Prez Kufuor Speaks
President John Agyekum Kufuor on Monday evening presented his annual New Year message to the nation.
We reproduce the full text of the message.
In a few hours, 2007, the Year of Ghana's Golden Jubilee will fade into history. As I extend the traditional national Yuletide and New Year greetings of goodwill and prosperity to you, I am seizing the opportunity to also recall some of the highlights of the passing year.
Before I do so however, let me use this occasion to acknowledge the goodwill, the prayers and words of encouragement that I continue to receive from the nation as well as groups and individuals since I miraculously escaped unhurt from a motor accident last month. My family and I appreciate this very much.
Being the Golden Jubilee of the nation's Independence, the year, 2007 was befittingly greeted with cheers and jubilation.
The events which were organized to commemorate the anniversary, have engaged the whole nation – from school children to the armed forces, farmers, universities and research institutions, traditional authorities, religious bodies, market women; indeed, all other sections of the society. Our foreign partners and friends, including many Heads of State, also participated substantially in the events which enabled Ghana to show case her potential.
The spiritual import of the Biblical Jubilee signifying forgiveness, reconciliation, re-birth and blessings has run through the planned programmes including religious services, traditional durbars and other festivities.
The 6th March parade in particular left lasting impressions on many people, both Ghanaian and foreign. For some older members of the society, it brought back fond memories of the euphoria that engulfed the nation on that historic day 50 years earlier.
But for the larger majority of Ghanaians, the parade evoked a profound and unprecedented sense of patriotism and unity which must not be allowed to wane. Rather, it should propel the nation to newer heights of focus and commitment to development.
Fellow Ghanaians, our country's Independence, according to our late revered President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, was not to be an end in itself, but the foundation for the eventual unification of Africa under one Continental Government. To this end, Nkrumah's government sacrificed substantial resources to awaken awareness of our continent to this vision.
It is significant that on the 50th Anniversary of Independence, Ghana was invited unanimously by the African Union to chair its Assembly. Flowing from this, the country hosted the Summit of the African Union here in Accra on Republic Day, 1st July, to resume the debate on Union Government. Ghana is currently chairing a taskforce of Presidents from all corners of the continent, to develop a roadmap towards the realisation of the Continental Government. Truly, at this point in time, Africa is closer to Nkrumah's dream of a Union Government than ever before.
This Jubilee year has been hallmarked by other historic events including the gracious invitation from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to me, to pay a state visit to Great Britain. By all accounts, the visit came off successfully.
Some of the other events are Ghana's co-chairing with Portugal, of the epochal Summit of Africa and the EU, to plan the paradigm shift that is taking place in their relations from now on, in the face of globalisation.
Yet another is Ghana's leadership in June this year, of the African Union's team of Presidents which met with the leaders of the G-8 at their Summit in Germany.
These major landmarks can be interpreted largely as recognition of the accumulated respect Ghana has earned over the years, especially through her growing record of good governance, underpinned by the rule of law and respect for human rights.
Steadily, Ghana is becoming a popular destination for very important international meetings. An example is her hosting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in April next year. This conference is expected to bring thousands of delegates the country.
These are some of the highlights of the passing year. But 2007 has not been without its challenges. First was the severe energy crisis which was followed by an unprecedented and disastrous flooding of several parts of the country, which could be the effect of global climate change.
In the case of the floods, the nation suffered casualties of lives, with some homes and farms being washed away, especially in northern and south-western parts of the country. Fortunately, as threatening as these challenges were, they did not tear the nation apart. Rather, they brought to the fore a sense of fellow-feeling among all the people as the nation rallied to the support of the afflicted. They also demonstrated the innate resilience and moral fibre of the Ghanaian society in a determination to search for enduring solutions which happily are coming on stream.
On the energy front, short to medium term investments in thermal energy, undertaken by government in partnership with the Private Sector, proved successful. The plants are working and have brought the crisis under control.
I must also report that, on 21st December, the West Africa Gas Pipeline Project was completed with the delivery of its first flow of nitrogen to cleanse the pipes. Barring any unfor
eseen problems, flow of natural gas from the pipes should soon become an everyday occurrence to fuel thermal energy generation.
Happily, work on the Osagyefo Power Barge is progressing steadily and should be ready for commissioning by March next year.
For the long term strategy, construction of the Bui Dam which is one of the long term strategies, commenced in October this year.
In this direction, government is on the verge of concluding agreement for the construction of many hydro-dams on the Ankobra, Pra and Tano rivers. This should enable the authorities to blend the hydro and thermal energy generation sources to provide a permanent and affordable solution to the country's energy needs. The objective is to break permanently the cyclical shortages that have over the years bedevilled the energy sector.
Fellow Ghanaians, over the past 7 years, government has implemented macro economic policies and programmes which have driven down inflation and interest rates and generated steady growth in the economy. The Cedi has been redenominated smoothly without incident. The country, for the first time ever, has successfully issued a Eurobond on the London Stock Exchange, raising USD750 million in the process. Indeed, the bond was over subscribed by over USD3billion, indicating the measure of confidence of the international market in our economy, which should make every Ghanaian proud. Part of this issue has been earmarked for infrastructure development including energy and roads. Part of it also earmarked for rehabilitation work on the railway network, due to begin in the coming year.
Fellow Ghanaians, the resilience of the economy is further demonstrated by the fact that despite the ever-spiralling price of crude oil, which is now nearly USD100 per barrel, compared to about USD25 in 2001, the economy has managed to hold together, thanks to the efficient and far-sighted management of the economy over the last 7 years.
But perhaps the more dramatic and happy news of the Jubilee year is that, at long last, after decades of desperate prospecting, the country has now struck oil in commercial quantities. Initial estimates put the find at over 3billion barrels and this is just the beginning, for prospecting continues. Government is already putting measures in place to ensure that the country benefits fully from the find to avoid the bane that has tended to bedevil nations that have come by the commodity.
Fellow Ghanaians, at the moment, the signs are clear that our country is at the threshold of great prosperity. Let us therefore pull together and seize every opportunity to make a giant leap forward.
An important pre-condition of this forward leap is the deepening of our of our democracy. The nation is currently gearing up for Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in December 2008. All the major Parties have elected their flag-bearers. The prevailing trend shows a growing appreciation of democratic procedures in the selection of candidates. It is a happy development, which is also a sign of the maturation of the country's democracy. In the coming months, as the contending Parties engage one another in their various campaigns, they should be to be mindful of the progress made this far, and do nothing to undermine further progress.
Ghana's Elections have become the benchmark for others on the Continent. Every effort should be made to maintain this record so that the nation can continue to enjoy the high esteem of the International Community. I wish to assure the entire society, particularly the Electoral Commission and the contending Parties of government's maximum support for organizing yet another credible Elections next year.
Fellow Countrymen, I cannot end this address without mention of “Ghana 2008”, the soccer fiest, which is only 3 weeks away. The country expects high patronage by visitors, including over a million football fans and tourists. The event will attract global television coverage which will expose the country to the rest of the world. It is important to extend all due courtesies to our visitors, to make their stay a happy one and the Tournament a success.
To the Black Stars, we pray and wish every success. Including two new stadia built and 2 others refurbished to the state of the art, the stage is set for what should be a good Tournament. The whole nation is looking up to the Stars to be victorious and lift the trophy once again. We count on the privileged players to conduct themselves in the true spirit of sportsmanship and high patriotism. These same virtues should also guide the behaviour of the general public throughout the competition, even as we give unalloyed support to our team.
Fellow Ghanaians, before we ring in the New Year, let me thank you for playing your respective parts to make the closing Jubilee year a huge success. I wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.
May God bless all of us.
Long live Ghana.