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27.02.2013 Feature Article

State Of The Nation Address OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL Delivered By H. E. John Dramani Mahama President Of The Republic Of Ghana

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Continued from yesterday issue
In the course of this year, and under the policy on public private partnerships, feasibility studies will commence on the dualisation of the Accra- Cape Coast- Takoradi road, and the rehabilitation and expansion of the Accra- Tema motorway. New interchanges are also planned for the Tema end of the motorway and the Kasoa-Bawjiase intersection.

Work will commence this year too on a new interchange at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle. It is also my hope that the project for the PPP in respect of the multi-carriage Accra-Kumasi Highway will be approved by Parliament for work to commence this year.

RAILWAY
Mr. Speaker, the (government's plan to revamp and modernize the railway sector is ongoing. There has been tremendous work in this sector and I recall my meeting with the railway workers at the 'Bottom Tree' in Sekondi. I can confidently say to them today, that as we continue with our railway sector development programme there will be significant signs of improvement within the next three years.

Government believes the private sector has a role to play in the on-going modernization of the rail sector, an example being the rehabilitation of the Accra-Tema, Kumasi-Ejisu, the Accra Nsawam and Takoradi-Kojokrom rail networks.

Mr. Speaker, as they say in Oseikrom, the Kumasi airport is now busier than Kejetia lorry park.

That description is a reflection of the brisk business at our airports. Available data shows that

passenger traffic through our International Airport has more than quadrupled in the last 3 years.

Domestic passenger traffic on the other hand has increased ten-fold.

This remarkable progress is putting immense strain on our airport infrastructure, which we continue to expand. As a matter of priority Government has commissioned the immediate exploration of plans for the construction of a new international airport in Accra, and complementary expansion of the airports in Kumasi, Tamale, Sunyani and Takoradi. Feasibility studies for the construction of Aerodromes in Ho, Cape Coast, Koforidua, Bolgatanga, would be undertaken this year. We will commence a feasibility study on the establishment of a new national airline in collaboration with the private sector under a PPP arrangement.

Mr. Speaker, as we continue to expand the infrastructure at the Tema and Takoradi ports, we are also focused on the construction of a modern deep seaport in Takoradi. I have directed the Ministers of Transport and Finance to undertake an investigation of unauthorized fees and charges at our airport and ports which are putting which are putting unbearable hardship on our importers.

HOUSING AND URBAN RENEWAL
Mr. Speaker, one of the areas that I am passionate about is the concept of urban renewal. I believe that one of the most basic human rights we must guarantee every Ghanaian is the right to a safe, secure and accessible place of convenience. The pollution of our environment and especially our beachfronts is depressing.

Government will in the next three years work with all stakeholders to ensure that the National Housing Policy document is not only finalized and approved by both Cabinet and Parliament; but also, work feverishly to ensure that relevant legislation is put in place to provide the necessary foundation as well as legal framework for implementation.

Government will this year initiate a pilot scheme to combine social housing with improved sanitation and water supply. This will particularly concentrate on the dense urban slums where the phenomenon of safe sanitation and waste disposal are very weak.

We will be working to consolidate the various strategies being implemented to bridge the huge housing deficit. These strategies, which are in themselves opportunities for public-private partnership arrangements, will include the construction of low cost units for lower income groups, rural and social housing for the very poor and mortgage facilities for those who can afford.

Mr. Speaker, I am deeply concerned about how the challenges in the housing sector, have led to exorbitant rents that do not only violate our rent law but also suffocate the average Ghanaian. I will work hard to address this challenge.

Mr. Speaker, water supply is currently precarious in some communities including significant parts of Accra. This is in spite of the several efforts we have been making to improve the supply of good drinking water, especially to Ghanaians.

 
It is worth noting however that these efforts are beginning to yield some results. The situation however requires massive investment in new water delivery infrastructure and timely maintenance like the ongoing works at the Kpong headworks. In the medium to long term, we will seek to devolve authority from centralized urban water management systems to a more decentralized management for efficiency and cost effective delivery.

Mr. Speaker, a multi-agency sanitation task force was set.up to coordinate a nation-wide cleanu p exercise from September to December 2012. This sanitation management effort has helped to address part of the waste disposal problem.

The Task Force experience is now being reviewed in order to engage all the stakeholders, including the District Assemblies, in a more sustained and concerted effort to rid our country of the unsightly rubbish heaps that are threatening the health of our communities.

Mr. Speaker, my focus is on waste and sanitation management systems not just waste collection and disposal. The emphasis will also be on waste recovery and recycling as well as providing incentives to increase private sector participation in the hygiene, sanitation and pollution control sector.

The start of the CONTI project in Accra financed by the US EXIM will see significant improvement in flood control and solid and liquid waste management in the capital city.

MINING
Mr. Speaker, our mining sector needs substantial reform to ensure that we move towards economically and socially sustainable mining. The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has been tasked to ensure that mining in Ghana is undertaken responsibly and meets community needs and expectations.

Mr. Speaker, mining must create employment that matches its type, provides fair economic returns to the community and protects the environment.

As I recently announced, Government will rigidly enforce the laws of Ghana by addressing the illegal invasion of foreigners in our small-scale mining sector. This problem has been fully investigated and we have concluded that there is an unacceptable collusion between some Ghanaians and these foreigners to circumvent our laws.

Mr. Speaker, a series of decisive measures are underway to purge the system and better regulate small-scale mining, in order to create and sustain employment, for Ghanaians, primarily.

ENERGY AND PETROLEUM
Mr. Speaker, millions of Ghanaians and businesses are today experiencing very erratic and frustrating electricity supply. It is a situation that I am deeply concerned about, and to which I have devoted considerable energy to solving. This is especially because compounding the problem of unstable power supply as an equally worrying issue of unreliable water supply to some communities.

The current developments do not reflect the investments and progress we have been making in the area of electricity generation. What should be our successes and rather augment available generation capacity has unfortunately been undermined by a number of unforeseen developments.

We had made good progress in fixing the damage done to the West African Gas Pipeline Company (WAPCO) only to experience a drawback, when nearly 600 kilometres of the pipeline was inundated with seawater.

Mr. Speaker, in a frantic effort to pump the seawater out, two of our most experienced engineers lost their lives tragically in an underwater explosion. Permit me to use this occasion to send my deepest condolences to the bereaved families.

The repercussions of the incapacitated gas pipeline has brought near total darkness to our neighbours in Togo and Benin, and led to the loss of over 250 MW of electricity supply to Ghana.

Mr. Speaker, work on the WAGPI is now planned for completion in April 2013.

As President I am adequately aware of the challenges and the extreme discomfort that this is causing to the generality of our people and businesses. This situation causes me sleepless nights. We have had to work round the clock to bring many plants into operation earlier than scheduled while we await the restoration of the plants affected by the absence of gas from the WAPCO.

We are expecting the addition of over 500 MW of installed generation capacity this year. This

includes:
132 MW from the Takoradi 3 Thermal Plant by end of February

130 MW from the Bui Hydroelectric Power Project by end of April and increased to 400MW by end of September, 2 MW from a Solar Park at Navrongo by end of February with the addition of Takoradi 3 this month, and the first power from Bui in April, our current deficit of about 200 MW at peak, should be sufficiently ameliorated. While this will give us comfort from the current unpleasant load shedding, the system will still be fragile with a slim margin of redundancy. Restoration of the WAGPI and Asogli coming back on stream will give us a better margin of comfort.

Work has also started on a 161KV Tumu-Han-Wa transmission line in the Upper West Region.

Other projects are the Kpando-Kadjebi Transmission Project, a new 330KV transmission line from

Aboadze-Prestea-Kumasi-Tamale-Bolgatanga among others.

Mr. Speaker, Government's overall objective for the energy sector is to ensure reliable, stable and progressively cheap power for economic development in the country and the wider West African region.

Ultimately developing and bringing on stream our own gas potential will guarantee affordable power to support the acceleration in growth of our economy. Gas from our Western field provides us with enough flexibilities and cost-efficient ways of additional power generation. This project will receive my personal attention. Work is progressing steadily on the Gas Infrastructure Project at Atuabo in the Ellemebelle district of the Western Region, when completed by the end of this year, it will put us on track to achieve the planned expansion of 5,000MW capacity of power generation by 2016.

Government will continue during the year, to support the utility companies to carry out distribution system improvement projects and increase electricity access to all parts of the country under the 'Energy for All' programme to ensure universal access by 2016.

Mr. Speaker, we are progressing steadily in the area of renewable energy, by installing Solar systems for remote Public Institutions and Community Lighting in off-grid communities. In addition, Government will implement pilot mini-grid electrification for lakeside and island communities.

The private sector has shown considerable interest in investing in the renewable energy sector. Government will ensure that the feed-in-tariff is published to encourage these private investors

Mr. Speaker, we will commence the distribution of over twenty thousand solar lanterns to replace kerosene lanterns and reduce indoor air pollution in remote rural homes. This intervention forms part of government's efforts to protect the vulnerable in our society and to ensure that they have alternative and affordable sources of energy.

Mr. Speaker, the GNPC through joint ventures continue to explore the hydrocarbon potential of our sedimentary basins.

As part of measures to promote local content and participation in the petroleum industry, an Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) with support from the Jubilee Partners will be fully operational this year.

The centre will be located in the Western Region to facilitate the training of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME5)to be properly positioned to take advantage of the oil and gas industry.

We will proceed with local content legislation to ensure Ghanaian participation in this blessing of nature God has bestowed on us. We will implement local content In a manner that is a win-win for Ghana and our foreign partners in Ghana's growing oil and gas industry.

Mr. Speaker, this year we will start a restructuring of TOR to restore it to its former glory as the most efficient refinery on the west coast of Africa. We will carry this out with strategic partners who are willing to invest in a PPP with the Government of Ghana.

The Bulk Oil Storage Company (BOST) will be reorganized to play its role in strategic storage and distribution of petroleum products.

Mr. Speaker, security for oil and gas continues to be a major priority. The Navy, Airforce and Army have been retooled to establish a safe and secure corridor for our oil and gas installations. We will continue to provide security for both onshore and offshore oil and gas infrastructure against disruptive threats and theft while putting in place anti-piracy infrastructure. The completion of the Vessel Tracking and Monitoring System being installed by the Ghana Maritime Authority will allow us to use radar to identify unauthorized vessels that enter our territorial waters.

We will place emphasis on integrating community groups into protection arrangements thereby supporting employment growth even as we undertake a comprehensive assessment of risks to our maritime assets including downstream and onshore facilities such as pipelines.

PILLAR FOUR: TRANSPARENT AND ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNANCE

Mr. Speaker, Ghana continues to exhibit strong leadership in democratic governance, which makes us the envy of many nations. As noted earlier, we have just come out of an historic election which witnessed progressive reforms including the use of a biometric voters register and biometric verification for voting which has been acclaimed by both domestic and international observers as free, fair and transparent.

Government will continue to support the Electoral Commission by providing it with the needed resources to carry out its programmes and reforms.

The independence of the judiciary would be upheld and we would work to improve conditions of work of the judiciary. We will work with the Judicial Council to continue the process of providing new and more modern court rooms and provide the instruments and equipment to facilitate the work of the judges.

Mr. Speaker, Government will continue to partner with community-based organisations and civil society especially in the areas of public service reform and delivery.

In pursuing this objective, the Government of Ghana will develop mechanisms for promoting citizen-based monitoring and evaluation of public policies and programs, as well as providing feedback and suggestions on ways of improving the targeting of social and economic development programmes. Civil society will continue to have limitless space to participate in our governance system. It is healthy and allows growth of democratic governance.

Mr. Speaker, We will guarantee freedom of worship as enshrined in our constitution and continue to promote peaceful coexistence of all religions in our country. It is expected that the umbrella religious organizations will in turn implement self-regulation to curb the excesses of some of their members who give the clergy a bad name.

Mr. Speaker, the role of traditional institutions, will be strengthened to promote accountable governance. Working with the National House of Chiefs, the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs has been re-aligned to provide more vigorous interface between chieftaincy and tradition. We will progressively improve the allowances given to Paramount chiefs and Queenmothers to facilitate the execution of their traditional duties.

Mr. Speaker, a strong parliament is a strong democracy. Strengthening Parliament is also a crucial element in managing a successful transition to middle-income status. This includes ensuring that Parliament has the capacity to play its oversight role effectively.

Mr. Speaker, the 'Job 600' project, which will ensure that Members of Parliament can operate from descent offices, is almost complete. MPs can expect to be furnished with laptops with full Internet connectivity to facilitate communication between trieir ottices and constituents as promised in the NDC manifesto.

In my first term, we will seek to strengthen Parliament by:

• Establishing the Democracy Fund proposed by the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) to provide sustainable funding for Parliament, Independent Governance Institutions and other pro-democracy governance bodies.

- Strengthening the Committees of Parliament by ensuring that the Chairpersons and Ranking Members of Parliament are accorded recognition consistent with their status and responsibilities as recommended by the CRC.

- Commence a feasibility study for the construction of a new Parliamentary Chamber block on the premises of the state house.

- We will also explore appropriate housing for MP5 in order to guarantee their safety and security.

DECENTRALIZATION AND LOCAL GOVERNANCE
Mr. Speaker, effective decentralization in governance and decision-making starts with the Presidency. I have therefore instructed the Cabinet office to ensure that Cabinet meetings rotate between Accra and the Regional capitals. By this, millions of our citizens outside Accra will have the opportunity each month to witness and participate in the process of decision-making directly.

Mr. Speaker, during my first term as President, every effort will be made to ensure that some of the far-reaching proposals emanating from the CRC's report on decentralization such as the election of Chief Executives at the local level is given the needed impetus. We will mainstream the concept of Local Economic Development (LED) to facilitate, develop and implement employment creation programmes based on the natural resource endowments and the comparative advantages of every district.

We will continue to strengthen our decentralized local governance system by implementing the programme to establish the remaining seven decentralized Departments of the District Assemblies and identifying new Departments for decentralization whose capacities are needed by the District Assemblies such as the Departments of Women and of Children and the Statistical Service.

We will also commence a phased programme for the provision of administrative, economic and social infrastructure for the 1o6 new districts created in 2003, 2007 and 2012 and extend the composite budget system to cover the 46 new District Assemblies established in 2012.

THE MEDIA
Mr. Speaker, the Broadcasting Bill has been on the drawing board for a long time. We must hasten to pass the Bill so that national standards for the electronic media can be established.

Ghanaian Chronicle
Ghanaian Chronicle, © 2013

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