Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity.
Mr Speaker, in making my contribution, I would first and foremost, want to touch on the issue raised by the Hon Minister- designate at the Presidency, Mr Alhassan Azong. He touched on a very important matter of rice cultivation in this country.
Mr Speaker, there is absolutely no doubt and there is a lot of wisdom in the saying that “a man who has his mouth at another man's kitchen cannot assert his independence” -- [Hear! Hear!] -- If one has to go and eat at somebody's kitchen, one has to kowtow to the person's demands and whims and caprices.
This country is very rich and abounds in fertile lands that can position us to produce rice, not only for domestic consumption but even for export. But sadly enough, as a result of a combination of a number of factors which have conspired to reduce us to the status of importers of rice, this country has had to spend in the excess of US$500 million annually to import rice.
Mr Speaker, this is a colossal amount that otherwise could have been used to give fillip to the developmental aspirations and interest of our people. Yet, these moneys are used to import rice and to fuel the economies of other countries. For every dollar that we spend to import goods from outside this country, we are giving employment to other people in other countries at the expense of the generation of our domestic economy and giving a boost to our farmers. So, this is a very important matter.
Mr Speaker, I remember in the last Parliament, this august House had the opportunity to attempt to address the issue by the imposition of tariffs on rice and some other products. Unfortunately, I think, owing to the lack of political will, we had to come back and reverse it. And I found that a very sad commentary on our ability to take care of national interest where we would put our farmers and our economy first before all others.
I would want to urge, Mr Speaker, that all attention be given to this particular issue. I am aware that the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) under the auspices of the NDC Government is doing a lot to, as it were, give some attention to this issue of helping our farmers through acquisition of tractors, combined harvesters and others. But I think that it is not enough. Government itself must have a clear-cut policy. In my opinion, that must discriminate between our farmers and other farmers outside this economy.
We must use adverse tariffs to address a situation in which the cost of production -- This is because, Mr Speaker, if one goes outside the country, there are other countries which subsidise their economies to the tune of hundreds of
millions of dollars annually. So, if in economic terms -- they have achieved economies of scale; it is possible for them to sell cheaper and for that matter, they put our farmers at a disadvantage.
I think that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) recognises that where there is a possibility of dumping in one's country and one can provide evidence, it is possible for one to also take up some measures of tariffs to ensure that one addresses those inequalities in trade.
So, I would want to believe that it is possible for us to also institute those tariffs to make those items, at least, on a comparative basis, higher priced to what our farmers produce, so that our farmers will become competitive.
The Hon Members who contributed earlier had made mention of the fact that the phenomenon of kayayei -- that is, young able-bodied women and men leaving life from the three northern regions to the South, to migrate for non-existent jobs, is partly, Mr Speaker, as a result of the collapse of the rice industry in the North.
I am sure that if we are able to take these steps to revamp the rice industry and ensure that the industry produces to its optimal capacity, we would have reversed that trend, giving them opportunity to stay home and work and some of them would become rice producers and in time, even become entrepreneurs themselves.
So, Mr Speaker, on this note, I would like to support the Motion and urge that this House unanimously approves all the Hon Nominees.