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19.02.2009 Politics

High expectations from State of the Nation Address

High expectations from State of the Nation Address
FEB 19, 2009 POLITICS


President John Evans Atta Mills will deliver his first State of the Nation Address in Parliament House today. This comes with high expectations from Ghanaians on how he intends to deliver on his "I-care-for-you" promises.

Views from organised labour and some individuals who shared their expectations with the Daily Graphic indicated that in spite of the global recession, Ghanaians still expected the President to deliver what would inspire the people for socio-economic development.

Article 67 of the 1992 Republican Constitution provides that, "The President shall, at the beginning of each session of Parliament and before a dissolution of Parliament, deliver to Parliament a message on the state of the nation."

Since the underlying word there is 'shall' and not 'may', legal experts explain that 'shall' signifies mandatory or obligation, which is without option and, therefore, makes it mandatory for all presidents to perform that constitutional duty.

At his inauguration on January 7, 2009, Professor Mills pledged the dawn of a new era and a change for a better Ghana, a promise many Ghanaians would want to see reflected in his first major policy statement to the nation.

On that eventful occasion on January 7, President Mills emphasized that the change was not just for the sake of it but a change in a new direction to move the country forward.

The President promised the nation that the least that he could do was to work hard in order to help to achieve a better Ghana, adding, "Improvement in internal security will be one of my top priorities."

He further gave the assurance that his administration would not pursue the politics of power and privilege but "rather, we will ensure that we listen to the people and address their concerns".

Ahead of the address, a former Chairman of the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), Mr Kwame Pianim, said whatever the President's vision and plans would be, they should not include any plan to subsidize water, electricity and petroleum products if his government was to succeed in restoring the balance sheet of the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the Volta River Authority (VRA), reports Daily Graphic's Musah Yahya Jafaru.

He said Ghana was in a difficult economic situation due to the global credit crunch and that Ghanaians must be made to pay the full cost of water, electricity and petroleum products, arguing that the payment of the full cost of utilities would "stop the weakening of state finances".

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), for its part, said the country's quest to reduce poverty would continue to be a mirage in the absence of a clear vision to provide people with decent jobs.

“Taking into account the small base and weak capacity of the private formal sector to create decent employment for the large number of people who are either unemployed or underemployed, we advocated the direct involvement of the government in the creation of jobs for the youth," it said.

It said it, therefore, supported the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) which was launched in 2006.

The TUC said in a similar view expressed in 2007, "we noted that one of the most important initiatives the government has taken in recent times is the NYEP".

It called on the government to expand and commit more resources to the NYEP to make it a source of employment for the youth to gain experience for the competitive job market.

"The way to achieving the target of half a million jobs by the end of 2009 and to sustain the programme over a longer period is to provide adequate resources and ensure that the resources are properly managed," it said.

A Secretary for Religious Affairs in the erstwhile Provisional National defence Council (PNDC) administration, Mr Isaac Kwadjo Obeng (Tugya), for his part, called on President Mills to use the occasion to preach unity as a tool for socio-economic development.

He also reminded Prof Mills of his promise to be father to all Ghanaians, calling on him to demonstrate that in his first sessional address.

He also advised Ghanaians to change their attitudes in order to make the nation governable for President Mills.

"We must help our President to help us. If we do not change our attitude, there is little Prof Mills can do for us. Not even Jesus Christ can solve our problems if we do not change our attitudes," he said.

According to a government source, the President's address will focus on the economy, employment, education, health care, gender issues and national unity, among others.

Those expected to be present at the ceremony are the Vice-President, Mr John Dramani Mahama; the Speaker of Parliament, Mrs Justice Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo; the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, as well as Members of Parliament (MPs).

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