunger and disease and this should be done in conditions of freedom.
We on our part in the new administration, accept that we need to sacrifice and work hard. We pledge to cut waste and corruption from public life. There will be, under this administration, ZERO TOLERANCE of corruption and I make a solemn pledge to you my compatriots, and fellow citizens that I shall set a personal example.
HELPWe shall also cut our coat according to our size of our cloth and utilize whatever help we get in the most appropriate manner.
Ours is not a poor country and even though we are now a poor people, there should be no room for the despondency that has settled on large sections of the population.
In this regard, I want to make a special appeal to our young people. We need your energy, we need your dynamism, we need your creativity and above all, we need your dreams to rebuild Mother Ghana.
This, is where it is happening, this is where you should be and this is where you should be helping to translate your dreams into reality.
I must at this stage, pay tribute to the many members and supporters of my party, the New Patriotic Party, who have worked so hard to bring about this victory. Many of you have toiled for long years without any thought of reward, spurred on only by our common belief in democratic freedoms and the certainty in our ultimate victory. To you I say, "Ayekoo", and remember the more difficult fight for the betterment of our people has only now begun.
I must also acknowledge the contributions made by our compatriots who live outside the country. Currently you contribute a third of the capital inflow into the country. Many of you do more than just send money home, many of you have kept up keen interest in the affairs at home, and some of you have even been part of the struggle of the past twenty years.
I salute your efforts and your hard work and I extend a warm invitation to you to come home and let us rebuild our country.
Never again should Ghanaians have to resort to dubious means to get to or live in foreign lands simply to make a living. And certainly never again should Ghanaians have to seek political asylum anywhere in the world.
To those of our compatriots who have made homes beyond our shores, I make a special plea for your help; we need your newly acquired skills and contacts, we need your perspective and we need your capital.
To those who left and have stayed out only because of the military revolution or political differences, I say come back, come back home where you belong and let us join in building a new Ghana.
ROLESI pledge that it will not be a case of one set of Ghanaians coming back from exile to be replaced by another set of Ghanaians going into exile. Multi party democracy is here to stay in our country, and there is room for differences of opinion, our political opponents have their honoured roles to play and I urge all of us to extend the same tolerance to each other that we want for ourselves.
During the campaign, the amount of enthusiastic support that came from our women for the cause of change was remarkable. I believe this is because our women are at the sharp edge of the economic realities in the country. You go to the market, you have to make sure there is food on the table and children are fed and dressed well. I believe that is why you have been in the forefront of this democratic revolution.
I salute you, the women of Ghana; I salute your hard work and your dedication. You deserve to be treated with respect, and the burden you carry on all our behalf must be lightened. I salute you for the uncomplaining way you look after all of us. What reputation we have as Ghanaians comes from the love and attention given us by our mothers, sisters and wives and you must be safe on our streets.
I therefore condemn in the strongest possible terms the murders of women that have plagued us and have thus far not been solved. I shall do my best to ensure that the police give the highest priority to solving the murders and bringing the perpetrators to book. Nothing should stand in the way, and I promise that my administration will give all the help needed to enable the police get to the bottom of these gruesome murders. With God's help and guidance, we shall soon see the end of this most unpleasant chapter in our history.
And to make sure that you take your rightful place by your men- folk, my government will establish a Ministry of Women Affairs, of Cabinet rank to ensure all policy is pervaded with due consideration for your interest.
The potentials of our nation have always been known, and I take the fresh mandate given us so enthusiastically, as a mandate to renew our pride and self-esteem in ourselves.
As we continue to take pride in the historic struggle for democratic freedom in our country, it is appropriate that we also salute with pride those who led the struggle for a return to constitutional rule in the past 20 years.
Our pride will be even more justified when we have put our economy on a sound footing. My government will do its part in creating the right atmosphere of safety and security and assurance that there will be rule of law. Every citizen will have protection under the law and nobody will be victimized because of tribe, religion or political affiliations.
When disputes arise, as they will, because we are human beings, we expect the judiciary to resolve them by the rule of law and with fairness. We urge them to renew and restore the faith of our people in the administration of justice so that it will be manifest that our country is a safe place to invest in.
Whilst we set about creating the enabling atmosphere, we shall give all the help and encouragement we can to our entrepreneurs so that business flourishes. We have pledged to create wealth and we know that the main agency for the creation of wealth in all its manifestations in the private sector.
ECONOMYMy government will therefore support every feasible venture. We will encourage, in particular, small and medium scale ventures in all sectors of the economy. We believe an added gain will be the strengthening of democracy through the many individuals who will be empowered through this wealth creation. The message to the business community both here and abroad therefore is, "Ghana is open for business" come in and let's do business.
Our business people have the responsibility to lead the economic transformation of our country. The challenge that faces them is to recognize the implications of the global economy and the fact that a nation's prosperity depends on its business being competitive. My resolution is to launch a golden age of business and enterprise in our country that will transform the lives of our people within the next decade.
To get to this golden age, our farmers and workers must join the crusade through their hard work and discipline. They must accept a new work ethic, embrace new methods of working and constantly update their skills to make us an integral part of the global economy. I intend to make dialogue and co-operation with the TUC and all workers a central feature of the fight to bring economic prosperity to our people.
There has been enough suffering in our country, there has been enough of children whose dreams die before they have a chance to grow and there has been enough of our elders who, having served their nation, are forced into indignity in their old age.
From today we must learn to smile again, we must learn to appreciate the good in each other and we must feel pride in being Ghanaians. Fear must be banished from our public and political life. We should reward excellence and recognize hard work. We are a blessed people and with God's guidance our smiles might even become laughter in the not too distant future.
I make a special plea to all branches of government, the Legislature, the Judiciary and all the institutions of state to join in the building of our nation.
As the duly elected Chief Executive of the Nation and the Commander in Chief of its Armed Forces, I expect, indeed, I demand loyalty from the public and civil services and the Security Services. We cannot afford to waste time and energy. Our people have been very patient but they will not forgive us if we do not start work immediately.
Today we have been joined in our celebrations by many of our neighbours. I wish to thank all of them, His Excellency the President of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade, The President of Cote d'Ivoire, Laurent Compaore, and President of Togo, Gnassingbe Eyadema, The President of Mali, ...Alpha Omar Konare, our special guest of honour the President of Nigeria Olusegum Obasanjo, and Vice President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Thank you all for the honour done to Ghana and me personally by you presence here with us.
HOPEWe cannot hope to build a vibrant and prosperous Ghana unless we are at peace with our neighbours. I pray that our sub region which has been in such turmoil for so long will have peace so that we can bring some happiness to our people. I pledge that Ghana will do her part in helping to maintain peace in the region. We shall also play our part in helping to continental institutions and their reform to make them relevant to the needs of the peoples of Africa in the 21st century.
Thank you brother Presidents for joining us. Africa has good reason to be proud of what has happened in Ghana today.
We in Ghana have good cause to be proud. Today, let us smile and take that smile with us into tomorrow as the hard work starts.
Thank you for your confidence. I pray that with God's guidance and blessing, and the support of you the good people of Ghana, I shall lead you to a prosperous, progressive and peaceful Ghana.
Thank you and God bless us all.