IF the people of Sunyani were proud to be selected to host this year’s People’s Assembly yesterday, they had more cause for pride when President J.A. Kufour said its choice had not been random, it had been 'carefully made'. And he explained why:
'The first time ever that a party of the Danquah-Busia tradition held power, it was led by Dr. K.A. Busia, who is a ‘son of the soil’ of Brong-Ahafo Region'.
He said in his opening remarks at the sixth edition of the annual People’s Assembly, the second time it was being held outside Accra, that even though Dr. Busia ruled for only 27 months, he undertook very significant development projects which many Ghanaians benefited from.
'We believe that the NPP’s success at the 2000 elections was partly due to the fond memories that his name continues to evoke in the minds of those Ghanaians who remember his administration,' President Kufour said. Describing the celebration of 50 years of independence as a watershed, the President said 'it has become one of the most recognised historic landmarks in many societies and cultures'.
President Kufour said looking at Ghana’s checkered past and its current attempts at recovery, the Jubilee year offers a great opportunity to 'reflect on our national vision and objectives at independence'.
'This should help us to clarify parts of the vision that are blurred, discard objectives that are no longer valid and together co-operate to achieve goals we have set for the next half century to accelerate our nation into the ranks of the advancing and indeed the advanced countries', he said.
President Kufour used the occasion to invite all Ghanaians – 'public and private institutions and organizations, the different political parties, schools, churches, traditional authorities and even families and social clubs to participate actively in the celebration'.
He said: 'Let us endeavour to rise above our differences and have self-confidence. Let me challenge all of us to remember to raise the visions of ourselves, our organisations and our country in this year of jubilee so that henceforth with our sights high up, we will begin to fly very high among the advancing nations of the world, where we should belong'.
The President expressed concern about the many chieftaincy disputes in the country, saying that as time – tested institution, 'Chieftaincy is unfortunately being exploited by a few over-ambitious individuals to generate tension, which is sad'.
He stressed the need for the institution to continue to be the rallying point for development and progress.
'Let me appeal to our chiefs to let the noble attributes of the institution come forth to enrich the governance of our nation at the local and traditional level'
President Kufour particularly called on the various factions to the Yendi chieftaincy crisis to see themselves as brothers and resolve their differences, adding that the whole Yendi society and indeed all Ghanaians must lend support to this effort.
President Kufour also spoke about his amazement at the report of increased incidence of guinea worm disease in the Brong-Ahafo Region despite the fact that the delivery of potable water to the region had increased from 19 percent coverage to 51 per cent since 2001.
Saying this should normally have reduced any incidence of the disease significantly, he directed the Ministry of Health to submit a report to his office and called on all stakeholders to ensure that guinea worm is eradicated from the region which is reported to have a 2.7 per cent prevalent rate.
The President recalled the pledge his government made on assumption of office, to arrest the dwindling economy and said the government had kept faith with the people by taking bold steps to shift the paradigm of salaries paid to teachers for example, from very low levels to what would motivate them across board.
He said the proposed Fair Wages Board was expected to rationalise salaries within the public sector to ensure fairness and the payment of equal salaries for work of equal value, stressing that the government will not renege on its promise to build the capacity of Ghanaian institutions and the citizens in order to mainstream them into globalization.
He said the government was bent on building a mutually supportive relationship between the public and the private sectors.
This is being executed with a great passion and our vision is to lift Ghana into a middle income status with a Gross Domestic Product per capita of 1,000 dollars within the next 10 years', he said.
President Kufuor said the economy was on the path of recovery as all indicators including lowered interest rates, stable currency, availability of credit to businesses and reduced inflation showed.
'Indeed the financial sector of reforms and its effective management are conducive to the stability of the economy', he said.
Earlier ,the Brong- Ahafo Regional Minister, Ignatius Baffour Awuah, recalled the progress, the government had chalked in the region in the provision of social infrastructure including school buildings, clinics and roads.
He appealed for support for the government to enable it live up to expectation.
The People’s Assembly concept, introduced by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government in 2001 offers a platform for the general public to directly question the President on issues of national interest.