John Dramani Mahama — Flag bearer, NDC, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia — Flag bearer, NPP
John Dramani Mahama — Flag bearer, NDC, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia — Flag bearer, NPP
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Bawumia, Mahama spar over economy at CEOs summit

The two major presidential hopefuls, former President John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Vice-President Dr Mahamadu Bawumia of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) starred in a shadow boxing on the platform of the Ghana CEO Summit and Excellence Awards in Accra yesterday, sharing varied and alternative visions to steer the economy towards recovery and growth.

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Both pledged to leverage heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and its related technology solutions, improved tax regime, address the depreciation of the local currency, and create a conducive business environment for the private sector to grow and become more profitable and support the economy.

Although the presentations were made in a friendly and exciting tone, it was not devoid of touching on the downside of each other’s regimes.

The summit

As part of the opening of the annual event, the presidential dialogue session, which was moderated by the Dean of the Law School of University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), Prof. Ernest Kofi Abotsi, had Mr Mahama in physical attendance, while Dr Bawumia joined via zoom from Canada.

The eighth edition was on the theme: “Reigniting business and economic growth: Charting a path forward; economic diversification and artificial intelligence (AI) transformational. A private-public sector CEO dialogue and high impact-learning”.

Participants included over 500 topmost chief executive officers (CEOs), heads of state, entrepreneurs, business leaders and policymakers from West Africa and around the world.

Some of the notable names at the event were the CEO of Margins Group, Moses Baiden Jnr; economist at the University of Ghana, Prof. Peter Quartey; the Chairman and CEO of the McDan Group of Companies, Daniel McKorley, and Minister of State at the Finance Ministry, Abena Osei-Asare.

Embrace technology            

The former President said the next NDC administration under his leadership would fully embrace technologies, including AI, as a critical development paradigm in governance. “As we all know, this is an election year, so permit me to be more frontal and persuasive in my speech to you.

As leaders in our respective industries and champions of economic progress, we are acutely aware of our country's challenges and opportunities. “Today, we stand at a critical and troubling crossroads.

Our beloved country has become a bankrupt and collapsed economy due to the poor leadership of almost eight years,” he said. He said the current government had failed Ghanaians and yet refused to accept or even take responsibility for the most reckless management of the economy in history.

That, he said, had plunged our nation into an unprecedented economic crisis and pushed more than 800,000 Ghanaians below the poverty line. “Unemployment has jumped to 14.7 per cent from 8.5 per cent in 2017, the highest level recorded in the history of the Fourth Republic; inflation is above 25 per cent, and the current interest rates range between 30 per cent and 50 per cent.

“The exchange rate, which was previously at 4.00 Ghana Cedis to the US dollar, has crossed the 15 Ghana Cedi threshold, and there appears to be no end in sight to the deterioration of the cedi,” Mr Mahama added.

Unconcerned

The former President said despite this, the government remained unconcerned and unwilling to cut expenditures and further accused it of spending more on comforts instead of investing in the transformational infrastructure that would propel the nation forward.

He said corruption had become a new normal for the current government, and that Ghanaians had become numb to the growing scandals that continued to be exposed daily. He said the beauty of the country’s democracy was that it afforded an opportunity to change the current governance trajectory.

“You can rest assured that a new NDC administration will work with you to create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive. “Together, we will expand your businesses to create more opportunities for our increasing youthful population. Together, we will recapture our pride of place as West Africa’s favourite destination for investment,” he said.

The former President added that the convergence of economic diversification and artificial intelligence presented the country with a unique opportunity to drive sustainable growth and prosperity for Ghanaians.

Difficult economic environment

For his part, the Vice-President stated that the former President could not paint a beautiful picture of his second coming because his previous regime was engulfed with a difficult economic environment.

“He has been both President and Vice-President before, and during his tenure, there was no global crisis such as COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war, yet his economy faced dumsor (power rationing), high unemployment, low agricultural and industrial output for four years.

“Teacher and nursing trainee allowances were cancelled because they could not pay; they had a three-month pay policy for teachers who have worked for three years; chalk in school was a problem; many parents were not able to educate their children, and so these were the background on which we came to office,” he said.

Akufo-Addo’s achievement  

Dr Bawumia explained that the current government had done much better in the areas of agriculture, job creation, roads, airports, railway, school blocks, hospitals, sports and sanitation facilities than all the governments in the Fourth Republic.

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To improve the tax collection, he said, nearly 85 per cent of the country’s working population now had access to tax identification numbers (TIN).

“We have linked data of Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), payroll, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), SIM cards with that of the National Identification Authority (NIA).

“This integration is critical to boost revenue collection and facilitate the adoption of artificial intelligence and its related solutions,” he said. He said the government had already digitalised the operations of all the teaching, regional and district hospitals across the country, with plans to complete the rest by next year.

Realign government

The Vice-President said his government would align government expenditure towards the private sector as part of an initiative to help them grow. “Very often, the government tries to do more than it can offer from buying vehicles and building schools for all state institutions, and my opinion is to restructure the process to give that to the private sector,” he said.

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