Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to associate myself with the Motion.
The President talked about certain issues which my constituents welcomed. He talked about the One factory One District policy, and the one village one dam policy.
Mr Speaker, we have about 42 villages in my constituency and my people are mainly famers. So, we look forward to have 42 dams in the constituency.
Mr Speaker, however, there were certain vital things I expected to hear in the Message on the State of the Nation, which I did not hear. I would like to comment on those issues.
Mr Speaker, the first and most important to me as a former Hon Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection was the issue of social protection. I did not hear anything on social protection. He talked about tough times and alluded to tough policies, but he did not say how he was going to protect the poor and vulnerable during the tough times.
Mr Speaker, last Friday, the Hon Majority Leader said that everything we do is about reducing poverty and improving living conditions of the people.
I believe that the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection should be at the centre of the President's Address. This is because issues of poverty are
sometimes used internationally as indices to judge the country's performance.
Mr Speaker, I expected the President to talk about the state of social protection and the strategies or plans to alleviate the poverty of the people of Ghana.
Mr Speaker, during our tenure as the Hon Minister and Hon Deputy Minister for the Ministry, the Hon Nana Oye Lithur and I put together solid foundations, legal frameworks and policies to protect the vulnerable and to alleviate poverty.
We improved some of the existing programmes that were already in existence like the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme, which was introduced under the Administration of former President Kufuor. It was catering for 2,000 households; but before we exited office, it was catering for approximately 150,000 extremely poor households.
Mr Speaker, also, the programme of school feeding which is providing one hot meal to the pupils in the primary schools started under the Administration of former President Kufuor. By 2008, they were feeding 500,000 school children. Before we left office, we were feeding approximately 1.7 million school children. We did an audit of the programme and made some great savings. So, we had anticipated that the programme could be expanded to feed three million school children.
Mr Speaker, H. E. the President stated that, he was in a great hurry. There are social interventions like the free school uniform, exercise books, sandals, et cetera, I would want to plead that, he incorporates in his hurry, a social protection strategy, in order to alleviate the poverty of Ghanaians during his anticipated tough times or hard times.
Mr Speaker, also on the issue of gender parity, I would want to commend H. E. the President for stating that he is committed to the affirmative action. I, however, noticed that he reduced the percentage from 40 per cent, which the Administration of former President Mahama worked with, to 30 per cent. Mr Speaker, he stated that he was committed to it.
I, however, want to put it on record that under the Administration of former President Mahama, we had worked with the Attorney-General's Department to craft the Bill. The Bill had received Cabinet's approval, we had done sensitisation workshops with various interest groups and got them ready. In fact, the Bill came to the Sixth Parliament, but has now lapsed.
Mr Speaker, I urge that this Bill be taken seriously and probably hurriedly passed in the first Session of the Seventh Parliament. This is in order that before the primaries of political parties, they can incorporate this in their rules and regulations, and create safe seats for women. This is so that at the Eighth Parliament we would see 40 per cent female representation on the floor of Parliament.
Mr Speaker, there are also some key groups of people that H. E. the President was silent on, and that I would want to comment on. He was silent on the persons with disability. He mentioned that, the moratorium had ended. Yes, it ended in December 2016, and he said he was going to ensure the compliance.
Mr Speaker, but there are other pertinent issues like incorporating them in national development, which he did not mention at all.
Mr Speaker, persons with disability in my constituency have appealed to me, that their rights have been trampled upon in the selection of Government Appointees to the District Assemblies. They said that they were not consulted at all, but a representative was imposed upon them, and they intend to take this up. I would, therefore, urge the President to consider the rights of persons with disability and uphold them.
Mr Speaker, another key population that His Excellency did not talk about was the aged. Ghanaians live longer now. We have people like His Excellency the President, and the Hon Speaker, who still contribute to national development after attaining the age of 70 years.
Mr Speaker, my own father -- [Interruptions] -- at the age of 82 was still working until he lost his sight.