By Samuel Amoako, Edmund Mingle and Francis Xah.
Friday, 15 February 2008
PRESIDENT J. A. Kufuor started his last State of the Nation Address to Parliament on a light-hearted note, pointing out that although he was giving it on February 14, St Valentine’s Day, the date had not been chosen by him.
He joked that fate had brought him to the House on that date because "I want to leave this House with an effusion of love for both sides of the divide. So in the spirit of love, let me wish each of you a Happy Valentine Day."
He added that the leadership of the House should ensure an adequate supply of the food of love — chocolate, in this case Ghana’s own chocolate – apparently a reference to the celebration of National Chocolate Day yesterday.
Looking relaxed and confident, President Kufuor said Ghana has been doing progressively well under his administration and is enjoying tremendous goodwill from both the local and international communities as a result of the performance of the economy over the past seven years.
He said the progress recorded in the past years has proven beyond doubt that prudent economic policies have been implemented.He said the successful and spectacular issuance of Euro-bond on the London Stock Exchange to raise 750 million dollars was a positive indication of the performance of the economy.
The ability of the economy to withstand the heavy shocks of the rising price of crude oil, the dramatic redenomination of the cedi without incident and the flocking of many reputable banks into the country also indicated the excellent performance of the economy.
Further evidence of the consistent progress was the Gross Domestic Product (GSP), which even in the face of many difficulties, has moved beyond 6.5 per cent currently, and was expected to pass the eight per cent mark within the next three years.
With this trend, the President said the country should be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty by half ahead of schedule.
President Kufuor said there was a socially sensitive development framework already in place and called on the nation to build on it to promote growth which will reflect in the pockets of the people generally.
He briefed the House on what has been achieved in various sectors of the economy including education, health, infrastructure, energy, agriculture and employment.
On education, he said the government has since 2001 used resources from the HIPC Fund, budget allocations and the Ghana Education Trust Fund to rehabilitate broken down educational institutions from basic through secondary to tertiary level.
Other initiatives which have been implemented, he said, included the Capitation Grant, the School Feeding Programme and the improved students’ loan scheme, all of which have contributed to increase intake of pupils and students.
He said under the new educational po-licy all the 38 Teacher Training Colleges were being upgraded to diploma awarding institutions.
On health, he said regional hospitals and district health centres have been rehabilitated under a robust health delivery programme while attention was being focused on disease prevention and promotion of healthy life styles
The President listed the roads that have been reconstructed under the government’s vigorous infrastructure development and said 1,000 kilometres of feeder roads have been surfaced nationwide while l4,800 kilometre have undergone rehabilitation in addition to 84 bridges built.
The rehabilitation of the railways, he said will commence in the course of the year using 90 million dollars of the proceeds from the Euro-bond as leverage with a consortium.
On energy, President Kufuor said the implementation of the medium-to-long-term policy would provide the country’s energy requirements for industrialisation.
The government’s intention now was to work towards adding value to agricultural produce especially cocoa, and welcomed both local and foreign investors to the sector.
The President said a total of 200,000 jobs were created in 2007 as against 120,000 in 2006.
He noted with satisfaction that the fight against corruption has found a new ally in Parliament which last year saw public hearings of the Public Accounts Committee sittings.
He said the committee’s proactive stance demonstrated an appreciation that concerns about corruption were more helpful when they go beyond mere complaints.
President Kufuor spoke about Ghana was making great strides towards a more inclusive society, adding that both genders were presented at the top in all units of the public service.
Referring to the forthcoming general election he said it was regrettable that some people have chosen the marketing strategy of presenting their opponents in the worst possible light.
"I dare say they might do better, if they focused more on what they would do differently if they received the people’s mandate."