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The flagbearers of four presidential candidates with representation in parliament slugged it out at the first IEA Presidential Debate held this evening in Tamale.
Presidential John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress; Dr. Abu Sakara Foster of the Convention People’s Party; Hassan Ayariga of the People’s National Convention and Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party presented their policy direction on a number of sectors of political interest.
The debate, moderated by Kojo Oppong Nkrumah and Prof. Jane Opoku Agyemang, started off with all the presidential candidates presenting their broad national agenda for the nation before moving into the specific areas of the political management.
They answered questions on the job creation, agricultural sector, education, healthcare, private sector development, energy sector, taxation, retail trading and the all-important issue about education.
The very first contentious point was on the National Development Plan. The president stood by the government’s position to continue projects undertaken by past governments, saying that the development plan does not need to be enshrined in the constitution because it is already a constitutional requirement. He said the Commission is currently undertaking consensus building on the most important projects that are vital and sustainable to develop the nation.
On his part, Nana Akufo-Addo said he is going to make his runningmate, Dr, Mahamadu Bawumia, the head of the National Development Planning Commission to ensure that the needed political drive and impetus are given to the nation. But the president disagreed saying, a Vice President heading the NDPC will only further polarize the already deep political suspicion.
President Mahama said “Indeed I think that there is confusion in the mind of the NPP presidential candidate in the answer he gave. That is exactly the concern we have in this country that when a political party leaves government the plans and visions that are instituted are thrown away. And so if we assume that every four year cycle a government potentially could lose elections, it means every four years we will have a new national development planning framework. And that is why the CRC flagged that issue.”
Dr. Sakara Foster however wanted the NDP to be enshrined in the constitution in order to prevent the situation where new governments discontinue projects of their counterparts. Mr. Ayariga indicated that if Ghana will work again, there is a need for develop a holistic plan to develop the nation.
The flagbearer of the NPP continued to stress on the need to make Senior High School education free. He said the best way to offer the youth of the country a bright future is through education. Nana Addo said there is a need to ensure that parents across the country are helped by the state to take care of the country. He said “I am passionate about education.”
Nana Addo said Ghanaians cannot wait for another four years to benefit from free education. Dr. Sakara was in good company with his NPP counterpart. According to him, the CPP intends to make basic education through to the SHS level fee-free. He indicated that the party will implement the reading, writing and arithmetic policy to ensure that before a student comes out from school, they are equipped with the basic skills to fit into the job market.
But President Mahama disagreed. He said the NDC believes that even though the constitution enjoins all governments to make education progressively free, it does not lie in the whimsical promise of a party eager to win political power to make such pronouncements that cannot be achieved in the short term.
He said even though he is for free education, the foundation of education is weak and the NDC government will continue to strengthen the base of education and make basic education free and compulsory by providing schools in every location.
He said the NDC will improve access and the quality of teaching before offering free education. Mr. Hassan Ayariga on his part said the country does not have the wherewithal to pay for free education. He therefore promised that a PNC government will expand access and grow the economy.
One area that the candidates of the two main political parties spent some time on was the National Health Insurance Scheme. While Nana Addo was convinced that the scheme was collapsing, the president said the number of people who access healthcare under the scheme has tripled since the government took over.
The president urged Nana Addo to desist from making inaccurate comments on the scheme but to his defense, the NPP flagbearer said the figure available to the president are rather incorrect.
In his concluding remarks, Nana Addo said the NDC is trying to sell fantasy to the people as reality through a number of broken promises. He therefore urged Ghanaians to throw out the NDC and bring back the NPP.
He said Ghana’s future is bright, adding “as president of this country, I’ll harness all the human resource available to move this country forward.”
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