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Opinions of Sunday, 10 January 2010

Columnist: Agbodza, Kwami

NDC: One Year Into The Better Ghana Agenda, We Are On Track

By Kwame Agbodza

Just about one year ago, President Mills was sworn in as the third president of the Fourth Republic of Ghana. He promised to lead Ghana in a new political dispensation, abiding by the spirit of rule of law leading by example and cutting out ostentatious and wasteful spending as witnessed under the President Kufour’s NPP. President Mills fulfilled his campaign promise of reducing the number of ministers, ministries and executive related spending. President Mills lives a modest and honest life. This has won him admiration with many prepared to publicly declare that, he cannot be corrupted. This is a new wave of leadership in our country. In 2002 by this time, the NPP was wallowing in numerous allegations corrupt, incompetence with President Kufour hardly available to deal with anything meaningful for the country. They failed to focus on what the country needed, president Kufour spent more of his time jetting around the world under the pretext of seeking investment, and some believe he was basically indulging himself. I will touch on a few areas the NDC has made significant improvement within the period in review, January 2008 till date. I believe the NDC has done well within the constraints; the better Ghana agenda is on track.

Economy

Ghana’s debt stock since independence was more than halved and astronomically increased under the NPP with very little reasonable projects to show for it. President Mills was sworn in at the time of dejection and lost of hope across the country. Despite the appalling economic climate, the new President promised to lead Ghana out of her economic and social doldrums. So bad was Ghana’s economic situation that, in a letter dated January 7, 2009, the World Bank Ghana Office alerted the Mills administration of a severe domestic financial crisis. The macroeconomic situation was very unstable with a budget deficit hovering around 15%, other analysts put the real budget deficit at over 20% of GDP. Inflation was constantly rising through the second quarter of 2008 and peaked at around 20%.Inflation has since been on the decrease, reaching around 16 and project to be around 15% by the end of December 2009 due to prudent and tighter fiscal policies of the new administration. Due to the seriousness the Mills administration attaches to the macro economic output, it is targeting a budget deficit of about 9% of GDP to the end of 2009 as stated in the NDC’s maiden Budget presented to Parliament on March 5, 2009 .The Ghanaian currency which was also on a free fall due to reckless election time spending by the Kufour administration have all now stabilized. The Ghanaian currency is now actually gaining value against major currencies.

Despite the bleak economic situation inherited by the NDC government led by President Mills and the realities of the global financial crisis experienced by the world economy Ghana continues to make impressive gains. As a result of the new prudent measure, foreign direct investment into Ghana is gaining momentum. The mood of the new investment climate is well captured in a statement attributed to Mr. George Aboagye, Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), “The total estimated value of this quarter’s newly registered projects was GH¢374.15 a significant increase of 139.32 per cent compared to GH¢ 156.34 recorded for the second quarter of 2009, we are expecting a significant boost in investment next year as the economy is beginning to take shape,” he said. The buoyancy of the economy is attracting many. 2010 is expected to see even greater activity in the Ghanaian economy. This is all in line with the better Ghana agenda.

Law and order

The adherence to rule of law has been one of the hallmarks of the new NDC government under President Mills. Unlike what happen in the year 2001 when the NPP took over and embarked on a vindictive crusade of arbitrary arrest, prosecutions and jailing of their political opponents, President Mills is strictly administering the country in the spirit of rule of law. Numerous allegations of corruption, murder and misapplication of public funds are all being professionally investigated. The new government is not falling for public demand to prosecute certain individuals suspected to have shortchanged the country. The President believes the due process of the law must be allowed to take its course. This has earned the president a lot of admiration across the country and internationally. Ghana is now a no go area for drug dealers. As promised as part of his campaign message, President Mills is pursuing a robust crackdown on the prevalence of drug trafficking using Ghana as a staging point. We can all recall how Ghana became a major illicit drug transit point under the previous NPP administration.

The situation was so bad and embarrassing to many Ghanaians, especially those living abroad. It got worse when some leading members of NPP regime were accused and some arrested, prosecuted and jailed for drug trafficking. In fulfillment of his promise, President Mills is resourcing the relevant agencies to tackle the menace, the results are very positive at this stage. What is now important is to further resource the security agencies and to help them redeem their image which sunk to the lowest ebb during the NPP regime. The prevalence of other forms of organized crimes is also on the decline with the introduction of new policing strategies and resources. The government is also making the necessary efforts to improve the condition of service living for the security agencies including the police. President Mills believe a better Ghana can only be achieved in a safe orderly society. A better Ghana agenda ensures law and order.

Agriculture

The NDC placed modernised agriculture at the centre of economic development. After all this is the sector that employs the majority of the citizens. Former United National Secretary-General and Chairman of AGRA, Mr. Kofi Annan, said, "Africa can and should work towards achieving food sufficiency," The NDC believes agriculture can unlock Ghana potential to eradicate poverty. The strategy is also to use agriculture as a tool to close the development gap between the north and south of the country .As part of the NDC campaign message, the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) was proposed. Indeed, it has been implemented. The agric sector is performing impressively over the period in review. The targeted sector growth of 5.7% has already been exceeded. The best performing area under this sector is the crop and livestock which recorded about 7% growth.

Works on a 10 million-dollar Sheanut Factory to process sheanuts into shea butter, shea oils and other derivatives commenced on November 14 2009 when the Vice President John Dramani Mahama cut the sword for the start of works at Buipe. The Project, a joint venture between the Produce Buying Company Limited (PBC), a wholly Ghanaian Company, and Messrs LDS Maquinas e' Equipmentos Industrias Limited of Brazil, would have an initial capacity of about 40,000 tonnes annually. The Aveyime rice project initiated by the NDC and other small, medium and large scale rice production centres are all being realized. This is expected to improve food supply and save Ghana significant amount of money. Other incentives such as the provision of extension services to farmers, subsidies for fertilizers and agro-chemical have all been implemented. Other indirect boost to the agric sector is the implementation of the free school uniform project, which creating confidence in the cotton industry and the school feeding programme which is boosting local food crop production. Under the previous NPP administration led by President Kufour, agriculture received little attention, resulting in a massive importation of food from abroad which further hurt the economy. Unrelated to agriculture but part of creating the balance of development between the north-south divide is the building of a $40million Portland cement factory. Agriculture is at the heart of the better Ghana agenda.

Education

The NDC under president Mills is giving the necessary attention to education. The president is an educationist himself and is building on the successes achieved under our previous NDC government where President Rawlings introduced a new education policy that was meant to align education with our developmental needs and cutting down the number of years pupil spend in school. Under the NPP administration, much of what they did to enhance education was to rebrand first and second cycle schools without the necessary curriculum and materials to go with it. Under the NPP, Ghana’s development partners helped introduce the ‘school feeding programme’, but as usual, corruption, nepotism and blatant incompetence derailed the programme. At the tail end of the NPP regime, the development partners had no choice but to withdraw their support to the programme due to mismanagement. Under the New NDC government, the school feeding program is being revamped. Incidents of corruption and incompetence by the program administrators have all been removed. President Mills has also directed that, food supplied under the program should be locally sourced to enable local farmer get the full benefit. The award of contract to caterers has also been very transparent.

President Mills has given himself and the NDC an ambitious target in the area of education. Ghanaians always make ‘uncomfortable fun’ of kids going to school under trees. The NDC has declared that, schooling under trees would be consigned to history. Safe classrooms are already being built across the country to realize this dream. The NDC is also going on with the free school uniform programme for over 1,600,000 pupils at the initial stage. Under this program, the NDC is also ensuring that, the fabric and making of the uniforms are all locally sourced. This has also led to the revamp of the local cotton industry which almost collapsed under the NPP. The science resource centers which were introduced at the secondary school level in the previous NDC administration and abandoned by the NPP are all being revamped to improve the teaching and learning of science in the country. Teachers are being encouraged to update their knowledge through further education. The NDC is bearing the cost of the study; the general condition of service for teachers is also improving significantly with salary increases and payment of accrued arrears. Feasibility studies are ongoing as we speak for the establishment of two more public universities as promised in our 2008 election manifesto. The NDC intends to increase investment in education in the coming year to produce knowledgeable graduates for our rapid development. Education is necessary to achieving the better Ghana agenda.

Healthcare

Only healthy people can build a healthy nation. The new NDC government is constantly interacting with the stakeholders in the health sector with the aim to improving healthcare delivery in Ghana. The NDC is continuing with the idea of eliminating the inequalities of healthcare services across the country, to this, works of a new Ultra Modern hospital has commenced in the northern region to be run as a Teaching hospital attached to the University of Development Studies instituted under the stewardship of former President Rawlings. Public education on communicable diseases has also been intensified. Many existing healthcare facilities are being rehabilitated and resourced to be fit for purpose. A better Ghana means better healthcare. Many objective Ghanaians may conclude that, a review of all the promises made by the NDC during the campaign and what has been achieved within the 12 month period of the Mills administration suggest we are on track to make Ghana a better place. President Mills and the entire NDC are focused to deliver as promised; our appetite to lift Ghana out of our current challenges is higher than ever before. Together, we can all build a better Ghana for ourselves, our children and our children’s children.

Long Live NDC

Long Live Ghana

God Bless Us All. Kwame Agbodza