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General News Wed, 31 Dec 2003

Full Text of the Broadcast of President Kufuor

The following is the full text of the Broadcast of President John Agyeku, Kufuor made on Wednesday. Fellow Ghanaians, in a few hours, we shall bid the year 2003 farewell and welcome 2004. This is an appropriate time to take stock and look forward to the coming year.

On balance, 2003 has been a good year for the nation. By divine providence, there has been abundant rainfall to water our farms, ensure a good harvest, and fill up our water bodies; there has also been peace, security, national stability and an improving economy.

The ECOWAS Sub-region is also becoming relatively peaceful, a situation which has eluded West Africa for a long time. So let us all be thankful to God for the passing year.

My dear compatriots, as I promised right from the start, I have encouraged a harmonious relationship among all the three arms of government and the increasingly vibrant civil society, including the media.

Consequently, the nation is enjoying an atmosphere of normal political and economic transformation. Admittedly, things have not always been easy, but there cannot be any doubt that the nation has maintained its sense of balance, and endeavoured to keep the young democracy on track.

Each challenge has been faced courageously with a touch of the proverbial Ghanaian sense of humour. Above all, as a nation, we have remained united, wisely deriving strength, from, even our diversity. In the process, Ghana is emerging as a tolerant, peaceful and democratic nation on the continent.

It is my government's resolve to continue on this course to consolidate and establish Ghana as a true bastion of democracy and a beacon of hope on the continent.

2004 is an election year, and we are all gearing up for the campaigns. Collectively, the entire citizenry must accept it as our duty to ensure that the nation remains peaceful. We owe this to ourselves and to the watching world.

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The election should be fought vigorously, but without rancour and baseless mud-slinging. A sense of decency and maturity must characterise all political activities.

There must be objective analysis of issues and critical assessment of alternative programmes of contending parties. Above all, the parties must demonstrate total commitment to the nation's development and welfare of the citizens.

In addition, the entire leadership of the nation - that is, political, traditional, religious, corporate, civic, organised labour and student leaders, owe it to their followers, to offer guidance and exemplary conduct to ensure peaceful, free and fair elections throughout the country.

We should all remind ourselves that, at the end of the day, real power belongs to the good people of Ghana and they must be given the fullest opportunity to make their choices freely. Sincerely, I pledge the full commitment of my government to this national endeavour.

My dear countrymen and women, given the long suffering and deprivation through which the nation came to elect my government in the year 2000, it should be accepted as natural for many of you to expect a quicker turn around of the economy. You should nevertheless appreciate the impressive achievements so far made within the past 3 years. Indeed the economy that was in stagnation for most of the previous 3 decades, has decidedly, and convincingly, begun to lumber its way 'out of the woods'.

During the past year, government's policy to cut back drastically on domestic borrowing has yielded the desired results. The central bank's base rate fell from over 30% to a current of 21.5%, thus bringing down banking lending rates from around 40% to a current of 27%. This achievement is progressively empowering the private sector to access credit.

Inflation which had been catapulted from 15% to 29% in March this year by the unavoidable increases in the petroleum products prices and utility tariffs, has started coming down, and is currently at 24%. It is expected that by this time next year, the nation would have achieved a single-digit inflation.

Indeed, the erratic prices of basic commodities, which were the case in the past, are firmly being brought under control. To sustain this stability, stricter financial discipline and higher productivity will be required in all sectors of the economy.

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This is the way to achieve higher economic growth and also enable the nation to pursue the middle-income status of at least US$1,000 per capita by the year 2010. Incidentally, these achievements will also enable the nation to be ready for the second monetary zone of West Africa, by July 2005.

Currently, government's financial measures and deliberate promotion of Private Sector developments are creating a congenial business environment, which is restoring investor confidence in the economy. A clear testimony of this, was the recent keen competition which ensued between AngloGold and Rand-Gold in their bid to merge with Ashanti goldfields.

Another positive example is the entry into our economy of the world's number one gold mining company, Newmont of USA. Others are the expansion of Nestle Ghana Limited and the merger between Ghana Brewery and Guiness Ghana Limited to become one of the world's biggest breweries.

The interest generated in Ghana's private sector will be sustained and promoted vigorously throughout the coming year to attract both local and foreign direct investments.

Fellow countrymen and women, the agricultural sector has seen some dramatic developments. Food is plentiful, with Gari, which in 2000, was 8,000 cedis, is now available at as low as three thousand cedis, olonka, in many parts of the country. Yams, plantains, vegetables, and fruits are readily available at reasonable prices all over the country This is also reflecting positively on the Presidential Special Initiative on cassava and Oil Palm.

As a result, the first consignment of Ghana's industrial starch, produced at the Bawjiase Plant, was exported within the year. Oil Palm nurseries are being developed in some selected areas of the country, to enable a two-fold expansion of land under Oil Palm cultivation, within 3 years.

It is expected that these initiatives, which are being replicated in many parts of the country, will, in due course, impact positively on the lives of our farmers and other individuals in the participating communities.

Perhaps, the greatest achievement of the sector this year, was the production of almost 500,000 tonnes of Cocoa valued at US$ 889 million. This is the second highest production ever in the history of Ghana, in terms of volume. In terms of earning, it also happens to be the highest, in the history of the crop.

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Government's intention is to encourage our industrious farmers to surpass, within the shortest possible time, possibly this coming year, the record of 580,000 tonnes produced in 1964 and 1965 season. I have no doubt that the current mass spraying exercise, the good producer price and general good economic climate of the country will combine to support our farmers to meet this challenge.

Fellow Ghanaians, underlying the efforts in the industrial and agricultural sector is the vigorous infrastructural development, taking place all over the country in the form of the construction of highways, urban and feeder roads, classroom blocks, renovation of hospitals and clinics, expansion of electricity and water supplies, to name but a few.

Perhaps I will be permitted to state here that funds supporting these projects include the HIPC relief fund.

These policies being implemented are already giving employment to many people all over the country and are putting good legitimate money directly and indirectly in the pockets of our people. Eventually this will lead to general improvement in the quality of life for all.

The year also witnessed the enactment of the National Health Insurance Scheme. In spite of the contention, associated with its introduction, I am appealing to all sides, especially organised labour, to close their ranks with government to support the scheme because I am convinced that it is the best way to make health delivery accessible and affordable to all.

Again the year saw the stepping up of the campaign against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Great strides have been made with both government and civil-society actively engaged in HIV/AIDS education and management programmes.

Currently, government is importing anti-retroviral drugs for AIDS patients at highly subsidised prices. Government is determined not only to bring relief to HIV/AIDS victims but also to remove the stigma attached to the disease.

May I plead with all of you to show compassion to HIV/AIDS sufferers even as we go out determined to educate and discipline ourselves so that we contain the menace.

Fellow countrymen and women, I am sure that you have been following current events, and are no doubt aware that your President was invited by Presidents of the sub-region to continue as chairman of ECOWAS for a second term.

This was despite my protestation that next year was going to be an election year and a very busy one at that. I eventually accepted to continue knowing that I could count on your continued understanding and support.

We must all be relieved and thankful to God that the situation in Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire has stabilized. Guinea Bissau, which was saved from a coup d'=E9tat is now under civilian regime and preparing for fresh elections. It is our prayer that the Sub-region remains peaceful and prosperous through next year.

Here, while acknowledging the tremendous initiatives of ECOWAS, I also wish to acknowledge the support of Europe, USA, Japan, the United Nations, other development partners and the international community at large.

2003 has been a good year, and we must be thankful for it. But the challenge of making 2004 an even better and more prosperous year lies before us.

Let each and everyone of us resolve to play a more productive and responsible role. This is the surest way for us to look forward to improve our collective and individual incomes and living conditions. It is not beyond us, so I say go for it, let us pull together for it. To the entire leadership of the country, I invite you to complement government's efforts next year, just as you have done this year, to ensure peace, security and national stability.

Let me conclude by wishing each and every Ghanaian and all persons resident in Ghana, a very Happy and Prosperous New Year. Thank you.

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