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President’s Address Was Selective

The Minority in Parliament have accused President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of presenting a selective message on the true state of the nation and creating an atmosphere of hopelessness in his maiden State of the Nation Address to Parliament Tuesday.

In separate interviews with the Daily Graphic after the address, some Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) said the President decided to focus on the negatives of the past government that satisfied his purpose and failed to recognise the positives in order to deceive Ghanaians that he had inherited a mess, when in fact it was not the case.

They said the President failed to explain how he was going to source funding for his free senior high school (SHS) policy, measures to grow the economy and create jobs.

The Minority MPs said they would present the true state of the nation in their debate of the address on the floor of the House from Thursday and at other forums.

But the Majority MPs dismissed the suggestion that the President’s message was selective or deceitful, saying he presented the facts as they were.

They said the President did not manufacture the statistics and that they were produced by the relevant state institutions,

stressing that the Minority MPs were refusing to accept the fact that their government had not left the economy in the best of shapes.

Minority’s assertions

The Deputy Minority Leader, Mr James Avedzi, said President Akufo-Addo campaigned on the fact that the economy was bad and for that matter Ghanaians should vote for him, but he was telling a different story now.

“He chose what to say for Ghanaians to believe him. But we will come out in a debate to address the facts about the true aspects of the economy,” he said.

Mr Avedzi, who is a former Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament, said the President only gave the country’s debt in absolute figures but did not talk about the debt to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio.

“If you only mention absolute figures, without relating them to anything, you cannot make any argument out of that,” he said.

Mr Avedzi, who is the MP for Ketu North, said he agreed with President Akufo-Addo that the past NDC government missed the revenue target, saying that was normal with all government sectors.

He denied the President’s assertion that the 3.6 GDP growth in 2016 was the worst in the last 23 years and indicated that the Minority “will come up with all GDP growth rates over the years for Ghanaians to see”.

He said although the President said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme had brought nothing to Ghana, he (the President) was negotiating with the IMF to extend the ending period from April 2018 to December 2018.

He expressed doubt over the President’s ability to achieve the set targets in the economy, education and other areas.

The MP for Ketu South and former Minister of Agriculture, Mr Fifi Fiavi Kwetey, said the President did the normal politicking “where he focused on what he saw was negative and ran away from the positives, which really should not happen outside the campaign”.

“For example, he mentioned that we left behind unprecedented debt, but what he failed to tell the country is that we left behind unprecedented infrastructure,” he said.

He said what the President called debt was investment in infrastructure which was needed to propel economic growth and also create jobs.

The MP for Keta, Mr Richard Quashigah, said he was disappointed in the indication by President Akufo-Addo that people would have to tighten their belts because of the tough times ahead.

“It dashes the hopes of the young people who had expected that with the coming of the new administration, they were going to get more jobs. Though he was talking about creating jobs, he was also signaling there are tough times ahead. That, for me, is a message of hopelessness; an indication that the change that you are looking for will not be now,” he said.

The MP for Yapei/Kusawgu and former Deputy Minister of Power, Mr John Abdulai Jinapor, said it was true that the debt in the energy sector was about GH¢2 billion, as indicated by the President.

However, he said, “when talking about financing, you don’t talk about the debt because as you owe other people, other people also owe you”.

Mr Jinapor said the past government instituted the Energy Sector Levy and undertook reforms, investing $490 million in the energy sector, adding that “we were confident that given a three-year period, we will pay all the money with the levies and reforms”.

He said the government the energy sector in a healthy state, with excess capacity and no ‘dumsor’.

The MP for Sagnarigu, Alhaji Alhassan Bashir Fuseini, accused the New Patriotic Party (NPP) of deceit for presenting a different picture to Ghanaians now, as opposed to what they presented before the elections.

Majority defends statement

The MP for Old Tafo and Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, told the Daily Graphic that President Akufo-Addo presented facts on the true state of the economy and that it was not an impression.

“People must distinguish between creating the impression and talking facts. What he told us is what we have inherited,” he said.

Dr Akoto Osei said the President went further to say that even though he had inherited challenges, he was not going to give up, and that he would find innovative ways to change the situation.

He said there was no dispute over the debt-to-GDP ratio of about 75 per cent, the fiscal deficit and the 3.6 GDP growth last year.

“Facts are not to be disputed. But the question is: how are we going to turn the situation around? We will focus on the positives, but we should let people know the facts,” the MP said.

The Minister of Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, said the statistics presented by the President were “produced by relevant departments” and indicated that the Minority MPs “don’t want to face the reality that in their time things didn’t go well”.

“The fact of the matter is that Ghana is not heaven at this moment. It is not the Garden of Eden. People are suffering. They don’t have jobs, a lot of youth don’t have jobs, there is a lot of pressure in the pockets of parents. That is the reality and if they don’t want to face it, it is their own business,” he said.

Dr Afriyie Akoto said the President’s job was to accept the reality and provide the much needed solutions and that was what he did in his message.

For instance, he said, the ‘Plant for food’ programme was going to create jobs in the agricultural sector and increase the incomes of farmers, adding: “That is the practical solution he is bringing to the country. If the Minority does not accept it, that is their business.”

The MP for Madina and Minister for Inner Cities and Zongo Development, Alhaji Abubakar Saddique Boniface, said the President’s message was full of hope for Ghanaians and that it was not for demonisation.

For instance, he said, the President had outlined measures to bring relief to Ghanaians, such as the restoration of teacher and nursing trainee allowances, the introduction of free SHS, measures to grow the agricultural sector and boost exports.

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