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General News of Wednesday, 31 December 2003

Source: GNA

Summary Of Prez Kufuor New Year Message

Ghana is emerging as a tolerant, peaceful and democratic nation on the African continent, President John Agyekum Kufuor said in Accra on Wednesday.
In a 20-minute televised New Year Message to Ghanaians, President Kufuor said, "It is my government's resolve to continue on this course to consolidate and establish Ghana as a true bastion of democracy and a beacon of hope on the continent."

He said, "on balance, 2003 has been a good year for the nation and by divine providence, there has been abundant rainfall to water our farms, ensure a good harvest, and fill up our water bodies; there has also been peace, security, national stability and an improving economy." President Kufuor said, "2003 has been a good year, and we must be thankful for it. But the challenge of making 2004 an even better and more prosperous year lies before us".

"Let each and everyone of us resolve to play a more productive and responsible role. This is the surest way for us to look forward to improve our collective and individual incomes and living conditions. It is not beyond us, so I say go for it, let us pull together for it", he said.

"To the entire leadership of the country, I invite you to complement government's efforts next year, just as you have done this year, to ensure peace, security and national stability", he added. The ECOWAS Chairman said the Sub-region was also becoming relatively peaceful, a situation which had eluded West Africa for a long time, and called on all and sundry to be thankful to God for the passing year. He said government had encouraged a harmonious relationship among all the three arms of government, the executive, legislature and the judiciary as well as an increasingly vibrant civil society, including the media.

President Kufuor said the nation also enjoyed an atmosphere of normal political and economic transformation, adding "admittedly, things have not always been easy, but there cannot be any doubt that the nation has maintained its sense of balance, and endeavoured to keep the young democracy on track".

President Kufuor observed that each challenge had been faced courageously with a touch of the proverbial Ghanaian sense of humour "and above all, as a nation, remained united, wisely deriving strength, from, even our diversity".

President Kufuor said with the coming year 2004 being an election year, and Ghanaians gearing up for the campaigns, the entire citizenry must accept it collectively as their duty to ensure that the nation remained peaceful.

"We owe this to ourselves and to the watching world. The election should be fought vigorously, but without rancour and baseless mud-slinging. A sense of decency and maturity must characterise all political activities", he said.

President Kufuor said there must be objective analysis of issues and critical assessment of alternative programmes of contending parties. He said above all, the parties must demonstrate total commitment to the nation's development and welfare of the citizens.

President Kufuor said in addition, the entire leadership of the nation, that is, political, traditional, religious, corporate, civic, organised labour and student leaders, owe it to their followers, to offer guidance and exemplary conduct to ensure peaceful, free and fair elections throughout the country.

"We should all remind ourselves that, at the end of the day, real power belongs to the good people of Ghana and they must be given the fullest opportunity to make their choices freely". " Sincerely, I pledge the full commitment of my government to this national endeavour".

President Kufuor said, given the long suffering and deprivation through which the nation elected the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to form the government in 2000, it should be accepted as natural for many Ghanaians to expect a quicker turn around of the economy.

He urged Ghanaians to appreciate the impressive achievements so far made within the past three years, adding" Indeed the economy that was in stagnation for most of the previous three decades, has decidedly, and convincingly, begun to lumber its way 'out of the woods'".

President Kufuor said to sustain the current stability, stricter financial discipline and higher productivity would be required in all sectors of the economy.

President Kufuor said during the past year, government's policy to cut back drastically on domestic borrowing yielded the desired results. He said, the interest generated in Ghana's private sector would be sustained and promoted vigorously throughout the coming year to attract both local and foreign direct investments.

President Kufuor said the agricultural sector had seen some dramatic developments, food is plentiful, with Gari, which in 2000, sold at 8,000 cedis, per Olonka was now available at three thousand cedis, per Olonka, in many parts of the country.

Yams, plantains, vegetables, and fruits are readily available at reasonable prices all over the country and this is also reflecting positively on the Presidential Special Initiatives (PSI) on cassava and Oil Palm.

He said the first consignment of Ghana's industrial starch, produced at the Bawjiase Plant, was exported within the year. Oil Palm nurseries are being developed in some selected areas of the country, to enable a two-fold expansion of land under Oil Palm cultivation, within three years.

President Kufuor said it was expected that these initiatives, which were being replicated in many parts of the country, would, in due course, impact positively on the lives of the farmers and other individuals in the participating communities.

He said the greatest achievement of the sector during the year, was the production of almost 500,000 tonnes of Cocoa valued at 889 million dollars.

This is the second highest production ever in the history of Ghana, in terms of volume and in terms of earning, it also happens to be the highest, in the history of the crop.

President Kufuor said it was government's intention to encourage industrious farmers to surpass, within the shortest possible time, possibly this coming year, the record of 580,000 tonnes produced in 1964 and 1965 season.

"I have no doubt that the current mass spraying exercise, the good producer price and general good economic climate of the country will combine to support our farmers to meet this challenge", he said. President Kufuor said underlying the efforts in the industrial and agricultural sectors was the vigorous infrastructural development, taking place all over the country.

These included the construction of highways, urban and feeder roads, classroom blocks, renovation of hospitals and clinics, expansion of electricity and water supplies, undertaken with the support of the HIPC relief fund.

He said these policies being implemented were already giving employment to many people throughout the country and putting good legitimate money directly and indirectly in the pockets of the people that would eventually lead to general improvement in the quality of life for all.

On Health, President Kufuor said the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was enacted in spite of the contention, associated with its introduction, and appealed to all sides, especially organised labour, to close their ranks with government to support the scheme because that was the best way to make health delivery accessible and affordable to all.

He said the year saw the stepping up of the campaign against the HIV/AIDS pandemic and great strides had been made with both government and civil-society actively engaged in HIV/AIDS education and management programmes.

Currently, President Kufuor said government was importing anti-retroviral drugs for AIDS patients at highly subsidised prices. Government is determined not only to bring relief to HIV/AIDS victims but also to remove the stigma attached to the disease, he said. President Kufuor pleaded with Ghanaians to show compassion to HIV/AIDS sufferers even as government and health personnel go out determined to educate and discipline the people to contain the menace. On his election for a second term as ECOWAS Chairman, President Kufuor said he accepted it after some protests knowing that "I could count on your continued understanding and support".

We must all be relieved and thankful to God that the situation in Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire has stabilized. Guinea Bissau, which was saved from a coup d'=E9tat is now under civilian regime and preparing for fresh elections. It is our prayer that the Sub-region remains peaceful and prosperous through next year".

"While acknowledging the tremendous initiatives of ECOWAS, I also wish to acknowledge the support of Europe, USA, Japan, the United Nations, other development partners and the international community at large", he added.