Yes, Mr Speaker.
I thank you for the opportunity to contribute, and to thank the President for the State of the Nation Address delivered to Parliament on Thursday, 26th February,
Mr Speaker, unfortunately, this State of the Nation Address, apart from the President talking about his achievements, was nothing more than a pep talk. The Address started with a quote from Nelson Mandela, which my Hon Colleague on the other side also quoted.
Mr Speaker, in my opinion, the real Ghana story is not as the President said it. The real Ghana story is one that is very bleak. We cannot see light at the end of the tunnel.
The Ghana story, is one where power is available to households and businesses for twelve hours, and for the next twenty four hours after that, there is no power. Our businesses have collapsed. Tailors, dressmakers, cold store operators, sachet water sellers and many, are all out of business. They are wondering where the next meal is going to come from to feed themselves and their families.
The real state of the nation, Mr Speaker, is that our market women from dawn to dusk sit behind their wares
wondering whether they would sell enough to be able to feed their families and themselves. A state where street hawkers now run after cars, and ask you to just offer them anything for their wares, so that they can have some money to buy food.
The true state of the nation, Mr Speaker, is that salaries of certain categories of workers - trainee nurses and teachers-- have not been paid. Their moneys are in arrears and it is difficult for them to make ends meet.
Mr Speaker, the real state of this nation is that of high unemployment, with our youth sitting at street corners and junctions, idling away. We all know that unemployed graduates have formed an association-- That is the true state of the nation.
Mr Speaker, moving on to national health. The whole purpose is being defeated. Mr Speaker, the Ghana story for the School Feeding Programme -- a pro- poor initiative, is no different. In this State of the Nation Address, the President did not even mention it.
Mr Speaker, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) for the School Feeding Authority said that majority of the schools in the Greater Accra Region, especially in the Accra metropolis, have been taken off the Programme. He said that this is the most logical thing to do, under the extreme and dire circumstances that the Programme is facing.
The manufacturing sector is on its knees -- it is dying fast. The cost of doing business is high. Mr Speaker, high interest rates, huge taxes, power outages, high utility bills, and unavailability of power, just to mention a few.
Our importers are feeling the pinch, because it is becoming impossible for them
to make any plans, based on the depreciating cedi. Within a space of a year, between the last State of the Nation Address in 2014 and 2015, the cedi has depreciated by 63 per cent, now selling at GH¢3.60 pesewas. That is the real state of the nation.
Mr Speaker, in 2008, an Hon Colleague of ours, in debating the State of the Nation Address, said that the people of Ghana were not interested in statistical figures -- I agree!
He said that they were interested in what was in their pockets, and what the money in their pockets could buy -- the purchasing power of what was in their pockets -- I agree!
He said that the President at the time, President J. A. Kufour, should have been talking about whether we could compare what was in our pockets with our salaries -- I totally agree!
He concluded by saying that the President was misleading this country. Mr Speaker, this was at a time, when fuel price was GH¢5, and it even went down to GH¢3.50 pesewas, and not GH¢14 per gallon, as it is today.
It was at a time, when the exchange rate was GH¢1.15 to the dollar, and not GH¢3.60 today. This was at a time when Value Added Tax (VAT) was 15 per cent, and not 17 per cent.
This was at a time when Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth was 8.3 per cent and not the projected 3.9 per cent as we are expecting this year. It was at a time when agriculture grew by 7.4 per cent, and not 0.8 per cent in 2011, 2.3 per cent in 2012, and 5.3 per cent in 2014. Food was affordable then.
This was at a time when a ball of kenkey was 30 pesewas, and not one Ghana cedi, as it is today. It was at a time when a bag of five kilogram rice was GH¢8.50, and not GH¢34, as it is today. When a tin of milk was 80 pesewas, and not GH¢3, as it is today.
Mr Speaker, it was at a time when cement was eight Ghana cedis, and not GH¢32 as it is today, when children rode free on buses, when the National Health Insurance was in tip-top shape.
Mr Speaker, we did not have to go in search of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). The gas companies came to our neighbourhoods and offered us gas to buy. This was at a time when there were no scandals like the one in the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) and Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) and huge judgement debts.
Mr Speaker, today, also on this side, I am telling the President that Ghana is in a very bleak, bleak, bleak situation. I am telling him the same thing-- stop, stop, stop misleading this country. I humbly ask him not to mislead Ghanaians and not to throw dust into our eyes, by giving us sugar-quoted words, by giving us what the youth call “raps”.
Sweet words have never put food on anybody's table; and to borrow the Nigerian parlance, I ask Mr President; “na sweet words, na love, Ghanaians go chop?” To wit, “we cannot feed on sugar- quoted words or pep talk”.
Mr President, in life, we cannot avoid climbing hills, but there are some hills which we just do not have to climb. We put you there because you can level the mountains and make the crooked places straight, as it is said in the Bible. Please,