NDC PRESS CONFERENCE ON ITS 2008 MANIFESTO ADDRESSED BY THE CHAIRMAN OF ITS MANIFESTO DRAFTING COMMITTEE, HON. LEE OCRAN ON OCTOBER 10, 2008 AT THE PARTY HEADQAURTERS.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, we have invited you here this afternoon to assist us to relay some of the positions taken by our party as well as those of some of our opponents on our 2008 Manifesto to the general public.
As of now, all the major political parties have launched their 2008 Manifesto. NDC was the last to out-door its manifesto; nevertheless, the NDC's has generated a lot of excitement within the general populace and anxiety and fear in our opponents. This fear has forced some of them to make all sorts of comments ranging from plagiarism to branding it “sick” and “timid” yet the day before some of them had claimed our manifesto was a carbon copy of the NPP's manifesto.
Mr. Chairman, if you do not know where you are going you cannot claim to be moving forward when you have not even taken a step. We know where we are going, indeed the NDC had always known where is going and how to get to the destination.
The NDC has the tradition of providing a manifesto for each electoral period. Others do not have. As you know, Article 38 (2) of the 1992 constitution directed that “the Government shall within two years after parliament first meets after coming into force of this constitution, draw up a programme for implementation within the following ten years, for the provision of free, compulsory and universal basic education”.
In line with the constitutional demand, we presented a programme for the provision of “Free, Compulsory and Universal Basic Education by the year 2005” under the title, 'Basic Education – A Right' and presented it to parliament in December 1994”.
Although the constitution does not define the “free” element of FCUBE, the NDC in its 2004 manifesto indicated that “free education” as in FCUBE will include free tuition, free textbooks and exercise books, free infrastructure such as school building, writing desks, chairs, free uniforms for specified categories of students and no fees for sports and culture”.
The NPP discreetly adopted our programme in 2005, but instead of implementing the scheme as we had defined it, rather decided to introduce a so-called “Capitation Grant” under which the government pays only ¢30,000 per pupil as its version of FCUBE. The capitation grant does not meet the requirements for free, compulsory and universal basic education as defined by the 1992 constitution. With most of their leading members having boycotted the writing of the constitution, they have failed to appreciate the full import of that constitutional directive.
Our 2008 manifesto builds on our position in the 2004 manifesto and continues to define what we mean by FCUBE. How could we have adopted the NPP's narrow definition of free education as our policy?
In line with the constitutional provision that second cycle education shall be progressively free, we indicated in our 2004 Manifesto that:
Tuition at the second cycle level will continue to be free;
There will be a progressive introduction of a free textbooks scheme at the second cycle education level over time;
The high boarding fees at the SSS level will be examined; and
Government will take over responsibility for the payment of water and electricity costs at secondary second cycle boarding institutes.
There has however been a slight departure from the 2004 position in our 2008 position.
Due to fact that the NPP after 8 years in government has built only 19 new secondary schools, as against the 264 we built in eight years, we have realized that with only 40 per cent of JSS students progressing to the SSS level, the imperative now is to widen access and allow as many Ghanaians as possible to benefit from secondary school to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Our emphasis in the 2008 manifesto is on building at least one secondary school in each of the constituencies. This clearly means that in underserved constituencies, more that one new secondary school will be built. In what context could this have been lifted from the NPP Manifesto which seeks to create a class society by providing a so-called free education for all second cycle students, when the majority of JSS students cannot access secondary education?
With regards to Tertiary education, our 2008 manifesto affirms the position we adopted in 2004 that “An NDC Government will not pursue a policy of full cost recovery” and “that the policy of free tuition at the tertiary level will be continued.” We promised to provide scholarships and bursaries for brilliant but needy students and we went further to indicate that there will be special incentives for students pursuing science and technology at the tertiary level. This position has been clarified in the 2008 manifesto with the policy of setting aside 2 per cent of the GETFund to provide bursaries and scholarships for students who study pure and applied mathematics, science and technology. Has the NPP ever adopted this position?
As far back as 2004, we had proposed in our manifesto to promulgate a national policy on the disabled to enable us fully integrate the disabled into the mainstream of national life. With regards to the aged, our 2004 manifesto explicitly stated “we will promulgate a new National Policy on the Aged” to develop new approaches to meet the demands of the aged.
On the conditions of service of health care workers and teachers, we stated clearly that “We shall take the remuneration and conditions of service of doctors and other health personnel and teachers “as a special case and provide them with a remuneration system and conditions of service designed to resolve the problem of brain drain of health personnel once and for all”. The NPP government obviously plagiarized this, and since they did not know the mechanism we had planned for its implementation, left out teachers and ended up creating problems which are still with us today.
In our 2004 manifesto, we did not only propose, as contained in our current manifesto that we shall pay cocoa farmers at least 70 percent of the world market price but we went further to propose the introduction of a cocoa farmers' housing scheme. The NPP on the other hand did not mention cocoa farmers' housing scheme yet, it plagiarized our proposal and has badly implemented it. After two years of implementation, paragraph 355 of the 2008 Budget statement pathetically stated that “under the cocoa Farmers Housing Scheme, 2 houses have been completed, 4 are at the roofing level, 1 at the sub-structure while 3 houses are yet to take off. And this is the performance of a party that has promised to introduce a pension for farmers and farm workers. Ghanaian farmers would be wiser and learn from how the Farmers' Housing Scheme has been “brilliantly” planned and executed by the NPP government.
As we speak, the NPP government continues to rob cocoa farmers of some of the just reward for their efforts. At the worst of times, the NDC government paid the cocoa farmer about 74 per cent of the world market price. At the best of times, even at the currently adjusted price of ¢16,200,000 per tonne, the NPP government is paying the farmer about 47 per cent of the world market price. Our commitment to paying the farmer 70 per cent of the world market price remains evergreen.
Of course, our pioneering role in the undertaking of pilot programmes for the establishment of the National Health Insurance Scheme is well known.
In our 2000 manifesto, we stated that “health insurance will be a major strategy for mobilizing additional resources and for ensuring financial access in time of need. The pilot work already carried out will form the basis for insurance schemes, both public and private, national and local, to cater for salaried employees, the self-employed as well as both urban and rural communities”. Where was the NPP in the year 2000 that we could have stolen this idea from? Ironically, in the year 2000, April 25 their spokesperson on health, Dr. Addo Kufuor criticized the national health scheme being proposed by the NDC administration that it was not practicable in view of the large proportion of the people living below the poverty line, the seasonal nature of the incomes of many rural farmers and the fact that only 10-15% of the population are salaried workers. It should d be obvious that single national health scheme will not be possible. He rubbished the four pilot programmes we had set-up in the Eastern Region as waste of money.
In our 2008 Manifesto, we have proposed that to the extent that every Ghanaian pays NHIL healthcare should be free for the all the listed diseases on the schedule including mental health care. We have proposed to cancel the payment of premiums on annual basis. Our programme calls for a once-in-life-time premium. That premium will be solely used to capture and store data electronically and link all health care centres nationwide via the internet to make access to healthcare truly national in character and in scope.
On Youth Employment, we had stated on page 60 of our 2008 manifesto that the next NDC government will access some of its employment strategies such as “Poverty Alleviation” and “Youth in Agriculture” as well as current programmes such as NYEP with the view to enhancing their viability as employment options.
On the Metro mass transportation, our position is to investigate the level of government involvement so as to streamline its operations and make it more accountable. We have taken this position conscious of Article 34(7) of the Constitution which states that “as far as practicable government shall continue to execute projects and programmes commenced by the previous government”.
The National Democratic Congress has been more committed to the social and economic development of the North than any political party after the Nkrumah regime. To us, addressing the historical and current imbalances between the North- including the northern parts of the Brong-Ahafo and Volta Regions- and the South is an article of faith. Our programme for the establishment of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority at the Office of the President underscores our continued belief in the balanced and even development of every region in the country.
When our presidential candidate, Prof. J.E.A Mills launched his presidential campaign where he out-doored Hon. John Mahama at the National Theatre in early May, he out-doored the four thematic areas on which his government will focus. This was done at a time, when the NPP had probably not started to do any serious work on their manifesto.
Certainly, we could not have lifted the thematic areas of “Investing in people, jobs, infrastructure and the economy” from a party that has come to the end of the road in the generation of programmes that will improve the living conditions of Ghanaians.
In our 2008 Manifesto, we have pledged to provide affordable and adequate houses for low income workers and residents of urban and peri-urban areas.
In the early days of President Kufuor regime, Mr. Kwamina Bartels, then Minster of Works and Housing promised Ghanaians affordable “horizontal and vertical housing units.” As we speak, not even a single housing unit has been delivered. The result is that the rent for a single room in an average residential area of Accra has increased from ¢15, 000 in January 2001 to a current figure of about ¢250,000-an increase of over 1,500 per cent in less than eight years.
It might interest members of the general public to know that the campaign slogan of the NPP presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo “Moving Ghana Forward” was lifted from the campaign slogan of our 1996 Manifesto.
In their 2008 Manifesto, the NPP has promised to “continue with affordable housing scheme and extend it nationwide.” The lie in this promise was made manifest on Joy FM's 6.00pm news bulletin on Wednesday, October 8, 2008 when the Chairman of the Party's Manifesto Committee, Dr. Akoto Afriyie, stated that it is not the business of the NPP as a liberal democratic party to build affordable houses for the people. As a social democratic party, however, we do not only believe that it is the business of government to provide its people with affordable houses but more importantly, we believe that for the people to be in business and be gainfully employed, it is the business of government to do business.
In our 2008 Manifesto, we have promised to release all lands in the Greater Accra Region which have been acquired by the state and which are not being used for the purposes for which they were acquired in compliance with Article 20 (6) of the 1992 Constitution. We have, in addition, pledged to sponsor legislation to repeal the Land Development (Protection of Purchasers) Act, 1960, Act 2 which we deem discriminatory against the people of the Greater Accra Region.
Days after the launch of our Manifesto, President Kufuor is said to have ordered the release of parts of the lands acquired by the state in Greater Accra Region to their original owners. We hope and pray that all the affected lands at the Airport Residential Area, Cantonments, Ridge and the La Wireless which have been acquired in contravention of the Constitution by Ministers and other political office holders will also be released to their original owners.
We also hope and pray that the President will help us to begin the implementation of our Manifesto by taking steps to amend Act 2 before he leaves office.
Finally, let me make a short statement on some figures that are being bandied around by the NPP presidential candidate. It was the great British Statesman, Benjamin Disraeli, who said that there are three types of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics. According to the NPP presidential candidate, the per capita income is about $600 but according to a document published by the National Development Commission in February this year, under the chairmanship of the NPP economic guru, J.H Mensah, Ghana's per capita income for 2007 was $401 based on the assumption of an inflation rate of 9.9 per cent and a GDP growth rate of 13.5 per cent. Both the inflation and the GDP growth rates were not achieved. The reliability of the figures from both Nana Akufo-Addo and the National Development Commission on our GDP per capita is questionable. At the appropriate time, our economic team will call a press conference to deal with NPP's lies, dammed lies and statistics about the economy.
Thank You and May God Bless Ghana.