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SONA must inspire hope for business community — GUTA

BY: Donald Ato Dapatem & Timothy Ngnenbe
SONA must inspire hope for business community — GUTA
SONA must inspire hope for business community — GUTA

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has been asked to use the State of the Nation Address (SONA) which he will present in Parliament today to inspire hope in Ghanaians, especially the business community.

Again, he must touch on policy decisions that will assuage the fears of particularly the local trading community.

The President of the Ghana Union of Traders Associations (GUTA), Dr Joseph Obeng, who made the call in an interview with the Daily Graphic, said the SONA must outline prudent measures being taken to address the economic challenges confronting the country.

"We know that the President will reiterate the measures that have already been outlined by the Minister of Finance to tackle the economic challenges, but we need more concrete details on the issues, especially tackling the depreciating local currency," he said.

Date

President Akufo-Addo was initially billed to address the House, and by extension the nation, on March 3, 2022, but it was postponed indefinitely.

However, last Friday, the Majority Chief Whip, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, presenting the business statement of the House for the 10th week, announced that the President would present the SONA today, March 30.

This is in accordance with Article 67 of the Constitution, which states that the President shall give the State of the Nation Address at the beginning and the close of every parliamentary session.

"Pursuant to the convention of this House, Honourable Members are urged to be punctual and accordingly be seated in the Chamber, latest by 9:15 a.m., as it may
not be courteous for members to enter or exit the House after the President has taken his seat in the Chamber to deliver the address," Mr Annoh-Dompreh said.

GUTA’s expectations

Listing some of the issues he would like to hear President Akufo-Addo talk about in his address, Dr Obeng said the President needed to touch on policy decisions, such
as the base rate increase, measures to control the dominance of foreigners in the import space and tax exemption regimes.

Again, he observed that the trading community was expectant of what the President would say about foreigners’ domination of Ghana’s import space.

"As we speak, about 85 per cent of imports into the country are done by foreigners, who constitute just about five per cent of importers. This development puts pressure on the local currency, so we want to see what the President will do about it," he said.

He stressed that GUTA expected the President to touch on policies that would promote the purchase of local raw materials for production, as that would help stabilise the local currency in the long run.

Dr Obeng also underscored the need for the President to review the tax exemption regime to curtail revenue losses.

The SONA

The President’s SONA, the first in 2022, is expected to touch greatly on the economic challenges facing the nation, as a result mainly of repercussions from the global economic fallout, and the measures the country has put in place to address them and bring relief to Ghanaians.

He will also speak about the invasion of Ukraine by Russia a month ago and its ripple effect on the global economy, especially the rising prices of gas, petroleum products, wheat and fertiliser.

Another area that will receive mention is education, with President Akufo-Addo expected to stress that his flagship social intervention programme, the free senior high school, will be enhanced and not scaled down, as is being speculated.

With the passage of the Electronic Transaction Levy (E-Levy) Bill re-tabled before Parliament yesterday, the President is likely to talk about how that is going to
help put the economy back on track and how the government is hopeful that it will be able to raise the needed resources for its business and proposed projects.

Expected to also find space in the SONA is road construction in general and particularly the Tamale Interchange, which was inaugurated by the President
yesterday, three months ahead of schedule.

It is the first interchange in the Northern Region and will help ease traffic in the central business district (CBD) of Tamale.

Also, the many major road projects that are nearing completion across the country will receive mention.

Regarding health, President Akufo-Addo who has won world-wide admiration for his leadership role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana, may take the House through the processes, expenditure and the sacrifices the government and the people had to go through to deal with the pandemic.

Additionally, he will touch on the sacrifices of the health and the security agencies and the calculations that culminated in the removal of all restrictions, including the opening of all land borders.

Parliament

Given the near hung Parliament that we have now, President Akufo-Addo is expected to renew his clarion call for more consensus building to help with government business.