President J. A. Kufuor on Wednesday, performed his first public assignment of 2007, with the opening of the 58th Annual New Year School at the University of Ghana, Legon.
In a speech that reviewed the country's past, present and the way forward, President Kufuor called on Ghanaians to sustain the current democratic dispensation as a way of life for all time and as the basis of national development.
The one-week school is the first in the series of activities that have been lined up in the year-long celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Ghana's independence. The New Year School offers a platform for the discussion of topical national issues.
Organised by the Institute of Adult Education of the University of Ghana, this year's event has brought together more than 500 people from all walks of life to discuss the theme: 'Ghana at 50: Achievements, challenges and the future'.
The participants include teachers, trade unionists, lawyers, rulers and district chief executives.
He described 2007 as a year of renewal in which the stage is set for the accelerated take-off of Ghana as a united and prosperous nation.
The New Year School has established a robust tradition of dispassionate discussion which enable it to rise above partisanship of any kind.
He expressed the hope that the school would continue to contribute to the heightening of the awareness of all Ghanaians of the reality of the vision which the nation has set for itself.
The President said 50 years was a landmark for stocktaking, overhauling and national evaluation of achievements and failure of the past and strategising for the way forward.
He said despite the many difficulties and uncertainties that have afflicted the country's political system during the greater part of the last five decades, its goal of nation building has remained on course and it is held in high esteem globally.
'It is toasted by the world as a multi party-based constitutional democracy and a haven of peace on the continent', he said.
Reviewing the poor performance of the economy in the first few decades after independence, President Kufuor said 'not too mature and poor socio-economic management in government partly contributed to that situation'.
The problem, he said, was compounded by the complex cold war influences of the time and the unpredictability of the international commodity market.
The combined effects of those forces, he said, sapped the confidence of the system and stagnated it to such an extent that radical destabilization of the political order set in.
The President said the loss of constitutionality unleashed manifold problems which reinforced each other and led to the near unraveling of the social and economic fabric a situation which undermined the national sense of planning.
The country's return to constitutional rule in 1992 signalled a new beginning for change and renewal to addresses the challenges of the stagnated socio-economy, adding that determined efforts have been made since then to sustain the democratic system.
He said the relaunch of those good values and renewed expectations of the populace to be part of the rapidly emerging global community conditioned the nation to set new visionary targets and benchmarks for development. Those are, the Vision 2020 of the government of the National Democratic Congress and Vision 2015 of his New Patriotic Party government.
Incidentally, he said, the vision 2015 happened to be the Vision of the Millennium Development Goals (NDG) of the United Nations under which government expects the current per capita income of about 500 dollars to rise to more than 1000 dollars to enable it become a middle income nation.
He said the policies the government adopted since assuming office in 2001 have helped to restore confidence in the economy and the nation as a whole, culminating in Ghana being rated by reputed international credit assessors.
Ghana is one of the few countries rated by the UN as likely to achieve the MDG within the stipulated time adding that 'all these are being achieved without compromising the tenets of the liberal democratic constitution', he noted.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana,. Professor C.N.B. Tagoe, said the university will be relentless in upholding high standard of discipline.
He said admissions into the university will be strictly based on merit and warned that people who fall foul of the university's entry requirements will be widely exposed'.
Prof. Tagoe said the New Year School was a contribution of the university to increase access for people to get education.
The university he said, has since its establishment kept faith with its knowledge dissemination through its extension activities and added that the New Year School will allow the participants to reflect on national issues in an academic environment.
Mr R.A. Aggor, Acting Director of the Institute of Adult Education, expressed happiness that the institute has been able to sustain the school for the past 58 years.
He said the school has enjoyed the support of various governments although it is sometimes critical of some of the policies of the governments.