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Opinions of Saturday, 4 January 2014

Columnist: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku

Was Kufuor's Administration a Factor to NPP's Electoral Defeats

Was Kufuor's Administration, Truly a Factor to NPP's Electoral Defeats in 2008 and 2012?

One of the reasons assigned for the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) electoral defeats in 2008 and 2012 was that of the party's socio-economic performance between 2001 and 2009. It would be recalled that before Election 2000, the Rawlings's P/NDC had ruled Ghana for 19 solid years. This era, as we all know, was marked by human rights abuses, tribalism, corruption, economic hardship, cash and carry system, and more seriously, serial killings of women.

What then did President John Agyekum Kufuor and his NPP do with the power given him between 2001 and 2009? This write-up seeks to find the answer under social infrastructure, policies & programmes, and good governance.

ON SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE • Kufuor's tenure witnessed the construction of two new sports stadia at Essipong and Tamale; the rehabilitation of both Accra and Kumasi sports stadia, and another sports complex in Cape Coast.

• Under Kufuor, a new Presidential Palace was built to house the president and his family; the Accra-Tema commuter railway line was constructed, and the Keta Sea Defence wall was built to protect the people of Keta.

• A $622m loan was secured for the construction of the Bui Dam & Bui City Project; the Boankra Inland Port was started (now abandoned); major feeder and trunk roads (Accra-Kumasi-Aflao-Kasoa-Cape Coast, Aburi), several by-passes in Accra and Kumasi including the Sofoline and Asafo interchange, and George Walker Bush 14km High Way were all constructed.

• The Peduase Lodge, which had been abandoned was restored; several boreholes were drilled to end the perennial water problems in Cape Coast and Tamale; the Aboadze Thermal Plant was expanded; the Kofi Annan ICT Centre for Excellence, and state-of-the art wood village at Sokoban in Kumasi for Anloga carpenters were all built.

• Another legacy of Kufuor is the construction of the Accident and Emergency Centre with a landing base at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH). This has saved several precious lives.

• Besides, 56 existing senior high schools were upgraded as Model Schools; two institutions (University of Education, Winneba, and University of Mines & Technology) were given autonomy to run as public universities, UDS had Campuses at Wa and Bolgatanga, 21 new senior high schools, 1,334 new JHS blocks, 1,331 primary schools, and 5,164 pre-schools were built.

• Also, over 5,000 affordable housing units at various parts of the country were built. A cocoa processing plant was built in Kumasi. The West African Gas Pipe Line was nearly completed. There was expansion of the road network from 39,000 km of accessible roads to 65,000 km by 2008.

• The Ghana @ 50 ‘legacy’ projects like recreational parks, renovation of public buildings, and historical monuments across all the 10 regions and their district capitals were built. The government also built 14 fishing harbours in our fishing communities.

ON POLICIES & PROGRAMMES • The Kufuor government introduced free basic education through the capitation grant (fee- free). There was school feeding programme where pupils from some selected public basic schools were given one hot meal a day.

• The National Health Insurance Scheme was introduced to replace the cash and carry system and make health care affordable. There was also the introduction of free maternal care to reduce child mortality.

• The government frequently released brand new buses to GPRTU, and introduced the metro mass transit, replaced the Ghana Airways with Ghana International Airlines (all meant to improve the transportation system.

• The NPP introduced the Northern Development Fund with a US$25m seed fund to reduce the North-South poverty gap; free bus ride for school kids, brought Zoom Lion Company Limited to rid our cities of filth, created Youth Fund with a $50m seed money and instituted the National Youth Employment Programme, which rolled out seven programmes including community police, teaching assistance, health care, agric extension, etc to reduce the country’s high unemployment.

• Kufuor also introduced the mass cocoa spraying exercise, frequently increased the producer price of cocoa; subsidised fertilizer, and made prompt payment of bonuses to cocoa farmers.

• In his quest to mechanise agriculture, the Kufuor government imported 3,331 brand new tractors, but unfortunately, Mahama Ayariga, and Alban Bagbin used their positions in government to buy some at only GHC1,000.

• The annual cocoa yield increased from 350 metric tonnes in 2000 to 750 metric tonnes in 2006 with an income of US$1bn to the economy. By 2010, Ghana had hit 1m cocoa production. This feat alone moved Ghana from the 4th position to the 2nd position in terms of the world’s leading producers of the product.

• The size of the Ghana's economy quadrupled from US$3.9m in 2008 to US$16.3m in 2008, thus ending the year with GDP growth rate of 8.4%.

• Whilst inflation was reduced from 40% in 2000 to 9.8% in 2006 (single digit) and later 18% in 2008, interest rate fell from 50% to 25% during the period under consideration. The daily minimum wage was increased from 42Gp (4,200 old cedis) in 2000 to GHC2.25 (22,500 old cedis) in 2009.

• A New Education Reform was put in place in 2007 with special emphasis on Maths, Science, Vocational and ICT. Kindergarten education officially became part of our basic education system.

• The admission of JHS graduates into SHS was computerised to reduce corruption and hassle of parents; there was Baah-Wiredu Laptop project aimed at giving one laptop to every school child.

• All the 38 Teacher Training Colleges were upgraded into tertiary status (Colleges of Education); Distance education programme was introduced for teachers and workers.

• The government also introduced Untrained Teacher Education Programme for Pupil Teachers to become trained teachers, Access Course to Teacher Training Colleges for SHS graduates who could not do well in Maths and English. The purpose was to upgrade the knowledge of the teacher, beef up the teacher population, and subsequently help to address the falling educational standards in the country.

• Private universities sprung from 4 to over 50, whilst existing infrastructure in the public universities and other public tertiary institutions were expanded through the GETFund.

• The SSNIT Loan Scheme was restructured for students to take more loans. Plans were far advanced to start not only Single Spine Salary Structure for public sector workers, but also a new 3-tier pension scheme for both private and public sector workers.

ON GOOD GOVERNANCE • His Excellency, President J. A. Kufuor tolerated all shades of opinion and verbal abused from ‘Dr.’ Asemfoforo, an NDC paid serial caller, and J. J. Rawlings, who at one time referred to the then sitting President as ‘Ataa Ayi’ - a notorious armed robber.

• Ghanaians witnessed the National Reconciliation; the reburial of three former heads of state namely; Okatakyie Afrifa, Gen. I.K. Acheampong and Gen. F.W.K Akufo and five senior military officers, who were executed in 1979 by J. J. Rawlings.

• In addition, over 100 assets of noble and hard working citizens seized by J.J. Rawlings were deconfiscated to their owners.

• The criminal libel and seditious laws which had provided 10 years’ maximum imprisonment for offenders was repealed. The People’s Assembly concept which made it possible for Ghanaians to interact with the President and his Ministers on yearly basis was instituted.

• There was all-inclusive governance with the likes of Mallam Issah (PNC), Dr. Paa Nduom, Prof. Badu Akosah, Prof. Hagan - all CPP leading members, working under the NPP administration. Kufuor also facilitated the appointments of Dr. Ibn Chambas as the Secretary General of ECOWAS, and Ekwow Spio-Garbrah as Chief Executive Officer of CTO.

• Kufuor created 60 additional districts and raised some of them to municipal & metropolitan status to facilitate local governance. The District Assembly Common Fund was increased from 5% to 7.5%.

• There was a plethora of FM Radio stations, regular media encounters with the President, broadcasting of news in the major local dialects on the Ghana Television (GTV), which hitherto had been in English and Akan.

• The Kufuor government passed the Representation of the People Amendment act (ROPAA) into law to enfranchise Ghanaians in the diaspora, though Afari Gyan failed to make it operational.

• Kufuor should also be commended for the expansion of mobile phone network across the length and breadth of the country as he removed tariffs on mobile phone importation.

• Kufuor created a Ministry for Public Sector Reform with the view to developing a new and positive mindset for public sector workers; Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs to empower women and improve their lot; and the Ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs to tap the rich expertise of our noble traditional leaders.

• Also, June 4 and the 31st December were removed from the statute books as public holidays. The 64th Infantry Regiment were disbanded to other units to ensure discipline in the Armed Forces.

• Kufuor featured regularly at all G-8 Summits. His excellent diplomatic relations with world leaders enabled Ghana not only to attract attention and investment worldwide, but also he was unanimously elected to chair both the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Under his leadership, Ghana had the opportunity to assume the rotational presidency of the UN Security Council.

• President Kufuor also won several international awards including the Chatham House Prize Award in 2008 as a result of peace and economic growth which characterised his two terms in office. No wonder he was given a rousing welcome by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of England.

• Again, President Kufuor took a leading role in mediating in regional conflicts including those in Liberia, La Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.

• As a true democrat, he was even criticised by his own party members and sympathisers for not hanging onto power before the Tain by-elections when the NPP’s Presidential Candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo was leading in the 2008 Presidential elections.

• Kufuor is on record as the only President who left office in the peaceful manner in which he entered it. This is indeed a lasting legacy because all his predecessors were either overthrown by the military or metamorphosed themselves into civilian presidents.

• Kufuor introduced the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme, where the aged and other vulnerable people in Ghana were paid monthly allowances of between 8 and 15 Ghana cedis.

• Under President Kufuor's leadership, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to cut in half the proportion of its people who suffer from hunger. He and LUIZ DA SILVA of Brazil jointly received the 2011 World Food Prize.

• He introduced micro finance loans to help small and medium-scale businesses, the Export Development Fund (EDIF), the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which makes it possible for local producers to access the US market, as well as, the Ghana Poverty Reduction Programmes I & II were all aimed at improving the lot of Ghanaians.

• The Kufuor-led NPP administration purchased VALCO from the Americans at a cosmic sum of US$20m.

• On corruption, a minister of state under his administration was charged for wilfully causing financial loss to the state and together with other members of the previous government, was sentenced to a prison term.

• Ghana was the first country in Africa to submit herself to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). It would also interest readers to note that for the first time in 50 years, Ghana under the leadership of Kufuor earned a respectable B+ rating on the international financial scene in 2006 and this indeed, facilitated the country’s successful bid to access over US$ 750m from the Eurobond market.

• The passage of the Public Procurement Act, Financial Administration Act, Internal Audit Agency Act, which made the agency exceed its revenue target every year, the Office of Accountability Act, the Whistle Blowers Act, the importation of new police uniforms and over 1000 police vehicles to combat crime, the Right to Information bill, the establishment of Fast Track High Courts, the strengthening of state institutions like the SFO, CHRAJ, among others, were all geared towards the eradication of this social evil in the Ghanaian society.

• Last but not the least, Ghana under Kufuor’s reign became the largest recipient of Millennium Challenge Account funds of US$547m to combat poverty in Ghana. The bilateral and multilateral debt cancellations as a result of Ghana joining the Heavily Indebted and Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and the UN's and World Bank’s lucrative jobs for His Excellency, J. A. Kufuor even before the 2008 general elections make him stand tall among his contemporaries. He made Ghana, an oil producing country as oil was struck in commercial quantities in 2010.

How could the excellent record enumerated above be a factor to the NPP's electoral defeat? I leave it for the judgement of the Ghanaian voter in 2016.

God bless Ghana! God bless the NPP!! God bless Kufuor!!!

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri (Free SHS Ambassador) Official blog: ( 0202471070 : 0264931361 : 0547851100