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Of the remarkable, coincidental March blessings in Ghana!

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

The just ended month has always been an exceptional one for Ghana, but I think March 2022 will be remembered as extremely special because of the many significant events that happened.

Among them, as captured in a viral online post credited to presidential spokesperson Eugene Arhin:
1. Tamale Interchange commissioned.
2. E-Levy passed.
3. Black Stars qualify for Qatar 2022.

And, these all happened on March 29, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s birthday! “What a day!” Mr Arhin concluded.

Indeed, “what a day!” No wonder in a call to coach Otto Addo after the Nigeria-Ghana match in Abuja the President described the achievement of the National Team, the Black Stars, as “the best possible birthday present I could have had, the news of your qualification for the World Cup.”

The World Cup, the first in the Arab world will take place in Qatar November – December, 2022.
In honour of Ghana’s Independence Day, celebrated on March 6, the month has in recent years been termed Ghana Month or Heritage Month.

It is also the month set aside to celebrate women, on the 8th; and Commonwealth Day is observed on the second Monday of the month. The President turned 78 this year. Incidentally, the birthday of the First Lady, Rebecca, is March 12.

Perhaps a little known fact is that cocoa pioneer Tetteh Quarshie, too, is a March-born. He was born on March 27 ,1842 (and reportedly died on December 25, 1892).

(March, is also special for me because it also happens to be my birth month.)

The Naa Gbewaa Interchange in Tamale, commissioned by the President on March 29, made history because it is the first to be constructed in Northern Ghana.

On matters arising from the passage of the Electronic Levy or E-Levy Bill in Parliament, for the record, the Minority in Parliament who reportedly staged a walkout just ahead of the voting, have gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the passage of the Bill. No surprise there!

Also linked to the passage, is the intriguing development that the Majority succeeded in getting the E-Levy passed reportedly without the vote of their MP for Dome-Kwabenya, Sarah Adwoa Safo.

Ms Safo’s continued absence from the country, when she was desperately needed to add her vote to the crucial E-Levy passage, generated countless rumours, notably questioning her loyalty to her party, the New Patriotic Party.

Now that the E-Levy has been passed without her vote, one wonders how Ms Safo sees her future in the NPP.
Perhaps following the historic events of March 29, and the infectious delirium of Ghana qualifying for the World Cup, the Government felt the stage had been set for the President to deliver the long postponed 2022 State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Typically, after the President had delivered the SONA, the Minority immediately tried to punch holes in it.

The Daily Graphic of March 31, reported: “Seconding the motion for the House to adjourn after the SONA … the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, said with the rising cost of living that had affected the prices of fuel, foodstuffs and services, the President downplayed the harsh reality of the Ghanaian economy during his address.

“Regrettably, the President did not have the confidence to talk about the economy.”

And, the Ghanaian Times reported: “Mr Iddrisu … said the President had lost touch with the reality of the Ghanaian.”

Of course, it was expected that the Minority would disparage whatever address the President came to the House to deliver. But I wonder how Mr Iddrisu concluded that the President has lost touch with reality.

Anyway, the following are some excerpts from what the President said in the SONA, courtesy of the JoyOnline site:

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I know that there is a general sense of anxiety in our nation at the moment (emphasis added).

The Ghanaian people are anxious about the economy, the cost of living, income levels (and) jobs for young people.

Back in March 2020 when the first cases of COVID hit our country, we and the rest of the world were in unchartered territory, fear and sheer terror gripped our land.

We could not have been prepared for the catastrophe, even the richest economies with the most sophisticated structures were unprepared.

I took the decision we would prioritize the saving of lives, then we would get together to rebuild our economy.

We have saved lives … but the consequences of lockdowns, border and business closures, and unplanned expenditures have combined to have a devastating impact on our economy.

It took an unbudgeted GH¢1.9 billion to ensure that our children and teaching staff went back and stayed in school safely.

In all, data from the Ministry of Finance tells us that an amount of GH¢17.7 billion (or 4.6% of GDP) has been spent in containing the pandemic since 2020.

The economic devastation of COVID has, since the beginning of this year, been further aggravated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We, in Ghana, have not escaped this development, and the consequences are being felt in rising living costs at our markets and at fuel stations.

The bombs might be dropping on cities half a world away but they are hitting our pockets here in Ghana. Even so, we have managed to ensure that fuel supplies have not been disrupted, unlike in several other parts of the world.

We have kept the lights on in spite of worldwide upheavals in the energy sector, and in spite of the huge legacy debts we inherited.

The road to recovery will be hard and long, Mr. Speaker, but we have started on a good footing by accepting that we are in a difficult place, and are taking the difficult decisions that will get us out.

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From the excerpts, my question: is there any indication that President Akufo-Addo “downplayed the harsh reality of the Ghanaian economy”?

Again, what confirms Mr Iddrisu’s assertion that “the President did not have the confidence to talk about the economy”?

I’m still trying to figure out how else the President could have expressed that he is very much aware of the hardship in the country – and which is why he called for the cooperation of all to enable the country exit “the difficult place” and bounce back together.

But I guess the job of an Opposition leader is to oppose.

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