Debates of 08 February 2018

MR SPEAKER

PRAYERS

Speaker
Mr Speaker

Hon Members, I would now invite the Hon Majority and Minority Leaders to join me to receive His Excellency the President at the Central Lobby.

Speaker
Mr Speaker

Order! Order!

Speaker
Mr Speaker

We also receive with great pleasure, H. E. the Vice President -- [Hear! Hear!] -- Dr (Alhaji) Mahamudu Bawumia and his wife, Mrs Samira Bawumia, the Second Lady. May I respectfully acknowledge the presence of my Lord, the Chief Justice, Mrs Sophia Akuffo and other Justices of the Superior Courts of Ghana. It is with great pleasure that we also welcome the former President of the Republic, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings -- [Interruption] -- and his wife, Nana (Mrs) Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings. [Interruption.] We acknowledge the presence of our former President John Agyekum Kufuor, [Hear! Hear!]We welcome the Chairman of the Council of State and his eminent members. It is with great pleasure that we also welcome our former President Mahama - - [Uproar] [Pause] -- as well as our former Vice President Amissah-Arthur. [Uproar.] Members and Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps, Traditional and Religious Leaders and other eminent citizens of the country, my wife, Alberta -- [Hear! Hear!] Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Hon Members, H.E. the President is in the House this morning in accordance with article 67 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana to deliver his message on the State of our dear Nation. On behalf of Leadership, Hon Members and other officers of this Honourable House, it is my singular honour to welcome H.E. the President to this House.

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS

Speaker
Mr Speaker, you would recall that I said

“We would have to implement some tough, prudent and innovative policies to get us out of the financial cul-de-sac we were in”. I made some brave predictions; I said that we would reduce significantly the budget deficit and at the same time, we would grow and expand the economy. We have reduced taxes, we are bringing down inflation and interest rates, economic growth is increasing from the alarming 3.6 per cent in December, 2016 to 7.9 per cent in our first year, and the indications are that, it will even be better this year. Mr Speaker, we have increased our international reserves, maintained relative exchange rates stability, reduced the debt to GDP ratio and the rate of debt accumulation, paid almost half of arrears inherited and crucially, we are current on our obligations to Statutory Funds. The relatively good macroeconomic performance in 2017 would strongly support our successful completion of the IMF programme. We are determined to put in place measures to ensure irreversibility and sustain macroeconomic stability, so that we would have no reason to seek again, the assistance of that powerful global body. Mr Speaker, we have restored teacher and nursing trainee allowances [Hear! Hear!] We have doubled the capitation grant --[Hear! Hear!] and to confound the skeptics and professional naysayers; we have implemented Free Senior High School education. It has enabled 90,000 more students gain access to Senior High School education in the year 2017 than in the year 2016. Mr Speaker, we have nevertheless been able to meet my promise made last year to the House and reduced the fiscal deficit from 9.3 per cent to an estimated 5.6 per cent of GDP. As I promised, our economists have found imaginative ways to deal with the oppressive debt situation. This has brought some relief and the annual average weight of debt accumulation which in recent years has been as high as 36 per cent, has declined to 13.6 per cent as at September, 2017. Mr Speaker, as a result, the public debt stock has a GDP ratio of 68.3 per cent, against the annual target of 71 per cent for the year 2017 as against the 2016 actual figure of 73.1 per cent. As a result of appropriate policy and the normalisation of the power situation in the country, we have also engineered a spectacular revival of Ghanaian industry from a growth rate of negative point 5 per cent in the year 2016, to 17.7 per cent in the year 2017. Mr Speaker, it is important that Hansard records me, that Hon Ken Ofori-Atta, the Hon Finance Minister has proven to be a national asset. [Uproar] -- I know that when it comes to the economy, many of us have very low tolerance for what we consider, as boring finance and we would never see the effect of the reality on our everyday lives. As I said earlier in the year, this current set of boring figures happen to spell good news for our economy. There are figures that the most enumerate among us can relate to, which can hardly be described as boring. I refer to the figures that emerge when you look at the difference between sole sourcing of government procurement and opening it to tendering. In the year 2016, the Public Pro- curement Authority had 622 sole sourced requests. Of these requests, 597 of that number, that is, 98 per cent were approved and there were 25 rejections. Also, 592 requests made for restricted tenders and 587,99.15 per cent were procured and there were five rejections; a grand total of zero savings was made.

Speaker
Mr Speaker, you would recall that I said

In the year 2017, my first year in office, 394 sole sourcing requests were made, out of which 223 (56.6 per cent) were approved and 171 (43.4 per cent) were rejected. There were 346 requests for restricted tenders, out of which 167 (48 per cent) were approved and 179 (15.52 per cent) were rejected. Now, here is the interesting part -- the savings made over the year, as a result, amounted to some GH¢800 million. Mr Speaker, I believe it begs repeating here that, thanks to these boring figures, for the first time in a long while, we have been able to provide better budgetary support for the constitutionally mandated institutions that hold the Government accountable; the Auditor-General, Parliament, the Judiciary, the Ministry of Justice, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, the Economic and Organised Crime Office and the Ghana Police Service. Again, it is nowhere near the levels that we would all like, but when we start from inside a deep hole, it takes a while to make an impression on the ground. The good thing is that, we are punching in the right direction. Mr Speaker, thanks to the diligence and the hardwork of the Hon Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, Hon Mr Speaker, funds that had been outstanding for six years, and which the labour unions had complained loudly. As a result of engagements with organised labour, we would ensure that, the national daily minimum wage is done and approved before the laying of the 2018 Budget Statement by the Hon Minister for Finance. Mr Speaker, happily, there were no strike actions last year. We would continue the constructive dialogue with organised labour to find mutually- satisfactory solutions to their concerns in order to guarantee industrial peace. Mr Speaker, therefore, we are able to say with confidence that we are creating the atmosphere needed for the creation of jobs, which is easily the most urgent problem that face the Government and the nation. We are putting in place the structures to help small and medium scale enterprises, and budding entrepreneurs through the challenging start up years. The availability of cheaper credit is good news for business in general, and it means better prospects for jobs. Mr Speaker, the subject of job creation has to be at the top of my agenda. The number of young people who cannot find work is staggering, and a threat to our national security. I am determined to work to guarantee and secure the future of the young men and women of our country. Every major policy that my government has implemented in the past year has essentially been about the youth. We would equip the youth with the skills that would enable them to be productive. As a start, this Government has established the Nation Builders' Corp to employ 100,000 young persons in 2018 alone to assist in public sector delivery; health, education, agriculture, sanitation and the revenue collection department of the Ghana Revenue Authority. [Stake holding] -- I have had series of meetings on this policy, and the modules have been designed for each of the designated areas. The details are currently being fine-tuned. In the next month, this policy would take off fully to join the other youth employment initiatives. Mr Speaker, whatever be the case, Hansard would record me. [Uproar] I am happy to announce that, Ecobank Ghana Limited has already offered to engage all 3,000 young people after the training programme. [Hear! Hear!] This is just a tip of the iceberg. Mr Speaker, for years we have all talked about the need to open up our country. We have all acknowledged that we cannot hope to develop and transform our nation until we do so. Economic and administrative activities are spread around and not restricted to the capital, Accra. We have taken the clear and unambiguous mandate given to this government by the people of Ghana as a spur to take some of these long promised actions to open up our country and transform our economy. This year, we are determined to take decisions that would change the destiny of our country. On the first working day of this year, I signed into law the Act setting up the development authorities. Mr Speaker, the creation of these authorities marks a fundamental change in how parts of the development budget -- the equivalent of US$1 million per Constituency per year -- would be spent in our country. The local people would make the decision on what their greatest needs are, and direct the funds to those areas. Luckily, there is some consensus on what constitutes the basic infrastructural needs in all communities, and we expect a smooth take off in the work of these authorities. We are asking that, everybody is guided by the priorities that are set up in the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) manifesto on which we fought and won the mandate of the Ghanaian people. For example, I expect the provision of water and toilets to feature prominently on the agenda of the development authorities, until those two items could be taken off, the must-do list of all constituencies in the country; Mr Speaker, 60 years after independence, the least we could and should do is to make sure that every Ghanaian has access to water and toilet facilities. Mr Speaker, the state of sanitation in our cities is wholly unacceptable. Our cities have been engulfed with filth, and there is the urgent need for public authorities to find means of making our cities clean. In the case of Accra -- and fulfilling my pledge -- one of the most ambitious of my Presidency, is to make it the cleanest city in Africa by the end of my term.

Speaker
Mr Speaker, you would recall that I said

The Government is working with various private sector authorities to tackle this major challenge with strategies that are intended to effect a change in our attitude towards waste generation, as well as improve dramatically our methods of waste management. This would be complemented by the strict enforcement of sanitation rules and regulations. Urgent attention would be given to clearing of rubbish all around the country. Apart from the systematic efforts being made to resolve the legacy of inherited debts in this sector, the government would this year, spend an amount of GH¢200million, to address the issue of sanitation. I am confident that, by the time I come back next year, God willing, an appreciable improvement would have been made in the sanitation situation in the country. Mr Speaker, there have been a number of ambitious decentralisation exercises in this country. We are currently engaged in the exercise of creating new regions. It is a long and rather complicated process. We are in uncharted territory. There are all the indications that it is going well, and I have been impressed to see political opponents come together to argue, for example, the case of the creation of the Oti or North Volta Region. It is not after we have see the veteran statesmen, Dr Obed Asamoah, the vocal Mr Kofi Adams and the Volta Regional Minister, Mr Archibald Yao Letsa on the same side in the public argument. This propends well, and I believe this exercise would be a success, especially, as it is being undertaken with scrupulous adherence for the teachings of the Constitution in this sensitive area, under the skilful direction of the experienced Hon Minister for Regional Reorganisation and Develop-ment, Hon Dan Botwe, the Member of Parliament for Okere. Mr Speaker, yet another ambitious decentralisation exercise is the expansion of full democracy to local governance. A critical step to this end is the direct election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) on a partisan basis. It is a firm manifesto commitment of the New Patriotic Party. Further, my discussions with the nation's leaders, including the former Presidents of the Republic, convinced me that it is the step we must take. The constitutional impediments to this in article 55 of the Constitution, an entrenched clause, must therefore be removed. Mr Speaker, I am convinced that, the creation of new regions alone would not open up our country. That would not on its own convince our young people that they do not have to come to Accra to make a living. We have to improve upon the transportation system, so that no part of this country feels cut off or could be deemed too far from the centre. That is one of the most effective ways to stop the unsustainable rush to Accra. Traffic jams and overcrowding are making our capital unattractive. There are certain inconveniences that people adjust to; traffic jams are not one of them. We spend too much time stuck in traffic. It is unproductive; it is not healthy and it is expensive. I fear that one of these days, one more car would join the madness of the roads in Accra, and our city would be completely bridled.

Speaker
Mr Speaker

Order! Order!

Speaker
Mr President

Mr Speaker, I know from my experience here last year that many Hon Members of the Minority are allergic to facts; but facts would be stated to for the benefit of the Hansard, whatever be the case. Yet this is a strategic road that would provide a much short and cheaper link between the northern and southern part of our country, and a suitable alternative road for our landlocked neighbours. Unfortunately, this network of roads suffer from deliberate unproductive propaganda. It is hard to believe that at the time when cocoa prices were going down, contracts were awarded for three sections of the road to be funded by Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD). It comes as no surprise that COCOBOD has issued directives to suspend work on all three sections, which come up to almost 100 kilometres.

Speaker
Mr Speaker

Hon Members, Order! Order!

Speaker
Mr President

Mr Speaker, maybe, the Hon Members from the Volta Region may want me to repeat that for the record. Nu veve la wo da na, le eze veve me. Mr Speaker, there is a crying need for work to be done on all our roads; Western Corridor roads, the Central Corridor roads, trunk roads, feeder roads and town roads around the country. All require urgent attention. We are determined to bring our road network to a fitting status. This year, we should witness much more activities on the roads. In our current economic circumstances, we are turning our attention to private sector participation to raise the funds to do what needs to be done. I must make mention of the work being done to restore the Accra-Tema motorway to its iconic status. We have Japan, a lot of loyal friends of Ghana. Work is starting to build a three tier interchange at the Motorway roundabout, and the plan for extension into a six-lane motorway would be implemented this year. Mr Speaker, if we are to open up our country, we have to build a safe, fast and

Speaker
Mr President

reliable road network. Last year, I made a brave statement in this House that the Takoradi to Paga road would be initiated in the year 2017. I am happy to report that we are making progress. We are in the final stage of agreeing with a significant investor on the terms of a BOT Agreement from Takoradi to Kumasi, which would be presented to Parliament this year. There is already a contractor on site for the construction of the Kojokrom to Manso section of the Takoradi to Kumasi railway. The process has commenced also to select a suitable partner for the construction of the Eastern line from Accra to Tema to Kumasi. We aim to break grounds this year. The central spine from Kumasi to Paga is also receiving attention, and consultants have been engaged to advise the Government on the best module for the development of the land. Mr Speaker, all those would be fulfilled, unlike some promises we know from the past; these ones are in the process of being fulfilled. Mr Speaker, I know I am not saying anything new exactly. Every government has said it, and it has been in every plan we have drawn up in this country since Mr Speaker, a model reliable network of roads, railways, motor transport and airport would transform our country. I am delighted to note that fresh enthusiasm has entered the aviation sector under the guidance of the dynamic Hon Minister for Aviation, Ms Cecilia Abena Dapaah, to lift up all parts of the country by air. Mr Speaker, the advance of technology means we can reach people and get a lot done without much physical movement. The cyber population, which is busy on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and other social Media outlets, would testify that Ghana is very much part of the virtual world and its activities. More and more of us bank and pay our bills online. A wealth of knowledge and information is now available on the internet to make teaching and learning easier. We are working to make the child that sits in a classroom in Zebila, have the same opportunity as the child in a classroom in Ridge, Accra. In their own way, these modern communication tools are opening up our country and the world. The start of the digital address system, the introduction of paperless transac- tions at our ports, and the rapid and continuous spread of broadband services would all help to formalise and modernise our economy which is, fenced with the creative leadership of the intrepid Hon Minister for Communication, the Hon Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, MP for Ablekum West. Furthermore, subsequent to Cabinet approval, the Framework Agreement between Ghana and the Republic of Mauritius for the initial investment in the development of the technology part in Dawa in the Greater Accra Region has been ratified by Parliament for implementation to begin. Unfortunately and predictably, a whole new set of dangers of cyber insecurity and fraud have emerged with this modern trend. We are working to strengthen cyber security to build confidence in protecting the use of electronic communication in national development, and ensure that our young technologically savvied people would keep Ghana firmly in the exciting IT economy and its many opportunities. Mr Speaker, we need an educated and skilled workforce to operate the modern economy we have created. The Free SHS is a start towards this goal. It is a policy that has come to stay. We are reforming the schools curricular to deal with the weaknesses in our education system, and lay greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering, mathematics, reading, history, technical and vocational skills. A look at the national budget would tell you that we are spending a lot of money in education, and I am certain that it is a worthwhile investment brilliantly supervised by that charismatic Hon Minister for Education, Hon Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Member of Parliament for Manhyia South. In my view It is, also important that the reform of our schools curricular should instil in our youth, respect for the traditional values of discipline, fellow- feeling, hard work, honesty, integrity and patriotism. Without which no healthy social development can occur. It must be the same way; without any compromise on the health of the population, we have cleared a substantial part of the debts and arrears that choked the National Health Insurance Scheme, courtesy of the prudent management of the abled chartered Accountant, Hon Health Minister, Hon Kwaku Agyeman- Manu, MP for Dormaa Central. This has led to the revival of the NHIS and the renewal of respect for the NHIS card. The health needs of our people are better served. Moreover, as we work to open up the country, I hope that our efforts of improving the conditions of work for health workers would be appreciated, and there would no longer be the reluctance to serve in some parts of Ghana. Mr Speaker, in line with our commitment to building a fairly inclusive society, we promised last year to increase the share of the District Assemblies Common Fund to persons with disabilities from 2 per cent to 3 per cent, and we delivered. Effective July last year, the policy on ensuring that 50 per cent of the persons who manage the country's toll booths are persons with disabilities has started. Nonetheless, we are determined to address the other concerns of persons living with disability. Mr Speaker, a healthy nation is a well- fed nation. For generations, we have bemoaned Ghana's reliance solely on rain- fed agriculture. This means that the slightest change in the rainfall pattern exposes our farmers to the lost of the season's harvest. It is a disgrace that we have had to rely on our Sahelian neighbours to make up the deficit in foods such as fruits and vegetables. This year, the One Village, One Dam project starts full operation. It is a simple noted project, but these dams would make a big difference to all our lives and the livelihoods of our farmers. Already, many of the little dams that had been abandoned have been rehabilitated and brought back into use. A deliberate and specific

Speaker
Mr President

intervention to help farmers is paying off. Our farmers can see that the government is putting resources to back up the usual words. The 50 per cent subsidies on fertilizer and the increase in the provision of extension services are making a great difference for the performance of Ghanaian agriculture. Under the ‘‘Planting For Food and Jobs'' Scheme, we are witnessing a fresh interest in farming. The success of the first year has encouraged us to increase the scope of the programme. This year, some half a million farmers would be signed off, out of a figure of 200,000 last year. That champion of Ghanaian farmers, the Hon Minister for Food and Agriculture -- [Interruptions] -- Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, is doing a yeoman's job.

Speaker
Mr Speaker

Order! Order!

Speaker
Mr President

Mr Speaker, fishing in our country, an industry that provides a living for 10 per cent of the population has been bedevilled by many problems in the past. The fishing harvest has gone down dramatically, and we have had to depend more and more on imported fish. We have started work to tackle these problems. This past year, we made sure that the closed season was respected not just by the industrial tuna vessels, but also by the trawlers. We would adhere to this policy for the foreseeable future, which would help us replenish our depleted stock. More effective measures are being taken against illegal, unreported and unregulated methods of fishing. We have also instituted measures to avert premix diversion. A strict and auditing of landing duties are now in place. I can state that, since November, 2017, there has been no report of premix diversion, a marked improvement from the past. Mr Speaker, I believe that the future lies in the promotion of aquaculture, and we have set about it with a lot of enthusiasm. We have identified 100 dams in five regions across the country; Upper East, Upper West, Northern, Volta and Western, and stocked them with fingerlings. This is the start of big things to come due to the efforts of the forceful efforts of the Hon Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Hon Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, Member of Parliament for Krowor. Mr Speaker, agriculture forms the backbone of our flagship One District One Factory Programme. The majority of the proposals that have been evaluated and accepted for support under the scheme are agro based. It is food processing, after all, that has been the take off point for industrialisation in most developed countries. It also fits in our determination to open up our country, and make jobs and facilities available in all parts of the country. Mr Speaker, problems associated with our environment and the galamsay phenomenon have taken up a lot of the time and energy of this Government. The fight against galamsay is spearheaded by a high powered inter- Ministerial committee, led by the globally acclaimed Ghanaian scientist, Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, Hon Minister for Science, Technology, Environment and Innovation, and supported by the indefatigable Hon Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu. This committee is waging a valiant struggle to bring the galamsay phenomenon under control. His work has received, thankfully, the wide support of the Media. Mr Speaker, we have had to ban small scale mining for the past nine months. We acknowledge that the banning of small scale mining cannot be the long term solution in a country such as ours, which is blessed with so many minerals; but as the saying goes, desperate situations call for desperate remedies. We cannot look on as our very existence, as our country, is put in jeopardy and our water bodies, forests and landmarks are destroyed. Even with the ban, it has been a never ending battle with the galamsayers, and I am sure the House would want to join me in paying tribute to the members of our forces in the operation vanguard who are protecting our environment. They are Ghanaian patriots of the first order. We have started various schemes to find sustainable alternative sources of income for the galamsayers. Mr Speaker, nothing would ever equate the attraction of the search for gold or diamond, but this generation of Ghanaians dares not preside over the destruction of our lands. The state of our rivers and forests remain a great cause for worry, and it is our sacred duty to protect them. I hope I can count on the total support of the House to help nurse our degrading lands and rivers back to health. I am equally grateful to those chiefs who have supported the fight against galamsay. The Government will continue to reach out to our traditional rulers, so that together we can address pressing issues facing our nation and its peace and stability. Mr Speaker, there is relief in some areas, and I refer specifically to the spectacular improvement in our power supply problems. A lot of hard work has gone into easing the intolerable debt situation that threatened to paralyse the energy industry. We still have problems with the cost of power, and we are working to put Ghana at a competitive advantage. We intend to find private sector operators to buy into the State-owned thermal plants and inject the capital needed to bring power tariffs down to both domestic and commercial consumers. The most reliable and ultimately cheapest answer to our power needs lies with renewable energy sources. Long may it stay so, as we applaud the tireless efforts of the Hon Minister for Energy, Mr Boakye Agyarko. Mr Speaker, the safety and security of our people is at the heart of all that we do. Ghanaian citizens have the right to expect to go about their daily lives in an atmosphere of peace. A Ghanaian has the right to express that those who break the law must be subject to the sanctions laid down under the law. The Police, the prosecution services and the Judiciary owe it to all of us to make us feel and be safe. I do not need to repeat that crime wears no political colours, and I am certain that message has gone out to all of us.

Speaker
Mr President

Mr Speaker, the law enforcement agencies would crack down hard on all those who disturb the peace of our nation. [Interruption.] We would give the Ghana Police Service the resources they need to do their job. An initial amount of GH¢ 800 million is being made available to procure and supply within the next six months, critical modern policing equipment and gadgets to enhance the capacity of the Police Service to enforce law and order. This includes 1000 vehicles, motor bicycles and ammunition.

Speaker
Mr Speaker

Order!

Speaker
Mr President

In the medium to long- term, we would purchase drones and helicopters to help the Ghana Police Service combat violent crimes and environmental crimes. The crime laboratories would be modernised and probably equipped to provide the necessary support. The Ghana Police Service Intelligent Unit would also be strengthened. Mr Speaker, I am aware that the entire nation is extremely anxious and perturbed by the activities of the migrant nomadic herdsmen in the country. We are rehabilitating the ranches that were abandoned after the former President John Agyekum Kufour led NPP Government left office in 2009. They would become operational shortly to provide secure grazing place for cattle. At the same time, efforts are also being intensified to find an ECOWAS solution to an issue, which goes beyond the boundaries of our country and affects the entire West African Region. Mr Speaker, we shall not allow miscreants of any sort to terrorise our population. [Interruption.] And I promise that there would be no hiding place for criminals. I am certain that the interventions that we are introducing would boost morale in the Service and I urge the House and all citizens to support the GPS to deliver the service we deserve. The Hon Minister for the Interior, Hon Ambrose Dery, Member of Parliament for Nandom, needs our effective cooperation to carry out this all- important function. We know that it is in our interest that those charged with ensuring our security, those who put their lives on the line for our safety, are able to concentrate on their jobs without destructions like inadequate and inappropriate housing. It is vital that all of us give maximum support to our noble brave men and women of our security services involved in “Operation Calm Life”, “Operation Vanguard” and “Operation Cow Leg” aimed at guaranteeing the safety of our people, the integrity of our environment and the peace of our nation. Mr Speaker, the housing deficit is not limited to our security services. There is a nationwide problem that is caused mostly by the intolerable pressure on land price. This has put affordable housing out of the reach of most people. We have begun a difficult process of making housing affordable for Ghanaians. The Government of Ghana last year, abolished the five per cent VAT and NHIL on real estate sales, and continues to create a conducive environment that is reducing interest rates on mortgage loans. Discussions are also ongoing between the Pensions Regulatory Authority and the banks, to underwrite an effective mortgage system. This would facilitate access to housing for the ordinary budget. Government would also continue to create the enabling environment that would promote private sector investment in cheaper housing for the people. Mr Speaker, I am sure no one needs remind me in this House that, I have signed into law the Office of the Special Prosecutor's Act -- [Hear! Hear!] I look forward to an essential step in our overall strategy to combat corruption. I look forward to the House dealing speedily with the process of confirmation of the nominee, the person of proven professional ability, with an established record of integrity and independence of character. Here again, we are in tethered waters, but I am convinced that there is enough goodwill in the country to propel the first occupant of the position. It is setting a good and firm foundation for the position of the Special Prosecutor. Mr Speaker, year in and year out, the nation's Auditor-General produces a report on our public finances. It is often full of grand cases of corruption in our public service. The Auditor-General's Report on Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) liabilities as at 31st Mr Speaker, in the course of this address, the House has heard me struggle to identify a source of funding to build our roads. Every day, we hear reports on our radios and televisions of dilapidated classrooms and children who sit on floors in school. Just think of the difference the GH¢5.4 billion would make to the nations finances. That would certainly be enough to build and furnish hundreds of classrooms and construct the Eastern Corridor Roads. Every citizen is affected by acts of corruption and we should all work to tackle it. Government has an obligation to treat the Auditor-General's Report seriously and to work to retrieve illegally acquired monies from those who would impoverish us all. Mr Speaker, the role of “Occupy Ghana” in increasing awareness on the importance of the work of the Auditor- General should be recognised. Mr Speaker, the preamble of the Constitution of the Republic enjoins each

Speaker
Mr President

one of us to uphold the principles of freedom and justice, probity and accountability. In furtherance of these principles, I have made it publicly known that anyone who has information about acts of corruption by any of my appointees should bring it forward. [Interruption] -- And should be prepared to back it with evidence, for I would have it investigated. [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, so far, every single alleged act of corruption levelled against any of my appointees has been investigated by independent bodies, and in some cases, by Parliament itself, and the findings made public.

Speaker
Mr President

Mr Speaker, it appears however that, some are determined to stick to their politically motivated view that there has been corruption. This surely is not helpful. Mr Speaker, it is important to note that in my first year of Office, despite having a clear Parliamentary Majority, two separate by-partisan probes in Parliament had been established to enquire in to allegations of corruption as against zero in recent years, notwithstanding the persistent calls by the then Minority over several allegations. Mr Speaker, with the greatest of respect, and in the words of the articulate Hon Minister for Information, Mr Mustapha Abdul Hamid, he says: “No matter how long a log stays under water, it would never become a crocodile”. Mr Speaker, I would like to repeat for the benefit of my friends in the Minority. He says: “No matter how long a log stays under water, it would never become a crocodile.

Speaker
Mr Speaker

Hon Members, order!

Speaker
Mr President

Mr Speaker, there was grave relief around the country when the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea found in our favour in the Maritime Boundary Dispute with La Cote d'Ivoire, a dispute which was litigated by successive governments in the national interest; the last lap being run by the able Attorney-General, Ms Gloria Akuffo. Mr Speaker, in our celebrations, we did not forget that good neighbourliness is the hallmark of our foreign policy, and I am glad to state that, our good relations with La Cote d'Ivoire has not been affected in any way by the resolution of the dispute. Indeed, La Cote d'Ivoire's renowned President, His Excellency, Mr Alassane Quattara, at my invitation, paid us a memorable official visit after the ruling, to underline his country's determination to maintain, if not deepen his country's good relations with our own. Mr Speaker, in fact, as you may remember, he and I signed on that occasion an Agreement called, “Le strategie de partenariat”. For those who find French difficult, it means a “Strategic Partnership Agreement”, and this was to emphasise the enhanced relationship we both seek for our two neighbouring countries. Mr Speaker, another obvious, immediate benefit from the sensible reactions of both sides to the outcome of the dispute is the subsequent Agreement by ExxonMobil, the world's largest publicly traded oil and gas company, to explore and develop with us, potentially rich oil blocks that were affected by the area in dispute. Mr Speaker, much as we all recognise the importance of exploiting the offshore hydro-carbon resources of our nation, I believe it is equally critical for us not to ignore the possibilities of our on-shore deposits, especially, in the Voltaian basin. Mr Speaker, last year, I directed our State - owned oil developing company, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, to pay particular attention to this potential. It is good to hear that, that directive appears to be yielding dividend. The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), from the results of its private survey in the Voltaian basin, has established the presence of a working petroleum system. I hope that eventually, there would be something big for us to cheer about. Mr Speaker, this year, we would continue the process of passing the Legislative Instrument of the National Youth and Sports Act, pursue the enactment of the Draft National Sports College Board, and create a Sports Fund, to improve sports development in the country. Mr Speaker, government also remains committed to the development of football in the country. We have begun the rehabilitation of the Accra Sports Stadium, otherwise known as the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium. In partnership with the Inner City and Zongo Development Ministry and the Ghana Football Association (GFA), we are constructing a number of football pitches in the Zongos and across the country, to aid in the revival of colts' football, which has been responsible for the production of talents such as Abedi Pele and Tony Yeboah. We need to catch the talents at the young age, if Ghanaian football is to continue with its traditions of excellence and perform well on the national and international stage. Mr Speaker, we in Ghana are proud members of regional, continental and global communities. Since my inauguration, I have been acting, with the help of the eloquent Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, the Member of Parliament for Anyaa/Sowutuom, on keeping up and promoting the historical role of Ghana within these communities: a role of independent sovereign action, in the supreme interest of the Ghanaian and African people. I have travelled around my neighbourhood and beyond, and I am glad to report that, the black star is shining. Mr Speaker, it is the reason for the unprecedented numbers of world leaders -- African, Asian and European thronged who flaunted our shores this past year, and enjoyed our renowned Ghanaian hospitality. It explains the warmth with which I am greeted wherever I go in the world.

Speaker
Mr President

Mr Speaker, a country's image tells on the most unlikely things and events. It could be because of the exploits of a football team such as the Brazil team. It could also be because of the exploits of one athlete such as Frankie Fredericks from Namibia and Maria Mutola from Mozambique. It could be because of a highlife connoisseur such as E. T. Mensah from Ghana, and a single trumpeter such as Hugh Masekela for South Africa. Mr Speaker, the image of a country can be made forever because of a Williams Shakespeare or a Nanton Checkle, a Chinua Achebe, or an Ayi Kwei Armah. The image could simply be based on a Monalisa painting or a David Adjei's inspired structure. Mr Speaker, I am therefore very much aware that we would have to create the space and atmosphere for our creative artists, and we should support them. The foundation for the passing of the Creative Arts Act has been laid, and ultimately, the setting up of the Creative Arts Fund would be completed to enable our creative artists to access funds to boost their arts. Mr Speaker, if we make progress in our undertakings, more and more people would come to Ghana to find out things for themselves, to conduct business increasingly, simply as tourists, to experience our country and enjoy themselves. Mr Speaker, I am happy to report that we have now recognised the need to go further than our reputation for being hospitable. We are building a Ghana where tourists will feel at home and we should feel proud when they say “They were in Ghana”. Mr Speaker, on December 15th, 2017, I joined the chiefs and people of Osu Gbese to cut the sod for the 241 acre Accra- Marine drive project. This project, during construction in the pond completion, would generate thousands of jobs for the local community and across the value chain, and position Ghana as the key tourism destination. Mr Speaker, I have an apology to make to the House. I promised last year that we would endeavour to pass into law, the Affirmative Action Bill, but this did not happen. My commitment to the promotion of the advancement of women is without question. Women constitute the majority of the population and our success or otherwise as a nation would be measured by how well our women are doing. The Bill would definitely come to Parliament this Meeting. In the meantime, I throw my full weight behind the “He-for-She Campaign” and the “Gender and Development Initiative for Africa”, which is an initiative stemming from my position as the African Union's Gender Champion. I urge all Ghanaian males to join in giving Ghanaian females the dignity they deserve as promoted by the Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ms Otiko Afisah Djaba. I further entreat all of us, male and female, to support the implementation of the 2030 United Nation's (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, which have been incorporated into Government's coordinate programme of economic and social development policies which was laid before the House on 30th November, 2017, and the execution of which would ensure that no Ghanaian is left behind. Mr Speaker, on 7th January, 2018, the Fourth Republic attained 25 years, its Silver Jubilee. It has proved to be the most enduring and successful of the four Republics of our history. Its Constitution has enabled us to establish our State on sound democratic principles, the basis of Separation of Powers, the Rule of Law and Respect for Human Rights. It has witnessed three peaceful transitions through the ballot box, from one democratically elected Government of one party, to another of another party. It has promoted our nation as a beacon of stability and model of democratic engagement on the African Continent. It is to celebrate this collective achievement of the Ghanaian people and the unity of the Ghanaian nation, that I organised on that day, an inter-faith religious ceremony of thanksgiving to the Almighty God. I thank them for their contributions to the service and thank all the eminent clergy of both the Christian and Islamic persuasions who conducted and participated in the solemn moving ceremony. Long live the Fourth Republic! Mr Speaker, our nation is on the right path. [Hear! Hear!] We would build a Ghana beyond aid. [Hear! Hear!]

Speaker
Mr Speaker

Thank you very much, Mr President. Hon Members, in accordance with Standing Order 58, I wish to convey to H.E. the President the gratitude of this Honourable House for his brilliant rendition. I seize this opportunity to express our appreciation to the Ghana Armed Forces, the various security agencies and our internal security, for their services which have ensured the smooth success of this function. Hon Members, again, in accordance with our practice, a formal communication would be sent to H. E. the President after the House has debated this Address. Hon Members, we appreciate H. E. the President for the service rendered. Thank you. Hon Majority Leader, at this stage, is there any indication?

Speaker
Majority Leader (Mr Osei Kyei- Mensah-Bonsu)

Mr Speaker, to borrow a line from one of the most prolific highlife artistes, Akwasi Ampofo Adjei of blessed memory, “Time changes”. Today, we hear that our Hon Colleagues would now remember a line in our National Anthem: “Help us to resist oppressors rule”. [Interruption.] I say “Amen” to that. This country has not only witnessed but has lived under oppression, suppression, subjugation and pulverisation. In a lighter vein, if the oppressor is being oppressed, there can only be joy in the higher heavens. That is indeed in a lighter vein.

Speaker
Majority Leader (Mr Osei Kyei- Mensah-Bonsu)

Mr Speaker, they do know that, the tears of the Minority would not be enough to ferry them to the greater beyond, so we would join them and shed profuse tears.

Speaker
Mr Speaker

Thank you very much, Hon Majority Leader.

Speaker
Minority Leader (Mr Haruna Iddrisu)

Mr Speaker, what an important day and occasion in the life of our strong and evolving constitutional democracy! I was touched by the President's humour of Ewe, “Novevila”, and I hope that the Hon Avedzi would generously translate that important message he wanted to convey for the record of the Hansard. Mr Speaker, we have heard the President on his state of promises -- [Laughter] -- and we have heard that, at least, sole sourcing is still lawful in Ghana. [Uproar.] Mr Speaker, if contractors on the Eastern corridor and the Bolgatanga- Bawku roads are paid and not given razor cards or renegotiations, they would be completed on time. Mr Speaker, you ended on a good note with a proverb. I will not pay royalties to the Hon A. B. A. Fuseini. You said,

Speaker
Mr Speaker

Very well. Question put and Motion agreed to.

ADJOURNMENT

The House was accordingly adjourned at 11.55 a.m. till Friday, 9th February, 2018 at 10.00 a.m.