President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo yesterday delivered his second State of the Nation Address to Parliament, saying the country was on the right path to national development.
With the sound economic management put in place by his administration, he said, the government had chalked up a number of successes, including the payment of the outstanding six-year Tier Two Pension Fund of GH¢3.1 billion into the custodial accounts of the pension schemes of labour unions.
The transfer of pension funds into the custodial accounts had been a thorny issue between the government and labour unions for some time.
He also expressed the government’s determination to find the needed resources to fix the bad roads in the country, especially on the Eastern Corridor.
“As I have heard it said among the Ewes, “that which is important, you cook in an important pot,” he repeated for emphasis in Ewe to the admiration of both sides of the House.
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Roads billed to receive attention this year included the Western Corridor, the Central Corridor, trunk roads, feeder and town roads around the country, he said, adding that plans for the expansion of the Accra-Tema Motorway into a six-lane motorway would be implemented from this year.
President Nana Akufo-Addo said it was as a result of engagements with organised labour that the national daily minimum wage was determined and approved before the laying of the 2018 budget by the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta.
Expressing joy that there were no industrial actions in 2017 as a result of dialogue and fruitful discussions with organised labour, he said: “We will continue the constructive dialogue with organised labour to find mutually satisfactory solutions to their concerns in order to guarantee industrial peace.”
In attendance during the presentation of the State of the Nation Address were three former Presidents — Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor and John Dramani Mahama.
Also present were a former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, members of the Diplomatic Corps and members of the Council of State.
Ghana Beyond Aid
Anchored on the theme: “Ghana Beyond Aid”, the President’s address touched on areas such as housing, the economy, agriculture, job creation, fisheries, galamsey, energy, security and corruption.
Other areas were the Office of the Special Prosecutor, sanitation, the election of district chief executives, the creation of new regions, roads and railways, education, onshore oil discovery, the one-district, one-factory initiative and labour.
Concerning housing, he said discussions were ongoing between the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) and the banks to underwrite an effective mortgage system.
“This will facilitate access to housing for the ordinary budget. The government will also continue to create the enabling environment that will promote private sector investment in cheaper housing for the people,” he said.
President Nana Akufo-Addo also said the process of making housing affordable for Ghanaians began last year with the government abolishing the five per cent Value Added Tax/National Health Insurance Levy (VAT/NHIL) on real estate sales and continuing to create a conducive environment that was reducing interest rates on mortgage loans.
On health, the President indicated that a substantial part of the debts and arrears that were choking the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) had been cleared.
“This has led to the revival of the NHIS and the renewal of respect for the NHIS card. The health needs of our people are being better served,” he stated.
Stressing the need for an educated and skilled workforce to be able to operate the modern economy that was being created, President Akufo-Addo said free SHS was a start towards that goal.
“It is a policy that has come to stay,” he said.
“We are reforming the schools’ curricula to deal with the weaknesses in our educational system and lay greater emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM), reading, history and technical and vocational skills.
A look at the national budget will tell you we are spending a lot of money on education.
“It is, in my view, also important that the reform of our schools’ curricula should instil in our youth respect for the traditional values of discipline, fellow-feeling, hard work, honesty, integrity and patriotism, without which no healthy, social development can occur,” he added.
The President’s announcement of the inroads that had been made in the various sectors did not save him from heckling by the Minority in Parliament during his over one-hour presentation.
There was also a lot of drama in the House.
While some Minority MPs were clad in black as if they were in mourning, others had huge plasters on their mouths. Some of them shouted and made noise at regular intervals as President Akufo-Addo read his address.
At certain points when the President’s voice was drowned by the shouts from the Minority, the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, had to call the House to order.
The drama commenced after the President had inspected a guard of honour mounted by the Ghana Army and was ushered into the chamber amid drumming and horn blowing.
When the Police Band in attendance was almost through with the National Anthem, the Minority, in a well-rehearsed manner, sang the last two lines in a loud voice: “And help us to resist oppressors rule, with all our will and might for ever more.”
They continued several times over even after the band had stopped playing, drawing an uproar from the Majority and guests in the House.
They repeated the singing at the end of proceedings when the band played the National Anthem again.