Mr Speaker, farmers are left on their own. It is, therefore, not surprising that food prices are high and we have to import almost everything we eat, including vegetables from our Sahelian neighbours, and yet agriculture provides the best opportunity to use modern methods to change the lives of many within the shortest possible time. We have to irrigate our lands and equip farmers with the skills needed to make farming a well-paying business.
We aim to popularise farming, by encouraging many people to take it up as a full or part-time activity. A national campaign; “Planting for food and jobs”
Mr Speaker, this campaign would be anchored on the pillars that would transform agriculture; the provision of improved seeds, the supply of fertilisers, the provision of dedicated extension services, a marketing strategy and the use of e-Agriculture.
Mr Speaker, to initiate the campaign, the District Assemblies would be tasked to identity and register progressive farmers in each of the 216 districts.
Mr Speaker, it is a programme that I expect, would rapidly get the support of the population and should help to transform food insecurity in our country. The three northern regions in particular, would benefit from the availability of water to enable all-year farming, so that the enforced yearly migration can be minimised and food production becomes more predictable.
Mr Speaker, I look forward to increasing public investment in agriculture, starting from the first budget of my Government. We must reverse the unfortunate trend of the past eight (8) years,which saw a regular decrease in public investment in the sector that provides a living for the majority of our people.
Mr Speaker, food processing has been the first step towards industrialisation, in virtually every country, and it is time for us to take it serious. Not only would this serve the cut down on the wastage of crops during the high season, it would provide more jobs and expand farming business.
Mr Speaker, food processing would also save time in the preparation and cooking of our local foods, and there would be better control of the hygiene in the process. I look forward to an exciting time in the agricultural sector.
Mr Speaker, if I were to ask each one Hon Member in this Chamber today, to tell me what the number one problem was in their constituencies, I suspect there would be one uniform answer: “Jobs”—
Mr Speaker, the most critical challenge inherited by this NPP Government is a very high unprecedented level of unemployment, particularly among the youth. It is a debilitating and confidence sapping problem that affects every home. We can argue on what the official rate of unemployment is. But we can all see the desperation of our young people. They want to work but there are no jobs, and some of them are being driven to unacceptable behaviour.
Mr Speaker, we have a veritable time- bomb on our hands. To address this challenge, the Government is embarking on one of the most comprehensive programmes for industrial transformation ever to be introduced in our country.
Mr Speaker, the key elements of this programme are restoration and main- tenance of a stable microeconomy, monetary and fiscal measures, which will lead to reduction in interest rates, and a
reduction in the tax burden on enterprises, provision of reliable, affordable power to enterprises and homes, setting up of a stimulus package to support existing Ghanaian industries and improve their competitiveness, implementation of the initiative through public private partnerships to establish, at least, one industrial enterprise in each of the 216 districts in the “One-District-One-Factory Policy” — [Hear! Hear!] — development of strategic anchor initiatives as new pillars of growth for the Ghanaian economy, including the establishment of petro-chemical industries, iron and steel industries, integrated aluminium industry, the expansion of domestic production of pharmaceuticals, the establishment of a vehicle assembly and automotive industry, the production of industrial salt, the establishment of garment and textiles enterprises, the manufacture of machinery, equipment and component parts.
Mr Speaker, the establishment of a multi-purpose industrial power in each of the ten regions, implementation of a comprehensive programme for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) development,establishment of an industrial sub-contracting exchange to link large scale companies with SMEs; implementation of an aggressive programme for export development, targeting primarily, regional and continental markets, enhancement of domestic retail market infrastructure and the active promotion of the market and distribution of domestically produced goods, improvement of the business environment through regulatory and other reforms and establishment of a permanent consultative forum for public private sector dialogue.