STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY H.E JOHN DRAMANI MAHAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES
Right Honourable Speaker of Parliament,
His Excellency, the Vice President,
Her Ladyship, the Chief Justice,
Honourable Members of our August Parliament,
In accordance with Article 67 of the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana, I appear before you to deliver a message on the state of our nation prior to the dissolution of the 5th Parliament of the 4th Republic.
I undertake this task, with mixed feelings. The 5th Parliament of the 4th Republic started with His Excellency Professor John Evans Atta Mills as President. Indeed he took his oath of office before this very august body.
On the 24th of July 2012, I had the most unpleasant duty of informing you about his untimely demise which sad event occasioned my assumption of the Presidency on the same day under the provisions of the 1992 constitution. As a nation we stood together through that difficult and painful moment. We managed the transition in a manner that made our nation stand tall among the comity of nations.
What was by far the saddest moment in our lives, proved also to be one of the most unifying moments in our history as a nation. We showed that even in adversity we can rise to the occasion as one people, with a common destiny.
Madam Speaker, I must congratulate you personally for the able manner you have conducted affairs as the first female Speaker this country has ever had. You have distinguished yourself to the admiration of many. On behalf of the people of Ghana, I say Ayekoo.
Working with you, honourable members of this house, particularly these last few months has been a rewarding experience. I want to thank each and every one of you for playing a part in the realisation of the Better Ghana Agenda.
Madam Speaker, I remain particularly thankful that this House showed foresight and a sense of common purpose in a number of critical instances. These instances have and will make significant impact on the fortunes of this country.
To my comrades and very good friends, the Honourable Doe Adjaho, Honourable Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, Honourable Cletus Avoka, Honourable Osei Kyei-Mensa-Bonsu, Honourable Rashid Pelpuo, Honourable Ambrose Dery, and of course many of you time will not permit me to name, your contribution to elevating the level of our constitutional democracy in this Parliament will be remembered for a long time to come.
Madam Speaker, when the mandate of governance was bestowed on President John Evans Atta Mills, he pledged that his administration will work to build a Better Ghana through the establishment of a strong economy, investment in the people of this country, expansion of our infrastructure and the running of an open and accountable government.
It is my wish that President Mills was here to report on the unprecedented achievements of this administration but the lot has fallen on me to give an account of the state of our nation.
The purpose for this State of the Nation address at the end of a Government's term in office I believe is to allow the President to place on historical record an account of his stewardship. I will with your permission, Madam Speaker, present here a brief overview of the State of the Nation, while a full and much more detailed compilation is presented to Madam Speaker for consideration by the House.
The NDC administration, as Honourable members will recall, came into office at a time when the economy of this nation was in significant distress. Through hard work and implementation of prudent fiscal and monetary policies, we were able, over the last four years, to stabilize the macro-economic environment. This resulted in remarkable acceleration of our growth.
And today, Ghana's GDP growth rates continue to be among the highest in the world. With the record-breaking growth of 2011, occasioned partly by the commencement of oil production, this year again we expect an eventual positive out turn of growth between 8.5 and 9 percent.
Madam Speaker, we have not only held down inflation and maintained macro-economic stability, but also worked to ensure discipline in government's fiscal regime to avoid unbudgeted expenditures that could distort the economy's performance.
Government also in our term of office put in place appropriate mechanisms and the legislative framework for the judicious utilization of our oil and gas revenues and resources. This is in line with our commitment to transparency and accountability.
Madam Speaker, upon assumption of office, the Atta Mills Administration had to move swiftly to deal with major challenges confronting the education of children. Such problems as the 'schools under trees' phenomenon, non-availability of teaching and learning materials and low remuneration of teachers, posed serious threats to the provision of quality education to our children.
In line with our commitment to invest in people, measures were rolled out to address these problems at all levels.
Madam Speaker, I am happy to report that remarkable progress has been made since these efforts begun.
Four years on, about 40% of the over four thousand 'schools under trees' have been replaced thereby making it possible to move hundreds of thousands of Ghanaian school children into decent classroom blocks. We intend to move quickly in this new mandate granted us by the favour of God and the people of Ghana to, to work hard towards the eradication of the remaining 'schools under trees'.
During the same period, millions of learning and teaching aides like exercise books, textbooks, school uniforms and computers have been distributed to schools across the country.
Other pro-poor interventions like the capitation grant and the school-feeding program have been expanded to cover many more children. Today more than a million children are being fed one meal a day at school.
With the implementation of the single spine pay policy, teachers have seen an appreciable upward adjustment in their remuneration making them better motivated than ever before.
Madam Speaker, evidence of improvements in education standards have already begun to show in some modest improvements performance of our children both at the first and second cycle levels of education. I am gratified that the considerable investments made in our children are beginning to yield dividends. We will continue to pursue investments that will go to improve the quality at all levels of our educational system.
As I speak similar efforts have yielded results in the expansion of access at the tertiary level in the shape of two new public universities to augment the existing traditional universities and the expansion of infrastructure at various public Tertiary institutions.
In the area of healthcare, the national health insurance scheme whose implementation we inherited after we had piloted it in the first NDC administration has been strengthened.
Active membership of the scheme, utilization, claims payment and other important indicators of public confidence have risen sharply over the last four years.
Madam Speaker, from the early days of this administration we have worked relentlessly to give individuals and families better access to more qualitative health care.
Across the country, an unprecedented number of modern health care delivery facilities including the upgrading of the Tamale Hospital into an ultra-modern Teaching Hospital have been provided. We have also established over 1,300 CHPS compounds, 19 health centres for areas with population of over 500, 12 district hospitals, 15 polyclinics and provided 161 ambulances for the National Ambulance Service.
In the area of training, several nursing and midwifery training institutions have been established as well as a University dedicated to the training of auxiliary health care professionals.
Madam Speaker, over the last four years our security agencies have seen the biggest retooling effort in their entire existence. The Ghana Armed forces comprising the Army, Navy and Air force have all benefitted from the acquisition of new and modern equipment.
This has enabled them to carry out even more effectively their mandate of ensuring our security by Air, by land or by sea.
Madam Speaker, the Ghana Police Service has also taken delivery of new high performance vehicles, communication gadgets and other essential equipment. The service can boast of an ultra-modern forensic laboratory, which has greatly improved their crime prevention and detection capabilities.
Indeed this capability was on full display before, during and after the 2012 elections, which saw them effectively provide security for us all. It is clear from the foregoing, Madam Speaker, that the NDC government's efforts have not been in vain.
Government has over the past four years made significant investments in the energy sector.
This has culminated in an increase of 35 percent in our energy generation capacity since 2008. Access to electricity has also increased from 54 percent in 2008 to 72 percent in 2011.
About 1,700 communities have been connected to the national electricity grid since 2008 with a large proportion of this increase representing poor households. These, Madam Speaker, are communities that would have been in darkness.
Madam speaker, agriculture has received a major boost under the Better Ghana Agenda. Our objective for enhanced and sustained efforts at agricultural mechanisation and modernisation is to quicken the pace towards full domestic food security, increased agricultural exports, improvement in farm incomes and alleviation of poverty among others.
Our domestic maize production output recorded surpluses in 2010 and 2011, despite the adverse weather conditions experienced in 2011. Rice production has also doubled from the 2008 level, reducing our rice imports by almost 50 percent.
Cocoa Production exceeded one million tonnes for the first time in the 2010/2011-production year, while Cotton, which had seen a reduction in output to 5,000 tonnes in 2008, has seen an increase of almost 1,000 percent in output.
I could go on and on, and speak about the tremendous strides we have made in the area of Agriculture, SADA, public sector reforms and many other bold policy initiatives that this government has undertaken but I do not intend for this to be a lengthy speech as next month or there about, I will be coming back to address this august body on the state of our Nation.
In that address I will offer a more comprehensive review of the state of our nation. Suffice it to say Madam Speaker that we are making rapid progress as a nation. The democratic path we have chosen has created scope for good governance and sustainable economic development.
Madam Speaker, the success story of the country over the last four years would not have been possible without the full support and cooperation this august house has given the executive.
The many debates, close scrutiny and corrections to which government programs, policies, agreements and proposals were subjected to in this house helped shape and forge the success that we enjoy today.
I wish on behalf of the executive to thank you Madam Speaker and all honourable members of this house for the cooperation we enjoyed from you. What we have achieved together over the last four years should spur us on to work towards greater cooperation and collaboration irrespective of our political differences.
Madam Speaker, even as we pat ourselves on the back, let us not forget that hard work lies ahead of us. Keeping the nation safe; anchoring our constitutional and democratic legacy on stronger moral and cultural values; growing stronger institutions; delivering on infrastructural development and social services, infrastructure and amenities to all parts of this nation; as well as affirming our status as a Pan African giant remain far from finished, and it is our shared responsibility to work towards the achievement of these goals.
Whatever our differences, whatever our politics, we must pull together and rise to meet these challenges. For the long-term survival of our nation, we must agree and commit to a multi-partisan process to secure the future of this country. There have been times when we have worked together, there have been times when we have shelved the politics and come together as one nation for the glory of Ghana.
All of you know, and I also believe it was the right thing to do, and it felt good to do so. The people of this nation elected us all to work together and we owe them that much. What they demand from us is partnership and not partisanship.
They put us all right here in the same canoe, they gave us all paddles, and they told us to row this country gently on the road to recovery, growth and shared prosperity. That is the direction I believe we should take this country.
Madam Speaker, even with all our challenges, I believe a feeling of optimism is still seeping into our Ghanaian consciousness; a belief that the days of division and discord are behind us and that an era of unity and national renewal is upon us. We have much to be thankful for.
With four years of growth, we have won back the basic strength of our economy. Fellow Ghanaians, despite the challenges we face, the state of our nation is strong! But now we must rise to the decisive moment, to make this nation and our continent better than any we have ever known.
I wish to thank you for indulging me and may God continue to bless our homeland Ghana.