Parliament of Ghana
Parliament of Ghana

Parliament commences debate on President’s SONA

Parliament began debating the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Thursday, with both Majority and Minority legislators taking their turns to agree and disagree with the message.

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The MPs, who commended the President for his message to the House last Wednesday, focused their debates on the economy, questions over whether the government borrowed to use for its intended purposes or otherwise, infrastructure and energy.

Other thematic areas hinged on health, education, taxes, investment, inflation and depreciation of the cedi, among others.

The debate would continue until next week Thursday when the leadership of the House would take their turns to conclude the debate.

President was honest with Ghanaians

Moving the motion for the debate to begin, the Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, said prior to coming into office of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, it outlined alternative policies such as free Senior High School (SHS) programme, restoration of allowances for trainees of Colleges of Education and nursing training  and promised to reduce high utility tariffs.

“True to the words of the NPP, when it assumed office in 2017 efforts were made immediately to introduce the free SHS and there is no doubt on our minds as a people the programme has really helped the many who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to benefit from SHS education,” he said.

On utility tariffs, he argued that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) at the time had said that because of high cost of production, it would do nothing to reduce tariffs.

He recalled how in spite of all the calls by Ghanaians for a reduction, the then President John Mahama made it clear that given the circumstance he could not reduce tariffs.

“When the NPP assumed office, steps were taken and major announcements were made from 15 to 30 per cent tariffs reduction and households and industries rebate on tariffs,” he said. 

As the major opposition party, Mr Afenyo-Markin, who is also the NPP MP for Efutu, said the NDC had failed to tell Ghanaians their policy alternatives and what they would do to make life better.

He argued how today the government had managed to keep lights on and ensured that in spite of major economies suffering from power outages, businesses and households in Ghana enjoyed regular supply of electricity.

“South Africa, Mr Speaker, is seeing dumsor and mighty Nigeria is also seeing dumsor but in Ghana today we are not experiencing dumsor,” he said.

Mr Afenyo-Markin described the President as being honest to tell Ghanaians bluntly the diverse challenges facing the country including the depreciation of the cedi, high inflation rate and debt exchanges becoming the language of everyday conversation.

“Nana Akufo-Addo was honest in outlining these issues because these are the concerns of the ordinary Ghanaian and he acknowledges these must come to an end and assured us that this government is making every effort to resolve,” he said.

President not part of us 

Seconding the motion, NDC MP for Bolgatanga Central, Isaac Adongo, said the picture the President painted in the minds of Ghanaians in his message made him think that he (President) was “not part of us”. 

He said the President did not appreciate the “suffering, pains and difficulties” Ghanaians were going through.

Dwelling on what the President said he inherited in 2016, the deputy Ranking Member on the Finance Committee argued that in 2015 to 2016, neighbouring countries such as Nigeria were in recession but Ghana was not.

“And if you understand what it is to record 3.6 per cent of GDP when your neighbours are in recession recording negative growth, you will salute former President John Mahama for prudent and better economic management without borrowing one penny from the Bank of Ghana.”

“For you, you are borrowing GH¢55 billion in one year from the BoG. You borrowed GH¢35 billion from the bank in the previous year and cumulatively you borrowed GH¢90 billion of printed money at the BoG,” he 

Mr Adongo claimed that the economy that the current NPP inherited in 2017 was such a solid one that the government raised all the money to finance the budget from Ghana without going to the eurobond market.

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“How come you inherit an economy that finance your budget fully, that gave you all the money that you needed and you did not have to go to raise Eurobond money and yet you said that was a damaged economy.”

He questioned how on earth the current administration could move public debt from GH¢120 billion to almost GH¢600 billion, which is GH¢480 billion more.

The NPP MP for Abuakwa South, Samuel Atta Kyea, expressed worry over the manner in which some MPs were oblivious and lived in denial of the fact COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian-Ukraine war did have a debilitating effect on the economy.

“It almost feels like a scandal when people say these world events did not affect the economies of the world,” he said, citing global authorities on how the pandemic and war had devastated most economies worldwide.

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President can’t exonerate himself  

The NDC MP for Yapei- Kusawgu, John Jinapor, debunked the argument by the Deputy Majority Leader that former President Mahama stated that he could not reduce tariffs, he said in June 2016 electricity tariffs were reduced by 50 per cent.

“By the time we were leaving office, we had comprehensively and holistically solved the dumsor that we inherited as a government,” the Ranking Member on the Mines and Energy.

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