Hon Members, may I invite the Hon Majority Leader and the Hon Minority Leader to join me to receive His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana at the Central Lobby? The Rt Hon Speaker and his entourage withdrew from the Chamber to receive the President and the Vice President. The President and the Vice President, conducted by Mr Speaker and his entourage, entered the Chamber and took their places on the dais.
Hon Members, the House is privileged to have the presence of His Excellency, John Dramani Mahama, President of the Republic of Ghana and Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces in the House. [Hear! Hear!] His Excellency the President is here in accordance with article 67 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana to deliver a message on the state of the nation to this Honourable House prior to the dissolution of this Parliament. On behalf of Leadership and Hon Members of this august House, it is my privilege and singular honour to welcome His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana to the House.
Hon Members, I have the greatest pleasure to invite His Excellency the President, to deliver his message.
STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS
Your Excellency the Vice President, Rt Hon Speaker,Your Ladyship, the Chief Justice,Hon Members of Parliament, Mr Speaker, allow me to begin by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Afehyiapa. This hall that exists within these walls is a place where I have always felt at home. It was in this august House, as a Member of Parliament for Bole-Bamboi, that I began my political career. Or, better said, it was in this august House where I first held public office. The residents of that community entrusted me with the privilege of representing their best interests in the national dialogue of policymaking and legislation. It seems fitting that I should find myself here in this same House, to deliver my final public address which will, in effect, bring to a close my tenure as President. I deliver this Message on the State of the Nation in fulfilment of article 67 of the 1992 Constitution in advance of the dissolution of this Parliament. It has been a rare honour and privilege for me to serve my country in the highest office as President. It has been a worthwhile journey. Let me seize the opportunity to thank God for His grace, and the good people of Ghana for the opportunity to serve. May I also respectfully thank my Vice President, Mr Speaker, Her Ladyship the Chief Justice and Hon Members of this House for the cooperation and solidarity I have enjoyed during my tenure as President. Mr Speaker, the purpose of this specific State of the Nation Address is to let the people of Ghana know where we stand as a country, as the baton of leadership is passed from one leader to another. Where are we in this race, so to speak, insofar as nation-building is concerned and how is Ghana faring when compared to other nations in Africa, and of course, the world? Our world has become increasingly complex and unpredictable. Majority of economies around the world are sailing against strong headwinds. The world economic crisis and the slow-down in the growth of the Chinese economy has affected the growth of emerging markets and has resulted in a fall in world demand for commodities. As the United States of America (USA) makes a slow but steady recovery, the recent increase in the USA interest rates means more money is leaving emerging markets and being reinvested in America. Coupled with the fall in commodity prices on the international markets, this causes an adverse economic outlook for lower middle-income economies like ours. Changing climate has made the world weather more unpredictable. In our part of the world, deforestation, sea erosion and tidal waves, erratic rainfall and more severe harmattan are becoming the new normal situations. These are wreaking havoc on non-irrigated agriculture and power production from hydro sources. The rise of insurgency and failed States in North Africa and the Middle East and religious fundamentalism have resulted in a rise of many terrorist cells that have created a deadly cocktail across the whole world and increasingly in Africa, stretching from the Sahel, through West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa all the way to the Horn of Africa. Our sub- region has not been spared and attacks as close as Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire have brought the reality of possible terrorist attacks closer to our doorstep. This is the global context in which our country has had to survive and make progress. Education Mr Speaker, at the start of our term in office, and for many years prior to that, there has been national dissatisfaction at the declining standards of education at the basic and secondary levels. Lack of access to both basic and secondary education has meant that, many children were being left behind. A shortage of professionally trained teachers, teacher absenteeism, shortage of core textbooks, resulting in a situation in which four (4) children shared one textbook, dilapidated school buildings, lack of science laboratories and workshops, among others, manifested in declining acceptable results at the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) and West African Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE). Our vision under my administration had been to turn this situation round and not only improve access to education but equally the quality of education.
With the distribution of free textbooks, children have access to all the core textbooks and no longer have to share. Dilapidated school buildings, popularly referred to as “schools under trees” in excess of two thousand (2,000) have been replaced. Teachers are more available and are more evenly distributed than has been the case in the past. Teacher absenteeism is down from 27 per cent to below 9 per cent. This has led to more engagement hours between teachers and students. The construction and population of forty-seven (47) newly-built community day senior high schools means that more students are able to continue their education beyond the basic level instead of dropping out. We are recording improved performance in many public schools in the WASSCE across the country. During the Best Schools Awards Ceremonies, many rural and public schools are outperforming some of the better known urban and private schools. Ghana has consistently, over the last three years, taken the three top spots in the WASCCE. The Progressively Free Secondary Education Programme (PFSEP), under which we have absorbed the major fees paid by day students, has this year been extended to cover one hundred and forty thousand (140,000) boarding school students. Mr Speaker, at the tertiary education level, the construction of additional public universities in the Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions have improved access to university education. The ceremony performed for start of work on the University of Environment and Sustainable Development in the Eastern Region, the conversion of the polytechnics into technical universities, the creation of three autonomous universities out of the University for Development Studies (UDS) are all creating additional opportunities for students to pursue courses at the tertiary level. Health Mr Speaker, in the area of healthcare, the situation was no different. Many Ghanaians were denied access to quality healthcare. Although in 2005, the Kufuor Administration had commenced one of the most famous social intervention programmes in the Health sector on a broader scale, after years of experimentation of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), utilisation was low due to lack of access to health facilities. The sector was characterised by a severe shortage of trained health professionals. Our vision over the period has been to provide improved health facilities and trained health workers in all nooks and crannies of the country. Construction of new regional hospitals in Bolgatanga, Wa and Accra is dramatically improving the health outcomes for tens of thousands of people. New district hospitals in districts across the country, including the recent ones for which I performed ceremonies in Wheta, Somanya, Buipe, Mr Speaker, new polyclinics, health centres and The Community Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) compounds have also helped to bring quality healthcare to the doorsteps of our people. This development has resulted in a phenomenal expansion of utilisation of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). Out-patient utilisation for 2015 stood at twenty-nine million up from nine million in 2008. Social protection Mr Speaker, as a lower middle-income country, income disparities widened the gap between the rich and the poor. To cushion the poor and vulnerable, many social protection programmes have been introduced in Ghana. At the start of this Administration, the number of people benefiting from these schemes were very few. Under the School Feeding Programme, not less than five hundred thousand (500,000) children were being fed. Under the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme, not less than sixty thousand (60,000) households benefited. Few children had access to books, school uniforms and school sandals. Mr Speaker, our effort under this Administration has been to expand the coverage of these programmes to the majority of the poor and vulnerable population in Ghana. The School Feeding Programme is better managed today under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and covers more than 1.5 million children. The LEAP programme is benefiting almost one hundred and fifty (150,000) households. The percentage of the District Assemblies Common Fund meant for persons with disability has been increased by 50 per cent. School children in public schools are receiving all their core textbooks and exercise books. Tens of thousands of children have benefited from the Free School Sandals and Uniforms Programme. The introduction of the Eban card also means that vulnerable ones among the elderly receive some privileges and protection. Water and sanitation Mr Speaker, one of the essentials of life, for which social exclusion was evident was access to clean drinking water. Many rural and urban communities were water starved. Statistics indicate that by the year 2008, 56 per cent of rural people and 58 per cent of urban dwellers had access to potable water. This meant that, water borne diseases were a major affliction and created a heavy incidence of disease on our healthcare system. The universal target is to achieve “water for all by the year 2025”. Our vision has been to achieve this target well in advance of the target date. We have under my Administration continued to increase investment in the provision of clean drinking water for our people.
The Wa Water Supply Project, the 3Ks Project covering Kumawu, Konongo and Kwahu are all projects guaranteeing sustainable water supply to our people in these areas. We estimate that under this Administration, we have lifted more than seven million people out of water deprivation. Power Mr Speaker, the early years of this Government was characterised by a crippling power crisis. The shortage of power led to a very unpopular load management programme. This shortage of power hobbled the growth of the economy and affected both business and residential customers. Many businesses had to resort to the use of generators to survive. Mr Speaker, I stood on the floor of this very august House and took full responsibility for the crisis and promised that I would do my utmost to fix the problem. It has taken a lot of hard work and effort. [Hear! Hear!] Fast tracking the deployment of emergency plants and speeding up the completion of ongoing plants ensured that we added more than 800MW of power over an 18-month period. This increased generation, in addition to the Energy Sector Levy and ongoing works to restructure the legacy debt of the power utilities, has helped to stabilise the power situation in our country. With the expectation of more domestic gas from the Tweneboa, Enyera & Ntomme (TEN) and Sankofa Fields, Ghana is entering into an era of energy self- sufficiency. Indeed, the warning signals have started sounding about the danger of over-capacity and excess redundancy in the power generation sector. We have agreed to work with the World Bank to rationalise the addition of new plants and ensure that we achieve optimum utilisation of existing plant capacity. Mr Speaker, access to power under my Administration has continued to increase. Ghana has one of the highest access to electricity estimated to be above 80 per cent currently. Additional pending electrification programmes like the China Water Company and the Hunan Energy Projects will bring even more communities onto the national grid. Economy Mr Speaker, we inherited an economy that was running a high deficit, with increasing inflation and interest rates. [Uproar.] It was also characterised by a rapidly depreciating currency. This unstable macro-economic environment created an unfavourable investment environment for both indigenous and foreign capital. Our forum at Senchi was an attempt to forge a consensus for a homegrown fiscal consolidation programme. The Senchi Outcome eventually became the basis for the International Monetary Fund's (IMF's) Extended Credit Facility (ECF) programme we are implementing. The ECF programme has resulted in an improved macro economic environment which is seeing a steady decline in inflation and interest rates. A new public debt management strategy is also seeing a steady decline in public sector debt, estimated to have dropped from nearly 72 per cent to below 65 per cent. The currency has also enjoyed relative stability, depreciating at just above 4 per cent this year. Mr Speaker, while the deficit target for this year might be missed on account of inability to meet revenue targets, it is important for us to continue to pursue fiscal consolidation in the third and final year of the IMF programme. Multiple causes are responsible for our inability to meet the target. Reduced lifting from the Jubilee Field on account of the turret bearing problems, non-realisation of some expected non-tax revenue, such as the sale of electro-magnetic spectrum, reduced cocoa export revenue and higher than expected election-related expenditures. In spite of the breach of the fiscal deficit target, expenditure was lower than programmed, thus the approved appropriation for 2016 was not exceeded. Mr Speaker, it is my belief that we continue a diligent implementation of the IMF programme till the end of 2017, in order that we can create a stable and sustainable economy. Ghana's economy is still the second largest in West Africa with a GDP of almost US$39 billion. Ghana has also moved up thirteen (13) places in the ease Road and Transport Mr Speaker, there was widespread dissatisfaction with the road network in the country. Complaints covered poor state of urban roads, feeder roads and highways. Many hours of sitting in traffic caused frustration and discomfort for urban commuters. Poor feeder roads and pothole-riddled highways increased maintenance cost for drivers and in-turn led to increased fares and transport charges for goods. My tenure of office has seen some of the most massive investments in the road sector in the history of Ghana. [Hear! Hear!] My vision was to finish off road projects I inherited such as the Achimota- Ofankor, Awoshie-Pokuase, Sofo line, Tetteh Quarshie-Adenta, et cetera. We also commenced and completed the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange, fast tracked the construction and opening of the Kasoa Overhead Bridge, completed the Airport Hills -- Burma Camp network of roads and completed the 37-El Wak-Trade Fair road. We have also invested more resources in continuing the Eastern Corridor road project; asphalt overlay of roads in regional and district capitals and massive investments in cocoa roads across the country and these have opened up our country significantly. Many other projects such as the Tema Motorway Roundabout Decongestion Project and a new bridge from Flower Pot Roundabout on the Spintex Road over the Accra-Tema Motorway into East Legon are ongoing. There are others ready to commence with financing
arranged such as the Obetsebi Lamptey Interchange, the Pokuase Interchange and the Motorway Expansion Project, among others. Already, the completed rehabilitation of the arrival hall in Terminal 2 has created better comfort for passengers using Accra's airport. Kumasi and Tamale Airport expansion will also see increased passenger movements domestically. Wa and Ho are advancing steadily and would open to commercial travel soon. Commencement of the Bus Rapid Transit with dedicated bus lanes, christened “Aayalolo Express” will create better comfort for urban commuters. Urban rail systems like the Sekondi-Kojokrom- Takoradi line will ease the inconvenience of commuters in the twin city. The Tema- Akosombo line will soon start to maximise the use of the Volta Lake Transport Company for moving cargo for land- locked Sahel countries, up the Volta River to Buipe in the Northern Region. Work on the expansion of our two maritime ports at Takoradi and Tema are ongoing and would lead to faster turn- around times for ships and larger throughput cargo volumes. Bulk cargo handling will also be more efficient. Governance Vehicles for Judges and completion of the Court Complex have created a better atmosphere for the dispensation of justice. Mr Speaker, the achievements outlined in this message are accomplishments that my Government and I, proudly claim. But the state of our nation, at any given time, where we are in the race, is the result of more than the visible gains made by one individual during his tenure. Every President inherits the unfinished work of his predecessor. Every President benefits from the seeds planted by his predecessor, seeds that could not be sown during his predecessor's tenure. Indeed, I believe if politics could be described as a sport, the one it would most closely resemble is a relay. It is a sport that relies as much on individual achievement as it does on teamwork and cooperative effort. The true test of that competition is in the passing on of the baton. So, too, it is with politics. Mr Speaker, President Jerry John Rawlings started the structural transformation of this economy under the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP). This programme restored Ghana to a path of growth which he handed over to President John Agyekum Kufuor. President Kufuor continued the economic adjustment programme and under the HIPC Initiative achieved significant debt reduction. Implementing new social intervention programmes such as NHIS and LEAP, he passed on to the late President John Evans Atta Mills. President Mills commenced the Eastern Corridor Road Project, University of Ghana Medical Centre, which I inaugurated yesterday, the Kotokoraba Market, Cape Coast Stadium and a host of others which I inherited and completed. I am assured by his firm statements that he will continue these projects as enjoined by our 1992 Constitution. I wish him all success in this regard. As I have said many times already, regardless of whose tenure in which these visions come to fruition, its success belongs to Ghana. They belong to all of us. Mr Speaker, political opposition and differences of opinion are vital to the health and growth of any democracy. Political parties are formed when people of similar ideology come together to move their agenda forward in a way that best serves their country's interest. But the wellbeing of the nation and the will of the people must always come first. Partisanship for its own sake, in the end, is no better than dictatorship. If we look round the world, we can so clearly see the deep divide that blind partisanship is creating in nations with democracies far older than ours. We can see, too, the divide that it is threatening to create in ours if we are not careful. Already, it has taken a toll on our morale and our sense of optimism. It has given way to a cynicism that is as dangerous to the incoming political party as it was to the outgoing one. We cannot afford as a nation to wish or hope for the failure of any President and his or her government. Ensuring accountability is not the same as leveLling insults or encouraging apathy. [Uproar.] We have history as proof that we have been better, have done better. And we will, and we must do better once again. Mr Speaker, I first entered this House as a Member of Parliament for Bole-Bamboi in January 1997. It was, perhaps, not coincidental that the same year, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo entered as a Member of Parliament for Akyem Abuakwa. Taking breaks from the business of the House to grab something to eat at the snack bar, Nana Akufo-Addo always stood at the end of the counter, his signature white handkerchief tucked into his sleeve.
“Johnny”, he would shout in greeting as he preferred to call me. Incidentally, we both served three terms in this House, departing together in January 2009. This is how long I have known the President-elect and worked together with him. I have the utmost respect for him. Given our history, especially that we have each had our turn on each side of a presidential election, it would seem only natural for us to be considered opponents -- worthy opponents is the description generally used in the world of sports. In fact, Mr Speaker, we are all on the same team as Ghanaians. We worked together when I served as Ranking Member on the Committee on Foreign Affairs at a time Nana Akufo-Addo was the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration. One of the issues on which we crossed swords was the murder of some Ghanaian youth in The Gambia. It is instructive that as I leave office and he takes my place, The Gambia once again is a nation that is engaging international attention. Mr Speaker, it is my assertion that the information I have provided is a snapshot of the current state of our nation. As I have said before, I will allow history to be the judge of how I have served our nation, how well I have done my part in running my lap of the relay. [Hear! Hear!] What that verdict will ultimately be, I cannot say. I can only say that I have done my best, given my all and done so with the best intentions for my God and our country Ghana. This is why I stand here today, Mr Speaker, holding the baton of leadership prepared to pass it on with pride, goodwill and determination, to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and to ask all Ghanaians to cheer him on as he runs his portion of this important relay for Ghana. Mr Speaker, I thank you, I thank the Hon Members of this House and I thank the citizens of Ghana for the opportunity they have given me. May God bless you and may God continue to bless our beloved homeland, Ghana. Mr Speaker received the State of the Nation Address from the President. The Clerk received the Address from Mr Speaker and placed it on the Table.
Hon Members, this being His Excellency's last Message prior to the dissolution of the Sixth Parliament of the Fourth Republic of Ghana, I deem it proper to convey to His Excellency the gratitude and compliments of the House. Mr President, we are grateful. Hon Members, at this stage, I intend to suspend Sitting. Hon Majority Leader, do you have any indication?
Mr Speaker, I can only take a cue from your statement that you intend to suspend Sitting. I would have loved that we do some more Business but I believe it would be unfair and out of all terms of protocol to detain our distinguished invited guests here, including His Excellency the President. Mr Speaker, I totally agree with you that we could take a short break so that we can see His Excellency the President and our dignitaries off and then reconvene to continue with the Business of the House.
Hon Majority Leader, for how many minutes would the Sitting be suspended? Is it for thirty minutes, an hour or two hours?
Mr Speaker, the sense of the House is that, we take an hour break. I just got that sense by a sign language; some decided to catch my ears. Mr Speaker, I believe an hour would do for the House.
Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I would also take a cue from what you have said and second the Motion for suspension. Mr Speaker, we all recognise that it is a very important Bill and I do not believe that it would do us any good --
Hon Minority Leader, I believe that the message of His Excellency the President was very clear; that we should build consensus on the matter. I believe that, that is for the Leadership of the House to decide in consultation with the House so that we would decide whether we would take it or not. We should not discuss it on the floor at this time. If at the end of the day there is no consensus, that means there is no consensus. I would suggest that Leadership takes this matter up. This is because we would realise that since objection was taken to this Bill, I have decided to be on a silent protest in presiding over this House. This is because I believe it is a very important law for this country. I would want to plead with Leadership that they should go back and do the consultation which they started some time ago. If there is a consensus, we would take it but if there is no consensus that would be another matter. Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, mine was just a comment on another comment. It was just an innocuous comment on a comment and nothing more than that. Mr Speaker, I would want to emphasise that we all recognise the significance of this Bill. Nobody should have any illusions about that. We would pursue and do what is right.
Hon Members, at this stage, we would suspend Sitting for an hour.
MR FIRST DEPUTY SPEAKER
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, if we could just lay one Paper, which is the Report from the Committee of the Whole on the Report of the Presidential Committee, and with your kind permission and the indulgence of my Hon Colleagues, if I could do so on your behalf. This is because you chaired the Committee.
(on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee): Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that notwith- standing the provisions of Standing Order 80 (1) which require that, no Motion shall be debated until at least, forty-eight hours have elapsed between the date on which notice of the Motion is given and the date on which the Motion is moved, the Motion for the approval of the Report of the Committee of the Whole on the Report of the Presidential Committee on Emolu- ments for article 71 Office Holders (2013- 2017) in respect of the Executive as amended, may be moved today.
Mr Speaker, I rise to second the Motion. Question put and Motion agreed to. Resolved accordingly Report of the Committee of the Whole on the Prof. Dora Francisca Adu-Buandoh's Presidential Committee on Emoluments for article 71 Office Holders (2013-2017) Mr Alban S.K. Bagbin (on behalf of the
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that this Honourable House approves the Report of the Committee of the Whole on the Report of the Presidential Committee on Emoluments for article 71 Office Holders (2013-2017), in respect of the Executive as amended. Mr Speaker, Introduction The Committee of the Whole met on Wednesday, 4th January, 2017 and reconsidered the Report of the Professor Dora Francisca Adu- Buandoh Presidential Committee on Emoluments for article 71 Office Holders (2013-2017), as it affects the Executive. The House at its twenty-first Sitting held on Friday, 23rd December, 2017, approved the above-mentioned Report with some modifications, as it pertains to the Executive. The attention of the House was subsequently drawn to the inadvertent omission in the Report of the provision of residential facilities for the President upon retirement. The matter was accordingly referred to the Committee of the Whole for consideration and Report. Deliberations and Recommendations The Committee considered the referral and agreed with the explanations for the inclusion of the said facilities, privileges and benefits for the President upon retirement. The Committee accordingly recommends as follows: i. Rescinds its decision taken at the twenty-first Sitting held on Friday, 23rd December, 2017, that “This Honourable House approves the Report of the Committee of the Whole on the Report of the Presidential Committee on Emoluments for article 71 Office Holders (2013- 2017) in respect of the Executive as amended.” ii. That the following provision should be inserted in the earlier Report of the Committee: Fully furnished residence in the Nation's Capital or at a location in Ghana of the President's choice with provision of office facilities and guests' accommodation, to be maintained by the State Protocol Department; The residence shall not revert to the State in the event of the demise of the former President, in order not to destabilise the family; this is in line with best practices; The quality of accommodation shall be of a standard befitting a retired Head of State who might be called upon to receive and entertain a network of dignitaries, including Heads of State, which would have been cultivated during the period in office; The standard of accommodation shall be determined by the Public Works Department or the appropriate State institution in consultation with the State Protocol Department. A model design should be submitted and approved by the appropriate State institution. Conclusion The Report of the Committee is accordingly submitted for consideration and approval by the House.
Mr Speaker, I rise to second the Motion, but with just a few amendments. I guess we could deal with the amendments when we get through it in essence. I think it is what we agreed on. It is just one word which I think we could further improve. Mr Speaker, instead of “should”, we should rather employ the word “shall”, that is on page 2, paragraphs 2, 3 and 4. I guess with that, I second the Motion.
Very well. Hon Members, I will just want to ask one question in order to be clear in our minds. Early on we moved a Motion for rescission of the earlier amended Report. Apart from the issue on accommodation,
Mr Speaker, yes.
Very well. Then I am alright. Question put and Motion agreed to.
Mr Speaker, in view of the tendency of other Businesses for Committees and Hon Members, with your kind indulgence and that of my Hon Colleagues, I would want to beg to move that we adjourn proceedings till tomorrow. Mr Speaker, we are to hold a meeting at 2.00 p.m. In fact, my Hon Colleagues from the opposite side of the House were to start theirs at 1.30 p.m. It is past 1.30 p.m. now, and so, if we could adjourn till tomorrow.
Hon Members, any seconder?
Mr Speaker, I second the Motion.
The House was accordingly adjourned at 1.58 p.m. till Friday, 6th January, 2017 at 10.00 a.m.