VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, item numbered 2 -- Correction of Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday, 21st February, 2018. Page 1, 2, …13. Hon Members, Official Report of Wednesday, 31st January, 2018. Any corrections? Hon Members, item numbered 3 -- Statements. Hon Members, we have two Statements. One is on the death of the Hon Nii Nortey Dua -- former Hon Member of this Honourable House for the Ledzokuku Constituency by Hon Nii Lantey Vanderpuye.
Mr Speaker, I have just informed the Hon Nii Lantey Vanderpuye that the Statement has been admitted and therefore, he should print copies and come and do the presentation.
Thank you very much. Hon Member, did you say he would come and present it anyway, later? Hon Member, please, I am addressing you. Would he be present later to present it?
Mr Speaker, yes, he would come.
Thank you. The Statement by Hon (Dr) Robert Baba Kuganab-Lem on Universal Health Coverage which the Hon Member says is a constitutional imperative.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to make this Statement, titled Universal Health Coverage; A Constitutional Imperative. Mr Speaker, before I make this Statement, let me on my humble behalf express my sincere thanks to you and to the Parliamentary Service, ably directed by the Clerk, the Leadership of Parliament for the swift and decisive decisions that were taken when I was taken ill in Tokyo while attending a meeting on this very important topic. Mr Speaker, your support and concern for me is legendary. Not only did you personally ensure that I had the best of care available in Tokyo, but you equally prayed for me. Thankfully, the good Lord heard us. Mr Speaker, you also arranged for my wife to join me which to say the least, was most soothing. She told me about the support she received from everyone she encountered here in Parliament and that it was very angelic. She has asked me to convey her deepest gratitude to everyone she met. Mr Speaker, let me also thank the Hon Minister for Roads and Highways, Hon Kwasi Amoako-Attah, for taking time off his ministerial business when he was in Tokyo, to visit me. I must also mention Archbishop Palmer Buckle whose visit was very humbling for me and made me feel Ghanaian and a Catholic. The staff of the Ghana Embassy were also awesome. Mr Speaker, I am grateful and indebted to you for your kind support. Mr Speaker, the Constitution of Ghana has authoritatively established the right to good health, but the question is, how do Ghanaians have access to good health and how can government ensure this access? The universal health coverage is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as ensuring that all people have access to needed promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health services while also ensuring that people do not have to suffer financial hardship when paying for these services. Its achievement by any country is expected to promote quality healthcare delivery which is good enough to promote and improve the health of those receiving the services imposing no financial burden. Mr Speaker, in order to achieve the level of socio-economic development that we desire in this country, it is important to view the attainment of universal health coverage as a priority and a major goal for reformation in the health sector. It is the right of every Ghanaian whether rich or poor, young or old, in the rural or urban areas, to have access to quality health services without any financial hindrance. In achieving inclusive and sustainable development, the ability of a country to ensure healthy lives and promote the wellbeing for all is critical as indicated in Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Mr Speaker, the health organisation of every well-developed country is built on having a trained and motivated staff workforce, a well-maintained infrastruc- ture and a reliable supply of medicines and technologies, backed by adequate funding, strong health plans and policies that are based on evidence. In 2015, Ghana achieved a nationwide health coverage of 44 per cent, and we could attain full nationwide health coverage in Ghana if we make its delivery more affordable and accessible. In achieving universal health coverage, it is important to look at how our health institutions are financed so that the monetary burden would be lifted off the patients who seek medical care. Passing these financial burdens to these patients may deter the poor and vulnerable in society from accessing quality healthcare. Mr Speaker, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was instituted to resolve the issue of funding when it comes to accessing primary healthcare and it was expected to improve the accessibility to healthcare not by the wealthiest. Mr Speaker, what is the way forward to get the NHIS to work? We must as a country depoliticise the implementation of health insurance policies and we must also forget about making workers pay for more when they do not know what they are paying for. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has
Thank you very much, Hon Member, for this well-researched and well presented Statement. Hon Yieleh Chireh, former Minister for Health?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, first of all, let me also add a word of appreciation that the Parliament of Ghana, under your leadership, supported our Hon Colleague who was not well and he is now back with us here. Indeed, it is good that we all hear these things, but a better thing he is asking for, is for us to have universal healthcare for everybody, and this country has made a lot of progress towards that. Mr Speaker, firstly, if you look at the primary healthcare issues after the Almata Agreement by the whole world in Russia that we should concentrate on primary healthcare, Ghana has done so consistently. What have we been doing? We make sure that we have levels of our health services. Now, the most modern one is the Community Health (Based) Planning Services (CHPS) compounds. After the CHPS compounds, a community might have a health centre and from there a community might have the District Health Facility. Mr Speaker, we cannot have universal health when we do not have the facilities where people could get the services. We must develop a primary one where people would take care of others. Mr Speaker, in the most advanced countries, one would have a system where a doctor or public health nurse or a health person would be in charge of a similar thing like having an electoral area. So, in the Ministry of Health's policy guideline, every electoral area is supposed to have a CHPS compound in which the political actors including Assembly Members would be focusing on getting people to report, getting health personnel to advise pregnant women till they deliver and make sure that any advance cases are properly referred to the next level.
Mr Speaker, I would like to commend my Hon Colleague on the Health Committee for this Statement on universal health coverage and to also take the opportunity to thank you for your support for my Hon Colleague when he fell ill. Mr Speaker, universal health coverage is a right; I agree with my Hon Colleague. And we as a country, must take deliberate steps to ensure that every Ghanaian has what it takes to visit a hospital and be able to afford healthcare. There are some very basic indicators that are used to tell how good health coverages in every country are, and I would mention just two of the indicators. Mr Speaker, one of them is the under- five mortality rate. That is the number of children who lose their lives during child birth or between ages one and five for every 1,000 births. In Ghana, in the year 1990, 121 children lost their lives per every 1,000 live births. By 2011, this had decreased to 78 deaths per 1,000 live births. So it is an indication of how well the country has performed over the years. But immediately we compare Ghana to a country like Germany, it gives us a good idea of the road that we have to travel. In Germany, in 1997, less than six children, 5.9 per cent, died for every 1,000 live births. Now, this year, as we speak, less than four, that is 3.8 per cent children died for every 1,000 births. However, in Ghana, 78 children die for every live birth. So, Mr Speaker, we have done well over the years, but there is a lot of work to be done. The other indicator is maternal mortality. That is, the number of women who die for every 100,000 live births. In Ghana, in the year 1990, 216 women died in the process of child birth for every 100,000 live births. By 2015, we were doing 319 deaths per every 100,000 live births. The figure, instead of going down has gone up and there are many reasons for this. It is possible that in 1990, the data did not capture the picture fully. It is also possible that, we are now having more women visiting the hospitals, so the records are becoming clearer. But the bottom line is that, 319 women as of 2015 in this country died for every 100,000 live births. Mr Speaker, in Germany, in 2015, six women lost their lives for every 100,000 live births compared to 319 in Ghana -- six versus 319. So we have a long road to travel. Mr Speaker, there are some basic pillars that we must work on, so that we could achieve some of these impressive figures we are seeing from Germany. First of all we ought to have health facilities that provide basic healthcare to treat basic conditions that we have in this country. The second one has to do with the ability to pay for healthcare and that is where the National Health Insurance Scheme comes in. I do not intend to provoke a debate, but the fact is that, the National Health Insurance Scheme was severely distressed over the past few years and a lot of effort is being made to make sure that the insurance scheme is rejuvenated. Mr Speaker, the National Health Insurance Scheme suffered some of the distress it had for a few reasons. First of all the 2.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) that was supposed to be paid into the insurance scheme was in arrears and this Government is trying as much as possible to make sure that we are current on our obligations. Mr Speaker, the third one has to do with personnel. To achieve universal health coverage, we need to have a good ratio of doctor-to-patient and nurse-to- patient and I am happy to mention that, some of the nurses who had sat home for four or five years received clearance last
Hon Member, do you stand on a point of correction or order?
Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague speaking is not the Minister for Health. I agree totally with his presentation, but to emphatically say that they intend to recruit 27,000 nurses this year -- If the Hon Minister was saying this, I would be happy or if he could tell us the source of his information, that would be clear; but he is not capable of giving us this information.
Hon Members of Parliament have the privilege and the duty to enquire into and pronounce upon any matter of public interest or concern and an Hon Member may make his or her own research and make pronouncements. Being Health Minister or otherwise is neither here nor there. Hon Member, please, continue.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, this data or figures were released by the Hon Minister for Information just a few weeks ago, subsequent to some demonstration by some nurses who want to be engaged. In fact, let me give more figures; 32,000 health workers are to receive clearance and 27,000 of them are going to be nurses. Mr Speaker, private sector participation is also key in achieving universal health coverage. Government alone cannot do it all. The private sector participation is very much encouraged by the help of the NHIS. Whenever the NHIS is paying health providers persistently and in a very good fashion, private hospitals are able to function well and they are able to engage more doctors and nurses to take care of citizens. I am happy to mention that some private facilities that were severely distressed are now seeing some form of rejuvenation so that they could also participate in achieving universal health coverage. Mr Speaker, the last item I would speak on is that of inter-sectorial participation. Here I would just give two examples. When there is a very fine hospital but with very bad roads leading to that hospital, health coverage suffers. One classical example is what we have in my Constituency where we have the Ledzdkuku Municipal Assembly (LEKMA) Hospital being a referral hospital but roads leading to it are in a bad shape. Mr Speaker, immediately this occurs, the facility might exist, but access becomes difficult. Mr Speaker, the second one is that of a Community Health (Based) Planning Services (CHPS) compound which was built in the Constituency of my Brother, Hon Samuel Ablakwa, where the compound was built a few years ago, but it is still is unused and unoccupied because there is no accommodation to house the workers who would man the hospital. So it means that housing as a sector must collaborate with the Ministry of Health. Transport must come in and energy is also important. A hospital is meaningless without energy supply so to make it effective. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I commend the Hon Member who made the Statement and again I thank you for helping him in his time of need.
Thank you very much. There would be one more from each side, including Leadership, in view of the time. So, the Leaders may coordinate with their Members and contribute accordingly.
Mr Speaker, to begin with, it would only be proper and appropriate that on behalf of the Caucus and Leadership, I thank you elephantly for your fatherly care and swift intervention to help to save the life of our dear Hon Colleague. Mr Speaker, to be frank, when the news broke out, most of us were down, because some said the Minority Caucus had lost one life. Others said no, the man had not passed on, the man is still alive but just that he needed health care. We could not believe what we heard, and unfortunately, it did not happen in the country. It happened far away in Japan. Mr Speaker, it takes somebody who understands the system and how it operates to make the kind of intervention that you made. An Hon Member has fallen sick abroad; what assistance should be given to that Hon Member in order to save his life, if not you or few people who would understand that the partner needed to join him there for his life to be saved? So, Mr Speaker, we are just young. It is not everything that we may understand, but you knew what to do and you did what was appropriate. So, if today our Hon Colleague has joined us and has gone ahead to write a Statement — [Interruption.] As he delivers that Statement, we cannot just discuss or comment on the Statement without laying emphasis on the effort that went into saving his life because life comes first. He is alive and that is why he is able to give that kind of delivery. Mr Speaker, he has gone ahead to speak about universal health coverage. It is true; I believe together, we all have to do something about our health care. I have colleagues who told me that if what happened to our Hon Colleague had happened to him while he was in Ghana, it would have been something different. Mr Speaker, whether it is true or not, somebody would say no, it is a fact that referrals are sometimes made outside, and if that is the case, I do not think anyone stands a chance to challenge me on this. Mr Speaker, t I think, he second Statement would be made before we come to -- this one is on the life of Hon Members. This is an issue that has to be raised and discussed and certain urgent steps taken on it. Yesterday, for instance, we sat early in the morning and closed just around 10 or 20 minutes to 4.00 o'clock.
Thank you very much. Majority -- Leadership or Member- ship, depending on the decision of the Leaders?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity given to me to contribute to the Statement ably made by my Hon Colleague, a Member of the Health Committee. It is so germane and apt; it has come at the right time. Mr Speaker, I am so impressed about the kind of things that he spoke about; the kind of support your good self offered him at the time when he was so much in need of healthcare. Indeed, I am happy because he has also made it known to the whole world and portrayed that even as Hon Members of Parliament from the other side, even though we normally engage in hot debate, we are not enemies. In critical times, when it matters, we are able to rise up to the challenge. It is something that is very good I appreciate the point that even the whole family recognises the kind of contribution that you offered. It is something that I would like to encourage all Hon Members of Parliament to emulate. We need not do things in secret in terms of the support that we give to each other. Let our followers know that, after all, we engage in serious debates, but we are not enemies. It is something that would help. Mr Speaker, the issue of universal health coverage is so critical, and that explains why it is constitutionally imperative. Governments, over the years, have come out with various programmes and projects which seek to provide three key things. The first has to do with geographical access, providing access to health facilities, whether Community-based Health Planning and Service (CHPS) compound, district hospitals, regional hospitals in almost all the districts or even the sub districts, so that Ghanaians would not have to travel long and incur serious challenges when it comes to access to healthcare. It is something that various governments have done. The second has to do with from financial access. Until the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme, it was a very serious concern to Ghanaians, and I would like to use the occasion to express my appreciation and sincere thanks to the former President, John Agyekum Kufuor, for coming with the National Health Insurance Programme. It is something that is good; it is a very good asset that Ghanaians should not politicise. It is something that we need to see as a critical heritage we have, and we all have to work towards its sustenance. Mr Speaker, the third thing has to do with the deployment of health personnel. It is critical, because we may have all the money to put up very huge edifices in terms of regional hospitals, CHPS compounds and everything, but the attitudes of the health professionals alone would thwart the effort of all the investment that we make if they are not able to provide the right kind of skills and the health delivery system that would support health. Mr Speaker, I would just like to recount the other side of it, something that happened to me just last month. I recount as former Chairman of the Committee on Health and the kind of inputs that we made towards the construction of the CHPS compounds. Mr Speaker, just last month, I was involved in a serious health challenge; it had to do with a heart problem. I thought the only facility I could get the best form of care from was the Accra Regional Hospital (Ridge Hospital). I went there at about 4.30 a.m., and I was told that there was no medical officer; there was not even a nurse to attend to me. What worried me was that the only nurse whom I saw there said there were no doctors. Even some of the patients who came around were sacked, because there were no doctors. It is serious. We cannot achieve a universal health coverage when we continue to appropriate moneys; millions of dollars, and come out with an ultra-modern facility to address
Hon Member, do you stand on a point of order or correction?
Rightly so, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I stand on a point of correction. In the Hon Member's submission, he stated categorically that in this 7th Parliament, there has not been health check-ups. Mr Speaker, Hon Members of Parliament were asked to go to the Clinic for health screening. If he has not done it, then it is a shame -- [Interruption.] When I went there, I was the 41st person. The last time I checked -- [Interruption] -- I came with a clean bill of health, though. The last time I checked, less than 100 Hon Members of Parliament had gone for the health screening. So, that opportunity is there for Hon Members of Parliament to go for their health screening. So, the Hon Member should correct that.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Yes, I cannot expect anything better than that. I know my Hon Leader -- [Interruption] -- Yes!
Hon Member, are you duly corrected?
Rightly so, Mr Speaker. I have been duly corrected and I cannot expect anything --
Be bold to say that and then continue.
Mr Speaker, I stand corrected. I appreciate that I have a Leader who is up to the task and for that matter --
And in conclusion?
Mr Speaker, and in conclusion, I would want to thank the Hon Member who made the Statement and brought this update on the universal health coverage.
The Statement is referred to the Committee on Health for further and serious consideration in view of the important matters raised. We thank the Lord for the life of the Hon Member, who was unconscious abroad for several days. He was between life and death. It is interesting to note that at one point, the medical officers themselves -- I was in touch with them in Tokyo -- they recommended that his wife should be sent to him. If that could help him come back to this part of the world or go beyond, it was a matter of here or there. I thought it was useful, and when his wife went under Parliament's expense, lo and behold, she spoke something to him -- [Laughter] -- and he was well. So, please stay well with your spouses -- [Laughter] -- so, that in case of need, when they talk, you would come back to life. We thank the good Lord.
Hon Members, at the Commencement of Public Business -- Presentation of Papers. Could we proceed with item numbered 4?
Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, I would want to make an appeal that the referral should be made to both the Joint Committees on Health and House Committee. This is because the welfare of Hon Members is handled by the House Committee.
Thank you very much.
Mr Speaker, my attention has been drawn to some discrepancies relating to that facility. We have touched base with the Hon Minister for Agriculture. Indeed, yesterday, some two officers came to see me in respect of that. They tried to clean it up. So, the Committee has not been able to work on it. It is hoped that by close of day tomorrow, all the relevant documentation would be availed to us and then it would be passed on to the Committee to enable them do a good job on the facility and on the referral. Mr Speaker, that being the case, I would want to appeal that we deal with item numbered 6 on the Order Paper. Mr Speaker, in respect of item numbered 5, which is captured on the Order Paper as “Ghana Deposit Protection (Amend- ment) Bill, 2015, 2018”, the caption should not have been “2015, 2018”. It is a typographical error. The year should rather be “2018”. Mr Speaker, some consultation is also going on between the Hon Minister for Finance and the Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, in respect of one or two clauses. So, it would come in the fullness of time. Mr Speaker, I believe that we could deal with the item numbered 6 on the Order Paper.
So, we would proceed with the Message on the State of the Nation, which is listed as item numbered 6. Hon Majority Leader, thank you very much. Hon Inusah Fuseini, you may start. In the process, the Hon First Deputy Speaker would take the Chair. Hon Member, please, proceed.
[Resumption of debate from 21/02/ 2018.]
Thank you, Mr Speaker, but even before you vacate your Chair for the -- [Interruption.]
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who started the debate for us yesterday was from the Minority side, so, I thought that in line with our convention today, we would have begun from the Majority side. Mr Speaker, we on the Majority side would not complain. We certainly would not complain if the Hon Member has already been given the opportunity.
So, Hon Fuseini, you have been duly cleared by the Hon Leader of the House.
Very well, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, the Hon Majority Leader is my friend, and I have no doubt that he would clear me. Mr Speaker, even before you vacate the Chair, allow me to add my deepest appreciation of the intervention that you made to save the life of our Hon Colleague. Mr Speaker, indeed, in our religion, it is said that if one does not thank people who extend benevolence to him or her, one would not thank God for his benevolence to him or her. So, I also join other Hon Members to thank you. Mr Speaker, I rise this morning to contribute to the Motion on the floor of the House, a Motion which was ably moved by my Hon Colleague, the Hon Yaw Buaben Asamoa and seconded by the Hon Rockson-Nelson Etse Kwami Dafeamekpor. Mr Speaker, I would want to say that the President of the Republic came to this House, pursuant to article 67 of the Constitution. Article 34 (2), gives an indication of what ought to be contained in the State of the Nation Address. Mr Speaker, a Senator of the United States of America Congress, Senator Daniel- Patrick Moyniham, who preceded Hilary Clinton, said that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but not his or her own facts. Mr Speaker, we can all be entitled to our opinions but we cannot be entitled to our own set of facts. Indeed, any attempt by the President to define reality in his own terms, or the way he sees it is equal to descending into the arena of authori- tarianism.
MR FIRST DEPUTY SPEAKER
Hon Fuseini, please, continue.
Mr Speaker, what are the facts? The knowable and verifiable facts in this country are that, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) started the Eastern Corridor Roads. It is knowable and verifiable. Mr Speaker, indeed, the President in his State of the Nation Address said that propaganda had delayed the completion of the project. However, I was shocked and surprised when he did not give us an account of how many kilometres of roads, asphalt or bituminous surfacing that his Government, since assuming power, had added to the Eastern Corridor Roads. Mr Speaker, it is knowable and verifiable that the NDC Government reviewed the law establishing the Road Fund, and also revised the contribution of the fuel levy into the Road Fund. Mr Speaker, it is knowable and verifiable that the NDC Government constructed the Circle Interchange and the Kasoa Interchange. Mr Speaker, it is a knowable and verifiable fact that the NDC Government started the construction of the Bolgatanga-Bawku-Pulmakom road. Mr Speaker, it is knowable and verifiable that the NDC Government rehabilitated the Adomi Bridge. These are
Yes, Hon Chairman, what is it? Hon Member, hold on.
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, this is a House of records. It was on the Kumasi-Sunyani road that Ebony lost her life. For him to say that it was on the Accra-Kumasi road, he is misinforming the House. So if he would take that on board and continue.
Very well, Hon Member, please, be guided.
It was on the Accra- Kumasi-Sunyani road. [Laughter.]
You have one minute more.
Mr Speaker, as I was saying, it is very important to underscore the fact that the bad roads that we presently have in this country, for which the President has cause to complain, is precisely because of the activities of the NPP Government in its first year in office, where all ongoing projects were suspended, where contractors were asked to stay off and the roads that were being worked on started to deteriorate.
Your time is up, please, conclude.
Prudent measures should be taken to ensure that our roads do not degenerate before they are repaired. This is because that would require a lot of cost.
Hon Minister for Works and Housing? Mr Second Deputy Speaker would take over.
MR SECOND DEPUTY SPEAKER
Hon Member, you have the floor.
Mr Speaker, it gives me great joy to contribute to the Motion on the floor. Mr Speaker, I have been in the House for ten years --[Interruptions]-- and I have had the benefit of listening to the State of the Nation Addresses from several Presidents. But I must say the last we had, if we look at a man who is approaching seventy-four years, what the young men call “his swag”, his capacity of delivery, I wish to submit that President Akufo-Addo is exquisitely symmetrical. That is something that should go on record. His energy level, I could not believe it. We thank God for such an energetic President and the space we afforded him to speak to the House. Mr Speaker, I have an observation to make in terms of what the President said that some of us develop allergies to facts. I would want to talk about that because it is very important. Mr Speaker, as a nation, I am of the humble view that when it touches on the economy, we should be apolitical. This is because no one goes to the market and the strength of his party colours would buy items cheaper than his neighbour. Therefore, we should pay obeisance to facts. A nation that has no respect for facts, truth and figures is condemned to fail. This is because upon what is that nation going to plan? The President touched on that and I think this House should respect the fact that when it comes to the economy, we should stop doing any propaganda. It does not give us any mileage when we close our eyes to the truth and begin to go on the path of propaganda. Mr Speaker, we all know the strength of the Ghana cedi. You do not need to be an Einstein to appreciate the strength of the cedi. We all know interest rates and inflationary pressures and how they play out in the market space. So, why should we deceive ourselves to believe that we would not accept facts? As a liberating factor in nation building, the more we pay obeisance to facts, the more this nation would be free. Mr Speaker, because of the fidelity I pay to facts which I expect everybody who serve in public office to do, I would want to draw the attention of this House to the magisterial work of the Vice President, Alhaji Mahammudu Bawumia in a very serious engagement he had with the nation on the 6th of September, 2016. I refer to the lecture which he titled, The State of the Economy: A Foundation of Concrete or Straw? I would like to quote, with your permission, what he said. “Mr Chairman, any assessment of the state of the economy and the performance of the government must be against the background of the amount of resources at the disposal of the government. At a public lecture in September 2008, then Vice-Presidential candidate, John Mahama said: ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.' I would like, with his permission, to borrow his exact words to describe his government's exact performance in the last 8 years. In this regard, it is important to emphasise for the record that measured in terms of today's dollars and cedis, no government since independence has had the amount of resources in terms of tax revenue, cocoa exports, gold exports, oil revenues and loans as the two NDC administrations between 2009 and 2016. Under the 8 years of the NPP government, from 2001-2008, taxes and loans amounted to GH¢20 billion. In contrast, taxes, oil revenue, and loans alone over the 8-year period of 2009-2016 would amount to some GH¢248 billion. The Mills-Mahama governments would have had in eight years, more than 12 times the nominal resources that the NPP had.” These are facts, but when we sit down here in the highest form of thinking, I would want to submit -- Here, this forum is where the people of this country have reposed trust in individuals to do the highest form of thinking. Yet we begin to blink our eyes when it comes to the economy, let us twist “X” or “Y”. We do a great disservice not only to ourselves but to those who called us here to pay obeisance to truth and defend it. Mr Speaker, I would also want to make reference to the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government of Ghana for the 2018 Financial Year. These are facts I am about to quote and with your permission,. I quote from paragraph 111. “Mr Speaker, it can be recalled that one of the economic situations that our Government inherited was a ballooning debt stock which placed an increasing burden on the budget. Indeed, Ghana's debt-to-GDP ratio had increased from 32 percent at the end of 2008 to 73 per cent at the end of 2016 (an increase from GH¢9,746.86 million to GH¢112,263.01 million). This situation resulted in an increasing interest burden, with interest payments alone consuming 45 percent of tax revenue and 6.8 percent of GDP in 2016. Mr Speaker, it is now opportune that I quote from the Bible, in trying to address this important issue of paying respect to facts, so it would be a guiding principle for us to move on as a nation. With your permission, I can quote it from memory. The Bible says that: “You can do nothing against the truth but for the truth”. That is what we should do and embrace. Whenever we are confronted with truth, we should not run away from it. Mr Speaker, this brings me to the observation of the President about the State of the Economy and this may be found --
Hon Minister for Works and Housing?
Your Hon Colleague is on his feet.
He seems to have doubts about your quotation of the Bible. So, let us listen to him.
Mr Speaker, as Christians, we are supposed to quote the Bible correctly. I just would want my Hon Colleague, the Hon Minister for Works and Housing to tell us the exact portion of the Bible he just quoted.
Mr Speaker, I do not know. I have had some small challenge. Those of you who are computer compliant, I am tempted to submit that it is in Corinthians, so please they should check on their phones for me right now and I would tell him.
Hon Minister, were you paraphrasing or quoting?
I quoted verbatim. “You can do nothing against the truth but for the truth.”
Mr Speaker, the respected Colleague is quoting from the Bible which we all know is an official document or publication. Our Standing Orders provide and I refer to Standing Order 67 (h).
What is an official publication?
Mr Speaker, I would come to that.
The Bible is an official publication?
Yes, Mr Speaker. For us Christians, it is.
Of which office?
For us Christians, it is. [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, I know you are a practising Catholic, tell me that it is not an official publication.
Hon Majority Leader, the Chair would not be brought into the debate.
Mr Speaker, I am striving hard against the issue that you wanted to elicit from me to keep you out of the debate.
I just wanted clarification.
Mr Speaker, sunlight, and indeed, sunshine shall be provided. with your permission, the Standing Orders provide that: “a Question shall not be asked the answer to which is readily available in official publications”. Mr Speaker, an official publication is defined in Standing Order 7, to mean and I beg to quote: “any publication produced by or under the authority or with the sanction of any Ministry, department, organisation, agency, association, society or club”. The Bible is produced by the Bible Society of Ghana. Thank you very much.
Mr Speaker, God is good and His mercies endure forever. I quoted from 2 Corinthians 13:8. “You can do nothing against the truth but for the truth”. Mr Speaker, do I have your permission to continue? I am informed that because I am a Minister, I have an allotment of 15 minutes. I am grateful.
Hon Minister, I have taken note of that. You may continue.
Mr Speaker, the President made this observation which might be found on page 3 of the Message on the State of the Nation. With your kind permission, I would like to quote. “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 rate of debt accumulation, which, in recent years, has been as high as 36 % has declined to 13.6 %, as at September 2017. As a result, the public debt stock as a ratio of GDP is 68.3 %, against the annual target of 71 % for 2017, and end 2016 actual figure of 73.1 %. As a result of appropriate policy, and the normalisation of the power situation in the country, they have also engineered a spectacular revival of Ghanaian industry, from a growth rate of -0.5% in 2016 to 17.7% in 2017.” These are facts and we should hallow them for us to go forward as a nation. Mr Speaker, I am tempted to say that when it comes to the strength of the Ghana cedi, there is no voodoo about it. Anybody who spends money and has any reference to the market would know the strength of the nation which is always measured by the power of its currency -- it is like the blood we have in our system. Mr Speaker, I would want to move on to a very important dimension of what the President said which touches on my Ministry -- that we have a mocking figure and some people say that it is even climbing. In the neighbourhood of 1.7 million housing units in deficit is a situation which calls for very desperate solutions. If not, it would be like we are paying lip-service to this whole problem. The President made this observation which I believe would help to make some incremental steps to reduce this deficit. Mr Speaker, again with your permission, I would want to quote from page 16 of the State of the Nation Address. “Mr Speaker, the housing deficit is not limited to our security services, it is a nationwide problem that is caused mostly by the intolerable pressure on land prices. This has put affordable housing out of the reach of most people. We have begun the difficult process of making housing affordable for Ghanaians. Government, last year, abolished the 5 per cent VAT/NHIL on real estate sales, and continues to create a conducive environment that is reducing interest rate on
Yes, Hon Deputy Minority Whip?
Mr Speaker, my good Friend has spoken for about 17 minutes now. He is the Hon Minister for Works and Housing and so, I know the maximum time he should be given is at least 15 minutes, but he has spoken for about 17 minutes and still quoting.
Hon Deputy Minority Whip, I am in charge. [Laughter.] I am aware of the situation and I indicated earlier that I had taken note of the interventions that were made and the disorientation that came to him in trying to get his document together. He spent some time and so I wanted to add on to his time. Yesterday, when the Hon Majority Leader raised the same issue, I explained this to him. I am being fair to all of you, so do not worry. When it is your time, I would add up some more minutes in case there are interjections and objections to your submission. Hon Minister, you have some more minutes to wind up.
Mr Speaker, our Hon Colleague, Hon Naabu would contribute today and I know there would be interjections because he has so many points to deliver, so when his time is due, you add on more time.
Mr Speaker, I am very elated when the authority of the Speakership is asserted that you are the sole time keeper, and therefore, any other attempts to use their watches to interrupt is of no consequence. Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would want to make reference to the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766) as amended by Act 883. Under ‘'Permitted investment'' which could be found in section 176 (h) it says: 176. ‘' Subject to guidelines that the Board may issue, pension fund and assets shall be invested in any of the following: (h) real estates investment; and‘' Mr Speaker, here is a situation in which we have a pool of money intended for the people. Can we not legislate that for purposes of making moneys readily available to do mortgage arrangements -- and it works like this in some countries. On the pool is a situation in which banks have been brought together, the moneys are sent to these banks for purposes of paying developers of properties -- the leverage on the moneys that come to them from the Pension Fund and then they pay the developers and do the mortgage arrangements with the end users. Somebody could be here as an Hon Member of Parliament, or somebody even doing market work because of the tier three arrangements and sign on to pension contributions and on the back of money which are with the banks -- we determine our own interest rates. This is because the moneys belong to the --
Hon Minister, you may now conclude.
Mr Speaker, in concluding, if we intervene through legislation and ring fence about 30 per cent of the moneys of the Pension's Fund as a leverage for real estate investment, we would have a credible mortgage environment -- somebody who earns not too much money, but in the next 25 years, if he or she subscribes to the mortgage arrangement, would be able to own a house. Mr Speaker, this is where we would want to go and in good time, we would need the support of this House. Mr Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity.
Mr Speaker, thank you. Mr Speaker, I would want to use the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the State of the Nation Address delivered by the President on the 8th February, 2018, for which the Motion was moved by a Member of the House accordingly. Mr Speaker, for the past 25 years, the Forth Republic has noted the presentation of the State of the Nation Address as a constitutional requirement in Parliament, and for these years, we have listened to a number of addresses delivered in this Chamber. But I would want to say that the Address delivered this year, to me and many other Ghanaians, has not been very inspiring and has not given us the hope that we needed as a nation. The President reduced the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to a platform of singing the praises of his Hon Ministers. At least I noted 20 Ministers who received praises in the State of the Nation Address. He talked about a hardworking Minister, a resourceful Minister, a dynamic Minister, an intemperate Minister, a charismatic Minister, et cetera. Mr Speaker, I am sure that these 20 Minister who were selected and praised would not be reshuffled before 2020.
Interestingly, the President failed to recognise one of his hardworking Ministers by name, Hon Peter John Amewu, who sacrificed very much in the fight against galamsey. That is why I say that the SONA was reduced to a forum for praising Hon Ministers. Mr Speaker, if one listened to the Address very well, the President spoke about the introduction of the Free Senior High School in the country. We all know that the introduction was ill-prepared. We had not prepared ourselves very well as a nation to start the mass introduction of Free Senior High School Programme. This is because the infrastructure that we needed to embark upon this project had not been put in place. That is why the previous government made sure that the programme was introduced as a gradual process. Mr Speaker, the problems that we encountered with the introduction of the Free Senior High School are still there, and very soon, in six months' time, that is, in September, another batch of students would go into Senior High Schools. What preparations have we made to ensure that these students do not go to face these challenges that the first year students now face? We are aware of how students are packed in dormitories and are finding it very difficult to learn. Mr Speaker, if we talk about the challenges, the classroom challenges are there and so are the physical challenges. What are we doing? Recently, the President instructed the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) to make sure that all ongoing projects in the senior high schools are continued and completed. But the fact is, what money has been allocated to GETFund to complete these projects? We know that for those projects to be completed, GETFund needs not less than GH¢3.5billion. But in the Budget Satement for 2018, what has been allocated to GETFund is woefully inadequate. Mr Speaker, in 2017, GETFund was allocated only GH¢900million instead of GH¢1.4bilion as a result of the capping that was introduced and same is going to happen this year. It is even likely that GETFund would not get more than GH¢500 million for its projects. How would GETFund continue with these projects and pay the contractors so that we can have these projects completed for use by our children? Are they going to carry boxes and put them on verandas, spread their mattresses on the floor and sleep? This is what we would see again if pragmatic steps are not taken to make sure that this is done before September this year. Mr Speaker, I have raised a number of issues as far as the Free SHS is concerned but I still see that nothing is being done about it. And that is about other Ghanaians who attend private schools in this country. They are also Ghanaians, and as such, need to be accorded the opportunity to also benefit from the Free Senior High School Programme. They must be supported. When issues of this nature are raised, we are referred to the Constitution that it is not what it is intended to cover. Mr Speaker, if we also look at the basic schools, previously, government supported all candidates who registered for the Basic Education Certificate Examination. This year, we are told that government would take over the full payment. But ironically, pupils in private basic schools are denied this opportunity. The entire burden of paying the examination fee is now on their parents. Why are we treating them so? I believe there is the need for government to make sure that these children are also taken care of as far as payment or subsidies are concerned and as far as Basic Education Certificate Examination is concerned. Mr Speaker, still on education, the President, in the Message on the State of the Nation, did not touch very well on basic education as far as I am concerned. What would we build on in the years to come if we do not have a very good foundation? So there is the need to pay much attention to basic education in this country. Mr Speaker, we still have a lot of our classes taking place in dilapidated classrooms under trees and sheds. Last year, we were promised that 200 kindergarten blocks would be constructed. As we sit here, we are in the year 2018, but we have not even commissioned one. Why is it that we only make promises and we do not want to fulfil them? We expect government to put things in order so that the basic schools will have the necessary facilities. We cannot only shout that we have increased GETFund to a particular percentage while the money does not get to the beneficiary schools. Mr Speaker, we also talked about the restoration of teacher trainee allowances. Previously, we knew that the allowances were removed so that more could enter the Colleges of Education. Now, the allowances have been restored and the numbers have been reduced. Why have we reduced the numbers and then denied a lot of Ghanaians the opportunity to have teacher education? Every year, we have deficit in the number of teachers in this country. That was the reason for removing the allowances. Now the allowances have been restored so why can we not admit the same number or more and make sure that they are all given opportunity? So, in effect, the number of teachers that we would churn out in the years to come would gradually or heavily reduce. Mr Speaker, H.E the President noted in his Address that about 90,000 more students entered Senior High School in the 2017/2018 academic year than the previous year. His figures are not consistent because recently he mentioned at another forum that it was 100,000. Now, all we know is that, the number of students who enter Senior High Schools increase every year. So, it is an assumption that it is the introduction of the E-Block School buildings that has created more room or space for more students to gain admission. So, Mr Speaker, although the Free Senior High School Programme has come and it has increased the number, we know very well that the foundation was laid by former President Mahama and that credit must be given to him. Mr Speaker, the President also talked about the payment of Statutory funds. With Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), the Ministry of Finance was to release about GH¢1.4 billion which was capped to about GH¢922 million. If government was to pay the entire amount of money, could it have been able to pay? So, also are the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), the Road Fund
Hon Member, please, you may conclude.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. In conclusion, I would want to say that if we conduct the election of MMDCEs on partisan basis, it may create problems for us at the local or district levels. This is because if we do that we would divide our people along partisan lines, even at the Assemblies. But what the President did not tell us is whether the election of Assembly Members would also be on partisan basis. So, we would need to get clarification on that before the referendum takes place on this matter.
Thank you, Hon Member. It is now the turn of Hon Alex Kofi Agyekum.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion on the floor of the House. Mr Speaker, I would like to assure my Hon Colleague who just spoke that the infrastructural base that would cater for the students currently enjoying the free Senior High School education is being taken care of because this Government -
Hon Member, are you aware of the existence of the Committee on Government Assurances? I ask this because you are giving an assurance in an area I doubt you have control over. So, you would have to be a bit careful with the words you use because the Committee would rope you in to try and satisfy that assurance that you have no control over. So, please, you may continue.
Mr Speaker, thank you and I take a cue from that. Mr Speaker, it is on the basis of what the Hon Minister for Education said at the 70th Anniversary Launch of the University of Ghana on Wednesday where he assured the whole country that government is taking steps to address that issue. This has been captured on page 4 of the Daily Statesman newspaper publication for Thursday. So, Mr Speaker, I just quoted from what --
Hon Member, I am sure your attention was drawn to the fact that newspapers are no authorities to be quoted on the floor of the House. So, he gave the assurance and we could be holding him responsible but you were also giving the assurance yourself and that is why I have cautioned you. Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, my information is that the Hon Member on his feet now is a member of the Committee on Education. An affirmation has been given to that Committee and he then uses the information given to the Committee. In that case, he becomes responsible for the information. Mr Speaker, as you do know, our Standing Orders then can hold him responsible for the information that he is giving to us and I refer to Standing Order 63 --
Hon Majority Leader, I know about that Order. His statement was that, “I am assuring the Hon Member who just spoke” and that was where I came in. He said he was assuring the Hon Member who just spoke that this was being done. I said that he cannot give that assurance if he had referred to an assurance given by the man in charge of the sector; that would definitely have been acceptable. So, I just cautioned him to be careful with his choice of words. Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I believe he did so on account of the information given to the Committee.
Hon Member, you may continue.
Mr Speaker, on a more substantive contribution, I would like to touch on the issue of youth and employment.
Hon Member, you had it smooth sailing and so you would not get more than two minutes added to your time. So, please sum it up.
Mr Speaker, thank you. I was guided by the fact that I was the Hon Chairman of the Committee.
Hon Member, you were allotted 12 minutes, but it is up. I am just adding two minutes to it, and not more than that.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. Mr Speaker, on the issue of youth and sports, the President alluded to the fact that there would be the establishment of the Sports Fund. When this Fund is created, it would allow a lot of our sports infrastructure to be developed systema-
Hon Member, please conclude.
Mr Speaker, with these, I believe that the Government is doing a good thing, and the sports sector would also boom. Mr Speaker, finally, we have the development of the districts sports, which would be in place by the end of the first quarter of this year, and that would also develop the coast football. All these would ensure that the sports sector is developed. Mr Speaker, with these few words I thank you for the opportunity and hope that whatever has been stated would be accomplished for us to see that the systematic development of this country is on course. Thank you.
Hon Members, it is time for Hon Dr Augustine Tawiah to also contribute to the Motion. Per the list I have, the next person is Hon Abdul-Rauf Tanko Ibrahim.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute to the Motion moved by the Hon Member for Adentan, Hon Yaw B. Asamoa. Mr Speaker, I am happy that I have been given the opportunity but I wish that the Hon Member who moved the Motion was here to listen to the contributions that would be made by Hon Members. Indeed, when the Hon Member who moved the Motion made his presentation, he indicated to this House that, we should be bi-partisan in our submissions on the State of the Nation Address delivered to this House by His Excellency the President. However, in his own submission, he was partisan and the President too was partisan in his submission I expected that in his submission, Hon Asamoa would have prompted His Excellency the President that there was the need for him to be bi-partisan, but he did not do that. Mr Speaker, if we look at paragraph 3 of page 20 of the State of the Nation Address, His Excellency the President apologised for his inability for the non passage of the Affirmative Action Bill into law. Mr Speaker, on my part I believe that, there is much more for H.E the President to apologise to this House and the people of this country for his inability to see through. For instance, His Excellency the President said, on page 6 of his Message on the State of the Nation in 2017, that, the process for a comprehensive national identification system and a property titling system would be completed this year. Mr Speaker, we are all aware that, these things did not actually happen, and I thought that it would be appropriate for His Excellency to have apologised for this. We are also aware that His Excellency spoke about the US$1 million to every constituency, but that did not happen. He also indicated that, he would make it possible for each village to get a dam, but that did not also happen. Mr Speaker, I beg to quote paragraph 2 on page 3 of the 2018 State of the Nation Address. The President said, “we have implemented the free Senior High School Education.” Mr Speaker, we all know very well that when they talk about the Free Senior High School policy, it is limited to first year students and for that matter the writers of the speech of H.E the President should have been mindful of that. Mr Speaker, a person cannot take off from Kumasi to Accra and when he gets to Konongo, call the people he wants, and tell them that he is done with the journey. Mr Speaker, if they are in the process of implementation, we understand; but to tell us they have implemented the Free Senior High School Programme, I think they have to look at that seriously because we know if they do, the second and third year students of the senior high schools would all not pay their fees. Mr Speaker, if we look further at pages 7 and 8 of the 2017 State of the Nation Address, the President outlined certain measures that were supposed to have been implemented by the end of the year 2017. There are things that we expected the President to have dealt with. He should have come to this House to tell us that, with these issues outlined in the 2017 State of the Nation Address, they have been able to achieve that much but they have not been able to achieve such and such for this or that reason. However, what we heard in this House was different. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who moved the Motion to thank the President intended to implore Hon Members to be bipartisan in our deliberations, but what we have seen is that, the deliberations in this House were shrouded with politics, and I believe it is time we became realistic in dealing with issues. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I thank you very much.
Thank you very much. We still have some more minutes. It is good to be brief. Your submission has left us with about four more minutes. I would not allocate that to any person.
It is the turn of the Hon Member for Effutu, Hon Alexander Kwamena Afenyo- Markin.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to add my voice to the debate on the floor. Mr Speaker, it is part of our constitutional custom for our leaders to deliver a Message on the State of the Nation. In accord with article 67, the President did this, resulting in a debate. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member who moved the Motion set the tone, and he did so by encouraging all of us to look impartially at the issues raised and discuss them in a manner that would help the course of democracy. Mr Speaker, one thing that is not clear, which I am sure we would leave for another day, is the provision of this Constitution with respect to article 34 (2). Mr Speaker, from the year 1992 till date, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has spent 16 years in Government.
Hon Member, it is from1993 and not 1992.
Mr Speaker, I take a cue. Mr Speaker, since the inception of the 1992 Constitution, the NDC party has spent 16 years in Government, and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) as a party is in its tenth year in Government. I have taken the pain to look at the records, and these are my findings. Mr Speaker, for the eight years that the former President John Agyekum Kufuor had the opportunity, the following were introduced and implemented successfully -- the School Feeding Programme, the Youth Employment Programme, Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC), free maternal care, capitation grant, Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Programme, the Metro Mass Transit System and, above all, the well celebrated National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), not forgetting the benefits our cocoa farmers gained from the mass spraying exercises. Mr Speaker, these were serious social intervention programmes that all of us as Ghanaians could attest to. The Nana Akufo-Addo Government is in its second year. The following could be said of this two-year old Government; perhaps, a year and some months in office. Firstly, this Government boldly introduced the Free Senior High School Programme. This Government in its first year boldly introduced the digital address system; this Government was able to restore the Nurses Trainees Allowance; this Government was able to restore the Teacher Trainees Allowance; and this Government has taken a bold step to initiate and implement a Nation Builder's corps to create job opportunities.
Hon Member, I can see your Hon Colleague on the other side of the House on his feet. Yes, Hon Mahama Ayariga?
Mr Speaker, did the Hon Member say ‘Free Senior High School 1 Programme' or ‘Free Senior High School Programme'? We would want to know whether it is ‘Free Senior High School 1 Programme' or ‘Free Senior High School Programme'.
Hon Member, you may continue. He has not raised any issue.
Mr Speaker, I am grateful. Mr Speaker, the Planting for Food and Jobs Programme was also initiated; the Zongo Development Fund even received the blessings of this House through an enactment. Mr Speaker, I have paid attention to the submissions by my respected Hon Colleague, who is the Hon Ranking Member for Education. He said that, the Mahama-led Government must be commended for laying the foundation for a successful take-off of the Free SHS Programme. I would not debate him on that. Again, I heard my very good Hon Friend, who is the Hon Member for Yagaba/Kubori, also argue strongly that the President must apologise to the nation. So, the question is, where is the consistency? Mr Speaker, I have looked at --
Hon Member, the first person you referred to did not talk about successful take-off of the implementation. He raised doubts and said there were challenges, and he thought that they could have waited until we put the right infrastructure in place. So, it is you who is reading his submission to mean successful take-off. He did not say that.
Mr Speaker, I am ever grateful. Mr Speaker, the Hon Ranking Member for Education urged us to commend the Mahama-led Government for the supposed foundation he laid without specifying which foundation. The Hon Member for Yagaba/Kubori urge us to get the President to apologise without specifically telling us what the President did wrong. Mr Speaker, but I have taken the pain to ask --
Hon Member, your Hon Colleague is on his feet. You might have heard differently.
Mr Speaker, the President apologised to this House for not making it possible for the affirmative Action Bill to be passed into law. What I am saying is that there were other issues that the President did not think about, but there was the need for him to have equally apologised for not making those things possible. One of such is making available US$1 million to each Constituency as promised; One Village, One Dam; One District, One Factory; and the national identification within that year. We are all aware that it is only H. E. the President who has an identity card, which we are all aware is not valid. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Ibrahim Tanko, he raised an issue on only one -- the senior high school. He was refering to your submission on the senior high school.
Mr Speaker, he mentioned that the apology was without any foundation and that was why I pointed out to him that there was the need for H. E. the President to equally apologise for these things.
I am grateful, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, as I said earlier, I have asked myself a question. For the 16 years that the NDC as a party spent in government, what social intervention programme can they boast of having initiated and implemented successfully? Mr Speaker, I am trying to recollect. Is it --?
Well, you raised an issue, so you are inviting them to draw your attention to it.
Mr Speaker, he said we should mention one. He talked about how they introduced the NHIL. Mr Speaker, it was the NDC Government that introduced the Ghana Education Trust Fund (Getfund), without which the Free SHS would have been a bigger disaster than it is now. So if he is looking for one, the first one is Getfund, free school uniforms -- I am giving him two instead of one at the moment. I end my case, Mr Speaker.
Hon Member, please, you are out of order.
Mr Speaker, respectfully, I thought he had asked a rhetorical question, and he was going to proceed further by listing the few social interventions that the two of us have put together. We have struggled, but we have the few social interventions and he was going to proceed to list them.
He said they should mention, and that is beyond rhetorical. Once you say that they should mention one, it is beyond rhetorical, and that is why they stood up.
Mr Speaker, my question is, can there ever be a mention of a single social intervention programme that was initiated and implemented successfully and sustained to date? There is none. Mr Speaker, the next issue is the initiative by this Government to deal with our fiscal challenges. Upon assumption of office in 2017, we had maturing debts, and these had very huge interest rates to be paid by the people of this country. What did the government do?
Hon Member, why are you still on your feet?
Mr Speaker, when you indicated that based on what the Hon Member said, he asked about a successful social intervention programme that was done -- He repeated that question. I thought that it was important to answer that question again since he repeated it. I just wanted to draw his attention to the fact that --
Hon Member, he re-couched the question, which left it in the domain of the rhetoric, and that is why I did not invite any other person to react to it. This time, he did not say that any of you should mention; he just put it in a general sense of the rhetoric and that is why I asked him to continue. So when it is your turn, you can also put in a number of social interventions. Clearly, you can do that at any time.
Mr Speaker, with the greatest respect, may I with your leave seek your special protection. I think my Hon Colleagues are unduly interrupting this debate. That is most unfair to me.
Hon Member, you are ever protected. Please, you may continue.
Mr Speaker, the government addressed the fiscal challenge by issuing bonds at lower rates, and as a result -- [Interruption] -- Mr Speaker, I am dealing with figures and my Hon Colleagues should pay attention. The government made savings in excess of GH¢680 million. Mr Speaker, the GH¢10 billion domestic debt that the bond was used to refinance saved this country GHc 680 million. It is a matter of record, and the Hon Minister for Finance must be commended. He is indeed an asset to this nation and must be commended for the step he took. At least, these savings would help us to redirect the resources to do some other developmental programmes. My Hon Colleague from Yagaba/Kubori expected us to have done everything, but he knows it was really impossible because this government was elected for four years. Mr Speaker, let me talk about the issue of security. It is true that some citizens in the first year of Nana Akufo-Addo's Government took the law into their hands. The question is were these matters addressed by the security agencies? Yes. Mr Speaker, in the President's first year in office, were political opponents handcuffed, arrested and detained by our security agencies? Were former Hon Ministers and former Hon Members of Parliament (MPs) arrested in their homes on mere perceptions or allegations? No. Were officers of state institutions arrested in their homes? No. Mr Speaker, but it did happened in 2009 and 2010. President Nana Akufo-Addo has demon-strated that he is a person who respects human rights; he respects and upholds the rule of law. As a lawyer, who gets the opportunity to rule this country as President, he has made sure that our laws have reigned supreme, and our Friends on the other side must respect that. Mr Speaker, if we look at the conduct of the President in ensuring that as a nation we even cross the political divide and tap talents, and try to live together and respect others, that is enough for us to know that this President is not a partisan President. Mr Speaker, Ambassador Quartey is at the African Union Commission. He served as a Deputy Minister in the NDC regime. Mr Speaker, your own former Minister of the Interior, the one who was once a running mate, today he serves this nation. The one who was rejected serves this nation. Mr Speaker, today, the former President of the Republic feels more comfortable and finds it necessary to commend the efforts of Nana Akufo-Addo because he sees him doing the right things. I am referring to former President J. J. Rawlings.
Hon Members, please, having regard to the state of Business of the House, I direct that Sitting be held outside the prescribed period. Hon Member, you may now continue, but do not rely on those acts as acts that have taken Presidents out of partisanship, because if you know Kwame Mpiani very well, he was in the economic team of the previous regime. So, please, let us not focus on these things, because the Hon Member who moved the Motion insisted that we should not be partisan in our deliberation of this Motion. So move to other areas and leave those areas, please. I have been here since 1993, so I know what I am talking about.
I know Mr Speaker does not want to debate, although his appetite becomes whet up as I speak. Mr Speaker, the point I want to make here is that Nana Akufo-Addo has demonstrated that he is a father for all -- [Interruptions] -- His Excellency, the President of the Republic and Commander-In-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces -- [Interruptions.]
Hon Member, it is proper -- [Interruption.]
Mr Speaker, this harassment --
No, it is proper you address him properly, either President --
Mr Speaker, I have taken a cue. So, Mr Speaker, it is important for our Friends to know that the first President of this Fourth Republic, the founder of the NDC, has seen the good works of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo, the President of the Republic.
Do you know what he used to call him?
That was previously. He has seen the light, and has departed from that darkness, where you still belong. Mr Speaker, to conclude, I would commend the President for his effort in dealing with the galamsey menace.
Please, Hon Member, I can see Hon Dr Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings on her feet. Yes, Hon Member?
On a point of order. Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, with respect, I do not understand on what basis the Hon Member on the other side of the House claims that the former President and Founder of the NDC was in the darkness. I would kindly request Mr Speaker to direct him to withdraw that statement and apologise.
Mr Speaker, although you are yet to make a pronouncement, I would want to take the opportunity to explain to my Hon Colleague that a political statement to the effect that the former President has found it necessary or has deemed it fit to commend the efforts of His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo because of the good things he is doing has nothing to do with the Statement that he was in some form of darkness as she wants us to believe.
Hon Member, I think the phrase “he has now seen the light” is completely unparlia- mentary. You are imputing some motives. So you may withdraw that one and continue with your submission.
Mr Speaker, I would not challenge your ruling. I graciously and in all humility, out of respect to the Chair, withdraw that phrase and to reiterate that --
You see, Hon Member, let us take this seriously. When you say, “somebody has now seen the light”, it means that the person was in the dark. So, please, the way you phrased your words before the withdrawal means that you have not taken the ruling seriously.
Mr Speaker, with the greatest respect, I said that I yield to the superior explanation you have given, and I accordingly withdraw the phrase. Mr Speaker, when you rule on a matter, we are supposed to yield. Sometimes we do not intend to create a certain impression. You Sit in the Chair and your ruling is that “no, Hon Member, this is wrong,” Mr Speaker, I yield; this means that unconditionally, I accept it. That is all. Mr Speaker, you know me, so, I withdraw same. If that is all right, I shall proceed.
Hon Member, continue.
I am grateful.
Yes, I recall that he mentioned your name. That is true. What do you have to say after he has mentioned your name?
Mr Speaker, you never gave me an opportunity at which I said the former President Rawlings was calling the current President names in the past. You never gave me that opportunity, so I do not know where he heard me say that. So tell him to withdraw that, because I never said anything like that.
Well, we have a problem here, because what you whispered would not be in the Official Report even though your whispering was too loud -- [Laughter] -- so, even the Hon Speaker heard you, and that is why he decided to take advantage of your loud whisper. But please, that is not on record.
Mr Speaker, my final point is in respect of the effort by the President to address the galamsey menace. Mr Speaker, the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), until recently, spent so much money in the treatment of water. Millions of Ghana Cedis has to be spent to import alum, chlorine gas and other water treatment chemicals. But with this intervention, GWCL has reduced the cost in terms of water treatment. Mr Speaker, that is a commendable step, and I would urge all of us to add our voices to in the fight against galamsey. We should stay away from partisan comments just because we may gain votes, because water is life. [Interruption] -- You are not getting water today; you were not getting water yesterday -- [Interruption] -- Yes, because galamsey must come to an end. We must support Mr President in his fight against it. Mr Speaker, all my Hon Colleagues here need water in their constituencies. I am sure that the silting of our water bodies, cutting down of people's cocoa trees for galamsey activities must be of concern to all of us. If we deserve development and we want Ghana to move forward for all of us to benefit, then the issue of galamsey is very critical and it has to be addressed. We need the support of all Hon Members of this House to help the President to fight the menace. Mr Speaker, I would conclude, with all the interruptions and all the frustrations, by saying that this government is a determined one. The government is very decisive and the President who leads the charge is sincere with his promises. That is why he boldly, without any hesitation or any delay, implemented the Free SHS Programme in his first year in Office. That must be commended by all. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Members, I did not want to interrupt you, but on the issue of galamsey, I would want to hear Hon Members propose solutions. I am not one of those who believe in the use of force to try to solve challenges of this nature. Please, I expect that the next contributors would try to propose some solution to the menace. I have been informed that Hon Dr Augustine Tawiah is in. So, I would now give him the opportunity to contribute to the debate -- Yes, because of that, I gave you up to 20 minutes, Hon Afenyo- Markin --
He knew he would contribute and he heckled me.
Yes, Hon Member?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. On the basis of the laws of this country, the President appeared in the House and delivered the State of the Nation Address, of which we all have copies and we copiously listened to him. There are so many issues in the SONA. I would just want to highlight the issues on education.
“Mr Speaker, we have restored teacher and nursing training allowances. We have doubled the capitation grant, and to confound the sceptics and professional naysayers, we have implemented the Free Senior High School Education. It has enabled 90,000 more students gain access to Senior High School education, in 2017, than in 2016. Mr Speaker, we have nevertheless, been able to meet my promise made last year to the House and reduce the fiscal deficit from 9.3 per cent, to an estimated 5.6 per cent of GDP.” Mr Speaker, it is interesting to hear the President comment and indicate that, the current enrolment in the education system increased by 900,000 students. The question to ask is, was it because of the Free SHS education or it was because the numbers that were available and wrote the Basic Education Certificate Examina-tion (BECE) that year, made it possible for them to progress from Junior High School to SHS? That is something that the Ministry of Education or the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) did not put up. So, I am seriously in doubt of the President when he indicated that there is a cause and effect relationship of adding 90,000 to the student population in the current system. Furthermore, the issue of the SHS is not settled --
Yes, Hon Member for Ledzokuku?
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity. I rise on a point of correction. My Hon Colleague said, H.E. the President mentioned that enrolment has increased by 900,000 student. That is not the accurate figure. He mentioned 90,000 students. This is just for the records. [Interruption] -- The Hansard captured him; he said 900,000 students.
Hon Member, you may please continue.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. We cannot get the 90,000 students off the streets. Were they students who even completed in 2016 and waited until they had Free SHS in order to progress? No! So, the answer is, it is not a cause and effect situation based on the Free SHS education. What we need is a progressive free education from the kindergarten through JHS. Throughout the country, there are children who swim in order to get to school, because they do not have schools in their towns and villages. If all we have done is to improve SHS by way of giving Free SHS education to the children, probably, that is not enough. In many communities, it would be seen that settlers have constructed thatch roofs on bamboo buildings, so that basic school children could have the opportunity to access education themselves. If all we have done is to give Free SHS to first year students, then it is not enough based on the President's issues. But there are even bigger dimensions to the issues that the President raised. This is because if allowances have been restored and provided to the colleges of education, the question to ask is -- The
[DR TAWIAH colleges of education are tertiary institutions, which provide diploma education to all persons who would want to become teachers. In the same vein, people opt to go to universities to study diploma in education. So, what is this evolving inequity in our educational system? Is it a crime to go to a regular university and not get an allowance go to a college of education for the same credential and then get an allowance? What is the misnomer within our evolving education system? Furthermore, the President was eloquent in touting his Free SHS education in the system. However, the bigger challenge we have is, when everybody progresses with the Free SHS, the challenge would be how to cater for numerous students who would emerge from the SHSs. What places have been developed for them? What we have seen -- Evidently, the Select Committee on Education visited a number of schools in some areas in Accra, among them was the Dome- Kwabenya SHS. The students did not have chairs and they brought plastic chairs from home. So, if the numbers have increased to 90,000 students, what is the corresponding planning that went into providing resources which are critical for the students? We talk of teaching and learning materials and physical infrastructure to accommodate the students, so that the students would have a decent place equal to any other SHS in this country. So, if all they have is the word “free”, yet it does not give them the free environment, the sustainable community to learn, then the “free” is only a by-word. Mr Speaker, beyond that, we talk of free senior high schools (SHSs), but what do we do with our technical institutions? We know that there are some students who by default, their bent in life is towards the technical field. Therefore, if we talk about free SHS, then what about free technical schools? Mr Speaker, indeed, what is needed is free second cycle institutions, where vocational and technical students could also benefit to do great works. Mr Speaker, beyond that, what we even find out here is that, there are so many students, who attend private schools in this country. The private schools contribute significantly in terms of employment and in terms of absorbing students, also from the junior high schools -- [Interruption.]
Hon Member, I can see your Hon Colleague on his feet again. Yes, Hon Member?
On a point of order. Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague sought to imply that the free SHS does not cover the technical schools and the secondary technical schools, but that is not the fact. The free SHS Programme covers technical schools that are government schools, except when the schools are private. Mr Speaker, please this is a House of records. The free SHS Programme covers secondary schools, technical- secondary schools, and the purely technical schools. This is the fact, and it is captured in the Budget Statement as well. Therefore, my Hon Brother should get the facts well. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Dr Boye, please, the Hon Member has not even finished a sentence and you are on your feet again? Did you forget an issue?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, after rising to make that correction, I wanted you to make a statement rule. This is because we do not know whether we are still going with what the Hon Member said or with the intervention that I made. Perhaps, I should take it that silence means consent.
Hon Member, I am sure that you did not listen to him. This is because when you made your submission, he did not contradict, counter or deny what you stated. So, I took it that he would take it on board in his submission.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, we have serious shortages of teaching staff in the senior high schools in this country. Everywhere one would go, one would realise that the senior high schools lack quality and quantity in terms of teachers. What we have not done by way of providing free senior high schools, education and therefore swelling the numbers is that, we have not given technical clearance and financial clearance to replace retiring teachers and those who quit the system, and accommodate all the attrition that we have in the education sector. Mr Speaker, essentially, what it means is that we provide access as a result of the statement that it is free. However, what is the provision that we have made for quality in the system? So, if it is logical for the children to go through the schools, eat some foods and get some books, then who gives them instruction and facilitate their academic growth? Again, with the shortages, it is a very serious matter. Mr Speaker, much more serious is the fact that the Education Act, 2008 (Act 778), seriously provides that we should have regulatory bodies to ensure that they monitor the quality of education in this country. Mr Speaker, these regulatory bodies include the National Inspectorate Board, the National Teaching Council and the National Council for Tertiary Education. They are seriously under resourced to the extent that they cannot operate in terms of numbers of lead inspectors to go through the schools and ensure that the curriculum is reformed. Mr Speaker, now, we give allowances to students in the colleges of education. We give free SHS education to the students, but what about the agencies that would actually ensure quality assurance? This is a major missing mark, and we would think that the President, who touted his interest in ensuring that we have a workforce that is educated, would have also done that. Mr Speaker, there are so many tangents to which the free SHS Programme is going; that amazes me. When the process was initiated, there was a free SHS Programme ambassador, whom I spoke to several radio stations in this country about.
Thank you, Hon Member. Hon Members, we would now listen to the Hon Kingsley Ato Cudjoe.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion on the floor, to thank His Excellency the President for addressing this House on the state of the nation. Mr Speaker, in doing so, first of all, I would like to restrict my contribution to the President's comments on the fisheries sector. But before then, the Hon Member who spoke ahead of me made some comments, and I would just like to give a few responses. He questioned why we had 90,000 increment in students' enrolment. And I want to tell him that every year, we have a lot of our people from the basic schools who qualify to go to senior high schools. But because their parents are not able to afford the fees and other things that must be paid, they are not able to get their children enrolled. But this year, thanks to the vision of His Excellency the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, registration
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member on his feet made mention of the fact that parents could not afford the many fees. If he could clarify what he means by “many fees”.
Mr Speaker, I thought I mentioned them. This is because every year, when people go to school, there is tuition fee, there is registration fee, there is dining hall fee, there is textbook fee — [Interruption.] If you get the itemised bill, all these fees are listed. Mr Speaker, I believe he also said that we should think about the number of students that would come out after some time and how we get them employed. I believe what I would say to it is that, when we get to that bridge, we shall cross it. Mr Speaker, the in his State of the Nation Address, on page 12 President made a statement regarding the fisheries sector in Ghana. And Mr Speaker, with your kind permission, I would want to quote; “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.”
My interest is in “we have started work to tackle these problems”. Mr Speaker, one major problem faced by the fishing sector in Ghana is the dramatic decline of our fish stock. Two main factors are accountable for this; one of those factors is increased fishing effort and the other one is high prevalence of illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing activities on our waters. Mr Speaker, it might interest you to know that in the year 2012, the then Government signed a financing agreement with the World Bank where an amount of US$53.8million was allocated under a programme called the West African Regional Fisheries Programme (WARFP). The key objective of the Programme was to improve sustainable management of our fisheries. One of the key components there was to reduce fleet numbers in the trawlers sectors. Indeed, as a key covenant, at the time of the contract, we had licensed 67 trawlers and as a key component, we are supposed to reduce this by 20; from 67 to 47 at the end of the life of this financing agreement, which was five years from the date of implementation. Mr Speaker, it is sad to note that at the time the NPP Administration led by His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo took over, trawler numbers, which were supposed to go down from 67 to 47, haD actually ballooned to 94 trawlers licensed and fishing in our waters. So, the issue is that, we went to the market to borrow to reduce fishing effort but we rather borrowed to increase fishing efforts. And this was supervised by the NDC Administration. When Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo's Administration took over -- I have already mentioned that we had 94 vessels licensed in the trawlers sector -- Within one year, we have reduced this to74. This is because we believe that if we do not curb and reduce fishing efforts, our fish stock would continue to be depleted. Fish provides protein for over 60 per cent of our population, and it provides livelihood for over 10 per cent of our people. Another objective of the West African Regional Fisheries Programme was to reduce Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities. Mr Speaker, IUU is a situation where fish is taken from our waters, sold on the high seas, and transported outside; they do not come to our ports for us to record, export, sell and tax. Mr Speaker, this is one of the major challenges we have on our hands today. We in the Ministry refer to this as galamsey on the high seas. And I want to bring this to your notice that conservative estimates indicate that, annually, we lose over US$100million to illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing activities on our waters. But I have also seen estimates that puts this loss at about US$600million. And I just feel that every one of us should be worried that we lose this amount of our resources. Mr Speaker, once again, under the West African Regional Fisheries Project (WARFP) covenant, we were supposed to fight IUU. The WARF project came into operation in January, 2013 and was supposed to end by December, 2017. One of the key objectives as I said, was to reduce IUU, but in 2014, Ghana was issued a yellow card by the European Union because the IUU had ballooned. This means that we could not export Ghana fish to the European market. And this was specifically applied by other friendly partners to the European Union like the US and Canada. This happened under the watch of the NDC Administration. Mr Speaker, since His Excellency the President's Administration took over, a number of measures have been taken to address IUU. One of the key measures is the implementation of close season. Last year, in the months of January and February, we had a close season for our trawler vessels. This year, in the months of January and February, we would still implement close season for our trawler vessels. We intend to extend close season to artisanal sectors by the month of August, and in effect, we would try to curb effort. We have also trained 100 observers and placed them on all the trawlers, so that they could capture what is happening on the high seas for us. This is so that anybody who engages in IUU could be tracked and punished. Mr Speaker, we have also increased patrols in collaboration with the Ghana Navy to address the issue of IUU. We have instituted the Vessel Monitoring System on all our industrial vessels. This is to ensure that we monitor the vessels on the high seas and whatever they are doing. We launched the Fisheries Watch Volunteers which is a collaboration between Fishermen and the Ministry, to address the issue of illegal fishing activities. These are activities we are carrying out to fight IUU. I would want to come to what pleases our people, which is premix fuel. Yesterday, I heard in this House a contribution by my Hon Colleague, Edward Bawa, Member of Parliament (MP) for Bongo, on premix fuel. He sought to create the impression that when H. E. the President said that since November, 2017 to date, there has been no diversion, the President was economical with the truth. Mr Speaker, I hold in my hand, a statement issued by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, on 30th March, 2015. This was as a result of fishermen demonstrating against the Government for reconstituting the National Premix Fuel Committee. The Hon Minister issued a statement and I would want to quote a few lines from it with your permission. “The premix fuel distribution has been bedevilled with the following problem: a. A proliferation of Premix Fuel Sale Points owned by indivi- duals rather than fishermen who should be the actual beneficiaries of the fuel intended for their trade. b. Rampant diversion of Premix Fuel from intended destinations, creating shortages to the disadvantages of fishermen and to the embarrassment of the Government.” The Hon Minister issued this statement on 30th March, 2015.
Hon Member, you have to conclude.
Mr Speaker, the point I am making is that under the NDC, they sold premix fuel to individuals and they also diverted it. My checks at the Ministry indicated that --
Hon Member, please, I have asked you to conclude. Now you have raised some issues and your Hon Colleagues are on their feet, so I would have to permit them. Who is that? Is that Hon Bawa? Yes, please?
Mr Speaker, my name was mentioned with regard to a statement I made yesterday and I think that it is only fair that I clarify what I said. You would recall that on 8th February, H. E. the President indicated that the last time there were issues of diversion of Pre mix fuel was in November. I sought to state that as at December, the report from the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) suggested that there were diversions. As at December, we counted up to 200 trucks and in terms of money, it was about GH¢22 million. I did not create the impression that there had never been diversions. I meant that the statement the President made was not a presentation of the facts. That was the point I made. What the Hon Member said is different. He gave a different interpretation to what I said. This is because our expectation was that H. E. the President would tell us the true state of the nation. He did not say something that represented the facts of one of his agencies; that is NPA.
Hon Member, what he just said was that the tradition goes on. So, I do not know why you are raising issues about it. Now conclude.
In conclusion, I would want to quote Ecclesiastes 1:9 with your kind permission: “There is nothing new under the sun.” However, we have instituted a lot of measures to address this. Indeed, in November, December, January and February, there has been no single diversion. I challenge him to provide evidence to prove that there have been diversions. What we have done is to audit the Landing Beach Committees and any one that does not live up to expectation, has been closed down. All individuals who owe premix stations have been taken out. Under their watch, when this problem happened, what they did was collapse the old administration and put a new one there. That was glossing over the problem. We took steps that ensured that from November to February, there have been no diversions. I want to, that come back to what the President said, that we are at work to tackle the problem. We are indeed working to solve the problem. I would want to thank the President for coming to this House to make this presentation.
Hon Member, you may read the Beautiful Ones are not yet Born, so that you can be hopeful that there are new things coming into the world.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity. Mr Speaker, I realised that H. E. the President came and only praised his Hon Ministers, which I think should have been done by the former presidents. He should stop praising his Hon Ministers. The fact is that the praising of the Hon Ministers would be relevant to the President during the 2020 elections.
Hon Member, I am just a Speaker and not the President. [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, I want the President to stop self-praising because it is not the best. He should wait, as I said, and in 2020, we would know whether he and his Hon Ministers have done well. Mr President -- Mr Speaker, on this note, I want the President to learn a lesson from the former President's mistake of praising his Ministers. That was why we lost.
Hon Joseph Naabu, please I have drums to beat, so I am not beating my chest. I am not the President but the Speaker.
Mr Speaker, the President praised a lot of his Hon Ministers, including the Hon Minister for Local Government and Rural Development even though her Ministry has created a lot of confusion all over the country by creating districts. So, I think that the four Hon Ministers who are seated at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development have done no work. They have only created confusion because they did not bring in the Electoral Commission which was supposed to go to the various districts created to have stakeholder consultations with the people. It has not been done. Mr Speaker, they only sat in their offices receiving phone calls. I believe they should stop doing such things and the President should take a cue from that. Mr Speaker, I would also want to touch on education. The President talked about the teacher trainee allowance. I did a thorough research yesterday and today and I even called the principals from some of the training schools and confirmed that they were only paid in September, October and November. In the whole of 2017, they did not pay any teacher trainee allowance. So, if they go about blowing their horns that the teacher trainee allowance has been restored, I believe it is something they should not talk about. Mr Speaker, even with that, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) paid GH¢ 400, but when the New Patriotic Party
(NPP) came to power, it was reduced to GH¢ 200. Yet, they only paid October, November and December for the whole of 2017. As for this year, I do not want to talk about it. Mr Speaker, I would want the NPP Government to be very mindful of their promises. They gave us fat promises, but when they came to power, everything is at a standstill. Mr Speaker, with the Free Senior High School (SHS) Programme, the President must come out with a proper Address. There are no dormitories, feeding is a problem, there are no exercise books and furniture and it is affecting the students' academic work. If the NPP Government had allowed this to stay, as it were -- [Interruption.] The NDC said gradual Free SHS -- [Hear! Hear!] -- but the NPP refused and I believe if they are not careful, they would put this country in an academic problem. The academic standard of the students would fall -- already there are no adequate teachers. Mr Speaker, when we look at the E- block schools that the former President H.E. President John Dramani Mahama started, they have all become a mortuary case -- [Laughter] -- Why did they not complete the E-block schools and forget about the Free SHS Programme? Where would the students get classrooms? Would they need to travel miles away? For example, the Namon Secondary School has now become a grave yard. It is a forest now. The NDC Government put up to the last floor of completion, but when the NPP Govern- ment came to power, the Hon Minister came up with a programme that it had been factored in the education budget. We did not see anything like that in 2017. Nothing of this happened. Where are we going as a country? Mr Speaker, I believe some of my Hon Colleagues have talked on the Statutory Funds, but I would want to hammer on it. In 2017, none of us received any funds for our national health insurance projects; none of us has received the GETFund project funds. As for the Common Fund, I would not talk about it. Mr Speaker, when they talk of education, they make a mockery of it. Mr Speaker, I would want to advise my Hon Colleagues on the other side of the aisle -- [Interruption.] I am even surprised it is only about eleven people who are seated, yet they are in government -- [Laughter.] -- We on the Minority side are many. They are disappointing President Nana Akufo- Addo. He should come and see his own people -- there are empty chairs. Mr Speaker, I would also want to touch on the National Health Insurance. They said that they have paid nurses trainee allowances. It is not true. Per my record and investigation that I made three days ago -- I called most of the principals in the various nursing training colleges and they only told me that they have just been paid for October and November, 2017. They have not been paid for even December, 2017. They went about telling the nursing trainees who completed in November that they would be paid ten months in advance. What is happening now? I was told this morning that it has even been cancelled. Mr Speaker, the National Health Insurance Act -- Mr Kwasi Ameyaw-Cheremeh -- rose
Hon Member, the Hon Majority Chief Whip is on his feet.
Mr Speaker, Hon Naabu just said that he had a telephone conversation this morning and he was told that the allowance to nursing trainees had been cancelled. Could he give us the evidence?
Hon Member, he was specific. He said ten months' allowance that was to be paid to those who have completed -- That is what he referred to.
Mr Speaker, he said it has been cancelled. Does he have the evidence to that effect? That was what I asked because it would go into the record. If he has the evidence, he should produce it.
Hon Member, the reference was to the ten months' arrears that was to be paid to those who have completed, and so they expected it. That was what he said has been cancelled. Yesterday, a similar issue cropped up and I said it was better Hon Members were allowed to make these submissions and then produce the evidence later. This is because it is not possible for Hon Members to always carry all documents to the floor of the House to be able to refer to them to substantiate statements they make. It is good that you have raised it. It would be noted and he would have to provide evidence to support that.
Yes, Hon Deputy Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I am rather the Hon Majority Chief Whip.
I am sorry.
Mr Speaker, if an earlier ruling was made which required Hon Members to furnish the House with information -- What the Hon Member said is not contained in any document. He said he had a telephone conversation. In what form would the evidence come? Mr Speaker, secondly, if the Hon Member has to produce the evidence and he is not able to do so, what time would he be given to bring the evidence? May you indicate that if he is not able to produce the evidence that portion of his submission be expunged from the record because it cannot be on record if he does not have the evidence to that effect. Mr Speaker, that is my prayer to you.
Hon Majority Chief Whip, the Hon Member spoke to authorities and they answered the query. They would have by all means be referred to documentary evidence, so he could resource that from those authorities. As for producing evidence, he would be in the position to do so, but as to the time we would discuss that ourselves and give him any period that we agree on. If he is asked to bring it tomorrow and it is possible, he could do so.
Yes, Hon Deputy Minority Whip?
Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague on the other side of the aisle is the Government Chief Whip. The Hon Member who spoke said, the ten months' arrears of those who have completed have been cancelled. If he as a Government Chief Whip is assured that Government is going to pay that ten month arrears, then he must categorically put it on the Floor for the record. The public is listening and everybody is watching so that those who are entitled to that ten months' arrears would know that Government Chief Whip says that government has not cancelled that ten month arrears and that they are entitled to that ten-month arrears even though they have completed. That is what he should do. If he says this, then we would know where the records are coming from. It is coming from the Government Chief Whip. He is entitled to whatever information pertains to government policy.
Hon Deputy Minority Whip, the Latin maxim is, ei qui affirmat ‘non ei qui negat, incumbit probation — [Interruption.] He is the one affirming and so he has to produce the evidence and not the one denying. So once he has asserted that this is what has happened, he is the one to produce the evidence. It is not the one saying that it is not true. And so he has to prove his case, and the onus lies on Hon Joseph Naabu not the Hon Majority Chief Whip to produce evidence . Your Hon Colleague has requested that you produce evidence in a week's time.
Mr Speaker, I would want the Hon Colleague to know that this is an intelligence evidence.
Hon Member, intelligence is not evidence and you cannot produce intelligence in a court to prove a case.
Mr Speaker, I say they are actionable intelligence. [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, I also want the NPP Government to know that since 2017, when we left office, there has been no new National Insurance Authority cards to register the new members. And because of that, I brought 19 people from my constituency. When I came to Tamale, they did not have the cards and so I decided to get the cards for them. I went to the regional head office of the National Health Insurance and they told me that they do not even have at them the national level. And so if we talk of improving the national health insurance, I believe they better go back and rethink.
Hon Member, let me listen to your Hon Colleague at the far end.
Mr Speaker, I am sorry to take you back a little. I heard the Hon Minority Deputy Whip describe the Majority Chief Whip as the Government Whip. I would want to learn whether that is correct. This is because he is the Whip for the Majority in Parliament and not a whip for the Government. I would want to learn from you if that description is correct.
Yes, that description is right. The Majority Chief Whip is the Government Whip. That is the term used in the Parliamentary system. So he is really the Government Whip and that is why he can whip all of you on the government, side to abide by a position taken by the Government or the Party. He is the Government Whip.
Mr Speaker, thank you. We are learning and I wanted to learn from you.
Hon Joseph Naabu, you may now conclude.
Mr Speaker, I want to repeat what I first said that they were interrupting. I am saying that they do not have the new cards to register the people who are not on the National Health Insurance Scheme. They have not provided it since 2017. It is on the record. Because of that, I am finding it difficult to get new registration cards of the National Health Insurance Scheme. Mr Speaker, even the cards that are meant for the renewal of those who have the cards, they do not have it. They are talking of National Health Insurance and that the Ministry of Health is improving. Where are they improving? Mr Speaker, I would want to talk of the problem facing the health sector. In the NDC Government, they rehabilitated the Mr Speaker, I would like them to know that even the developing partners of the Ministry of Health or the National Health Insurance Scheme are complaining of not being paid their insurance claims for over 10 months now. Then what are they going to do? Mr Speaker, when we look at the HIV awareness and the Infant Child Immunisation, they have not released moneys to import the drugs and our infants are dying.
Mr Speaker, I would also want to tell them that the vaccine, which is not very expensive, they cannot import it. This is because they do not have the money and they keep on telling stories. And so I would want them to try as much as possible to get —
Hon Member, you may now conclude.
Mr Speaker, please give me some time because they have interrupted — [Laughter.] So they should improve the health facilities. There is no medical staff at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, all our regional hospitals; even the 37 Military Hospital and the Police Hospital — No staff. I was very surprised when my Hon Colleague seated by me here mention they going to employ 27,000 — They should not build castles in the air — [Laughter] — They should do it and we would know that they are doing it.
Mr Speaker, I believe they should look at all that. I also want to tell you that there is even not Computed Tomography (CT) Scan in all our hospitals. It is a problem and they are going about telling us that they are improving the health sector. Mr Speaker, it would interest you that in Tamale, I just had information that hospital equipment worth GH¢2.5billion got lost and when they traced the items, they were found in individual's private clinics. They have even retrieved some and the case is under police investigation. I do not want to mention those clinics where they found them. If I mention them, it would be as if I am against them but it is a fact. A country with a healthy people make a healthy nation — [Hear! Hear!]. Mr Speaker, I would also want to talk a little on COCOBOD — [Laughter] — Please allow me because they interrupted me.
Hon Members, in accordance with Standing Order 42(1), I suspend Sitting for one and half hours. The House would accordingly reconvene at 4.30 p.m.
Mr Speaker, we are just left with one debater on our side; Hon (Dr) Samiu. Looking at the state of affairs for today, if you could adjourn so that --
Hon Majority Chief Whip, I have my list here on your side, we are left with two and on the Minority side, we are left with three. So, I am under pressure and I want to suspend and reconvene.
Mr Speaker, looking at the time, I know that you are under pressure because your Hon Colleague Speakers are not available to relieve you but to suspend for one and a half hours and come back at about 4:30 p.m. will mean that we may have to adjourn finally around 6:00 p.m. We are just appealing to you that if we could --
Well, if it is the pleasure of the House that we adjourn, we will do so.
But we have Business to continue with. I do not take decisions in this matter, you guide the Speaker and you submitted the list. Some are still outstanding and some of your Hon Members might have prepared and are ready to contribute today. But if it is your pleasure that we can take a date, why not?
Mr Speaker, you have done well and this reminds me of those who are advocating for four Hon Deputy Speakers so that in the absence of the Speaker and the Hon First Deputy Speaker, the other two will be there to assist the Hon Second Deputy Speaker. Mr Speaker, we know the kind of work you are doing. We agreed that Leadership should have been winding up tomorrow which is Friday but because of the way we have been slating Hon Members to speak and when it comes to their turn -- We always have a backlog. Like today, you are speaking of two contributions on the Majority side and three on the Minority side. I have already spoken to some of them so that if it is possible, as the Hon Majority Chief Whip said, we reschedule it for tomorrow morning. Mr Speaker, this is because Leadership will be winding up on next week Tuesday instead of tomorrow. So, tomorrow is still open for Hon Members to contribute. On that note, as the Government Whip said, we can adjourn today but because of the time, the House is still under your care and you may decide what we should do.
Hon Members, I get the sense of the House and I will move accordingly to adjourn the House. The House stands adjourned till Friday at 10.00 o'clock in the forenoon where we reconvene to continue with the Business of the House.
The House was adjourned at 3.14 p.m. till Friday, 23rd February, 2018 at 10.00 a.m.