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Govt poised for more devt - Bawumia

BY: Chris Nunoo

The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has outlined some 85 achievements of the government in its first term, saying the government was poised to deliver more in its second term, with the presentation of the 2021 Budget.

Notwithstanding what he described as “solid achievements”, he said there were still challenges facing the economy and people as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Dr Bawumia said: “ As we look forward to the implementation of the 2021 budget in our second term, it is important that we take note of the accomplishments of the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo government in our first term after inheriting an economy in crisis.”

Economy improves

Taking a look at the economy, Dr Bawumia said the strides included inflation, which had been reduced from 15.4 per cent in 2016 to 10.4 per cent at the end of 2020; reduction of average lending rates from 3 per cent in 2016 to 21 per cent in 2020, and the cleaning up of the financial sector which saved the deposits of 4.6 million depositors.

Furthermore, he stated: “The average exchange rate depreciation over the last four years (7.3 per cent) is the lowest for any first-term government since 1992; the year 2020 recorded the lowest rate of depreciation in the last 28 years; Ghana has been consistently one of the fastest growing economies in the world for each of the last four years. Notwithstanding the decline of GDP growth to 0.9 per cent in 2020 as a result of COVID-19; and for the first time in over two decades, the trade balance (the difference between what we export and what we import) recorded a surplus for four consecutive years from 2017- 2020.

Again, the Vice-President said Ghana's Gross International Reserves increased from $6.1billion (3.5 months of imports) in 2016 to $8.6 billion in 2020 (4.1 months of imports), successfully exited the IMF programme, and had its sovereign credit rating upgraded from B- in 2016 to B with a stable outlook, the first upgrade in 10 years.

Agriculture improves

On agriculture, Dr Bawumia mentioned the Planting for Food and Jobs, which he said had increased food production including a 71 per cent increase in the national production of maize and 34 per cent in paddy rice.

In addition, he said the Global Food Security Index, which measures affordability, availability and quality of food in 113 countries, placed Ghana in 59th position in 2019, up from 78th position in 2016.

He also mentioned the introduction of a pension scheme for cocoa farmers, the first of its kind since independence; the establishment of a Tree Crop Development Authority with a focus on mango, cashew, rubber, oil palm, shea and coconut, and the implementation the One District, One Warehouse.

Industry front

Dr Bawumia said the implementation of the One District, One Factory initiative had seen the completion of 76 companies, which were in operation, while the new Automotive Sector Development Policy had resulted in VW, Sinotruk, Kantanka Group and Nissan all assembling vehicles in Ghana.

“ We have established the Ghana Integrated Aluminium Development Corporation (GIADEC) and the Ghana Integrated Iron and Steel Development Corporation (GIISDEC), both of which are progressing steadily in the development of these industries,” he added.

NABCO, others

The establishment of the Nation Builders Corps (NABCO) was also mentioned as one of the achievements, with the Vice-President saying 100,000 graduates had been employed under the scheme.

Besides, he said at least 500,000 workers made up of nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers; teachers, police officers and many others had been recruited after many years of employment freeze under the previous government.

Other areas he mentioned were the reduction of import duties by between 30 per cent - 50 per cent; the realisation of the lowest average annual increase (8.25 per cent) in petroleum prices in the fourth republic, cumulatively, reducing electricity tariffs for residential, business, and industrial consumers during our first term, the only government in the fourth republic to do so; reduction of the growth of the debt stock from an average of 243 per cent per annum between 2012-2016 to an average of 137 per cent per annum between 2017 and 2020.

Dr Bawumia further mentioned other remarkable achievements as having taken place in the mobile money market, national health insurance scheme, universal QR Code payment system, online passport application, digitisation at the port, digitisation of scholarships and motor insurance database as well as operations of the Driver, Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA) and the beginning of automation of the country's hospitals.

Other achievements listed included the digitisation of the Births and Deaths Registry which is 80 per cent complete, reduced special petroleum tax rate from 17.5 per cent to 15 per cent.

He also mentioned the abolishing of the excise duty on petroleum, one per cent Special Import Levy, the 17.5 per cent VAT/NHIL on domestic airline tickets, the 17.5 per cent VAT/NHIL on financial services, the 17.5 per cent VAT/NHIL on selected imported medicines, that are not produced locally, the five per cent VAT/NHIL on Real Estate sales and the abolishing of import duty on the importation of spare parts.

Added to that is the reduced National Electrification Scheme Levy from five per cent to three per cent, and reduced Public Lighting Levy from five per cent to two per cent.

Education

Vice-President Bawumia also mentioned the introduction of a new basic curriculum from Kindergarten to Primary Six with a focus on reading, writing, arithmetic and creativity; the government paying the registration fees of BECE and WASSCE candidates, restoration of teacher and nurse trainee allowances, One Constituency, One Ambulance policy, and the introduction of drones in the delivery of critical medicine, vaccines and blood to people in remote parts of the country as notable achievements; expansion of school feeding by 78 per cent, and scrapping of utility bills for tertiary students.

He said President Akufo-Addo had also abolished market tolls for kayayei, established the Zongo Development Fund to address the needs of Zongo and inner city communities, increased the allowances for peacekeeping soldiers from $30 to $35, launched a comprehensive Building Code for Ghana for the first time, and created six new regions to help promote decentralised and inclusive development.

Significantly again, he said, there had been a zero case of cholera in Ghana in the last four years, massive investment in water and sanitation facilities, improved financing of governance and anti-corruption institutions, and demonstration of leadership in the management of COVID-19.