General News of Tuesday, 31 January 2006
Accra, Jan 31, GNA- President John Agyekum Kufuor on Tuesday gave an account of the State of the Nation by defending the track record of the ruling New Patriotic Party and the development vision of his government.
The President, dressed in a black suit and standing on the rostrum of Parliament, told the Second Session of the Fourth Parliament of the Fourth Republic in Accra that the State of the Nation was good and that the general spirit was one of optimism.His summarised the issues he wanted to dwell on as: "What the Budget is calculated to do in moving the economy further," "The current stage of socio-economic development," "Government's role in assuring rapid implementation of programme and policies," and "The main challenge to the body politic in efforts to accelerate growth." Before tackling the core subjects of his address, the President commented briefly on the chances of the National team, the Black Stars at the on-going African Cup of Nations before the House adorned with the national colours. "Having made us proud by taming the Teranga Lions of Senegal, the Stars are poised to thrash the Warriors of Zimbabwe," he predicted. President Kufuor said: "On behalf of the whole nation, I wish the team success not only in the on-going African Cup of Nations tournament, but also in the World Cup Tournament to be held in Germany later in the year." Switching to the business of the day, he lauded the education reforms of his Administration, which included the extension of the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education to the kindergarten level. He said during the 2005/2006 academic year, the government had effected the payment of 95 billion cedis as capitation grant for all pupils in basic schools. President Kufuor said reports from the field indicated significant increases in enrolment. "I have had the occasion this year to address teachers and I have assured them of government's commitment to their welfare," he said. He said as part of this commitment, it would continue to grant study leave to teachers at the pre-tertiary level on a quota system. Government would also pay full tuition for those who enrol in the distance-learning programme while remaining at post. "A special Home Ownership Scheme is also to be established for them through the banking system." He said government's commitment to infrastructure development and expansion of the various tertiary institutions as well as welfare of students and staff remains unflinching as had been indicated in the 2006 budget. "The long-awaited Students' Loan Trust has also been established this year, with disbursement to commence from the beginning of 2006/2007 academic year," he said. President Kufuor told students, parents and guardians that sustainability of the Trust would depend on the level of repayment by beneficiaries.