Ghana: President Mills admits failing Ghanaians

Posted: February 26, 2010 in Politics
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President John Evans Atta Mills yesterday admitted in parliament that he had disappointed Ghanaians for failing to deliver on his promise made last year in his State of the Nation address, to establish a ‘Members of Parliament Constituency Fund’ to foster development projects at the constituency level, aside that of the District Assemblies Common Fund.

“I am conscious that I made this promise in my State of the Nation address last year, but could not implement it in 2009,” he noted during his State of the Nation address.

His comments attracted a lot of murmuring among Members of Parliament (MPs) who were beautifully dressed, either in traditional attire or in suit.

However, a member on the Minority side could not hold his tongue and retorted in the local language “wa pro-mi-se saa, nanso yen hu hwee,’ literally meaning ‘he has made numerous promises, but we have not seen anything.’

But, after identifying a former minister of state and Member of Parliament (MP) for Tafo, Hon. Anthony Akoto Osei, in a tet-at-tet with another colleague on the minority side on the said issue, the President decided to make fun of him, saying, “Madam Speaker, when I approached this subject, I thought I heard my younger brother, Akoto Osei, muttering ‘so we go again.’ My brother, Akoto, have you forgotten that in the past, you used to tell me that when Man proposes, God disposes?”

The President’s pronouncement brought laughter and joy among members who shouted on top of their voices, the ‘hear, hear’ slogan.

However, concerned about the reaction of the MPs, the President promised to deliver on his promise this year. “This time around, God will dispose, and you have my assurance that it will be implemented,” he told the joyous MPs, who responded, “hear, hear.” The initiative, according to the President, would kick off this year, by first constructing and furnishing a standard “Member of Parliament Constituency Office” in each of the 230 constituencies.

He said the program would first begin in the constituencies that are farthest away from the national capital, and which would then proceed progressively, until all the 230 constituencies are covered.

According to him, an administrator, who will be indentified by the incumbent MP, would be paid a fixed monthly stipend to run the office, and therefore called on all members to lend their support, by beginning to look for land for the project, in their respective constituencies.

Money in peoples pockets

Concerned about complaints from the public of having no money in their pockets, President Mills said, “real change is happening,” after having fixed the run-down economy his administration inherited.

At this point, someone from the Minority side again retorted in the local language, “na sika no wo hen,” literally meaning “where is the money?”

“Madam Speaker, we took over a run-down economy characterised by unbridled spending and far too much sole-sourcing that did not offer value for money. But, in the face of mountainous challenges, we can now offer good news and hope.

I am glad to say that we quickly halted the rapid depreciation of the Cedi, and by the middle of 2009, it had begun to appreciate against almost all the major currencies of the world. Today, we have a stable currency, as well as other indicators pointing to healthy economic conditions for real take-off into sustained growth,” he noted.

Governance and Corruption

Aside seeking to enhance the work of Parliamentarians at the constituency level, another issue being championed by the President is governance, and how to clamp down on corruption in the public sector.

Governance & corruption

Touching on governance, the President said his administration had made modest gains, by first organising a National Stakeholder’s Conference on decentralization, and were preparing to introduce far-reaching changes in the decentralisation agenda of the country.

Again, he said, his administration had established a Constitutional Review Commission to look at aspects of the country’s Constitution that needed to be reviewed.

But, above all, the President Mills said his administration took delight in having put in place the ‘Presidential Committee on Emoluments,’ to advise on salaries, allowances, facilities and privileges of officials as enshrined in the Constitution, adding, “We have done these things early in government, so that we are seen to be fair, objective and transparent.”

Corruption, according to the President, was very dear to his heart, and that he would make sure to reduce it to the barest minimum, if not eradicated.

He promised to make the penalty for corruption so high that, “it will become something to avoid at all costs,” by approaching it in two ways.

First, he said, he would strengthen the anti-corruption agencies of the state to make them more effective, and also rigorously enforce the provisions of the Whistleblower’s Act.

Towards this direction, the President promised to prosecute all past and present officials of state who fall foul of the anti-corruption laws.

Secondly, President Mills promised to wage a massive education campaign against corruption, by not only involving public anti-corruption institutions, but also civil society anti-corruption agencies and organisations such as the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, and the Ghana Integrity Initiative, among many others.

Discipline

President Mills, having outlined his vision for a “Better Ghana” agenda, said the country cannot reach the peak being advocated, without self-discipline in every aspect of the human life.

“At work, in the office, on the office, on the road, in the market place, at the lorry station, and above all, in our attitude to time, we must instill in us self-discipline,” he noted.

According to him, discipline must be manifest in all human settlement development plans, stressing much on time-consciousness, especially those in public institutions.

“My addiction to time-consciousness is very well known. And, this year, I will expect this same addiction from ministers and officials of state. I expect all Ministers and other officials to be punctual to functions to which they are invited,” he emphasized, whilst calling on the organisers of state functions to draw the attention of the Presidency to ministers and officials who become notorious latecomers.

He also charged those who invite public officials, to have a responsibility to stick to time, while at the same time, shortening their programs in the interest of time management. Having highlighted his quest for time-consciousness, President Mills also expressed concern on indiscipline on the road, which has resulted in various accidents.

He charged the Police Service to submit a blueprint, within the shortest possible time, for a drastic reduction in road accidents.

Agriculture

As a sector considered as the backbone of the country’s economy, expectations were high even prior to the President’s sessional address.

Governments of the day have been criticised for doing too little to save the ailing sector, especially in the wake of soaring food prices, coupled with bad weather, where food security is being threatened.

But, in spite of this, the President said his administration had done a lot to put the country on track, by introducing the Buffer Stock Management Agency to hold food security buffer stocks, and intervene in the market whenever a glut arises.

The Agency, he said, would, in the course of the year, take over and rehabilitate the twelve (12) warehouses of the erstwhile Ghana Food Distribution Corporation, for its operations.

He said his administration, in their thirteenth month of operation, had brought relief to fishermen, by instituting National Pre-Mix and Landing Committees to ensure efficient and transparent distribution of pre-mix fuel.

“For now, the uncertainties surrounding pre-mix distribution have virtually been solved,” he noted.

Issues of pre-mix fuel and pair trawling activities became topical in the middle of last year, with players in the sector calling on the government to deliver on its campaign promise prior to the 2008 elections.

This prompted the government to quickly institute mechanisms to bring life into the fishing industry, by prohibiting pair trawling, whilst instructing the Navy to apprehend all those engaged in that criminal activity that is destroying the livelihood of hardworking fishermen and their dependents.

According to President Mills, this year, the fertiliser subsidy program would be extended to all crop farmers, and that the government would also accelerate the Youth-In-Modern-Agriculture development.

To further boost the agricultural sector, he said, an Agricultural Development and Investment Fund (ADIF) idea was being worked on, as a response to the NDC’s manifesto promise to promote rural financial intermediation, and establish an Agricultural Development Fund.

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