Sampled Views On The State Of The Nation ...

Thu, 29 Jan 2004 Source: Obeng, Thomas Kwaku

... Address By President Kufuor And Its Implications For Ghanaians

The 1992 constitution which is the supreme law of this land and which ushered in the fourth republican government has a provision which requires that the President delivers to the nation, at least once in a year, a statement of general performance of the economy and the agenda for the future. In this vein we see that the State of the Nation Address delivered by President Kufuor on 22nd January 2004 to the representatives of the people (Parliament), means the president has lived up to expectation and fulfilled fully that constitutional provision.

Any address of this nature, sharply attracts comments, views, opinions and suggestions from the general public. Over the period, reactions from political parties both represented in and outside parliament are first sought, followed by civil society and then the general public. It is therefore not new and surprising that just after the address has been delivered, certain key personalities in the ruling NPP, the opposition party NDC and the civil society groups expressed their views about the state of the nation address. The following are some of the views sampled.

1. Professor Evans Atta Mills- Flagbearer of NDC
He said President John Agyekum Kufuor has lost steam in his battle against corruption and described the address as just a chronology of the same things that president Kufuor dilated on his inaugural speech and contained nothing by which Ghanaians could measure his performance.

2. Honourable Felix Owusu Agyapong- NPP Member of Parliament for Akim Swedru and Majority Leader
He described the address as “thought provoking”

3. Honourable Alban Bagbin- NDC member for Nadowli North and Minority leader in Parliament:
- described the address as inconsiderate and disappointing, saying the President conspicuously evaded the issue of corruption.

4. Mr Stephen Asamoah Boateng- deputy Minister of information
:- described the address as excellent and had a different opinion altogether. He said the claim by the opposition that corruption had gone up in the country was not true.

5. Kwame Pianim- Economist and one time presidential aspirant
This is what he says; I think it was an excellent review of the state of the economy which is what a state of the nation address is supposed to be. The address dwelt mainly on the economy and achievement made so far on the government five priority areas- infrastructure development, modernised agriculture, private sector development, enhanced social services on health and education and good governance.

6. Dr. Baffour Agyemang Duah – Associate Executive Director of the Ghana centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
He gave the president full marks and expressed the hope that Ghanaians and the opposition would see the reason in his (president’s) way. On corruption, he noted that the president had in the last few weeks talked extensively on how he had been fighting corruption and did not need to mention it again in the address,

7. Honourable Edward Doe Adjaho- Minority Chief Whip
said “how can the president run away from corruption at such a critical period? This suggests that he has no new ideas for the country and it is time for him to pack and go”

8. Honourable Johnson Asiedu Nketiah- NDC Member of Parliament for Wenchi west and Minority spokesman on agriculture
said the president did not revisit his campaign of anti- corruption and that it was a major failure in the address.

From the above sampled views on the State of the Nation Address, it is crystal clear that there are dissenting and divergent opinions about it.

The State of the Nation Address delivered by Former President John Jerry Rawlings and the present one, has been characterised by mixed reactions and views from the political divide. More often than not, both the majority and the minority in parliament give or express dissenting views about such an important address. It is a common fact that always after the delivery, the majority in Parliament, whose party forms the government at the time of the address without any hesitation, views the address as very good and excellent. On the other hand, the minority or the opposition in Parliament does not see anything good in such addresses. Then come civil societies like CDD and other non-aligned institutions which occupy the middle stage, giving their own assessment of the address.

Again, this is evidenced by the present responses from these important personalities of the divides and it clearly demonstrates that NDC did not see the address as a working document; the ruling NPP considering it as very good whilst the non-governmental organisations give more or less a fair assessment.

Such characterisation of the State of the Nation Address to me is not good for our infant democracy because it has become a kind of habitual that the ruling government does not see loopholes in the address but the opposition does. This kind of situation can be attributed to the fact that both sides of the house might have developed some pre-conceived notion about whatever was going to be said. The implication is that less attention is paid to what the President says.

My understanding is that an address like this needs a lot of time for it to be put under a microscopic scrutiny and analysis before opinions are expressed. However, this is not the case in Ghana and for that matter our Parliament. The effect is that the general populace is misled as one cannot discern which of the parties is telling the truth.

It is important therefore to nurture the habit of objectivity in issues of this nature no matter the political lineage and loyalty. This is crucial in our collective effort to develop economically, socially and the sustenance of good governance and democracy. The ruling government or party must be sincere to tell Ghanaians the real state of affairs and the opposition too must objectively criticise or give commendation when it is due.

Even though I do not intend to delve into the substantive and core issues raised in the address, the opinions expressed have to be assessed so that we cut a clear path of policy direction for this country and not just to satisfy our political aspirations.

This year’s State of the Nation Address by President Kufuor to me has really tried to reduce partisan characterisation associated with such address. This is because critically looking at the views expressed by these important personalities especially those in the minority, it was very clear that there was unanimity about the overall performance of the economy so far since all the major issues raised in the address did not receive any punctured hole or criticisms from either side of the house nor civil society. This is a plus and a positive sign for the whole of Ghana because making logical deductions and inferences from the comments expressed especially by the opposition, the main concern was “Corruption”.

The open secret is the realisation by the opposition that all the macroeconomic as well as social indicators of the Ghanaian economy, outlined in the address and as it stand today, went down well with Ghanaians including the minority as they did not see any hole in the core policy strategies.

My personal view about the non-inclusion of corruption in the address may be due to the fact that there are state institutions with the responsibility of ensuring that our society becomes less corrupt. But let me quickly add that some of these allegations of corruption is perceived and unsubstantiated by those who peddle them because I believe state institutions would not let it go unnoticed if an allegation is proved beyond reasonable doubt.

What we as a nation need to remember is that we must do well to give credit when it is due and this should transcend all partisan politics. Ruling governments should openly admit their mistakes when they are at fault and opposition parties should criticise constructively and give credit to the ruling government if something is obvious.

The old politics of seeing nothing good or bad of such addresses is history and should not be entertained any longer in this modern civilised world. We must carve a new sense of national identity and work together as one people with a common destiny desirous and eager to lift our country from economic doldrums and move the nation forward in all facets of life. It is on record that Democrats praised President George Bush when Saddam Hussein was captured on December 13, 2003 even though they vehemently opposed the invasion of Iraq. This is a type of benchmark that we need to copy if we are to sustain our fledging democracy.

It is also important to note that Ghanaians must always see progress and highlight our core competences to the international community. Despite our problems I believe we have other success stories and achievements to tell. Instead of washing our dirty linen and drying them in the open space, we could do more good than harm if our achievements in terms of economic, social and cultural indicators dominate the media coverage in the country. Let us talk about the good side of this country as well because as the proverbial word goes “If you cut your tongue and chew it, you have not eaten any good meat”.

A typical case in point is the recent performance of the Ghana Stock Exchange. The GSE all-share index rose quite significantly, recording a gain of over 108%, making it one of the best performing markets in the Sub-Saharan Africa and indeed the rest of the world. The good thing about this is that “Investor Confidence” is very high meaning our country can attract investments which ultimately can lead to the creation of jobs for the youth and the unemployed with its trickle-down effect. Let us create the enabling environment and others will surely follow. Let us also forget not the fact that all Ghanaians cannot be rich at the same time. Even advanced nations have some issues of poverty to tackle.

Also, the accumulation of foreign reserve of $1.4billion which is considered to be the highest in our history needs to be highlighted. The fall of interest rates from 50% to 26% and the Central Bank base rate declining from 30% to 21.5% are positive indicators that we should make noise about. These are the kind of favourable macroeconomic indicators that the international community are looking for before deciding on any form of assistance and investments.

In conclusion, the old way of politics should be discarded outright. I see that this century belongs to Ghana for us to take advantage of the numerous opportunities like the ICT to develop and Ghana, being the black star of Africa should have a tunnel focus for development. We should learn from other civilised countries like the U.S.A, Sweden and others. They have their own peculiar problems but they do not allow it distracting their attention from their core competencies.

It would be a dream come true when the opposition and the ruling government will see eye to eye on key policies of state for the development of this country because after all political parties are formed to bring development to the people.

We want to see a democratic Ghana where a member of any ruling government or party will have the free conscience and will power to constructively and fairly criticise its own party and not being fired; a government in power wilfully acknowledging some flaws in certain national policy; a day when opposition parties would give commendation to government for a particular implementing policy and offer constructively criticisms and suggestions and the government too accepting them in good faith.

That day will truly test and measure our political maturity, rule of law, democracy and total freedom of speech and association. That day is yet to come and all must work hard especially members of parliament so that our country Ghana continues to be peaceful, hospitable and investor friendly. Ghana, our motherland and black star of Africa should set the pace for other countries to follow.

Thomas Kwaku Obeng
e-MBA Student
Division of Industrial Marketing and e-Commerce,
Lule? University of Technology
Lule?, Sweden.
Http: //www.geocities.com/thomodus/mypage.html

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Source: Obeng, Thomas Kwaku

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