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20.02.2009 Politics

State of the Nation Address: Atta Mills disappoints

By Statesman
State of the Nation Address: Atta Mills disappoints

The Minority in Parliament have expressed their disappointment over the State of the Nation Address that was delivered by President J. E. A. Mills yesterday.

According to them, the president refused to tell them "what the true state of the nation was and the way forward. Rather, it sounded more like a budget or a campaign speech than a State of the Nation Address".

A cross section of Ghanaians who spoke to this paper also expressed bewilderment at yesterday's event, wondering if the former law lecturer was really abreast with what was on the ground or was still in campaign mode, promising everything under the sun but without specifics as to implementation.

Speaking to The Statesman in an interview after the president delivered the address, Minority First Deputy Whip Gifty Eugenia Kusi, stated: "I was very disappointed, it was as if he was reading the budget, 'we will do this,' 'we will do that,' he did not tell us what the true state of the nation is.

"He should have expressly told us about what he and his government have seen since they took over the reins of government before telling us what he can do to improve it so that we can use that to assess him when he appears next year to deliver his state of the nation-address."

She said most of the things that the president talked about such as reviving the Aveyime Rice factory and completion of the Bole Bamboi road as well as the renovation of existing health facilities and construction of new ones are already taking place hence to claim they will be done on his watch is disingenuous.

Albert Kan-Dapaah (NPP, Afigya-Sekyere West), deplored the president's comments about the economy, saying that it was unfortunate that the president still sought to create the impression that the economy was broke even after his own Minister of Finance had made statements to the contrary.

Stephen Balado-Manu (NPP, Ahafo Ano South), said the State of the Nation address delivered by the president in Parliament was silent on areas such as reviewing fuel prices, the Bui Dam and how jobs were to be created to deal with the unemployment situation.

He said the President had in one breath blamed the country's current economic situation on the global crisis and in another breath hit back at the past government.

Mr Balado-Manu expressed the hope that the president would deliver on proposals captured in the address.

Mathew Opoku Prempeh (NPP, Manhyia) agreed, saying that "initiatives like the National Youth Employment Program which the former administration embarked upon are doing well, so how can something doing well be revived? I think his speech writer did not go well in that direction".

'He however commended the president for saying that he will institute an MPs' development fund, noting that such a move will go a long way to help the MPs and be a lasting legacy to the president. Adding his voice, Moses Asaga, (NDC, Nabdam), said he was particularly glad about the proposed MPs' Constituency Development Fund, saying in Ghana today, the role of the MP had moved from just law making and lobbying to providing development projects at the constituency level.

"The fund will help us to fulfill campaign promises of development and provision of facilities to our constituents," he said.

In the view of Atta Akyea (NPP, Abuakwa South), "the statement was well put together, we only hope and pray that he can deliver".

Shirley Botchway, NPP MP for Weija, said what was left was to see how far the president would go in implementing proposals made in the address.

She said it was ironic for the president to have claimed his commitment to consensus building at a time when his government was using the transition process to harass people, seize cars and toilets, among other things.

Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, NPP MP for New Juaben North, said eyes would be focused on how the President would "practicalise" his agenda.

Delivering his first State of the Nation Address in Parliament House the president made a long list of a number of promises most of which were contained in his party manifesto including providing adequate security for all.

But, for a man who continues to insist he has hit the ground running in attempting to deal with the problems confronting the nation, his address was shockingly thin on specifics.

For instance, in dealing with the increasing reports of drug usage and trafficking in Ghana, Prof Mills pledged to, after a series of durbars with the security agencies, include their needs in next year's budget! Meanwhile, "Madam Speaker, I make a firm commitment to fight vigorously against the drug menace. In line with this we will amend the Narcotics Drug Control, Enforcement and Sanctions Law of 1993. We will also ensure that all high profile cases involving narcotics which are still outstanding are investigated and prosecuted".

President Mills said in order to maintain the constitutional independence of a number of governance-related institutions, his government would endeavour to provide more resources for them to ensure optimal performance. These institutions include the Electoral Commission, National Media Commission and the National Commission for Civic Education.

He urged Parliament to amend its Standing Orders to make it possible for the leaders of those institutions to appear before the house and defend their respective budgets. "By so doing, the criticism of the Executive starving them of funds would be a thing of the past."

He said "transparency in government and the fight against .corruption is cardinal for sustainable development" and this will be addressed per a three-prong approach ensuring the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, expeditious passage of the National Broadcasting Act as well as elaborating on a code of conduct for government officials to cover extensive information disclosures, ethics and anti-corruption measures.

"Together, these measures would make it possible for both citizens and statutory organizations to access the needed information to demand accountability from officials in both government institutions and also private ones".

The former law lecturer paid tribute to three of his predecessors, former presidents J A Kufuor and J.J. Rawlings, who were all present in the' House, and Dr Kwame Nkrumah, in whose honour he proposed a national holiday, Founders' Day - to be marked on his birthday.
He said the three had played their part in efforts to build a strong nation and deserved gratitude.

"The nation is grateful to them. The nation is grateful for their service. The nation is also grateful to them for moving our democracy along the path to maturity," he said, praying God's guidance for him to be able to add to their rich legacy.