STATEMENT READ BY HON HARUNA IDDRISU, MINORITY LEADER, ON STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS DELIVERED BY PRESIDENT AKUFO ADDO.
Wednesday, 22nd February 2017
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media. I welcome you all to this important briefing.
Yesterday, Tuesday, 21st February, 2017 saw the delivery of the maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA) by His Excellency President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo.
Being the first SONA to be delivered by him, there was huge expectation that he would use the occasion to offer a broad overview of his vision and plan for Ghana especially in the light of the extravagant promises he made on the campaign trail in the 2016 elections and as contained in the NPP’s manifesto for the same election.
This expectation to the contrary however revealed that the President’s bark doesn’t match his bite. He hid behind brevity in order to avoid touching on many critical sectors that are vital and of importance to the generality of our people.
In so doing, he denied Ghanaians an opportunity to have some detail of what to look out for in terms of meeting their expectations over the next four years. President Akufo Addo not did speak about water provision to our communities, he didn’t touch on housing, there was nothing on roads, youth and sports, tourism, and a host of other critical social investments which are important for the survival of our people.
Even on the things that he touched on, he was high on platitudes and short on substance. Lofty rhetoric and propaganda dominated vast segments of his delivery and in the end an opportunity was missed by him to carry Ghanaians along on his much-vaunted promises.
Spin doctors of the government have been quick to seek refuge in the yet to be presented budget statement. They claim that the budget statement will shed light on the details of the programme of the Akufo Addo/Bawumia government. This claim seeks to place the budget statement ahead of the SONA, which is by far the most important statement presented by any President of Ghana.
Ladies and gentlemen of the media, I now wish to turn attention to some distortions and misleading claims contained in the SONA presented yesterday.
President Akufo Addo in his address yesterday, continued the propagandist path beaten by his Vice President in the run up to the 2016 elections on matters relating to the economy.As if schooled on the subject by his Vice, the President showed that he was yet to come to terms with his new designation as President and came across more as a politician addressing charged party supporters on the campaign platform. Amidst several distortions, half-truths and outright untruths, the President painted the gloomiest picture imaginable of the Ghanaian economy. While this may have worked for him in his bid to be elected President, it is not going to work as President because one is held to a higher standard the moment one assumes the high office of President. Claims that may be overlooked in the past will come under swift and incisive scrutiny so that the Ghanaian people are not misled and fed with falsehood.
Three main claims dominated his delivery on the economy. First he claimed that all macro-economic targets under the IMF programme had been missed and this was the result of reckless expenditure on the part of the immediate past NDC administration. Curiously enough he failed to itemize this so-called reckless expenditure. This was clearly so because such expenditure as he described did not exist.
The President also claimed that the NDC administration accrued 92% of our current debt portfolio which he pegged at GHc122 billion or 74% of GDP. He also repeated the false claim, first made by his Vice President that some GHc 7 billion had not been accounted for by the NDC administration.
Ladies and gentlemen of the media I wish to straighten the records on these claims once and for all. The claims of missed deficit, growth and debt targets are unfounded and not based on the facts.
First of all a budget deficit is essentially the difference between revenue and expenditure expressed as a percentage of GDP. It stands to reason therefore that even if one kept to budgeted expenditure and run short of the required revenue, a deficit would arise which cannot be attributed to recklessness on the part of government. The President himself unwittingly explained the issue when he indicated the shortfall between projected revenue for 2016 and actual revenue generated for that fiscal year.
This shortfall was the result of lower than expected oil production which itself arose out of an unforeseen breakdown of the FPSO and shortfalls in grant payments from donor partners. These cannot be attributed to government’s act of omission or commission.
The 9% budgeted deficit recorded for last year, while not what was projected at the beginning of the fiscal year, represents a significant reduction from the 11.8% recorded in 2012 and is certainly much lower than the 15% the NPP left in 2009 when exiting power.
With regards to the growth rate, it is important to stress that the Ghana Statistical Service, which is the primary source of data on economic management in Ghana and on whom even development partners rely for information on our economy, are yet to release figures for the last quarter of 2016, hence the figure of 3.6% quoted by President Akufo Addo can only provisional if not to create mischief for political gain. We remember of course that political expediency led President Akufo Addo and his Vice President to constantly bastardize the GSS and it remains to be seen how they will relate to that institution now that they are in government.
Might I add also that the NDC holds the record for the highest ever growth rate in the history of Ghana when in 2011 this economy grew by 14.4% which at the time was the highest in the world.
Even the figures quoted by the President as the growth rate for 2016, is higher than the West African average especially when note is taken of recessions in the Nigerian and other economies.
We remain optimistic that our projection in 2016 which was affirmed by the IMF and World Bank is attainable. The President failed to acknowledge the high growth projections for this year by the IMF, World Bank and a host of other international bodies based on the gains made by the immediate past NDC administration.
On the IMF programme itself, we find it curious that President Akufo Addo did not repeat his emphatic statements on the campaign platform that he will review the programme because it was inimical to our interest as a nation.
Following on the heels of a revelation by the Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, that the NPP government was currently involved in negotiations to extend the programme to 2018, it should be clear that the Akufo Addo government has broken yet another campaign promise because reality has dawned on them Ladies and gentlemen of the media, I wish to turn attention and spend some time on the President’s claim about our debt position as a country. For many years the NPP led by its then Vice Presidential candidate and now Vice President ,Dr Mahamadu Bawumia have peddled a concocted a dubious debt calculation formula which seeks to paint a completely misleading picture about our debt profile.
President Akufo Addo merely repeated this dubious narrative yesterday in a bid to malign the NDC administration.
What the two leaders have done is to quote a relatively small figure of GHC 9.5 billion as what they left in 2009 and quote a nominal GHC 122 billion as what currently represents our debt stock. To the unsuspecting mind this would simply mean that GHC 112.5 billion or 92% of our current debt stock was accrued by the NDC administration. This is the false impression that the Akufo Addo/Bawumia government wants Ghanaians to have about our debt stock.
The reality however is that this kind of analysis is deliberately fraudulent and mere propaganda which has no basis in economics or logic.
The truth of the matter is that a uniform formula has been used since time immemorial to asses our debt position as a country. Ghana borrows in multiple currencies (Special Drawing Rights, Dollars, Pound Sterling, Euros among others) from foreign sources and cedis from domestic sources.
Due to the need for uniformity of reporting, our debt is usually denominated either in dollars or cedis. To know how much we owe in dollars, all debts irrespective of currency borrowed in, are converted to dollars at the exchange rate prevailing at the time of the assessment. To convert it to cedis, it is then multiplied by the prevailing exchange rate of the cedi to the dollar.
To further illustrate this point, let us take the total debt stock of Ghana as at January 7th 2009.In dollar terms, it was US$ 8.075 billion dollars even after nearly US$4 billion was wiped off after the HIPC initiative. At an exchange rate of US$ 1 to GHC 1.18 in 2009, this gave the much vaunted GHC 9.5 billion quoted by the President.
Our current total national debt is US$ 28.37 billion which at a current exchange rate of US$1 to GHC 4.3 gives the GHC122 billion President Akufo Addo mentioned in his address. The misleading claims about the contribution of the NDC to this debt stems from a mathematical and economic deception performed by Dr Bawumia when he holds the cedi constant from 2009 to 2016 and pretends that the US$ 8.075 billion left by his party in 2009 which forms part of the current US$ 28.37billion has not been affected by exchange rate movements over the last 8 years.
In actual fact the total contribution of the NDC to the national debt stock can be obtained by subtracting the US$8.075 billion left by the NPP from the US$ 28.37 billion dollars which represents our total debt at the moment. This gives US$ 20 billion or GHC 87 billion and not the false figure of GHC 112 billion or 92% which Dr Bawumia and lately President Akufo Addo have been peddling.
The NPP at the current exchange rate contributed GHC34.72 billion to the debt stock. They must own up to this and refrain from the revisionist politicking about our debt despite persistent corrections from the managers of the economy under the NDC.
It is a strategy of the NPP to deliberately ignore the fact that these monies borrowed have been used to finance the largest provision of economic and social infrastructure in Ghana’s history. In the process real value was added to the economy and thousands of jobs created. No government has spent more to provide such critical infrastructure like roads, schools, hospitals, transportation, housing, water, and communications among others than the immediate past Mahama Administration.
This perhaps informs President Akufo Addo’s inability or unwillingness to speak about these crucial sectors in his address lest his party’s abysmal record in this regard be exposed. Without these important investments, all his lofty promises including one district one factory, Free SHS, One Village one Dam would not be possible.
It is ironical that having made such loud noises about borrowing and vowing not to borrow, the NPP has indicated its intent to borrow a colossal GHC17 billion from the domestic bond market in the first quarter of this year alone. This amounts to 14% of the entire debt stock owed by Ghana since independence. No greater betrayal of trust surpasses this manoeuvre.
While the President seeks to exaggerate our debt, we see major investments in the future of our country.Investment that would yield dividends for many years to come and benefit generations yet unborn.
Ladies and gentlemen of the media, In an unfortunate twist to this year’s SONA, President Akufo Addo repeated the inaccurate claim that GHC7 billion in government contracts were not budgeted for or disclosed to the then incoming NPP administration. It is instructive to note that unlike Vice President Bawumia, the President did not say that the said GHC7 billion was money that had gone missing from government coffers.
Be that as it may, in repeating this claim in whatever form, the President confirmed our suspicion that his men and women are yet to have a firm grasp of the new accounting system that is used to capture all government contracts. We wish to place on record that contracts awarded by MDAs under the NDC administration have been accounted for and if the NPP government is having difficulty understanding the new contract database and its interpretation even after reportedly outsourcing the management of the economy to the McKinsey group, let them call for help.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The President’s presentation on the economy was deliberately one-sided. He failed to balance his attacks on the record of the NDC’s management of the economy with candid admissions about significant gains made in the period under review. He failed for instance to speak about inflation. This was a clear, albeit silent acknowledgment of the NDC’s superiority when it comes to keeping inflation under control.
We are after all the party with the best record in terms of having the longest sustained period of single-digit inflation. Since the last quarter of 2016, inflation has been on a steady decline falling to 13.3% in January, 2017 from 15.4% in December 2016.In December of 2008 when the NPP was exiting office, inflation was 18%.
The President was also silent on the depreciation of the cedi which has become a major source of concern for the Ghanaian business community. Whereas the cedi fell by only 9.5% in the whole of 2016, it has plummeted by 4.5% in the first month of the Akufo Addo/Bawumia government alone.
To put this in perspective the cedi performed much better in an election year 2016 under the NDC than it did in 2008, another election year under the NPP when it fell by a catastrophic 25.3%.
Conspicuously missing in the President’s take on the economy was the performance of the Treasury bill rate under the NDC. From 24.5% in December 2013, the 91-day Treasury bill rate is now 16%.
Nothing was heard from the President on several initiatives by the NDC government which have created new sources of revenue to support economic growth and help meet some expenditure items. A case in point is the Sinking Fund established by the NDC government through which over US$ 350 million has been realised to help pay off the US$ 750 million Eurobond floated by the NPP in 2007.
Mention can also be made of the Petroleum Funds which include the Stabilization Fund and the now famous Heritage Fund which the NPP government through its Senior Minister, had only last week hastily earmarked to fund the lofty Free SHS programme until public opprobrium forced them to beat a retreat in the matter.
This selective approach by the President when discussing the economy is symptomatic of the general lack of candour by the NPP in matters relating to the economy.
Sufficient work had been done by the NDC to facilitate further economic growth and its consolidation.
Acknowledging same will take nothing away from the President and his government. The resort to thinly-veiled attacks on past regimes and the effort made to run down their contributions towards economic growth and national development as a whole has long since fallen out of favour with the Ghanaian public.
Ghanaians are not in the mood for convenient politicking and rampant excuse-making. They expect nothing more than fidelity to the many promises made by President Akufo Addo on the campaign platform and the fulfilment of same.
Ladies and gentlemen, On the Energy Sector, the President claimed that US$ 2.4 billion of debt has been left by the immediate past NDC government. What he did not add was that, these are legacy debts accrued over a period spanning four governments under the Fourth Republic.
It was in recognition of the need to amortise these debts and free up credit lines for the various utility companies that the NDC government introduced the Energy Sector Levies.
Through this mechanism, the portion of the debt owed to the Banks amounting to about GHC 800 million was restructured by leveraging some proceeds that had accrued from the levy. This gave the Banks and the utilities substantial breathing space while efforts were made to deal with the components of the debts owed to suppliers.
It must be recalled that President Akufo Addo and the NPP promised while campaigning to scrap this levy. The President was however silent on the fate of this levy which perhaps gives credence to indications by the Finance Minister that the levy will be maintained contrary to their campaign promise.
We await word on what they will do with this important levy which represents the most viable option to pay down the legacy debts which had crippled the country’s utilities for years.
It is noteworthy that in opposition, the NPP claimed to be opposed to the Compact II signed by Ghana with the Millennium Challenge Cooperation which focuses on a concession programme for the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG).
We had always known and we believe also Ghanaians do know that this was nothing short of populism and political grandstanding intended to curry favour with the electorate and workers of ECG.
President Akufo Addo and the NPP have come to terms with the plain truth that the concession plan was the best option for salvaging the fortunes of the ECG and are now embracing it.
Their promise to review the Compact has met with the objective reality and that rhetoric has given way to a new tune that only underscores the prudence and sincerity in the position of the then NDC government on the matter.
It is our hope that they see through that important exercise to its logical conclusion. The insincerity in their behaviour will however not be lost on Ghanaians.
Still in the power sector, President Akufo Addo indicated in his address that his government intended to list VRA and GRIDCO on the Ghana Stock Exchange. We are convinced that this is only a euphemism for the wholesale privatization of both vital state power companies and we urge President Akufo Addo to come clear on the matter to foster proper national debate on the subject.
EMPLOYMENT AND JOB CREATION
Ladies and Gentlemen of the media, The President’s SONA was particularly thin on employment, a major issue on which the NPP rode to power. Beyond the repetition of campaign mantra and slogans, no concrete plan to tackle the issue was discernible from the President’s speech. This vague policy platform with regards to job creation must be a source of worry for the teeming unemployed youth of Ghana.
It must be even more disconcerting to them that some of the very first steps taken by the Akufo Addo/Bawumia government have served to render thousands of Ghanaian youth , lawfully employed under the NDC government, jobless.
In the first month of this government:
205 employees of the National Service Scheme have been unceremoniously dismissed on very flimsy and clearly partisan considerations.
110 middle level staff of COCOBOD in lawful employment have also been dismissed for no apparent reason.
8,634 Nurses who had received financial clearance and had been employed in various public health institutions have been thrown out of their jobs by the Akufo Addo/Bawumia government.
265 Police recruits who had reached advanced stages of training have had their dreams of entering the police service crushed by an unreasonable decision to dismiss them. 525 National Security personnel have also been shown the exit and asked to go home by this government.
This represents a clear slap in the face of jobless Ghanaian youth and would further deepen their anxiety and desperation. It further marks an unforgivable betrayal of the many unemployed youth who voted for the NPP on the basis of tantalizing promises to give them jobs.
Ladies and Gentlemen, President Akufo Addo began his address by lamenting the spate of lawlessness that has characterised the conduct of thugs loyal to him and the NPP. This lamentation however will do little to convince Ghanaians that he has the mettle to deal with obvious wrongdoing in his party and government.
Ghanaians have been witnesses to the brazen acts of criminality, violence and thuggery unleashed on innocent, law abiding citizens by bandits calling themselves “invisible forces” since the declaration of the results of the December 2016 elections.
Despite trite knowledge that these NPP thugs are loyal to him and served as his personal security guards, the President has taken no action against them to end the unprovoked violence against citizens of this country. Many Ghanaians especially NDC members including leading functionaries of the party have been victims of unlawful invasions and seizures of their private properties. In other instances, these thugs have staged forceful takeovers of government offices and sensitive installations under the bizarre pretext of providing unsolicited security services.
The activities of these miscreants came to a shocking crescendo when they assaulted a senior police officer ASP Nanka Bruce at the Flagstaff House of all places, while the latter was going about his normal duties.
In this index case,a feeble condemnation premised on a subtle attempt at equalization with events of 2009 will not suffice. CCTV footage exists to enable firm action to be taken against the hoodlums who desecrated the seat of government with that vicious attack on the hard-working police officer.
Further to this, the President must ensure a cessation of the unwarranted harassment and seizure of property belonging to leading figures of the NDC. After 60 years of nationhood, it is inexcusable that a lawfully-constituted government cannot apply finesse in the retrieval of supposedly-missing state assets but resorts to unlawful means to justify false claims of supposed missing assets.
Platitudes and exhortations will yield no results. Only stern action against persons violating Ghanaian law with impunity because their party has won elections is required.
Mr President please act now! Ladies and Gentlemen, President Akufo Addo committed a grave omission when nullifying the oft-repeated wise saying that “charity begins at home”.
The President did not utter a word on the regrettable carnage that has led to unacceptable deaths, suffering and displacement of people at Bimbilla which is incidentally the hometown of the current Defence Minister. The President chose instead to devote more time to events in Gambia which predate his Presidency.
While one can understand the President’s desire to extricate himself from a not too pleasant history with Gambia, it is unpardonable that he did not find it worthy to remember the suffering of those affected by the conflict in his own country, specifically Bimbilla. Equally worrying was the President’s failure to touch on Ghana’s position on major Geo-political happenings like the situation in the US regarding immigration bans, recent developments in some theatres of conflict around the world, the Israeli Palestinian issue, terrorism in the West African sub-region and a myriad of global events on which Ghana’s voice must be heard.
Too little was said about important sectors like education, health, electricity provision, access to water, transportation, communications, housing, roads, governance, media,civil society, sports and security to make for any meaningful analysis or rebuttal.
We however took note of the President’s assertion that the Takoradi to Paga rail-line with connections from the Western to Eastern Corridor will be initiated this year. Here too, there was no acknowledgment by the President of the significant work done by the NDC government to open up the railway sector.
The John Mahama administration completed the beginning of the Western Rail line by constructing the Sekondi Takoradi via Kojokrom Rail-line. In addition,a Railway Master plan which would form the basis for any further development of that sector was drawn up.
An amount of US$300 million was secured by the NDC government for construction of the Tema to Akosombo Rail-line and it is our expectation that this project will be faithfully executed by this government to ensure that the intended benefits are derived.
In the Road sector, funds were secured for or work had commenced on the the following important projects and we look forward to their completion; The Pokuase ACP Junction Interchange; The Obetsebi Lamptey Interchange; The Volivo Bridge; The Flower Pot to East Legon Flyover The Tema Roundabout Interchange among others In the water sector, the Akufo Addo government must build on the 80% water coverage achieved by the NDC administration to ensure water for all by 2020 in line with the National water policy.We also expect that national electricity coverage will be made universal in view of the 82.5% coverage achieved by the NDC government.
In the housing sector we will be watching to see the fair and equitable allocation of the completed
Saglemi and Borteyman housing projects and the continuation and completion of all ongoing housing projects to boost the national housing stock.
Ladies and Gentlemen, We note that the President and his spokespersons have sought refuge in the budget statement to be presented by the Finance Minister next week. We are told that the scanty detail provided in the SONA on the key issues that matter to the people and the many promises made to the Ghanaian in the NPP manifesto and on campaign platforms will be fleshed out in the budget.
We are also told that funding sources for the Free SHS promised which many expected will be revealed in the SONA in light of the Heritage Fund debacle will now be disclosed in the same budget.
While we have substantial doubt that the President would not have loved to be the one indicating in clear terms where money will come from to fund this herculean promise if indeed a credible source has been as, we will eagerly await the said budget statement to find out this and many more.
We will make our views on the budget known in good time and offer our alternatives as a responsible opposition should do.
I wish to reiterate the commitment of the NDC party to offer quality opposition and avoid the often disruptive kind of politicking offered by the immediate past opposition. This will enable us hold the feet of the NPP government to the fire of accountability on behalf of the good people of this country in order to ensure that their precious mandate is not abused but rather channelled into bettering their circumstances and living conditions