Full Speech by Nana Akufo-Addo at IEA Evening Encounter
Written by Nana Akufo-Addo Tuesday, 21 August 2012 20:53
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, friends from the media, fellow Ghanaians, good evening.
This event was to have taken place two weeks ago, but was postponed at my request when President Mills passed away. May he rest in perfect peace.
Ghanaians should be proud that together we are building a democratic state, a Ghana being governed by the rule of law. We have just gone through a unique period in our history, dealing with the death in office of a sitting President. When put to the test, our democratic institutions rose to the occasion. The transfer of the Presidency was peaceful, smooth and constitutional and we should all be encouraged by the way the system worked. It strengthens those of us who have fought all our lives for democracy to flourish in Ghana, for it shows that constitutional democracy is the best form of governance for our beloved nation. We must cherish and protect these precious democratic values, which form the basis for the unity and progress of our country. We may have our differences, but what joins us together is more important. We are One Ghana and I am totally committed to working to ensure peace and unity for the Ghana project. I congratulate our new President and new Vice President on their assumption of office and wish them well in their brief, caretaker role. Their most important responsibility to Ghana is to ensure that we have a peaceful, free and fair election in December. Ghanaians expect nothing less.
My party and I are totally devoted to Ghana’s peace and stability, as we have always been. We, famously, demonstrated this in 2008 when, despite the narrowest of losing margins, we did nothing to jeopardise the stability of the nation and lived up to my pledge of not allowing a single drop of Ghanaian blood to be shed. I pray to God that all other stakeholders, especially the Electoral Commission, the ruling party and the security agencies, also make a genuine commitment to work towards a peaceful election, one that is free from fraud, intimidation, harassment and violence.
I thank the IEA for organising this event and commend them on their continuing commitment to the development of democracy in our country. I welcome this opportunity to talk about my party’s programmes for the December elections.
Over the last 2 years, I’ve been going around the country on my various tours, meeting Ghanaians in their homes, workplaces, farms, markets, lorry stations, at organised functions and sometimes at unscheduled stops; and I have heard their stories and seen their conditions. I read the numerous comments on my facebook page, and in our newspapers, and hear comments on radio and television.
What I see, hear and read makes me more and more convinced that we have to change the way we do things and transform our economy into a new one – a new economy that will help us give our children good education, create jobs, provide good healthcare, feed ourselves adequately, and give every Ghanaian an opportunity for a good life.
I recall the sad story of a 17 year-old boy in Akwasiho, in Abetifi, in the Eastern Region, who said he dropped out of school because his parents couldn’t pay his senior high school education. This particular boy’s story stays with me mostly because of the sound of desperation in his voice. There are thousands and thousands like him. I met Kwame Osei, in Suproano in the Anhwiaso Bekwai District, Western Region. He is a cocoa farmer and at age 42, he should be one of our success stories. But he said, “the cost of fertilizer and pesticides, coupled with the collapse of mass spraying, is making life very hard.” At the Sango Beach, here in Accra, fishermen were downhearted and frustrated. Their major complaints were about the increasing cost of fishing equipment and inputs. Outboard motors that cost GH¢2,900 in 2008 now cost GH¢8,000 - in single digit inflation Ghana.
Esinam told me in Vakpo, in the Volta Region, that her problem was the collapsing National Health Insurance Scheme. She said, “NHIS egblen!” Young men and women everywhere I go are crying for jobs, and they are desperate for someone to give them hope for a meaningful future.
The black market trade in foreign currency is back as the cedi continues to fall against all major currencies. Business people complain of the rising cost of business, poor sales, lack of credit and support to grow their businesses.
Ghanaians are clearly unhappy and dissatisfied with the conditions of their lives. And, yet, the town criers of NDC propaganda tell us we are living today in better times.
My life has been about service to people. This has been my driving force as a lawyer, as a political activist against military rule, as a campaigner for human rights and democracy, as a Member of Parliament, as Attorney General and as Minister for Foreign Affairs. In between these endeavours, I have also been in business and done reasonably well. Twenty years ago, I was excited by the potential of mobile telephones and played a pioneering role in bringing the first mobile telephony company, Mobitel, to Ghana, which started an industry that has transformed the lives of millions of Ghanaians. As a lawyer, I mentored many young people who are now among the leading lawyers of our country. It is these various roles and experiences that I believe, in all humility, have prepared me for the serious job of the Presidency.
My goal is to provide transformational leadership and help build a prosperous society, which creates opportunities for all its citizens, rewards creativity and enterprise, honesty and hard work, a society where there is discipline and fairness, where people go about their lives in a free and responsible manner, a society where there are safety nets for the vulnerable and decent retirement for the elderly, an open society protected by well-resourced and motivated security services and where the rule of law works.
For this to happen, Ghana needs effective leadership, leadership which is honest, competent and determined to deliver. A leadership of conviction – which is committed to fighting corruption and dedicated to the welfare and wellbeing of the Ghanaian. It is clear that corruption has become rampant in these last few years, robbing us of much needed resources for our development. I am determined to fight corruption aggressively, and I can do so, because I am not corrupt, have never been corrupt, and will demand the same of my team. Accountability and transparency are the hallmarks of good governance. Ghana needs this, Ghana deserves this and I, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, pledge to deliver this to the good people of Ghana.
The people of this country have to be healthy, if we are to make any meaningful progress in nation-building. The last NPP government introduced the National Health Insurance Scheme to remove the constant fear of falling ill under the inhumane Cash & Carry system. It has been painful to watch the NDC government try its best to collapse the NHIS, whilst struggling to implement their unrealistic one-time premium promise. Today, the fear of getting sick is back. The NHIS has been degraded and Cash & Carry is back.
Fellow citizens, we will revive and restore confidence in the NHIS. Our goal is to achieve universal coverage of the NHIS for all Ghanaians. The NPP will spend more on public-health education and primary healthcare.
We shall expand health facilities and increase the training of health workers; we have done it before, increasing it by seven-fold in just six years. Our priority is to train our medical professionals locally. Recently, a scheme, operated by then Vice President Mahama, sent 250 people to Cuba to be trained as doctors and para-medics, at a cost of GH¢106,000 each. We could have trained them at GH¢30,000 each, according to the Ghana Medical Association. We will rather invest in our medical schools to train a lot more doctors here in Ghana.
If good health is basic to our survival, good education is critical to our development. Education creates social mobility; Market women and fishermen, farmers and traders, taxi drivers and artisans, hawkers and kayayei, and, indeed, every mother and father, all hope that education will help their children escape poverty and give them access to a good life.
Education is at the heart of the NPP programme. We cannot transform the economy and the country without transforming the knowledge and skills of our people. Every child, rich or poor, able-bodied or disabled, deserves a good education.
Currently, at every stage of education, our children are falling out of the system. To our eternal shame, some children born in this country never even make it to a classroom. Then, of the numbers that do start school, over 60 per cent of them do not make it to secondary school. The situation has become significantly worse over the last three years, with even fewer children (47% as against 62% in 2008) passing the BECE. In some villages, not a single child passes the exam. Every year, more than 150,000 young Ghanaians leave school at JHS level without any opportunities for further education or training. This is dangerous!
To change this situation, we will redefine basic education and make it compulsory from Kindergarten to Senior High School. To ensure that no child is denied access to secondary education, we will remove the biggest obstacles that currently stand in their way: cost and access. In addition to tuition and other costs already borne by government, admission, library, computer, science centre and examination fees will all be free. So will boarding, feeding and entertainment fees, along with textbooks and utilities. In order to ensure equity, day students will also be fed at school free of charge. Free secondary school education will cover Technical and Vocational institutions.
I know this will be expensive. But, as the Ewe saying has it, “you cook important foods in important pots.” The cost of providing free secondary school education will be cheaper than the cost of the current alternative of a largely uneducated and unskilled workforce that retards our development. Leadership is about choices – I will choose to invest in the future of our youth and of our country.
Fellow citizens, I know numbers can be boring, but these are important numbers. The additional cost of providing Free Senior High School will be around 1% of Ghana’s GDP. The cost of providing free secondary school education, which includes tuition, boarding, feeding and all the other charges for the 2013-2014 academic year, is estimated at 0.1% of our GDP. This translates into some GH¢78 million. We have made provision for a major increase in enrollment as a result of admitting all JHS students into SHS in 2014-2015. We expect the cost to rise to GH¢288 million (0.3% of GDP) in that academic year and increase to GH¢774 million in 2015-2016 (0.7% of GDP). Additional expenditure on more teachers, infrastructure for schools, including expanding and rehabilitating existing infrastructure, and establishing cluster schools in areas where there are no Senior High Schools, will bring the total cost to GH¢755 million (0.9% of GDP) in 2013 and rise to GH¢1.45 billion (1.3% of GDP) in 2016. Providing free secondary education will increase the total educational expenditure from the 4.1% of GDP in 2012 to 5.8% by 2016, a figure which is still below the UNESCO minimum of 6%. I am prepared to go beyond that in order to improve quality at all levels – Primary, JHS, SHS, and Tertiary.
Countries that have taken deliberate, successful steps to improve their economies have spent substantial amounts of their national income on education. For example, in 1960, during its post-war transformation, Japan spent 21.4% of its GDP on education and Malaysia, at an equivalent period in 1990, spent 15.3% of its GDP. On our continent, a number of African countries are doing better than us. Kenya spends 6.7% of its GDP on education, South Africa 6% and even tiny Lesotho puts us to shame by spending 13% of its GDP on education. We may be able to beat them at football, but not in education.
Let me put this into context; the NDC admits to paying out some GH¢640 million, equivalent to 1.4% of Ghana's 2010 GDP, as judgement debts. Are we telling parents and their children that a Ghana that can afford to spend 1.4% of its income on judgement debts cannot afford to spend an additional 1.3% of its income on giving its children free secondary education?
We know how to fund it. A percentage of the oil revenues allocated to the Ghana National Petroleum Company, and for the funding of the budget, as well as a greater percentage from GETFund, will be used to finance the programme.
These plans can only work with the enthusiastic support of a well-trained and motivated teaching workforce. We do not have enough teachers and many are not happy with their lot. Last year, the Minister for Education said there was a 60,000-teacher deficit in the country. The NPP will attract, train and retain young professionals into the teaching profession. We will make it easier for teachers to upgrade their skills, improve their status and provide them with incentives . For example, any teacher with 10 or more years of service will be eligible for a mortgage scheme, supported by government, for a home anywhere in the country. We shall endeavour to make teaching in the rural areas, in particular, less stressful by providing accommodation and transportation. It is obvious that the scope of our modern lives has placed extra responsibilities on our teachers. With most families now made up of both parents going out to work, children spend much longer periods at school and teachers have to see to their moral as well as academic upbringing. Society must recognise this and accord our teachers the necessary incentives. That is why an Akufo-Addo presidency, God-willing, will introduce a Teacher First policy to give teachers the recognition they deserve. Free education must be achieved, hand in hand, with quality education and we shall work with the religious bodies to ensure equal weight is attached to the moral upbringing of our children. We also acknowledge the important work the private schools are doing, and we will work with them to improve delivery.
Our young people need skills for the job market. We need apprenticeship schemes that teach skills and guarantee quality. We will borrow from the experiences of countries that have industrialised with the skills of artisans. On a recent trip to Germany, I explored the possibilities of collaboration so that we can bring home the apprenticeship models, which have helped Germany make quality products that are famed around the world.
The 2008 Education Act made provisions for apprenticeship schemes. We will implement them. Technical and Vocational Institutions will be increased, equipped and enhanced to help fill the critical skills gap required to industrialise Ghana. At the higher level, education must produce technical, professional and managerial personnel to drive Ghana’s industrialisation and transformation.
We shall formalise collaboration between government, the private sector, teachers’ associations and institutions of higher learning, including polytechnics, for manpower planning and needs and, thereby, address this new, unwelcome phenomenon of rising levels of graduate unemployment. We will put greater emphasis on research and development, science and technology, to provide the nuts and bolts for the new economy.
The number of people, especially young people, without jobs in our country is frightening. Our much-touted economic growth has not translated into jobs and incomes for the people beyond the government propaganda of creating 1.7 million ghost jobs, which even the sector Minister could not find.
The hard truth is that the current size and structure of our economy is not big enough to provide the jobs that are needed. If we want a different result, then we have to do things differently, and we have to do them urgently. We have to make a deliberate effort to move on from the Guggisberg, raw material-exporting economy to a new economy that can deliver prosperity for our people. We will encourage importers and Ghanaians abroad to shift from bringing in finished products to bringing in the know-how, tools and capital inputs that will enable us produce finished goods right here in Ghana. The long-term solution for the stability of our cedi is industrialisation.
Right now, if you go to the market and just look, the absurdity of our situation is bound to hit you. We allow our fruits to rot and import fruit juice. My government, God willing, will give new impetus to value-addition. In the next two decades, the population of West Africa is estimated to reach some 500 million people. The NPP is fully committed to the ECOWAS integration project, for Ghana has the potential to be at the centre of economic activities for this vast regional market. My message to the youth of today, is, if we start preparing now, by transforming our education, our skill-sets and our economy, we will transform forever your lives and that of generations yet to come.
We have to modernise our agriculture and process our agricultural products. The models implemented by the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), which we formulated when we were in government, have been shown to work. We will use them to end the disgraceful situation of food crop farmers being amongst the poorest segment of the population. A major plank of our agricultural policy will be to achieve food self-sufficiency. Both commercial and small-scale farmers will be supported to improve their output and develop their business.
The value of the minerals in our country, including salt, is estimated to be in excess of US$1 trillion. We have developed plans to add value to them. We will attract the necessary capital to mine our bauxite to build a multi-billion dollar integrated aluminium industry, as envisaged by the Kufuor government. We will use a similar model to exploit our iron ore deposits and build urgently a new iron and steel industry, which can also process West African ore currently being shipped to Europe for refining.
Presently, our oil refinery is not working. The NDC government is wilfully starving it only to import finished products. The NPP will change this. We will use the oil & gas find to build a strong petrochemical industry in Ghana, using both private and public financing, and create linkages with other businesses to turn Ghana into a centre for light industry in our region.
I believe that, beyond a competent, incorruptible leadership, the best instrument for achieving economic transformation is the private sector. We shall vigorously assist all our enterprises, especially small and medium scale ones, both in the formal and informal sectors, to grow – by helping them gain access to credit, technology and markets. Much greater attention will be paid to indigenous and local businesses to expand and create jobs for our young men and women. Ghanaian businesses will play the lead role in public procurement. The tax and tariff systems will be restructured to promote growth in the private sector. Policies will be introduced that will encourage banks to support the transformation agenda. We will strengthen the regulatory bodies to do the job of protecting consumers and improving standards. We will empower Ghanaians to do the job of transforming Ghana. We will make Ghana the place to do business, and make businesses in Ghana globally competitive. We shall forge a strong partnership with organised labour to achieve this. This is how we will create the hundreds of thousands of jobs for which the young people of our country are yearning. This is the only way to break the hand to mouth existence and free our people to aspire to greater heights. We can do it.
All of this requires a support infrastructure. Power cuts, lack of water, inadequate roads and transport, bad drainage and sanitation all affect business, frustrate lives and hold us back.
To accelerate our development, spending on infrastructure over the next decade will average some GH¢14 billion a year. We will do this by managing government resources and projects efficiently and attracting substantial capital from the private sector – in public-private partnership initiatives. Our infrastructure programme includes the development of roads, water supplies, sanitation, railways, ports, airports, and our plan to triple the irrigation of arable land and to complete a nationwide fibre optic backbone to facilitate effective and efficient ICT access. Critical to all this will be a dramatic expansion and supply of reliable power to support the transformation agenda.
Let me, in closing, mention the problem of housing. We have to resolve the appalling accommodation situation where over 50 per cent of Ghanaians live in sub-standard houses, deprived inner city dwellings, uncompleted houses, containers, kiosks, pavements and other unsuitable structures and the majority of tenants face the payment of huge advance rents especially in our cities. I will commit my government to complete the affordable housing project that was started by the Kufuor government and abandoned by the NDC. With the private sector, we will build more decent, affordable homes for working Ghanaians. They would range from hostels and bedsits to flats and houses.
This has been a summary of a few of the essential things that an NPP government, under my leadership, will do to improve people’s lives. Be assured that we will stabilise the sinking cedi, bring back business confidence and make investing in Ghana attractive to both local and foreign investors. We have spent time getting our plans right. Doubtless that must account for how the original theme of our manifesto, ‘PEOPLE MATTER, YOU MATTER’, was pinched by our opponents…. But I take the view that imitation is the greatest form of flattery and we wish them well.
I have a team, a dynamic and competent team, to implement plans designed to transform the lives of our people and develop in Ghana, a free, democratic, modern African state – one that can hold its own in a competitive world. I am privileged to have a deep pool of talent of men and women in the NPP to draw from, as well as from the broad spectrum of Ghanaian talent, home and abroad, to turn the dreams of freedom and prosperity of our forefathers into reality.
We have a clear vision of where we want to take Ghana and a detailed road map of how to get there. But in order to make the journey we, humbly, need you, fellow citizens and fellow Ghanaians, to make a decisive choice on December 7th and give us your mandate. Together, we will transform Ghana, and use all the blessings that the Almighty has bestowed on us to bring prosperity to our people and nation.
I do not underestimate the challenges we face in trying to achieve these goals, especially since many of you do not trust politicians, because of the many broken promises. But, I want you, the Ghanaian people, to give me the opportunity to serve you differently. I want you to trust me. I am no stranger to you. I have stood with you all my adult life, fighting for our individual and collective rights. I am proud of what we have so far achieved in political and civil rights. The next struggle is for economic progress: transforming our economy for opportunities and prosperity for us all, regardless of the circumstances of our birth. I am strong in my conviction and confident that we can do it. I know we are capable. Let us be strong and courageous. God did not put us on this rich land to be poor. It is bad leadership that makes us poor. So let us change now! and move Ghana forward together. I believe in you. I believe in the can-do spirit of Ghanaians. I believe in Ghana. And, above all, I believe in God.
God bless you
God bless the Fourth Republic
God bless Ghana and Mother Africa