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25.02.2009 Politics

Minority condemns Mills' address... for lack of vision

By Stephen Odoi-Larbi &Emmanuel Kpeglah - Ghanaian Chronicle
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The Member of Parliament (MP) for Subin Constituency in the Ashanti Region, Mr. Isaac Osei has criticized the President's maiden State of the Nation Address as one that lacks vision to propel the country to greater heights. He said the President's speech did not contain any new ideas, neither did it point to any new direction, but rather relied heavily on the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) projects and projections in the past administration.

“Madam Speaker, permit me to say that any partisan and knowledgeable person cannot fail to conclude that this address, this State of the Nation address did not contain any new ideas, neither did this address point out to any new direction, it lacks vision. Madam Speaker, let me further state that the President relied heavily on the projects and programmes of the New Patriotic Party administration which he has succeeded”, he noted.

Mr. Osei was supporting the motion to the debate on the President's State of the Nation Address on the floor of Parliament yesterday in Accra, after the motion for the debate was moved by Mr. Inusah A.B. Fuseini, MP for Tamale Central, and seconded by Nana Akomeah, MP for Okaikwei South.

According to him, His Excellency John Evans Fiifi Mills clearly demonstrated to the nation about his lack of knowledge in the agriculture sector on new ideas in his maiden State of the Nation Address, since he persistently lamented on continuity of projects and programmes from the previous administration.

He argued that since the
Aveyime Rice Project was already in motion, there was no need for the President to have made such comments about it. Mr. Osei referred the House to rice that were distributed to Members some couple of weeks ago, as that from the Aveyime Rice Project.

A point of order was raised to that effect from a member of the minority side, Hon. James Avedzi, MP of Ketu North, who argued that his colleague from the minority side (Mr. Osei) was misleading the House since the rice that was distributed to Members was produced from Afife, an area in his constituency in the Volta Region.

At this point, the former Agricultural Minister, Mr. Ernest Akobuor Debrah who is also MP for Tano North Constituency also raised a point of order and said “Madam Speaker, the rice which was distributed to Members of Parliament was milled at Aveyime”.

Continuing, Mr. Osei recounted the immense contribution the Fishing Ministry played in the country's economy and was, however, not happy that it had been scrapped off.

Everyone in the country knows that the fishing industry provides a very important protein in our diet and that fisheries also provide employment for not only our fishermen but also for the fishmongers and traders who are not only located along the coastal towns but also to those within the hinterland and provide opportunities for transporters from the South to the North.

Touching on projections the President made in the cocoa sector, Mr. Osei said the president deviated from figures quoted in the National Democratic Congress' (NDC) manifesto to a different scenario, which he attributed to wrong data and information that was provided to the President.

He argued that the NDC manifesto promised to move towards a yield of 700kg per hecter, but the figures that were fed the House highlighted on increasing yield from 1250 kg per hecter to 1750 kg per hecter, a projection he said was a myth.

“Madam Speaker, permit me to say that if you want to make projections, then you have to base your projections on facts. In the cocoa sector, the President said he would increase yield from 1250 kg per hecter to 1750 kg per hecter.”

“Madam Speaker, the President's based figure is wrong. Everybody in this country knows that yield of cocoa has increased from 450 kg per hecter to 600 kg per hecter and indeed, the NDC manifesto page 53 acknowledges that they are moving towards 700kg per hecter. Therefore, somebody in the presidency is not giving the President the correct information. Wrong data, wrong projections”, he stated.

Mr. Sampson Ahi, MP for Juaboso in the Western Region raised a point of Order and argued that the President's projections were based on players in the industry adopting good agronomic practices on their various farms.

Mr. Isaac Osei doubted his fellow MP's comments and reiterated that even Cote d' Ivoire, the worlds leader in cocoa production is producing 800kgh per hecter.

He also laid emphasis on Malaysia and Indonesia as countries producing 1000kg per hecter. He also buttressed his claim on the various research institutes around the world attaining 1200kg per hecter under research conditions.

He however, commended the President for acknowledging the works of his predecessor, saying “I believe that the show of statesmanship if allowed to permeate in all his activities would augur well for the country in the ensuing four years”.

He also commended the President for his vision to promote the activities of the private sector but was, however, worried about recent events happening in the country, ranging from post election violence to car snatching from public officials. This, he said, does not augur well for businesses because it gives the impression to the business community that their private properties cannot be protected.

“What are the current happenings in the state? You cannot escape these very important issues and say that you've given a true state of the nation address. Today, we are witnessing post election violence and we are witnessing car snatching. These do not augur well for the businesses environment because it gives the impression to the business community that their private properties cannot be protected.

The private business looks to a reduction in the cause of doing business. That is the bottom line for private business”, he added.

Nana Akomea, in seconding the motion conceded that the President's speech was quite reconciliatory but lacks new ideas, and he failed to highlight on the recent harassment of public officials and the ex-gratia awards, which the President failed to agree to a consensus with all the parties involved.

He commended the president for his commitment to continue the relationship between the executive and the citizenry through media interaction since his predecessor, for President Kufuor did.

He commended the President for pledging to sustain the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), but said his vision for the one time premium payment if achieved would be a marked difference of the current situation.

“I believed that this one is a new initiative that if he is able to carry through would be a marked difference of the current situation”, he noted. He however, promised to throw his weight behind the initiative if it appears on the floor of the House for consideration, and believed other members would do same.

In his concluding statement, he suggested to the presidency to take away the fight against corruption from the control of the executive.

He also welcomed the separation of the Attorney General role from the Ministry of Justice, adding that “this would empower our fight against corruption”.

Nana Akomeah, who was so concerned about corruption in the country, also suggested that the Serious Fraud Office to be made an independent body in order to strengthen the country's quest in the fight against corruption.

“These are issues that the President should tackle very seriously”, he added. Nana Akomeah was also worried about the time and manner with which the Judiciary operates, a situation which he said does not favour the ordinary Ghanaian citizen.

He therefore suggested to the President to put his mind to making the judicial process less time consuming and less cumbersome so that the ordinary people can access justice.

But a member from the Majority side disputed the opinions from the minority side that the President's speech lacked vision and new ideas. He however, highlighted on the new and fresh ideas that the President intends rolling out to improve on the welfare of the citizenry.

Among the innovative ideas he highlighted from the President's State of the Nation Address include the Savannah Development Authority, the Economic Act of the legislature, Secretaries and Research assistants to MPs and the Malaria Research Centre.