ADDRESS BY THE FLAGBEARER OF THE NDC, PROFESSOR JOHN VANS ATTA-MILLS ON THE OCCASION OF THE LAUNCHING OF THE NDC 2004 MANIFESTO KUMASI, SATURDAY 31 JULY 2004
On March 2, this year, I addressed a public forum in Accra on the State Of Our Nation: The Way Forward. I made it clear that the Kufuor administration is moving Ghana in a wrong direction. I gave a broad outline of my plans and vision for this country.
It was a wonderful interaction and was encouraged by the overwhelming support I received from all of you. I cannot thank each of you individually in words; I do so in my heart.
Today, I also want to thank you very much for your presence in such large numbers to participate in the launch of our Election 2004 Manifesto.
As you have heard from previous speakers, the manifesto covers the range of issues I touched on at the public forum, and much more. The vision I outlined in March and the policies, ideas and plans set out in our manifesto complement each other.
I invite all to read it. You do not have to guess what the specifics are. We have avoided the kind of populist rhetoric the NPP engaged in the December 2000 election year; even going to the extent of saying the cedi will be replaced with a stronger and more credible currency. Our sense of pragmatism enjoins us to be responsible.
By the launch of this manifesto, the NDC is putting out a clear message of our intention to base our campaign for the 2004 elections on issues, and not on personalities and peripheral matters.
We are here to talk seriously about issues because Ghanaians deserve to know specifically what the NDC proposes to do so that they can judge for themselves.
And from the brief introductions to the Manifesto, which we have heard this morning, the NDC is simply saying; We are ready for the December elections; We are ready to assume the mantle of government in January 2005.
The NDC's 2004 Manifesto carries the slogan "A Better Ghana". Some people may say that this is too obvious. After all, will any political party say that it stands for a worse Ghana?
All the parties are looking for votes and some will promise the moon. But when the NDC says "A Better Ghana", we are promising qualitative change. I am sorry I cannot say "positive" change, because it has been sadly devalued.
So what is this qualitative change, which will bring "A Better Ghana"?
What I will put first, before anything else, will be to do away with politics of divide and rule and remove the current atmosphere of suspicion, mistrust and marginalisation of anyone who is assumed to be an ally of the opposition. I will put people and development of our country over partisanship.
Now, I have heard people say politicians will always promise and that in an election year, words come cheap. I understand those sentiments. In the final analysis, it boils down to whom you can trust; whose word you choose to believe. If there is one legacy I would like to leave as President of this country, it is the legacy of the obligation of those who seek public office to honour our word to the electorate.
I want to write a new chapter in our history.
There is a great deal of talk nowadays both inside and outside Ghana about "Good Governance". I believe that an essential ingredient in good governance is trust. Trust can only exist, whether between individuals or between a government and a people, where there is truth. Truth has to be earned, not by promises and declarations but by proven commitment, frankness and integrity of action.
I believe we have had enough of double standards, hypocrisy and suspicion, enough of deception and spin doctoring, enough of people who commit the very things which only a few years ago they vehemently condemned in others.
I want to restore trust and truth to governance, because although I am confident that the NDC is ready with carefully considered policies and programmes to address our quest for "A Better Ghana", and I know we have men and women of talent, integrity and competence to translate those policies into reality, that is not enough. Those are the building blocks of good governance but trust is the cement, which should hold them together.
Quite understandably, there is growing scepticism with politics in Ghana. Some even say elections do not matter to them again because it will always be the same.
Please hear me out: Elections do matter because a President can make a difference and I, Atta Mills will make that difference!
I believe in fairness. I believe being reasonable is a virtue every President must have. I believe in a government that listens, but listens to all sides. I believe when individuals do well, the nation prospers. Therefore where there is injustice and unfairness against any individual, you can count on me to speak out. I never hide behind silence.
The NPP government thinks they are always right, and anyone who criticizes is an enemy who must be destroyed. They may be right, we may be wrong or vice-versa, but it does not mean we in the opposition should be treated as enemies. Dissent is a valuable part of democracy. Any measures whether deliberate or unintended, which seeks to intimidate or criminalize political opponents at the least provocation is an affront to our democratic struggles.
I want to write a new chapter in our history.
Throughout the country, there is a yearning for an end to the politics of hate, of vengeance and intolerance. It is a challenge I have accepted. Atta Mills cannot predict how much crude oil will cost next year, or how much a ton of cocoa will cost. I cannot predict the price of an ounce of gold next year. I have no control over those. But I can predict one thing I will do next year. Under the Presidency of Atta Mills, you will have a Ghana free of unnecessary partisanship, political vindictiveness and free of ethnic politics.
Every politician talks peace. Every President talks peace. But few of us recognise that you do not seek peace with your friend. You seek peace with your opponents. This is where I start from. As your President, I will talk to my political rivals, treat them with respect, and hear them even as they also hear me. No matter what, I will not withdraw courtesies due to any former President or anyone who has served this nation at the highest possible levels. As political parties we are competitors but we can stake out common positions to confront the challenges facing the nation.
I want to write a new chapter in our history.
The government that will take charge of national affairs in January 2005 must be one that has philosophy and a vision for the future. Whilst any realistic government must have the courage and transparency to adapt to changing circumstances, it must have basic, unchangeable principles as its solid foundation.
I often hear people say the economic policies and programmes of the NDC and NPP do not differ. I beg to disagree. The philosophy of social democracy which the NDC subscribes to and which enjoins a government to be caring and compassionate is fundamentally different from the NPP's philosophy of property owning democracy. Ours is in keeping with the principle of each being his brother's keeper. That of the NPP is each man for himself.
Another difference between the NDC and the NPP is that we believe in widening the circle of opportunity for ALL Ghanaians and not just a few family members and select group of individuals. The NDC believes that the average Ghanaian family deserve to open the door to their dream of "A Better Ghana". This is what social democracy and our manifesto seek to achieve.
To the NDC team and I, "A Better Ghana" means more jobs - jobs which are not merely temporary vote-catching creations, but which are the product of a growing and sustainable economy.
"A Better Ghana" means existing businesses will survive with new and bigger ones springing up. As always, I will be pro-business and the opportunities which will come will spread to all irrespective of political affiliation. We will employ and train school graduates to assist small businesses and commercial enterprises in tax filing and other documentation necessary for business development and to gain access to credit for growth.
"A Better Ghana" means reducing the cost of living.
"A Better Ghana" means investing more in the education of Ghanaians. Education will remain our number one national priority. We will not rest until every school in Ghana gets a qualified teacher and becomes a good place for quality education. We want to transform the work places into centers of education. We want to encourage businesses to make a major commitment to a continuous training programme to improve the skills of workers to master the new economy.
Very soon a single strand of fibre-optic cable, about the thickness of human hair, will have the ability to transmit all the phone calls we make in Ghana in a day. We must invest in worker training so that the Ghanaian worker will be ahead of the curve. Workers are adults and with higher levels of education, they will serve their families better.
"A Better Ghana" means improved infrastruct"A Better Ghana" means reduced crime rate.
"A Better Ghana" means feeding ourselves; growing what we eat and eating what we grow.
"A Better Ghana" means a health conscious nation, an efficient health care delivery system and winning the war against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
"A Better Ghana" means a more committed and dedicated approach to the fight against corruption, sleaze, cronyism and nepotism.
"A Better Ghana" means greater emphasis on issues concerning women, children and the physically challenged. We intend to remove existing barriers so that those who are called disabled can develop all their abilities. In the December 2004 elections, the NDC is the first party to field a physically challenged Parliamentary candidate (Prof to acknowledge his presence). We mean what we say!
"A Better Ghana" means an impartial Judiciary and security services free from political manipulation.
" A Better Ghana" means an end to selective justice, ethnicity and intolerance.
"A Better Ghana" means using our rich resources responsibly and effectively to benefit all our people now and in the future. It means cutting down the bloated government and its army of elite political functionaries with over-generous remuneration, so that the nation's resources can be used for the people's benefit and not for the luxurious lifestyles of a privileged few.
I am concerned that our Manifesto should not only be read and discussed by all the NDC's many supporters, but that it should also be read by all those who voted for the NPP, but whose high hopes created by the NPP's election promises and the promises made during their term of office that have left them disillusioned and betrayed.
Now is the time for the disadvantaged, the disillusioned and those who find the present atmosphere of mistrust, uncertainty and vindictiveness distasteful to examine the vision of the NDC for "A Better Ghana".
Our election campaign will be based on issues. The NDC team has the competence, the expertise, the programmes, the experience and the passionate belief in a just society to tackle the issues which confront our people along the path towards "A Better Ghana".
My team and I are ready to debate, issue by issue, what needs to be done, so that the electorate can make well-informed choices. I personally hope for the opportunity to debate with President Kufuor face to face, in front of national television.
We need to move away from the politics of vilification, suspicion, harassment, empty slogan shouting, name-calling and intimidation, which is dividing and dragging our society down. We must endeavour to ensure that Ghana's voters exercise their franchise rationally, with genuine political awareness and understanding of the choices to be made.
The fundamental objective of the NDC as a social democratic party is concern for the well being of all Ghanaians. An important part of the well-being which we hope and plan for is economic prosperity, especially at this time when the vast majority of Ghanaians are staggering under a growing burden of escalating taxation, prices of goods and services, educational costs, transport, utilities and many others.
But the well-being is not only a matter of money. The dignity and satisfaction of having a recognised place in society of being respected and involved in matters of governance and grassroots participation, regardless of ethnic, religious, political, family or other affiliations is also crucial.
As I go round the country, I encounter thousands of well-meaning Ghanaians in far away communities working quietly often without recognition to uplift their communities. They need encouragement instead of always focussing on the "big talk" of the "big politician" in the "big city". And I would like to see many more of us in the big cities go back to the village schools we once attended to serve on school boards or be mentors of the pupils. Such small gestures mean a lot more for national development
Tomorrow August 1, 2004, the NPP government's decision to increase the VAT by 2 ½% comes into effect. This increase, justified as one of the sources of funding of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), will affect every person in Ghana.
When you go shopping next week, your already overstretched domestic budget will have to adjust to the shock of a further increase in the cost of everyday items such as milk, tinapa, bread, soap, clothing and many others. All but the most prosperous in our society will have to once again reduce our consumption of items, which contribute to basic nutrition, hygiene and general health. The most vulnerable - children, the aged, the unemployed - will suffer most and will become less resistant to disease.