Fellow Ghanaians, ladies and gentlemen of the press, welcome and thank you for responding to our invitation. Today’s briefing will be straight to the point.
In the past few days, we, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), have had to ask ourselves a single, but very difficult question: must we really respond to, what you journalists have yourselves described as a “concert party comedy” by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) put up last week by what can only be described as John Mahama’s alternative Economic Management Team? We have decided to respond because whether we like it or not, former President John Mahama and his NDC are the alternative that Ghanaian voters have to President Akufo-Addo and the NPP in 2020.
An Economic Management Team led by Dr Mahamudu Bawumia and an Economic Management Team with Adongo and co. 2020, ladies and gentlemen should surely be more than Adongonomics. It should be about how to protect the gains so far made and how to deepen and spread those gains through more jobs and better incomes.
A brief sketch of NDC and NPP eras
Ghana is 62 years old now. The bulk of that, 27 years in all, have been under the (P)NDC. Again, out of the 26 years of the Fourth Republic, 16 years have been under the NDC and 10 under the NPP. This means that the NDC has had the largest opportunity to transform this country and bring about prosperity to the people of Ghana. But, what do we see?
What we see is this: the NDC, after their eight years, end up taking the nation back for the NPP to fix it. Then they use propaganda, lies and insults to get back in to destroy what has been fixed for the NPP to come back to fix what they the NDC destroy. What is even worse this time, ladies and gentlemen, is that they are so arrogantly disrespectful of the electoral wishes of the people that they are presenting the very John Mahama leadership that sent Ghana so disgracefully back between 2012 and 2016. Our question is this: what new message can John Mahama and his NDC offer for your vote?
The nature of the Fourth Republic has been the same story: the NDC creating a monumental mess of the economy, the NPP coming in to clean up their mess only for the NDC to engage in the antics such as they did last week that flies in the face of the facts and reason in the hope that their legendary aptitude for lies and deception will someway, somehow, somewhat propel them back into office for another opportunity to roll back the progress we have made.
To buttress the above, if you look at the state of Ghana’s economy and growth paths over the years, it is obvious that the NPP builds and the NDC destroys. NDC took us to HIPC but did not have the courage to admit it even though it was under an IMF programme in 2000. It took President Kufuor to have the bulk of Ghana’s debt written off and get Ghana out of the IMF programme. Not only that, NPP, through the focused operations of GNPC, made Ghana an oil rich nation but left office before a single barrel of Jubilee oil could be produced.
Also, the NPP under President Kufour left office with Ghana’s first credit rating taking us to B+. Before that we were not even rated. Credit rating is necessary for both government and business to transact business and borrow internationally. After 8 years of NDC economic management our rating went down from B+ to B-. Yes, B minus under John Mahama! After only 20 months of NPP under Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, we have already been upgraded from B- to B. Our upgraded credit ratings earned us an oversubscribed Eurobond issue in multiples of 7 at the lowest coupon rate and longer maturity Ghana has ever had.
We understand and appreciate the genuine concerns by the Ghanaian people that the NDC has a discredited record as far as the management of the economy is concerned and should therefore not be our benchmark for comparison. That is a fair comment, except, the NDC is the only realistic alternative Ghanaians have. Sad but true. We, the NPP, are happy for the public to judge us with a higher benchmark than the NDC.
However, Civil Society Groups and the media, when having a go at us, do not behave as if they know that the alternative is worse. All that we are saying is this: credit us for being better than the NDC and challenge us to do much more for Ghana. Do not make the Ghanaian voters, who may rely on you for information, think that the NDC is a credible alternative. Let them know that #TheAlternativeIsStillScary and we promise not to be complacent but to push harder to deliver. That is exactly what President Akufo-Addo is doing for Ghana.
Yes, it is true that in a multiparty democracy the acid test to any political decision of the incumbent should be what the alternative is. However, this test becomes suspiciously lethal when the alternative is really scary. If you consider the incontrovertible facts, as laid out by the government’s Economic Management Team (EMT) in the speech read by its Chairman, the Vice President, Dr. Bawumia, it is clear that in the past two decades Ghana’s economy recorded its worst performance during the four year rule of Mr. John Mahama. Let me put it another way, President John Dramani Mahama did worse than the late President John Evans Atta Mills.
Indeed, you can even say that John Mahama destroyed whatever future John Atta Mills was hoping to build. And, yet, the NDC could not find any other alternative to lead them. And, the alternative they have to the late Amissah Arthur to head their economic management team appears to be Adongo.
Up until today, John Mahama has not been able to explain two nation-wrecking events that happened under his rule – both in election years.
In the few months that he became President before the 2012 general elections, he spent an additional GHS4 billion that was not budgeted for in his desperate attempt to win that election. We all recall the rlg laptops that were prepaid but the students never got them. We all remember the tens of millions of dollars worth of SADA trees that were prepaid but never planted and the Guinea Fowls that were also prepaid but never seen only to be told they flew to Burkina Faso. The schools under trees projects that were never built but paid for we did. For the NDC under Mahama, creativity was limited to how to steal money from the state. What did he do with the GHS4 billion? Where is the money?
Again in 2016, John Mahama spent an additional GHS7 billion presumably on capital expenditure that was not budgeted for yet was spent on costly infrastructure, and many of these with inflated price tags can neither be seen today nor were they even priority projects for the country. That GHS7 billion extra money spent on infrastructure in 2016, the NPP is calling on John Mahama and his NDC to show us what they did with it and we will show them that we are able to do three times more with even a smaller amount. What he did was simply to use that allegedly on contracts that did not benefit the people he was elected to serve. But added hugely to our debt stock pile up, which we continue to pay for painfully today.
By the end of 2012, as a result of John Mahama taking over the Presidency after the sad passing of then President Atta Mills, the economy had been plunged into one of the worst fiscal deficits in our history at 12.2% of GDP. Ghana never recovered from that unprecedented recklessness from the same person who is now coming back to ask for your votes in 2020.
The path of double digit deficit (in other words, reckless spending) continued for 2013, 2014 and 2016, ending with 9.3% of non-rebased GDP. The NDC have not been able to dispute these facts because they are beyond dispute.
Let me expose the lies put up by Ato-Forson on these facts, particularly the non-rebased fiscal deficit figure for 2016. This is what Ato-Forson said, “Official data from the Ministry of Finance indicates clearly that overall deficit by end year 2016 was 7.8% of GDP (6.1% of new GDP)”. Ladies and gentlemen, this was a big lie from Ato-Forson. The actual (not provisional) fiscal deficit figure for 2016 is clearly provided for in the mid-year budget of 2017, as well as the 2018 and 2019 budgets. And in all of them the figure mentioned is 9.3%, consistent with what Dr. Bawumia mentioned. For example:
Where did he get the 7.8% for 2016 from? Even the rebased (new) deficit figure of 6.1% was wrong. It is rather 6.8% as mentioned by Dr. Bawumia.
During Mahama’s time, unbridled borrowing and debt accumulation was the order of the day with annual rate of debt accumulation reaching 47% and 50% in 2013 and 2014, respectively until the beginning of the IMF programme. Debts had piled up at the end of John Mahama’s term such that Ghana’s debt alone could eat up about 73% of our gross domestic product. Ghana was classified as a country at high risk of debt distress. Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to imagine where Ghana would have been if the people did not vote for change in 2016? In 2012, the Mahama bad management left Ghana no option but to rush to the IMF for rescue.
In 2016, where else could we have run to because by the end of 2016, Ghana had not achieved any of the agreed benchmarks in the budget and also with the IMF? He was running the economy down and the banking sector was also about to suffer a major collapse.
Again, Mr. Mahama, having inherited the 2011 real GDP growth of over 14% could not even maintain it but rather superintended over its decline to 3.4% by end of 2016. The largest fall for over twenty years. This was a monumental failure that ought not to be given any slightest chance to repeat itself.
The cedi had gone down in value in four folds depreciating from GHC1.1/$, to GHC2/$ (doubling the nominal rate) to GHC3/$ and GHC4.2/$! (Close to a quadruple increase). Let’s count: 1, 2, 3, and 4! They were not even on double track on the exchange rate, they were on quadruple track! The question then is: given this abysmal quadrupling record of Mr. Mahama in the management of the cedi relative to the dollar, what nominal value would he have taken the price of the cedi per the dollar to if NDC were still in power today or given another 8 years to rule? Your guess is as good as mine.
The situation was so bad that the NDC had no choice but to turn to the IMF for help. By the end of 2016 John Mahama and the NDC government had missed all the targets under the IMF Programme, leaving Ghanaians, and their newly elected government, NPP, holding the explosive can. This poor performance is unacceptable for a government that had large quantities of crude oil and borrowed as if there was no tomorrow. Yes, for the 4 years, President Mahama borrowed like a billion dollars every year to support the budget and this was on top of huge deficits. The capital projects under Mahama were not funded from the Eurobonds. They were funded from shamefully expensive project funds. We all recall the inflated projects like flyovers built by Brazilian firms. Watch this space. NPP intends to build flyovers this year at about half of the price Ghanaians were made to pay for under Mahama.
Instead of apologizing to the people on how he wasted public funds, John Mahama is busy using those same dubious infrastructure projects at insanely inflated prices as his 2020 campaign. This is the height of reckless arrogance.
We owe it to the people to let them know that the borrowed money under NDC went into inflated contracts such as the Terminal 3 at the Kotoka International Airport and other public works. Any caring government could have built the Terminal 3 and still have some change to spare to build the Ho Airport and upgraded three more airports at the same $275m or so price tag.
With all the billions in loans/debt contracted by John Mahama and the NDC in the name of building infrastructure, the NDC’s exit from office was met with the loudest and most contentious cries by Ghanaians for affordable homes, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals (including activation of abandoned ones etc.) among others. The question we have to ask John Mahama wherever he goes to campaign for 2020 is this: where did all the money go? Why the public agitation for public infrastructure if so much was contracted by the NDC in the name of the same? The truth is simple: inflated contracts and plain theft! That is the legacy of John Mahama’s government which he wants an opportunity to repeat. What at all did Ghanaians ever do to John Mahama and the NDC? Is there an end to their greed? Is there an end to their ‘search and destroy?’
Whilst the economy was severely mismanaged and almost every single economic indicator taking the opposite path, so much hardships were unleashed on the ordinary Ghanaian. In 2009, in line with the NPP programme, President Mills increased the capitation grant from GHS3 to GHS4.50 per child. Please note, the capitation grant was what provided free basic education in Ghana. President Mahama did not increase it even once. For the four years under him, it stayed at GHS4.50.
Allowances for teacher and nursing trainees were cut, public sector employment saw a virtual freeze, there were cuts on research allowances for lecturers, import duty waiver for health workers was scrapped, statutory payments were in several months of arrears and in some cases not paid at all, electricity bills were increased, taxes were imposed on every conceivable item including condoms, cutlasses, etc. Worse of it all Ghanaians were made to endure a painful life of Dumsor for over 4 years - a precarious situation the country did not witness even in the dark days of military regimes. How were jobs to be saved and new ones created when businesses were using a chunk of their working capital to pay just electricity bills and employees were using in some cases half of their pay to pay light bills? This was the life of the Ghanaian under Mr. Mahama and the NDC. How were jobs to be saved or created?
Even Mahama’s solution to dumsor was merely an opportunity for his transaction agents to make more money from granting power purchasing contracts. The Akufo-Addo government deserves praise for saving Ghanaians over $7.6 billion in excess capacity charges in electricity alone over the next 13 years. Yes, $7.6 billion - nearly GHS40 billion! The NPP did so by competently reviewing some 26 out of 30 power purchase agreements (to build power plants) signed by the NDC, which would have offered us more than 10,000 megawatts capacity of power! Yet, this is a country that today our peak demand is around 2,500MW! The NPP saved Ghana by terminating 11 power purchasing agreements and deferring some others. We come to fix what NDC came to destroy. This is the story of Ghana under the two parties so far.
With all the noise they made on roads, including the Eastern Corridor Roads, I am challenging the NDC to name any single major road they completed in their 8 years in the then Upper West and Upper East Regions. In President Mahama’s home region (the then Norther Region) the only major road they completed is the Fufoso-Sawla. And even that one is currently being ripped off by rains. If the challenge is about borrowing to throw so much money at fewer projects at unreasonably exorbitant costs, then the NPP is not interested in that competition.
The legacy of John Mahama and the NDC has also been one of suffocating interest payments on the debts they left behind, runaway inflation, high interest rates, a weak banking system, and rising unemployment.
The Situation Under NPP and President Akufo-Addo
Today, under the leadership of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the NPP, the economy has turned around, we have exited the IMF Programme, and are well on our way to creating the kind of future that Ghanaians have always yearned for. New oil and gas discoveries give us another opportunity, under an NPP government, to grow the economy in leaps and bounds, create jobs, and for Ghanaians to lead the way into a prosperous Africa.
To facilitate trade, make our ports competitive in the region, and to further reduce the costs of goods and services even with a single digit inflation, government has introduced a raft of measures at the ports that is ground-breaking. While the reduction in benchmark values of a hefty 50%, and 30% for vehicles seems to be making the news, permit me to talk about the others less talked about first. I shall return to the benchmark values presently.
A flat fee structure is now adopted for port and customs fees and charges. This means the charges will no longer be calculated as a percentage of the value of the goods, helping importers make significant savings on port charges and fees.
Subject to Parliamentary approval, the following are also to be reviewed to further reduce the fees and charges on imports:
The service charge by Ghana Shippers Authority of $1.50 per ton of every export and $2.0 per ton of every import levied
The importer registration fees imposed by Ghana Standards Authority, The Eazy Pass levy introduced by the Ghana Standards Authority of up to 0.5% of the CIF value of goods by.
The Security Charge by Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) of $0.50 per gross tonnage of every vessel coming into Ghana’s waters, and The Eco Levy charged by EPA of $7 per new tyre and 0.5% of CIF value on a number of import items.
The reductions in port fees and charges are in addition to the reduction of 50% in the benchmark or delivery values of imports (30% for vehicles). Benchmark values are the values that have been assigned to the large group of products by the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), excluding goods covered by the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) system, because over the years there have been efforts by a few unscrupulous importers to under-invoice them.
The effect of this is that the dutiable value of say a container-load of tin tomatoes which may have been say GH?100,000.00 attracting say 10% in total fees, charges, and duties of GH?100,000.00 has immediately become GH?50,000.00, resulting in lower total fees, charges, and duties of just GH?5,000.00. This in turn translates to affordable prices of tin tomatoes on the market for Ghanaians of all income groups and jobs for more people along the line etc.
Ladies and gentlemen, the uniqueness of this new policy to reduce import duties through the adjustment of benchmark values is the immediacy with which the reductions took place. Despite several attempts by NDC to paint the gloomy picture that the reductions will not occur, importers started feeling the impact 24 hours after the announcement. There have been several evidences and testimonies to this effect on radio, TV, and social media.
This shows prudence and competence by government in rolling out the policy and seeing to its successful implementation. We are however, informed by some importers and some patriotic stakeholders about the possibility of some officials at the ports and usual saboteurs to frustrate importers and also obstruct implementation. We are by this encouraging government to be steadfast and look out for such individuals whose actions or inactions may pose threats to this policy.
In sharp contrast to the situation that existed under Mahama and the NDC, President Akufo-Addo and the NPP are restoring the courtesies and opportunities that were taken from the Ghanaian people under Mahama while establishing new ones that never existed. Today, the nursing and teacher trainee allowances have been restored about 17 taxes have either been abolished or restored. There is no freeze on public sector employment – unemployed graduates’ association disbanded, Import duties have been reduced for all, including health workers SHS school fees have been scrapped, BECE registration fees are absorbed by government, Electricity bills have been reduced, Statutory payments are paid – over GHc1.2 billion NHIS arrears paid
Infrastructure under NPP
Ladies and gentlemen, you may have heard the NDC in their ‘Chalewote’ Town Hall meeting challenging the government to match their infrastructure record. Much as their 8 years inflated infrastructure record they tout is nothing but a complete charade, let us all ask them to mention a single infrastructure they built in Ghana in their first two years from 2009 to April 2011.
In just two years of President Akufo-Addo’s government we have a lot to show with a lot more coming. Just this week, in fact on Wednesday the 10th, government will launch the commencement of a US$2 Billion investment in infrastructure projects, two-thirds of which will be in roads and highways. This will be the single largest infrastructure investment project by any government in a year over the past 5 decades. We are doing this by not adding to our national debt, instead, we are using innovative financing techniques to leverage our natural resources, bauxite in particular, for development. This project will see to the construction of the first ever interchange in the five Northern Regions at point 7 in Tamale and Western Region at PTC in Takoradi, a dream our brothers of the North and West gleefully await.
We have securitized GETFUND receivables for $1.5 billion school infrastructure projects. These projects are ongoing in every region of the country. In the railway sector, the Accra to Tema railway service has started running on the refurbished line, rehabilitation of Accra/Nsawam line is almost complete, work is continuing on the rehabilitation of the Kojokrom to Tarkwa, work on the standard gauge section from Kojokrom to Manso is ongoing, Eastern Line, Western and Tema-Ouagadougou lines are being tendered.
Others include the Tamale Airport Phase 2, Kumasi Market and Airport Phase 2, Construction of Four (4) Dedicated Container Terminals, Multi-Purpose Container Terminal at Takoradi Port, Dry Bulk Jetty at Takoradi Port, Construction of Ferry Landing Sites( Dambai, Yeji, Makango and Agordeke), 10 Youth and Sports Resource Centers of Excellence underway, Eastern Regional Theater at Koforidua is complete.
In addition to the above and many other projects, including road constructions going on in Kumasi, Accra and other parts of the country, funds have also been secured for the start of the following: 12 Fish landing sites, Yendi Water Project, Pwalugu multi-purpose dam, Bui solar hybrid and irrigation project, etc. Between Pwalugu and Bui, 60,000 hectares to be brought under irrigation compared to 12,980 hectares of government-financed irrigation since GIDA was set up in 1977.
Under the Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme (IPEP), every single constituency in Ghana has seen significant number of basic infrastructure such as toilet, water, school blocks, etc. completed or ongoing. The debate on infrastructure is an interesting one and we welcome our NDC friends to it. We are inviting the NDC to this challenge and we hope they will accept. Show us your infrastructure projects in your first two years in office from 2009-2011. The Time Keeper’s clock has started and we are counting.
Fellow Ghanaians, this is certainly the work of a government of visionary leadership with the welfare of Ghanaians at the heart of everything it does. At this pace, can you imagine the amount of work that will be delivered after 4 or 8 years of this government? We are on the cusp of a major transformation in our lives. John Mahama, and the NDC have demonstrated clearly that they have nothing to offer except mismanagement, incompetence and corruption. That alternative is scary and we must all work together to make sure it never happens.
The biggest mistake we, as Ghanaians, can make is to entrust these resources, and our future, again, into the same hands that took an oil-rich country from a growth path of 14% to 3.4%.
Mr. Mahama with the NDC had 8 years in government. With Mahama constitutionally allowed for just another 4 years’ opportunity in the unlikely event that he gets the nod. Is he seeking to redenominate himself from 8 years’ rule to 4 years and be called a REDENOMINATED CANDIDATE? As we all know from our experiences in 2007 when we redenominated the cedi, in Redenomination the Value is the Same. Therefore, Mahama has no new thing to offer Ghanaians other than the incompetence and corruption we witnessed under his tenure.
Say No to a Redenominated Candidate (Mahama) for He Never Changes. Mahama - The Value is the Same. More importantly, The NDC Alternative Under Mahama Still Is Still Scary.