Let’s listen to the voice of the people – President Mahama

By Kofi Ayim and Pamela Appea

President John Mahama (4th from left) and his entourage

Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama told a cross-section of Ghanaians in the New York area that even though confidence in Ghana’s economy is high, political pressures preceding the December 7 elections is one reason his country’s currency has experienced diminished value. He conceded that his government has challenges because the economy is not yet out of the woods. Uncertainties in the political temperature have caused the economy into semi recession. But measures have been put in place to check depreciation of the cedi; and inflation still remains within the single digit margin, and confidence in the economy is still high. The last bonds floated overseas were oversubscribed, mostly by foreigners by more than a billion dollars.

The president made these remarks September 27 at the Marriot Marquis Hotel in New York City at a public forum for Ghanaians in the New York Metro Area.

The president had earlier paid tribute to President John Atta Mills who died in late July this year and the remarkable transitional process that followed. He praised the resilience of the Ghanaian people’s resolve to ensure continuity of the constitutional process.

Mr. Mahama recalled the political development of Ghana since independence, saying in jest among other things that in addition to being a torchbearer for being the first African country to obtain its independence from Great Britain in 1957, Ghana also showed Africa how to make coups. In spite of all the military incursions into the country’s political process, Ghana has once again emerged as a beacon of democracy in Africa, a point of admiration for many Africans. He added, “Often people appreciate our country more than we do.”

The president pointed out that Ghana is among the top six fastest growing economies in Africa and the tenth in the world, adding that if the continuous finds in oil discovery are anything to go by, then Ghana has the potential to produce about half-a-million barrels of oil a day in the foreseeable future. He quickly pointed out that “oil is not everything.” The President decried the entry of the Chinese into the galamsey business. “Galamsey” is the illegal mining of gold characterized by untold and immeasurable destruction of the environment. He said his government is adopting strategies to curb the practice.

President John Dramani Mahama said too that he had had meetings with the World Bank about how Ghana could manage its transition to a higher income class. Among the various challenges ahead in order to achieve higher income status, he said it is important to bring more Ghanaians out of poverty.

Regarding energy, the president stated that his government was working with the United States to achieve more success. The first compact with the Millennium Corporation under ex-President Kufuor was a huge success and so Ghana was preparing to enter into a second compact and energy is one of the areas for concentration. Because of an accident on the West African pipeline, Ghana’s energy supply has been severely affected. Power supply is currently down by 320MW, but the energy sector is working to forestall further shortfalls. “By next year Ghana should be able to process our own gas to produce enough for our industries.” Mahama stressed.

He also remarked that Ghana imports more consumer food and poultry, and intimated that the trend must be reversed. So far, between $400 and $500 million is spent in importing food along. For a steady food security, his government envisions modernizing agriculture. With a USAID provision of a $150 million loan more areas could be put under irrigation, while the private sector has also been invited into the sector. The production of rice, maize, fish and aquaculture for fish production is on the rise, the president said.

On the political front, President Mahama posited that the peace, stability and security of the country has facilitated economic growth, and therefore must not be taken for granted. He pointed out that Ghana has had five peaceful democratic elections thus far, and therefore there should be no cause for alarm in the coming elections. “We must respect and listen to the verdict of the people. “If the people do not want you, they don’t want you,” he emphasized.

The president’s address was followed by a question and answer session which that ranged from pensions to veterans; to attempts by Ghanaians to send in free medical supplies.

One of the areas that were not addressed by the president was health care but a questioner provided the president with the opportunity to inform the forum of his government’s performance in the area.

Ghana’s president said that health care is one of the sectors that are consuming the country’s domestic budget. “In terms of investment of our overall budget, health is number one. Health costs are highest after education in our budget.” One of the major problems is the lack of facilities and the lack of access. His government, he said, has expanded access to health care in Ghana, which he added goes hand in hand with human resources and training. “We need more medical, nursing and midwifery schools. Our nursing and midwifery training over the last four year has doubled as compared with the previous eight years. It is out of that desire to increase the number of personnel.”

All of the medical schools are filled to capacity, but there is the need for more doctors, X-Ray technicians, and all kinds of specialties. Ghana has sent a number of students to Cuba for medical training, the president disclosed. “The understanding is that when they finish the training, we will send them back to hometowns and districts,” President Mahama stressed.

Demonstrations against the ruling government by some Ghanaian opposition groups went on at the same time the president was addressing the forum at the forecourt of the hotel.

Present at the forum were Ambassador and Ghana’s Permanent Representative to the U.N., Ken Kanda; Ambassador to the U.S., Ohene Agyekum; High Commissioner to the U.K. Professor Danso Boafo; Foreign Minister Alhaji Mumuni; Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning; Seth Tekper; Information Minister, Fritz Baffour; Special Adviser Cadman Mills; and Messrs. Bebaako Mensah; Accra Mayor Alfred Vanderpuye; Roger Asomaning; Baffoe Boney; Eastern Regional Minister Victor Smith; Ms. Hannah Tetteh.



Posted by on Oct 18 2012. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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