Debate on 2019 SONA begins

BY: Musah Yahaya Jafaru
 Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah
Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah

Majority and Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday began a debate on the State of the Nation (SONA) address delivered by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo last Thursday.

While the Majority side touted the government's achievements, the Minority members said the economy was rather on a decline.

There was also a contestation about whether the crime rate and the activities of vigilante groups had gone up or not.

Another area of contestation was whether the President was right in stating that peacekeeping allowance for the military had been increased.

While the Minority, led by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Builsa North, Mr James Agalga, said the peacekeeping allowance was rather increased during the NDC’s administration, the Majority MPs led by the NPP MP for Bilbilla and Minister of Defence, Mr Dominic Nitiwul, said although the NDC government announced increases of the allowance from $30 per day to $31 and later to $35, the soldiers continued to receive $30 dollars.

Mr Nitiwul said it was only in February, 2017 that the soldiers started receiving $35 per day.

Delivering the state of the nation address in Parliament, President Akufo-Addo touted the socio-economic achievements of his two-year administration and outlined measures to sustain the gains.

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Majority's take

The NPP MP for Ofoase/Ayirebi and Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, who moved the motion for the commencement of the debate, said the government had chalked successes in the areas of peace and security, education, railways development, governance and in macro economic activities.

Touching on the economy, he said, all the micro economic indicators, with the exception of the cedi’s performance, were pointing to the right direction.

He said even the depreciation of the cedi was a temporary development which would be reversed.

Mr Oppong Nkrumah said the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rose from 3.4 per cent in 2016 to eight per cent in 2017, and was at six per cent in 2018.

He said inflation decreased from 15.4 per cent to nine per cent, while interest rate was on the decline.

For his part, the NPP MP for Ledzokuku , Dr Bernard Okoe Boye, said the government had engaged graduate nurses who were on standby since 2013, while it had given clearance for the 2016 graduate nurses to be employed.

In all, he said, the government had created 208,000 jobs in the formal sector in the last two years.

Minority's rebuttal

Taking his turn for the Minority, Mr Agalga faulted the President for establishing a Commission of Enquiry to look into the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election disturbances.

He said the President should have allowed the police to continue with its investigations to prosecute and punish the perpetrators since they were known.

Mr Agalga said the danger in establishing the commission was that it would grant immunity to the perpetrators of the crime.

"Those who carried out the violence are known to the national security, and they ought to be punished," Mr Agalga stated.

Quoting figures from the police on crime rate in the country, Mr Agalga said the government must be concerned about the crime situation now.

He said figures from the police indicated that since the NPP took over the reigns of power in 2016, crime had been on the rise.

For her part, the NDC MP for Krachi West, Ms Helen Adwoa Ntoso, expressed disappointment in President Akufo-Addo for keeping mute on the Takoradi kidnappings when he addressed the House on the state of the nation.

On what could be done to resolve vigilantism, she called on the two leading parties to work together to identify members of their respective vigilante groups and disband them accordingly.