Hon. Dr Kwame Addo Kufuor, Ghana's Minister of Defence has said in London that the outcome of the 2004 elections had clearly demonstrated that Ghanaian voters were now of age and that no politician could take them voter for a ride.
He said many influential Ministers and Parliamentarians lost their seats while some escaped narrowly from defeat. Based on the outcome of the elections, he said, it could be said that Ghanaian voters were beginning to assess their representatives critically.
Delivering the keynote address at the fourth annual forum for the Ghanaian community in the UK, he described the elections as highly competitive and pointed out that the position of the Speaker became a battle between the major political parties.
He thanked the Ghanaian community for their support, interest and prayers which culminated in the success of the elections.
Hon Dr. Addo Kufuor said Ghana's democratic governance, her reasonably efficient management of her economic resources as well as good neighbourliness policy had combined to give the country stature in Africa and the wider world.
Supporting the honourable were Mr. Kwamena Bartels, Minister of Private Sector and Presidential Special Initiative H.E. Mr. Isaac Osei, Ghana's High Commissioner to the UK and Mr. F.O. Mpare, Chief Director of the Ministry of Defence.
The forum is held annually for the Ghanaian community to sensitise them on developments at home and give participants the opportunity to ask questions on national issues.
Top Ghanaian highlife exponents, Ben Brako and Smart Nkansah, treated the gathering to a variety of songs from their rich repertoire while Mr. Andy Kofie excited the gathering with some reggae songs.
The Ghana Chaplaincy and the Ghana Methodist Chaplaincy Choirs under the direction of Messrs. Samuel Kow Arthur and J.J Amoah sang a number of patriotic. Quite instructive was the solo rendition of the national pledge by Mr. Dela Doe President of the Ghana Nurses Association, UK.
Launched at the forum was the new website on Ghana by Mr Paul Adom –Otchere, Head of Current Affairs of CITI FM.
Dr. Addo Kufuor used the occasion to speak on progress so far achieved in various sectors of the economy. He mentioned, among things, developments in the economy, education, road construction, health sectors and added that the government would continue to offer good leadership to propel Ghana into a prosperous state.
After the presentation Dr. Addo Kufuor, Hon. Kwamena Bartels and Mr Osei took turns to answer questions from participants. Some of the questions centred on the benefits of HIPC, the refusal of CEPS officials to accept invoice of goods brought into the country, child labour, recent increase in petroleum prices, the operation of a new national airline and the need for Ghanaians abroad to vote in the 2008 elections.
In answer to a question on child labour, Dr. Addo Kufuor said the issue was of concern to the government and added that the new education scheme would greatly help in taking the children off of the street.
Touching on the new Inland Port being built at Boankra in the Ashanti Akyem District he said the project would greatly help to ease congestion at the Tema and Takoradi Ports
To a question on the security of the country's borders, Dr. Kufuor said appropriate mechanisms had been put in place to keep our borders safe and also to ensure the peace and stability of the country.
With regard to the participation of Ghanaians abroad in the 2008 elections, Dr. Addo Kufuor said the government firmly believed that Ghanaians should be given the opportunity to vote and that the government would on its part would help to turn their dream into a reality..
On his part, Hon Bartels spoke on the benefits of HIPC to the nation and stressed that the good people of Ghana were now benefiting from projects undertaken in the health, sanitation, water and education sectors.
He told the forum about the need for Ghanaian companies and individuals to stop the practice of under-invoicing with the intention of attracting lower taxes on imports
Mr. Bartels also spoke of the government's determination to revive the national airline and promised Ghanaians that the carrier would soon emerge on the scene.
Mr Osei said measures had been put in place to mitigate the effects of the recent upward adjustment of petroleum. He explained that the increase was the beginning of deregulation in the sector.
Crude oil and other petroleum products to be imported into the country by the oil marketing companies under deregulation, he said, would however conform to prices determined by the Petroleum Commission.
On the alleged outright sale of lands to foreigners, Mr. Osei said the laws of Ghana did not permit foreigners to have freeholds in Ghana.