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General News of Friday, 7 January 2011

Source: GNA

President Mills defends fuel price hikes

Accra, Jan. 7, GNA - President John Evans Atta Mills on Friday explained that Government had to take the bold decision to increase fuel prices and remove subsidies in the interest of social intervention programmes. He said the upward adjustment in the price of fuel was not an easy decision and Government could not subsidize fuel prices, adding that it was a 93miracle" that Government could supply fuel to Ghanaians at this stag= e. "If had my way, I would reduce fuel prices; increasing fuel prices i= n not an easy decision," President Mills said.

Answering questions at a media encounter dubbed Editors' Forum at th= e Osu Castle in Accra, President Mills said part of the reason stemmed from the inherited debt of nearly GH¢1.488 billion by the Tema Oil Refinery (T= OR) from the previous government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). "The NPP needs to apologise for the TOR debt," he added. "We can't subsidise fuel prises. We will use the money for social intervention programmes." The President used the occasion, attended by Vice Mr John Mahama and some Ministers of State, to repeat that his present Government had paid GH¢472 million of the TOR debt in the last few months. However, the debts would keep mounting if Government kept subsidizing fuel prices.

President also explained that the use of the oil for collateral in the STX Housing deal was noting new as cocoa had been used similarly. On the view that the Mills Administration promised to reduce fuel prices in the campaign in the run-up to the 2008 elections, President Mills said the situation at the time could have made it possible to reduce fuel price. He recalled that the then NPP Government reduced the fuel prices just before it left office.

On the issue about National Democratic Congress (NDC) foot soldiers, President Mills said Government would address their concerns as it rolled out development programmes this year's that has been christened 93Action Year."

President Mills assured Ghanaians that they would see things for themselves in the year 2011.

On criticism about his performance from former President Jerry Rawlings, the President Mills reminded the journalists that the NDC was a democratic Government, open to criticism and his Administration would take criticisms from the former President and tap from his rich wealth of experience.

President Mills explained that the recent ministerial reshuffle was like the game of football or basketball where the players were given different roles at different times or rested to achieve the desired results= .. He expressed confidence in his previous and present ministerial teams, and explained that Government was giving the opportunity to other people, "not because of poor performance, but because they exerted themselves. We need to be strategic, and that is exactly what we have done." President Mills said Mrs Zita Okaikoi, who leaves the Tourism Ministry= , was still part of his team.

To a question on whether his former Ministers would buy official government bungalows, President Mills asked whether if he left office she would buy the Osu Castle which houses the Office of the President for private residence.

Asked about allegations that his Administration intended to dismiss the present Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, he stepped forward, removed his spectacles and told the questioner, 93Stand there and look in my face. Do I look like cut-hunter?