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13.11.2008 Elections

Presidential Debate II: Candidates to declare war on corruption, drugs

By myjoyonline
Presidential Debate II: Candidates to declare war on corruption, drugs

The presidential candidates of the four main political parties with representation in parliament faced of in the Northern Regional capital of Tamale with each describing himself as the best cut for the first office of land.

In comparison to the first debate, Wednesday's event which came on the heels of several weeks of increasing criticism of government policies and initiatives took a more friendly tone.

The debate was moderated by Prof Ivan Addae Mensah, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, and Israel Laryea a broadcaster with Joy FM and CNN award winner.

The governance think-thank Institute of Economic Affairs organised the programme in collaboration with Joy FM.

Perhaps the most interesting dig of the evening came when Nana Addo pleaded with moderators to be given time to rebut an earlier comment made by Prof Mills that put corruption as worst within the last seven years.

“The statement that is made that it is getting progressively worse. I think I'm entitled to make a statement about that. 'The last seven years we have seen it get worse,' I have a very different view about that matter and I think that I must be given the opportunity to put that view here,” Nana Addo demanded.

But Joy FM's Israel Laryea promised the opportunity, perhaps, in the next lap of the encounter.

Prof Mills had earlier argued that “corruption is getting worse and worse. People are becoming bolder; they're flaunting their wealth; public office holders do not appear to care. What we think, what we see [is that] there is ostentatious living.”

On asset declaration, all candidates were unanimous that public officials, including the President, must make known their assets before and after their service to the nation.

The NPP flag-bearer proposed a tougher legislative framework to fight corruption in the country. But he cautioned that, that feat could only be achieved if CHRAJ and other institutions that check corruption are strengthened.

Nana Addo stated that the declaration of assets by the First Family must not be a “gesture of the president but a law for the nation.”

The NDC presidential hopeful who consistently lashed out at the ruling government for what he called the mismanagement of the economy promised better times for Ghanaians under his rule.

He promised to extend the need for assets declaration to family members of public officials.

“There were times when assets declaration covered spouses; I will not limit it to spouses, there are surrogates, there are people who are close enough, who also acquire assets on behalf of office holders.

“First of all we must even verify that the declaration is true. You cannot list any assets hoping that when you go to office you would acquire them,” he stressed, while drawing wild chuckles from the audience.

Both the flag-bearers of the CPP and the PNC hammered away at government's economic policies with both firming their promises to change the fortunes of the citizenry.

The CPP flag-bearer proposed that the President “not only files his income tax return, but also makes it public.”

He had earlier condemned the provision in the constitution which exempts the President from paying taxes and described it as unfair to the tax paying Ghanaian worker.

The CPP leader promised to pass the Right to Information bill to serve as catalyst in ensuring that corruption is reduced to the barest minimum.

Dr Mahama, who described both the ruling party and opposition NDC as failures, agreed that the fight against corruption starts from the President.

The debate also addressed the housing challenges in the country with all four presidential candidates giving different responses to what “affordable housing” was. Perhaps the most outstanding responses came from the leaders of the NPP and the NDC.

While the flag-bearer of the NPP put a price tag of $20,000 to it, the NDC leader said accommodation could only be affordable if individuals could clear the cost of homes within four years with a third of their incomes.

On drugs, the NDC flag-bearer started with “when you have a problem and you really want to solve [it], admit that it exists,” adding that drug used “is beginning to gain roots” in the country.

He promised to resource the law enforcement agencies to be able to apprehend persons involved in the trade.

The flag-bearer of the PNC announced his party's new “national drug and substance abuse policy” which the party would enact if voted into power.

He said the policy would be the best solution to the problem as it “distinguishes between the drug pushers, the drug barons and victims.”

Nana Addo, however, gave a wider dimension to the issue stating that the solution goes beyond the country while describing the problem as “multibillion dollar” one.

“This matter is a national problem; it isn't a party political problem … and [it's] part of a national, West African, a global problem,” he stated.

He said in stemming the trade, the NPP government under his leadership would convert the Narcotic Control Board into an agency with a director who would have an overall authority.

Nana said his government would not hesitate to strengthen local agencies to collaborate with international agencies in dealing with the problem.

The CPP flag-bearer promised stiffer punishment for persons found guilty of drug crimes as well a ban of the advertisement of alcoholic beverages in the media.

“It must be clear that no tolerance for this substance at all,” Dr Nduom stated.

All four candidates emphasised the need for intensified efforts at promoting science and research in the country.

The debate ended with a unanimous appeal by the four for peaceful polls in December.