Mr Speaker, in beginning my contribution, I would like to quote from the Address delivered by His Excellency the President at column 849 of the Address, the last but one paragraph;
“Mr Speaker, I entered public service out of a genuine desire to help make a difference in the lives of our people...”
Mr Speaker, this statement alone reveals the genuine desire the President has for the people of this country and somebody who has this desire for his people must be commended.
Indeed, Mr Speaker, that very day, I was very happy to be a Ghanaian. For my leader to have genuine desire for me, I was touched by that statement.
Mr Speaker, the President went ahead and talked about the efforts made by the previous Governments in the economic growth of this country. In fact, he went back to 1986 and talked about the consistent growth of this country that has led to Ghana attaining the lower middle- income status in 2010. That statement again, shows that the President is not giving credit to himself, but to all the past Presidents -- including your Excellency Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor and the late Prof Atta Mills and to indeed, all of us as Ghanaians.
Over two decades, we have made a frantic effort to ensure that we grow this economy to the time we enter with middle income status.
Mr Speaker, again, he says that now, Ghana as a country, is counted among the 10 fastest growing economies in the world. That is no mean an achievement, that in 2011 alone, the performance of the economy grew by 14.4 per cent of GDP.
Mr Speaker, the President again went ahead to tell his vision that he has for this country for the first term that he came to office. Mr Speaker, the President said, having attained 14.4 per cent in 2011, his vision for the country is to ensure that this economic growth is sustained. At least, Ghana should go at the rate of eight per cent minimum, so that we can move this country to a full middle-income status. This is the vision of His Excellency the President in his first term in office.
Mr Speaker, when it comes to the area of microeconomic stability, the President was very frank to tell Ghanaians what we are doing as a nation. He said that for a period of 30 months, continuously, inflation was in a single digit. And it is for us as people to ensure that we work towards maintaining this single digit inflation that can then work to culminate into the benefit of all us as a country.
Mr Speaker, this single digit was arrived at after the Ghana Statistical Service used their formula in computing the figure. I know people who used the same work of the Ghana Statistical Service in previous times to say that, well, if we have single digit, why is it not reflecting in the pockets of Ghanaians?
Mr Speaker, I know that the formula is under review and the review is completed. I believe strongly that the true position would be reflected and I have no doubt that the figure will still remain the single digit as we have.
Mr Speaker, the President also talked about the value of our cedi which has been relatively stable with the exception of the first half of 2012 where there were a lot of challenges, pressure on the cedi. This was due to the balance of trade deficit that we experienced as a country. Whenever there is a balance of trade deficit, it means
that our imports exceed the exports. That is an indication that a country having balance of trade deficit, we should watch carefully what we are importing into this country and what we are exporting. That is an indication that the President has an eye on what we should do. So, if in the first half of 2012, we had a balance of trade deficit putting pressure on the cedi for the value to fall and which was corrected immediately, it means that we need to thank the Government for taking action promptly.
Mr Speaker, our gross international reserve which was around US$2 billion in early 2009, grew to a level of US$5.5 billion, covering over three months of import cover. Which means that, if today we are not able to export anything at all, the country can rely on our international reserve to import, to cover a period of over three months.
During that period, we can take measures to ensure that we correct any problem or difficulty on our hands. It is a comfortable position for us as a country that we are increasing our international reserve. Mr Speaker, His Excellency the President was very frank in the Address and I am very happy. As an Accountant, I know that the address covers a lot.
Mr Speaker, when you come to the banking sector, we have seen a lot of performance in the non-performing loan ratio. It means that the non-performing ratio is reducing and profitability is going up and our asset base is also going up. This is a good indication that the banking sector must take advantage of, to ensure that they expand their business, so that they can create more jobs for our people who complete school.
Mr Speaker, on fiscal challenges and deficits, the President talked about the misalignments of the expenditure categories. In our budget, we have three main expenditure categories-- the emoluments which is the wages, salaries and allowances; we have goods and services that include debt servicing; we also have the investment which is the capital expenditure. There is a misalignment in this sector, which means that, Item 1 which is the emolument alone is taking 60.9 per cent of our total revenue. This is a challenge for us as a country.
If our Item 1 alone is taking over 60 per cent, then we should be careful on what we do. When we look at the international figure for Item 1, which is between 30 and 35 per cent and we have gone over 60 per cent, we should be very careful -- and the President mentioned that. He made a quotation and, Mr Speaker, with your permission, I beg to quote: “The meat is now down to the bones.” It means that, if we are asking for more already, what we have is over and above what we should have, so we are in trouble.
The public sector workers must take note of the investments that the country is making in them, so that they can work harder, improve productivity, so that we can maintain and sustain our growth that we have in the country.
Mr President mentioned revenue and expenditure. If you run a company and the survival of this company depends on what comes to you in the form of revenue and what goes out in the form of expenditure, if your revenue far exceeds your expenditure, you are profitable, you are making profit. But where your expenditure far outweighs the revenue, you are in trouble.