Mr. Speaker, “finally, finally”, for the last time, I have come to this August House as President of Ghana, in accordance with the relevant provision of the Constitution of the 4th Republic, to address the House before the dissolution of the 4th Parliament of the 4th Republic.
This is also a very good occasion to bid farewell to Honourable Members of the House and your good self, Mr. Speaker.
Naturally, Mr. Speaker, I had hoped that after my tenure I would be succeeded by a candidate from my own political tradition.
But as things have turned out, the Electoral Commissioner has declared that the electorate of Ghana has decided otherwise. As a democrat, I acknowledge this declaration. I therefore congratulate once more Professor John Evans Atta Mills on his election. It is to be hoped that he will bring the wealth of experience garnered while in government and subsequently out of it to forge a sense of unity within the body politic, which is a sine qua non for nation building.
Mr. Speaker, I should also congratulate the NPP Flag bearer, Hon. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who has acquitted himself with valour and the greatest sense of dignity in what is perhaps one of the closest and most keenly contested elections ever in the nation’s political history. He, more than anyone else, should know that our tradition has been fashioned and tempered with perseverance, resilience and the resolve to stay the course. Like a good Hearts of Oak person would say, “never say die until the bones are rotten”; which Mr. Speaker, is not unlike the rallying call of another popular football team, Asante Kotoko, “kill a thousand and another thousand will come”: wokum apem a, apem be ba! This is not to say that Hon. Nana Addo belongs to either club. I do not know.
Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge also the other parties and their flag bearers who contested the elections. We can only hope that in time, their presence in Parliament will be more visible. From their respective manifestoes and presentations through the electioneering, they enriched the political discourse by offering alternative views which must have helped the electorate to make informed choices. I wish them better luck next time.
Mr. Speaker, it is not for nothing that the Constitution provides for a multi-party system. Political Parties are not only for elections but are also veritable nurturing grounds for leadership development in the interest of society. Political Parties bridge many divides within the nation including ethnic, religious, ideological and gender. In all these senses, parties become indispensable in a democratic dispensation, such as we are trying to establish in Ghana. This is why some of us will continue to advocate for some reasonable support by the state for the sustenance of parties of a credible track record and sizeable following.
Mr. Speaker, in the current information age, incumbency is proving to be extremely challenging in a vibrant democracy, such as ours. It demands being on the alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Every action of government is put under constant scrutiny for questioning while a spin is put on almost every policy decision. This attitude tends to ignore the need for gestation periods for programmes, and thereby promotes a negative culture of instant gratification and unrealistic expectations. This is often exploited for undue political gain. If politicians across the board continue to preoccupy themselves with criticizing programmes and policies of incumbent governments just to score political points, they will in the long run breed cynicism, undermine the whole political system and weaken democracy to everybody’s disadvantage.
Mr. Speaker, this august house is well placed to lead the urgent effort to curb this negative tendency so it does not become endemic.
Mr. Speaker, as I leave office after eight years in the presidency, I want to crave your indulgence to share with you some thoughts deriving from my personal experience in public life. Indeed, I have some story to tell!
As you must know, I have served in Parliament twice, first in the 2nd Republic on the government side, and second, in the 3rd Republic, on the other side. I have had the privilege of serving in government as a Junior Minister. I have seen the rise and fall of three Republics. I have suffered political detention twice, because of military coup d’etats. I have come through the ups and downs of the changing fortunes of politics over the past forty years, and thank God, I am now ending my active political life at the pinnacle of the greasy pole of politics as President of the Republic. I should therefore know what I am talking about.
First of all, I would want to emphasize that to guarantee stability and freedom in the country, the institutions of state must work better. Fresh from elections, the Electoral Commission is uppermost in my thoughts. It is apparent that unlike the Executive and the Legislature which have to have their mandates renewed every four years, the Commission is without term limits. The country has been fortunate with the current Commission whose core members have by and large, conducted themselves professionally. There is no doubt, however, that generally it is risky to have a referee that enjoys permanent tenure. I therefore recommend for the consideration of this House and the nation a system which will retain the absolute independence of the Commission, but also provide all its members with specific termed tenure. Consideration might be given to a six-year two-term arrangement, overlapping Parliament’s. Their appointment and renewal should be vested in a specially constituted Electoral College. This will underpin sustained public trust in the Commission and also make it accountable to the people. Along the same lines, we might also want to take a closer look at the National Commission for Civic Education.
Mr. Speaker, the Constitution of the Fourth Republic recognizes in Parliament a Majority side and a Minority side. The Parliament to be convened after today’s dissolution appears hung and virtually equally divided. This must present its own challenges. There is no doubt that, to carry any measure, there must be regular consultations, responsible compromises and sensible accommodation. In short, constructive consensus building must become the order of the day in the House.
Already, the current hybrid or adaptation of the doctrine of separation of powers between the Legislature and the Executive poses a vexed question. The Constitution requires a majority of Cabinet to be appointed from within Parliament. This, perhaps, is meant to facilitate the cooperation between the two organs. On the other hand however, it is clear that the demands of the two functions require full time attention. Therefore, to expect a fulltime Minister to couple as a full time Parliamentarian only tends to lead to under performance by the incumbent. Additionally, the combination of the position of a Minister and Legislator in one person gives undue psychological advantage over the ordinary Legislator.
This might not make for the proper working of the checks and balances that should determine the relationship between the two. In short, both the Executive and the Legislature get to be weaker by combining full time functions that must be kept separate.
Again, Mr. Speaker, even the Presidency is not without its drawbacks either. What my experience tells me is that a tenure of four years for the President of a struggling developing nation with weak institutions may be too short. This is especially so for an incumbent who, though popular, may lack the requisite experience at the point of assuming office.
Reasonable room should be allowed for the newly-elect to settle into the job. The oft-cited success stories of countries like Malaysia and Singapore which have witnessed great transformation might be explained not only in terms of the quality leadership but also, of the long tenure of office. Perhaps, in the case of Ghana, a five year term renewable once will create the needed space for making a better impact.
Mr. Speaker, under present circumstances, transforming the nation cannot be effected under one Presidency. Therefore, necessarily, there should be a succession of Presidents working towards the same goal over time, to achieve strategic transformation of any kind. In this respect, with the indulgence of the House, I wish to discuss three strategic programmes, already initiated, that I believe must be developed to help Ghana to attain its vision of becoming a middle income economy by 2015.
The first is the emerging petro-chemical sector where already government has staged an international forum with a view to learning from best practices around the world for managing the sector. Inherent to this, it is important to determine what to do with the oil find, whether to trade oil in crude form exclusively or opt for a mix which includes value-addition on-shore, which is the preferred. The on-shore component of this mix should launch industrialization which would entail the development of professionals and general workforce in related areas of enterprise. In this regard, Government has already initiated action towards the creation of adjoining land banks in the Western Region to support investors in the anticipated petro-chemical sector.
Mr. Speaker, the success in stabilizing the macro-economy has led to a dramatic expansion in the financial sector, providing diversified products in banking and insurance. The International Financial Services Centre or Offshore Banking that has already been launched should be developed further. This will link Ghana with the international financial world and, as has happened in the case of Mauritius, help accelerate Ghana’s development.
Mr. Speaker, the third programme is the integrated bauxite aluminium industry which I recommend strongly for priority action. Its various components are bauxite mining, an infrastructural rail link, development of alumina refinery, a dedicated energy source, and full utilization and possible expansion of the VALCO smelter. These developments will give a major boost to our economy and help to realize the dream of Kwame Nkrumah for industrialization that inspired the construction of the Akosombo dam. Government has worked extensively on this integrated project and much progress has been made. It should be realizable within the next five years. It is my hope that the in-coming administration will champion the realization of this strategic project.
Mr. Speaker, all of these projects that I am recommending hinge on the concept of Public-Private Partnership which is the way we should go to transform our economy so that we become a second world country. In this respect, we must acknowledge that truly a solid foundation has been established to support these strategic programmes that will help leapfrog the development of the country. We have already noted the developments in the financial sector.
In the social sector, progress made especially in education, should be sustained. The upgraded teacher training institutions emphasizing science, mathematic and ICT should be resourced. The National Health Insurance Scheme should be supported. US$90 million has been secured as seed money to attract necessary competent partnerships for the modernization of the railway system and its expansion.
Mr. Speaker, it is necessary that the state takes strategic holdings in these transformatory projects, to ensure that the objective of making Ghana a second world country in the foreseeable future is not jeopardized. For, without a strategic interest by the state, investors may not stay true to the purpose of the project. But, with the right state leadership, and a functioning regulatory framework, all economic stakeholders would be assured of the security of their legitimate interest share without deviating from the stated objectives of the nation’s socio-economic development.
Mr. Speaker, we should know that the free human being is the most productive factor of every economy. He must therefore be protected through an enlightened Constitution providing for the rule of law, respect for human rights, the basic freedoms of association and religion, gender, ethnic and minority rights and property rights, all of which are tenets of democracy. Underlying these should be accountability on the part of the government and responsibility on the part of the governed, with adherence to the rule of law and social demands including payment of taxes. Above all, due process should be the only way of resolving differences.
In this respect, governors and the governed should accept the social contract of upholding the Constitution and democracy. Parliament in its primary duty as the forum of the people must fearlessly play the role of watchdog of the terms of the social contract. Performance of this duty must take precedence over party alignments and considerations. In particular, the House must playa vanguard role against the cancerous spread of divisiveness on tribal and religious lines within the body politic. All avenues, including balanced educational curricula, recruitmentinto vital national and social services and pronouncements through the media and otherwise must be deliberated upon seriously by the House.
Mr. Speaker, the world has become more and more interdependent, where all humanity is called upon to be each other’s keeper. But, as charity begins at home, it behoves us to prioritise issues of good neighbourliness in international relations. We must seek to strengthen our regional ties even further to enable us tackle together shared concerns such as containment and eradication of infectious diseases, environmental sanitation, drug trafficking and realization of the ECOWAS protocol of free trade.
Mr. Speaker, without boast or exaggeration, I have been enabled, as President of Ghana, to interact, without exaggeration, with the entire leadership of the world, including the G8, the Security Council and the General Assembly of the UN, the African Union, the EU, Japan, China, Brazil, India, and the rest of the Commonwealth. I have also had fruitful interactions with the Bretton Woods Institutions and various international NGOs. I believe the benefits from this extensive network are making an impact on the lives of the entire citizenry of Ghana. Let me cite just the example of the free maternity care. I am forever thankful that my vision has been expanded to enable me appreciate fully the common humanity of man and the interdependency of the world.
Mr. Speaker, I owe this enlarged vision and more to the good people of Ghana for electing me to the highest office of the land for eight years. I am very grateful indeed to all my compatriots for bestowing on me so rare an honour.
Me manfo, ade kye a (Akan)
Nye yi wale don (Ga)
Meda mo ase
May God bless us all.
Source Ghana Parliament
Category: Kufuor Speech