[2016 STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS - HIGHLIGHTS]
President John Dramani Mahama Thursday delivered his fourth State of the Nation Address in his first four-year term for the dissolution of the 6th Parliament. This is in accordance with Article 67 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.
The address, which comes ahead of the November 7th general elections, touched on the policies to address Ghana’s macro-economic challenges and economic stability.
The President also informed Ghanaians about the overall growth of the country, vis-a-vis the current fiscal discipline, especially, in an election year and the revised fiscal projections for this year.
The President also touched on issues relating to power, NHIS, Education and the performance of the various sectors of the economy.
Below are Highlights of SOTN 2016:
President John Mahama has said his government has achieved the fastest mobilisation of emergency power in the history of Ghana.
He said about 800 megawatts of power has been added to our generation within the shortest period of time. He said the finalisation and commissioning of KTPP added 220 megawatts, the commissioning of TICO’s combined cycle added 110megawatts then Karpower added another 220 megawatts.
He said that AMERI is also adding 250 megawatts extra power to our transmission grid in addition to 180 megawatts from Asogli Phase 2 as soon as extra gas is made available for it.
On Electricity, President Mahama said 80.5 percent of Ghanaians now enjoy access to electricity. This he said compares significantly with the 58 percent access to power in 2008.
The President also revealed that Cabinet has improved the Millennium Challenge Compact and its $498 million grants will provide a major boost in addressing energy efficiency problems and improving access to electricity.
President John Mahama also said he intends making Ghana a hub in the sub-region for petroleum distribution.
He said already BOST (Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation) has begun supplying petroleum products to the landlocked countries of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali from their Bolgatanga depot.
President Mahama also said local firms and personnel have benefited from the local content law passed by Parliament in connection with the oil and gas sector.
He said government in 2013 formulated the local content and local participation policy and at the moment approximately 7,000 people have been employed in the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry - 5,590 Ghanaians and 1,350 expatriates.
He said out of the 474 companies registered with the Petroleum Commission, 321 are indigenous companies and 46 are joint ventures. Out of the total value of 6.3 billion contracts awarded, from 2010 to 2015, over $1 billion have gone to indigenous companies.
He said as of the third quarter of 2015, $201,072,000, representing 41 per cent of a total of $792,623,000 worth of investments for the year has been awarded to indigenous companies.
On Education, President Mahama stated that his government’s agenda to build 200 Community Day Senior High Schools across the country is the biggest ever intervention any government has made to Ghana’s educational sector.
He said four of the schools have been completed so far and 123 of the schools are at different stages of completion.
President Mahama also stated that over 54, 000 children from four different regions of the country’s 10 regions have been enrolled into various schools under the Free Compulsory Basic Education program.
Additionally, uniforms, textbooks and sandals have been distributed to pupils in some impoverished schools across the country.
He added that as a result of a directive he gave last year that school textbooks should be printed in Ghana, 1,400 new direct jobs have been created as a result of that directive.
President Mahama also revealed that the Education Ministry has introduced two new programs in that sector, Teacher Professional Development which is aimed to train 95% of teachers in Basic level by 2020.
He said that under the Provision of Teaching and Learning Materials, about 10,000 school supplies have been distributed and over 30,000 teachers trained in ICT.
President Mahama also revealed that Eastern Region is to get two new universities. He said the two new universities are to be established at Donkorkrom in the Afram Plains area and Somanya in the Eastern Region,
He said government was on course in transforming six polytechnics into universities.
He also stated that there were plans for establishing an Islamic teacher training college in the country as part of measures to increase teacher trainee enrollment.
He also noted that interventions such as the removal of teacher trainee allowances and the quota system had led to increased enrollment in the colleges.
On health, President Mahama said he has constituted a team to redesign the operation of the National Health Insurance Scheme. The team is to look at reform, premium and claims fraud among others. He said 2015 saw an active utilisation of the NHIS with 11.2 million users representing 41% of the population.
President Mahama also noted that government has made a number of interventions to empower local pharmaceutical companies to produce more drugs. Apart from a disbursement of 50 million cedis , VAT and other tax components on their imports have been waived.
President Mahama was confident that Ghana`s health system will be the toast of other nations to emulate and replicate.
He said government has invested over two billion dollars into the health sector.
He stated that six thousand hospital beds will be added by the year 2018 whiles the Volta Regional Hospital will be converted into a modern Teaching Hospital.
President Mahama also revealed that now Ghanaians are living 14 years longer than before due to advancement in medicine, health infrastructure and an increase in health personnel.
He said our life expectancy which was a little over 40 years at independence has today increased by more than 14 years. He added: “Not only are we living longer in our adult years, more infants are living to see those years. According to the Ghana Demographic and health survey, there has been a drastic reduction in the rate of infant mortality and under-five mortality. Over the last decade, under-five mortality decreased from 111 to 60 per thousand live births. Infant mortality dropped by almost 305 from 64 to 41 per thousand live births. The mothers of these children are also surviving during pregnancy and child birth because antenatal and post-natal care has improved.”
President Mahama also stated that new HIV infections have declined consistently for the past few years through the Ghana AIDS Commission’s successful coordination and implementation of the National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan from 2011 to 2015.
He said adult HIV/AIDS prevalence rate has stabilised over the past three years.
He said the current prevalence rate of 1.4% reflects the declining new HIV infections and reduced morbidity and mortality among persons living with HIV.
“We have seen a consistent reduction in new HIV infections from a baseline of 16,200 new infections to 11,356, a 30% decline over the past five years.”
The President also touched on Persons Living with Disabilites (PWDs) saying that being a disabled person should not prevent one from using his other capabilities to affect society positively.
He has, therefore, “requested that the disability common fund be increased from 2 to 3 per cent”.
On the Economy President Mahama said his administration will exercise strict fiscal discipline this year to transform Ghana. He stated “I have assured the nation and our partners that my administration will exercise strict fiscal discipline even in this election year in order that we can transform this negative narrative of our country,”
He said Ghana’s budget deficit projection for 2016 has been pegged at 5.3 percent.
Touching on the Microfinance challenges facing the country at the moment, President Mahama stated that the Lack of effective supervision on the part of the central bank has resulted in many cases, in which many microfinance companies licensed by the BoG, have breached the rules of procedure, one of such cases being DKM.
The President said: “Our laws place this matter squarely within the ambit of the BoG.”
He added that unsuspecting clients deserve to have been protected by a more robust inspection and supervisory regime by the central bank.
DKM Diamond Microfinance, with its main office in the Brong Ahafo Region, promised clients high interest rates between 50% to 55% and collected monies from customers over a period. The BoG, in a clampdown on illegal operations of microfinance companies, picked up officials of the company, who are expected to face prosecution for breaching the BoG’s laws.
DKM, according to President Mahama diverted GHS77 million of investors’ funds into their own firms, leading to the inability of the firm to pay returns to clients, some of whom have died or committed suicide as a result of the anguish they suffered in connection with the scam.
The President said efforts to liquidate the company were ongoing and the objective of this exercise is to reimburse legitimate customers of their original deposit amounts.
He charged the BoG to find a lasting solution to the problem to prevent such occurrences in the future.
He also appealed to Parliament to expedite action on the Ghana Deposits Protection Bill, which will protect funds by small depositors in the future.
President Mahama also said Government is moving to cut down on unprocessed gold export to add value to the commodity before it is exported.
He stated that the move is part of diversifying the economy to add value to the country’s major export commodities which have seen a dip in world prices.
He said the expectation is that the growing number of licensed gold buyers who have traditionally purchased raw materials in Ghana and have exported them to other countries will seek to refine that gold in Ghana creating jobs and increase revenue.
In this direction, President Mahama announced that government is funding the manufacturing sub-sector to increase revenue from exported commodities, particularly gold.
He said the new 7 million dollar gold refinery, the Sahara Gold Refinery, commissioned at Adjiringano has the capacity to refine between 200 and 300 kilos of gold daily to meet a substantial demand of the industry. He added that assistant to the KNUST Jewelry School is also aimed at training core craftsmen to kick start a jewelry industry in gold mining communities.
President Mahama also said government has initiated a number of policies to reduce the suffering of the citizenry. This will include the launch of a microfinance project for Kayaye`s this year.
He said the Livelihood Empowerment Programme, LEAP, is catering for over 144,000 households appreciating from the 1,640 households in 2008.
President John Mahama also said plans are in place to increase Ghana’s coffee production from the current 6,000 metric tonnes to 100,000 metric tonnes per annum in the short to medium term.
He announced that five million improved early maturing and high yielding coffee seedlings are being raised and will be distributed freely to farmers interested in growing the crop.
On sports, President Mahama said aside from the Cape Coast Stadium, plans are afoot to construct the New Edubiase Stadium. He noted that other sporting disciplines will enjoy their fair share of development.
He said his government is committed to the implementation of the findings and recommendations of the World Cup Commission despite the legal hurdles ahead.
He also said a new boxing gym and sports complex is being built by SSNIT near the Korle lagoon and will be commissioned this year. This he said will give the opportunity for young people in Bukom and other surrounding areas who have a talent for boxing to realise their dreams.
He also called for the reintegration of physical education and sports into the school curricula.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this news report do not necessarily reflect the position of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC)