A presidential aspirant of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Mr. Kwabena Agyepong has said that the major challenge facing the people of Ghana is how to put Ghanaians back into productive work.
He has said that the NPP government inherited an economy that was in a tailspin, but now that the Kufuor administration has corrected the situation, the next reasonable step was to address the rampant state of unemployment in the country.
“I think that by and large Mr. Kufour's administration has been able to straighten up the economy to build a sound and solid foundation that today people in business can predict into the future,” he said, adding that the next step was to address the issue of unemployment.
“I am saying that we should put Ghanaians back to work. Unemployment is a major problem facing us as country, and I think that for me that is my priority and the way to put Ghanaians into productive work is to encourage our business community to support them with what I term 'long term risk capital'", he said.
Mr. Kwabena Agyepong was speaking to the Managing Editor of the Daily Searchlight newspaper, Mr. Ken Kuranchie.
He said that he was calling it 'risk capital' because there was a need to reduce the red tape, conditions and bureaucratic bottlenecks towards accessing cheap capital.
"I mean President Kufour's administration has put together a lot of innovative interventions already, like the Venture Capital Fund, EDlF Fund, Ghana Investment Fund and so many others, but our business community does not seem to know how to access these funds and it appears there are too many strings attached. We have to strip off some of the flesh and bring it down to bare bone so that people can access it. I mean we have to take risk as a government and as a people to encourage our people to give them money and get them to modernize their factories," he said.
He noted that Ghana has an agro-based economy and “That is where we have a competitive advantage. We have good weather patterns. We have arable lands and there are water causes across the country. I mean this country can be one of the major producers of sugar for instance.
And so the way to do it is to engage in a proactive manner the Association of Ghana Industries, Ghana Chamber of Mines, the Ghana Union of Traders Associations," he said, pointing out that the same traders who carried capital out onto the international market to import goods can be encouraged to invest their monies here.
"I will sit down with them and direct them and support them, meet them halfway and make sure that we build factories, refineries in our country, so that our people can have sustainable employment. That's what I mean by saying putting Ghanaians back into productive work," Mr. Agyepong said.
Mr. Kwabena Agyepong, who spoke to the Daily Searchlight on a range of issues, explained that he has covered quite a sizeable part of the country since he declared his intention to vie for the presidential slot of the NPP.
"I have not only covered a large part of the country, I have covered every part of the country. I have covered physically all the 230 constituencies," he said, adding that the only constituency office that he has so far not visited is Kete-Krachie, but even then he met some of the executives at Dambai.
“So I have covered the ground. I did so because I wanted to have a first hand view of the ground situation, politically the state of our party,” he said.
Kwabena Agyepong explained that this exercise was not strange to him, since he travelled the entire length and breadth of Ghana in 1998 and 2000 during the primaries to elect a flagbearer and to elect a president. Ironically at the time he was supporting Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who is now contesting as one of the aspirants of the NPP's presidential slot.
He said that he was well-known among the grassroots of the party, since he again travelled the entire country in 2004 and he was doing so now as an aspiring candidate.
"I am campaigning for myself, and so you see there is a re-familiarization," he said.
He expressed the opinion that the respect that his visits generate through the rank and file of the party makes him confident that he is going to carry the mantle on the day.
He said that there is a growing desire, from the rank and file of the party for a new generation of leadership in the NPP.
"I personally believe that in politics, like life, is generational. Every generation makes their contribution to society and then they hand the baton over to a new generation. President Kufour has done remarkably well for our party and political tradition and he for me is a symbol of the Busia generation, the generation of youthful leaders that Dr. Busia put into political office some 49 years ago, the likes of J. H. Mensah, Jones Ofori Attah, P. G. Osei Bonsu, Safo Adu, Steven Kreku, Appiah Menkah and many others. They were in their thirties. Busia had the vision to build the political tradition that will last the test of time and Busia was looking beyond himself. We are looking to build our political tradition beyond the future,” he said.
Explaining, he said that his motto for this campaign has been "Securing Our Common Future."
"The way to secure our common future is to build on what has been achieved by the two terms of the NPP. To do so within the new generational leadership that will move our development to a new level. The whole world is running at faster pace. The world will not wait for Ghana. That is why we need more energy, more vitality," he said. He said that at 45 he no longer considered himself a youth, and by the time he hopeful1y becomes president he would be 47.
"That was the same age as Dr. Kwame Nkrumah when he became president of our country. So today you talk about age and claim that some of us are too young, maybe they should go back and look at the history of our country," he said.
On supporting local industry and decentralizing the concentration of industry in the big towns instead of the hinterlands, he said that there was a need for long-term planning in areas of energy production, for instance.
"That's why there should be long term planning," he said, adding that issues to do with energy for instance should not be politicized.
On claims in certain quarters that he is rather young, he said that the 1992 Constitution was clear on this matter. "Our constitution is very clear. It says that once you have attained the age of 40 you can aspire to be president. It does not say you will have to go through parliament or be a minister before you can become the president, and what we should not forget, Dr Limann had no political experience, he won elections in our country, you understand. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah became the president at independence, there were far more experienced people at the time. I think that those who say that are trying to trivialize issues and I do not want to respond," he said.
On claims that jumping from Presidential Spokesperson to President was too wide to be realistic, he cited the case of Mr. Shinzo Abe of Japan.
"In any case if you go to Japan, Shinzo Abe the current PM was barely two years as Press Secretary to PM Koizuma. That is his only experience in government, but he is PM of Japan, perhaps the second largest economy in the world," he said.
Going to England, he said that the Conservative Party in England has given the leadership role to 39 year old David Cameron who is in his first term as Member of Parliament. He said his experiences in and at the very seat of government and as one of the close confidants of the president gives him a unique opportunity to know what goes into running an executive presidency.