Category Archives: Features

Debt to GDP, Debt Stock and matters arising

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In 2016, the issue about debt stock and debt to GDP ratio were important part of public financial and economic management discourse in Ghana.

Discussions about the economy is still focused on these metrics because of the current position that it is possible to borrow to improve both the debt stock and the debt to GDP ratio of the country.

Though economic data is useful to politicians and they may quote such data from time to time either in assessing government performance (i.e. opposition political parties) or in defending economic performance (i.e. government), it must be verified from mandated independent institutions created by law such as the Bank of Ghana and Ghana Statistical Service.

For instance, in June 2017, the first quarter economic data released by the Bank of Ghana indicated that the GDP at the end of 2016 was GH¢167.3 billion, while the projected GDP for the year ending 2017 is GHc203.4 billion.

The data further revealed that the debt stock (total debt) by the end of first quarter of 2017 is GHc127.1billion indicating that the debt stock increased by GHc4.5 billion . It is therefore not correct to put in the public domain that the government is borrowing but the debt stock is not increasing.

The fact that current borrowing retires or refinances old debt does not lead to reduction of the debt stock. The only way to reduce the debt stock is to generate enough revenue to repay our debt obligation and moderate borrowing.

This is the reason why debt to GDP ratio maybe a misleading measures for Ghana, because while debt imposes actual cash payment or its equivalent, GDP is a notional measure that promises to generate revenue for repayment of debt.

Thus, huge GDP growth is very good for the economy but GDP growth that does not generate the needed revenue and jobs is unproductive. The implication is that since the first quarter revenue target was not met and same is expected of the second quarter any improvement in GDP does not necessarily reduce the debt burden of the country, especially when the $2.25billion (GH¢ 10billion) is added to the debt stock in the second quarter.

The fact is that the projected interest cost of accumulated debt is captured in the 2017 is GHc14 billion. Further implication is that if the projected Debt to GDP ratio of 71.7% is achieved at the end of 2017 in the face of poor revenue performance there will not be improvement in the debt burden of the country. In fact borrowing to retire old debts only means changing your creditors and repayment periods.

For instance, if Ghana borrowed cumulatively from different creditors $30billion and we borrow $ 40billion today (this does not mean Ghana has borrowed only $40billion) from BAA Financial House with maturity of fifteen years(15yrs) and use it to pay off the old indebtedness of $30billion.

Our current indebtedness is $40billion plus any interest Cost and not $10billion this is irrespective of any improvement in debt to GDP ratio. However, without retiring old indebtedness the total debt would be $70 billion. The fact that the debt is not $70billion because of the retirement or payment of the old debt does not in any way mean reduction in debt stock.

As a country our strategy should combine improvements in productivity and creativity to enhance the revenue envelop. If we significantly improve on sustainable revenue mobilization, high debt to GDP ratio will actually not be a threat to economic management, though moderate Debt to GDP ratio is even better.

By Dr. John Gatsi|Department of Finance , School of Business|University of Cape Coast

 

Is Christian Methodist SHS under threat?

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Christian Methodist Senior High School (CHRIMESCO ) is one of the two Senior High Schools (SHS) in the Ga South Municipality of the Greater Accra Region. 

The school which was established in 1965 and has a student population of about two thousand (2000 ) is threatened by a number of factors which the government must urgently pay attention to.

The is the school that has trained great people like the ace journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas, the great and popular  musician,  Nat Brew (Amandzeba), just to mention a few.

The School was formally located at Adabraka near Kwame Nkrumah Circle in a private property with very limited space for many years.

Government therefore acquired one hundred and ten acres land (110) for the school near the Block Factory on the Kasoa road here in Accra. Unfortunately, by the time the school moved to the new site, the land had already been encroached upon, leaving only about five acres for the school.

When a team of Journalists In Development (JID) visited the school to do undercover checks, all sorts of buildings including private houses, schools, fitting shops, churches, mosques, containers, etc. were discovered.

The team saw a thick bush which looked like a reserved forest right behind the school. The team initially thought the “forest” was reserved for recreation. But it was later realised that the people around had turned that portion of land into a dumping site. According to sources, the bush is a breeding ground for snakes,  other poisonous reptiles and animals which obviously is a threat to students on campus. Criminals such as armed robbers and wee smokers also hide in the bush and terrorise people there at night. The school has no assembly hall and a football pitch. So then why is the school not making use of that portion of land which is rather breeding snakes and harbouring criminals.

Our checks also revealed that there’s a road that runs through the school, and that’s indeed a major source of worry to the students as they could be knocked down by those reckless drivers. Not to talk about the loud noise alone generated by the engine of these vehicles are enough to distract academic work on campus.

The school even has no fence wall around it currently as we speak and this greatly affects security operations and also makes discipline a major problem to handle.

In addition, the team learnt that the only dormitory built for the school almost 70% complete for the past seven years ago was abandoned. The team also gathered that the contractor left the site and has since not reported.

As a result students who come from afar are compelled to rent apartments at nearby places. This development has often put the students, especially, the girls into situations of possible attacks and harassment according to our sources.

Unfortunately, the school’s eighteen unit classroom block which started many years ago has also been abadoned. Although the classroom building has not been completed, the school is forced to use it for teaching and learning as a result of lack of classrooms due to increasing student population of the school.

It is sad again to note that in this day and age where science and technology have become the driving force of development in every sphere of life, and where every well meaning secondary school has the facility, Christian Methodist Senior High School alone cannot even boast of one such facility because the building which was put up for that purpose was also abandoned many years ago and  turned into a den for criminals.

Finally, the school does not have a staff accommodation on campus and this affects academic work of the school as staff travel long distances to school everyday.

Students who wanted to remain anonymous spoke to the JID team with regrets saying government has neglected the school, and that it has not done enough to rescue the school from its present predicaments.

They however called on President Akuffo Addo to as a matter of urgency intervene to save the school by completing all abandoned projects in the school. They also want the President to immediately reclaim the school lands that have been encroached upon to enable the school to attain development in order to enhance academic work.

JID can recall that a statement was made by the President in connection with reclaiming of the school lands when he spoke to chiefs at a durbar held in his honour at James Town here in Accra recently. But nothing concrete has been done to see to the realization of President’s directive. Until nothing concrete is done students of Christian Methodist SHS will continue to bear the brunt of living in fear, insecurity and hardships that comes with poor and inadequate school facilities which is an affront to teaching and learning.

Source: Journalists In Development (JID)

Writers: Kojo Aidoo/Joseph Wemakor

Black Beauty Rashida slapped and patted for nudity

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Rashida Black Beauty

Rashidatu Mohammed alias –Rashida Black Beauty, has caught a number of lips including women in the media and communication’s industry with her nude video, which has gone viral.

While some thought she needed help and that her actions were a reflection of society’s failure, others felt it was a deliberate act so she must take responsibility for her action.

During the 2016 Jigwe Award, Rashida Black Beauty won Viral Video of the Year award with her Kushmai recording.

Not everyone lauded her winning the award and also expressed disdain about the organisers.

“The organisers of the award are the kind of people destroying the moral fiber of this country” said a lady who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The discussion was on the WhatsApp platform for Alliance for Women in Media, Africa.

“I don’t think she has good people around her. Her manager only seemed interested in getting his hands on the money people offered her to help further her education,” another interviewee said.

One Rhema noted that society had failed people like Rashida by reducing popularity and fame to nudity and indecency.

Afua observed that “without controversy a decent hardworking person doesn’t trend”.

“You cannot do decent diligent work and make it in Ghana. Looks like you have to be dubious to have it work out for you. She is a product of our society, a reflection of our system,” Efe Plange, Founder of Sankofa Reviews said

Another said discussions should revolve around depression and its management however the discussion which started off about the welfare of Rashida Black Beauty turned into a critical look at what possibly contributed her actions and the consequences of her action on today’s generation.

It also triggered concerns about the role of media in promoting sexual indecency and the growing trend of sex tape leaks: “Social media sets the pace now”, “traditional media must be up and doing”, “We have to blame ourselves most media houses now pick their news bulletin from social media, lazy journalism”, comments from the page said.

The media is not setting the agenda right or maybe journalists are no longer setting the agenda.

If the media is truly setting the agenda and is supposed to work in the interest of the people in a professional practice then discussions around video leaks will be steered in a more healthy direction.

It’s great to have divergent views, the discussion grew more interesting.

“And why shouldn’t they? It’s a story? She’s a human being who deserves to be heard and seen.

That oppression of women’s bodies is the reason we have her. Let her have her agency!” someone replied.

“She would have trended and ended on social media, but we brought her to national attention through the power of television and radio,” Dela said.

It is true the penetration of radio and television in the country cannot be compared to that of the internet.

Again not everyone who uses the internet is on social media so less harm could have been done if the trend ended on the social media.

Just when the discussion got to its peak, Rashida Black Beauty posts on her facebook page, “Hello Ghana, I am sorry and I regret my actions, there is a lot of explanation to this video but I guess the harm has already been done so no one will be willing to hear what I have to say or tell them.

All I want to say is I regret my actions and I hope Ghanaians do forgive me… Thank you!”

By Caroline Pomeyie|GNA|Ghana

 

CASE STUDY on 3FM – To choose or to die

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So, thinking about life and the choices we make, the things we get to choose from, why we pick one and leave the other, the pain we go through to choose when we have to choose between two things we totally love. Reminds me of the late Papa Yankson’s “S3 ekoto womame na wo yir d3 wo gun so mu a, eb3yi hwana?” literally meaning, if you see your mom and wife drowning in a river, who would you save? This is the case of a lady who is an only child and has to choose between her sick mom and her husband. Sending her story to CASE STUDY on 3FM with Michelle McKinney Hammond and David Papa Bondze-Mbir, the issue read:

I was raised by my mother. I never met my Dad. Everything I am today, my mother’s influence helped shape it. My choice of schools, career, Husband, my mother was a part of each decision making. 

That’s why it’s very difficult for me to leave her all by herself. She’s 79 years old, and I am her only child. 

I used to employ a qualified nurse and a professional help to attend to her failing health issues, however, my attention was drawn to how they (those I hired) maltreated my mother. They would whip, slap, shout/scream at her, insult and deny her food, leave or lock her all alone in her room – whilst they entertained men in my mother’s house. 

I have proof of all these because I have surveillance cameras installed in her house. After talking things through with my husband, concerning my mother’s condition, we agreed on letting her stay with us. 

I have been married for Seven (7) years, and I have Two (2) kids. My mother has been staying with us for the past Three (3) years, without any problems, until recently, when my husband started giving me attitude. 

He wants my mother out of the house. I have overhead him argue with his mother on phone – explaining why mine is staying with us. She wants to also come over and stay with us. 

Dave, I don’t have any problems with my mother-in-law coming over. My issue is, why should she use my mom’s stay to make a point? She’s not sick. All her kids are alive and doing well. They all take care of her. We live in a Four (4) bedroom house. The kids sleep in two, my mom is in the third room. 

My husband is insisting I let my sick mother return to her house, so we hire different caretakers to attend to her. I can’t do that. She went through hell when I trusted employees. 

My husband of late doesn’t come home early. He doesn’t talk to my mother because she questions why he stays out as late as 12 AM. 

He used to not be like that. Now I am also beginning to feel my mother’s presence is causing my husband to change. 

I am getting fed up with seeing my mother around the house too. I love her, and would not want her to be left alone, knowing very well she’s not that healthy. She needs her family around, but to whose expense, mine? 

I love my husband, and wouldn’t want to be the reason why he changes into something else. I think for the sake of keeping my husband, I may want to keep my mother out of our house. 

I am just confused.

What would you do in her case? Would you be ungrateful and let go your mom, who has single handedly catered for you from birth, health, through education and all that you are and have today? In this case she is your mom, she had just you and she is old and sick. Or would you forget your vows and go against your husband whom you have become one because of the vows you shared? Finding yourself in situations like this makes one very sorry for being in this world. The question is: what if you leave your mom and she dies? The guilt that will come with it which you would have to live with for the rest of your life! What if the decision to go with your mom and ignore your husband breaks your marriage? Think about it.

By Roberta Acquah-Imbeah

The writer is a producer for ‘Case Study’ on 3FM

TALKING DRUM: The simplest question I would have asked Prez Akufo-Addo

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At the Flagstaff House [the seat of government], in the Greater Accra region, the President invited journalists to come listen to him tell Ghanaians what he has achieved so far after six months in office.

On Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at exactly 12:30pm, the President’s guests were seated; so was the larger populace, outside the Flagstaff House, either glued to their television or radio sets waiting to hear the Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces speak.

Touching on almost all sectors of the economy, President Akufo-Addo touted his government’s achievements. He noted he has restored the teachers and nursing trainees’ allowances which will take effect at the beginning of the 2017/18 academic year.

One thing that got me admiring His Excellency was his frankness on issues. Questions posed to him that were beyond his wits, he directed to his Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, and others.

On security, the President was spot on as he admitted that incidents of the Delta Forces and Invisible Forces (vigilante groups within the New Patriotic Party) have brought the government into disrepute.

Social media was flooded with score cards on who asked the most intelligent question as journalists took turns to do so.

For instance, Citi FM’s Bernard Avle, Joy FM’s Evans Mensah and Ghana Broadcasting Corporation’s Abdul Hayi Momeen were highly praised. On the flip side, Abusua FM’s Kwame Adinkra was not spared the rod of ridicule. Social media commentators have described his question to the President on road infrastructure in Kumasi (Ashanti region) as that of a typical serial caller on radio.

Personally, I think Kwame Adinkra was too bias in his question. He implicitly implied that the former President, John Dramani Mahama’s administration did nothing for Kumasi.

As if his politically bias question wasn’t enough, he went about needlessly praising the President on how nice the African print he wore was. For Heaven’s sake, this is the president of the nation and no one expects him wear tattered shirts!!!

I was not present at President Akufo-Addo’s media encounter so I did not get the opportunity to ask my question. However, if I did, I know by now social media would have still been discussing me. Yes!

I would have been the talk of town. I would have, however, pardoned whoever would call me stupid or insane. Why? This is because I would have asked the simplest of questions.

“Hello Mr. President. My name is Solomon Mensah and I work with Media General (specifically 3FM and TV3). Could you please tell us the last time you passed through the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Interchange, Kanesehie, Lapaz, Madina and other suburbs of the capital city?”

Having asked this, I would add, “If you have had a pass through these suburbs of Accra since coming into office, did you [with all due respect] see the filth engulfing the city of Accra? Would you say the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources you created has been of help so far? Thank you.”

Solomon Mensah

Until recently that All Nations University students in the Eastern region launched a satellite into space, what pertains beyond the clouds has not really been our concern. One of our major concerns, however, has been how to battle filth.

Sadly, all the measures the Mahama administration put in place to deal with this canker did not work because they were themselves problems. Talk of the National Sanitation Day where we are indirectly told to fill the gutters with rubbish and go back to clean it at the beginning of every new month. Sickening!

When President Akufo-Addo created the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, I thought our problems were going to be dealt with. Six months on, I will score the ministry a lousy 1 out of 10. They have basically done nothing substantial to improve upon our sanitation!

The biggest mistake past and present governments have made is to entrust the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to spearhead the agenda of cleaning Accra. I have said on many occasions that the AMA is more incompetent than the word itself. In fact, I strongly believe that apart from the responsibility of drivers at the AMA, almost all the other roles could be played by class one pupils.

Recently, the AMA issued a statement threatening to exhume dead bodies buried illegally. Even inmates of Pantang Hospital will not consider this as the best solution to curb illegal burial in Accra.

Perhaps, officials of the AMA must be sent to Sunyani, the capital of the Brong Ahafo region, on a study tour to learn how effective and efficient things are done there. To the best of my knowledge there is no way one can bury their dead at any cemetery in Sunyani without approval from authorities. Why? There are security men at the gates of the cemeteries!

Mr. President, my colleagues asked about the number of jobs you have created and whether you have been tamed. They were all good questions. I am much concerned about the basic things that require no certificate but common sense to handle― sanitation. If you really have your promise of seeing Accra become a clean city at heart, please, let the AMA stay away from this.

The traders, for instance, who were recently ejected from the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Interchange are happily back to their business there. Circle, despite the facelift, has become dirtier than before.

Mr. President, can you enforce a by-law that will get people who litter indiscriminately pay a fine? Can you let people be responsible for their irresponsible behaviour?

Mr. President, in this 21st century, it is a total shame that malaria is still among the topmost diseases tormenting Ghanaians. It is a shame we still battle cholera and other filth-related diseases.

If the war on galamsey is yielding results, can we launch a similar war on sanitation in this country? A healthy nation is wealthy nation. Everything starts with good health. When we have good health, we can effectively talk about all other issues, I believe.

By Solomon Mensah

The writer is a broadcast journalist with 3FM 92.7. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect 3FM’s editorial policy.

Email: [email protected]

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Can the current business model in banking support government’s economic agenda?

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The fiscal targets of the current administration requires new and innovative business models in banking that works hand in hand to drive growth and employment without sacrificing shareholder value as a result of systemic risks. Unfortunately, the traditional approach to banking, though responsive to risks in the business environment, may unavoidably work against the current economic growth agenda, which is create a platform for entrepreneurship to flourish.

The current development thinking is structured around agriculture as key growth driver and industry as the engine with strong vertical linkages. In order for this strategy to be successful medium to long-term credit facilities are needed to fund profitable business propositions in agriculture, agro-processing and related sub-sectors. Undoubtedly agriculture, energy and export trade are core priorities in Ghana’s current growth model. Incidentally market financing is structured more favorably towards sectors like merchandise import, commerce and services (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Sector credit allocation by DMBs

The reasons for this structural misalignment are not far-fetched or course; risk and returns. Corporate boardrooms are bastions of capitalism and not patriotism. Money always go where risks are reasonable and rewards are pleasurable not where sentiments are fashionable and plans are laughable. This is why weak public financial management that throws up perennial fiscal deficits (10.3% in 2016 on commitment basis) will always be money-making opportunities for banks in Ghana. Data from Bank of Ghana (Banking Sector Report, Vol. 2.2, p. 7) suggests that by April 2017 investments in T-Bills and Securities constituted 29.4% of the sector’s balance sheet (a year-on-year growth of 57.3%) compared to 42.6% for gross advances (representing 16.7% year-on-year growth). That’s what happens when the government is singing treble whilst the banks sing in alto. That being said, there needs to be stakeholder conversation about how to change the paradigm through collaborative efforts directed at mitigating credit risks. This will help grow the loan portfolios of banks.

 It’s important also to mention that government’s commitment to addressing systemic risks is equally crucial in securing the partnership of the banking sector. Three key policy initiatives that may have direct impact on liquidity and asset quality are (1) securitization of energy sector debts (2) national digital addressing system, and (3) the National Identification Project, which are all expected to commence implementation in 2017. The government’s commitment to issue a $2.5 billion bond backed by fiscal flows from energy sector levies, as a way to finance legacy debts in the energy sector has engendered bullish market sentiments. A reliable ID and address system would greatly enhance credit administration, particularly recovery of loans from retail consumers. In order to achieve the fiscal targets 2017 budget, a strong and adequately capitalized banking sector must be seen as an important partner. As a result it is essential that actors within the banking sector rethink their growth strategies as well.

Source: Nkunimdini Asante-Antwi for Rural Heights Foundation

How many lives should we lose on our roads?

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The carnage on our roads has become one of the causal factors of deaths in Ghana. Various contributory factors have been identified to be the chief agents through which precious lives are lost on our roads.

Amongst other factors are poor driving skills, drunk driving, cars with worn-out tyres plying our roads, over-loading, over-speeding, poor nature of our roads, are some of the causes of road accidents in the country.

While the afore-mentioned factors cannot be easily dismissed as some of the major factors which lead to thousands of lives being lost in the country, it must also be emphasized, however, that the number one factor causing accidents in the country happens to be stationary or broken-down and abandoned vehicles on our roads.

It has been established that about 22% of lives lost on our roads are attributed to broken-down and abandoned vehicles, according to statistics from the Road Safety Management Services Limited (RSMSL).

To buttress this alarmingly unacceptable figure, let us take a nostalgic journey into time to recall some of the road crashes which had stints with broken-down and abandoned vehicles on our roads.

Just a few days ago, players of Kumasi Asante Kotoko travelling to Kumasi after a football match with Inter Allies were involved in a gruesome accident. The team bus crashed into a Rhino truck which had broken down near Nkawkaw, claiming one live and injuring several others.

On the 19th day of March, 2017, an ambulance with registration number GV 375-12 which was conveying victims of the Kintampo Waterfalls disaster to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital crashed into a stationary vehicle, killing the driver instantly.

An accident involving a mini bus and a DAF truck occurred at Dikpa, near Tinga in the Bole-Bamboi District of the Northern Region claimed 11 lives. The mini bus rammed into the DAF truck, killing 11 precious lives, including one police officer and two children.

Okyereko in the Gomoa West District of the Central Region, on the Winneba-Cape Coast Highway recently claimed 10 lives. A Hyundai Grace mini bus and a pick-up crashed into a stationary Mercedes Benz.

In the Western Region, in a small town of Dompoase, there lived a young man who popularly called Nana Borro. This 21 year old man lost his live through a motorbike accident, by crashing his machine into a stationary tipper truck.

In the early parts of this year, there was a fatal accident in the wee hours of the day involving a taxi car and a broken-down but abandoned bus at the outskirts of Asuodei, near Mankranso in the Ashanti Region. This accident whisked away four precious lives, including the driver and three other ladies.

An accident on the Suhum side of the Accra-Kumasi Highway caused a huge vehicular traffic in the town. It took the intervention of tow trucks deployed by the Suhum MTTD Police and R.S.M.S.L to salvage the situation. This singular incident cost the nation a lot in terms of productive hours those affected by the accident wasted.

These accidents captured are but a few of the deaths caused by this phenomenon of vehicles left on the roads after breaking down.

Should a trip be made down memory lane into years gone by, we can count a number of important personalities who perished through accidents which involved their vehicles and some broken-down vehicles. We lost doctors, pastors, lawyers, etc, in accidents which could have been avoided if we had been proactive in dealing with such issues.

A closer look at all these lives lost through accidents which were largely related to broken-down vehicles is indicative of the fact that if pragmatic measures had been adopted, this mind-boggling figure of 22% would not have been attained as the number of people who die through accidents. Impliedly, we wouldn’t be saddled with these outrageous numbers of deaths through accidents on our roads if we had done the needful.

This begs the question: What are we doing to reduce the carnage on our roads through this avoidable route?

The Government of Ghana, in 2016, enacted a bill into law aimed at levying drivers and car owners with the view to towing away broken-down vehicles which cause many accidents and take away many lives.

The towing levy was to begin in May this year, but it was met with tumultuous uproar, forcing the implementation of the law to be shelved indefinitely. Should we look on whilst lives are lost through a system that can be averted? Can’t this gaping hole be blocked once and for all with a decision to allow this towing levy to be rolled out?

Nothing under the sun is as precious as human lives. The longer we wait on this, the more bloods we shed. We risk losing more lives as we delay in rolling this levy out. Let us reignite the debate on the towing levy with the ultimate goal of embracing it so that the carnage on our roads would be reduced drastically.

Source: K. M. Obeng |A concerned road user |Accra.

Full Text: Akufo-Addo’s statement at 1st Media Encounter

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INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC, NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO, AT THE 1ST MEDIA ENCOUNTER, AT THE BANQUET HALL OF THE PRESIDENCY, ACCRA, ON TUESDAY, 18TH JULY, 2017

Let me welcome you all to the seat of the Presidency for this 1st media encounter since I came here. I must, at the outset, thank members of the media, particularly the presidential press corps, for the extent and depth of the coverage they have given to the activities of the Presidency these last six months. I cannot complain about the lack of exposure of my thoughts, statements or policies since I became President. And for that, I am grateful to the media and, as I say, particularly to members of the presidential press corps, whose duty it is to cover the President. They should know that their work is appreciated.

In so saying, I think it necessary also to record my delight at the vibrancy of the Ghanaian media. I know there are some who take issue with the media on several fronts, and even go so far as to criticise me for my part in the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, for it made the media “too free”. Even though I have been one of the greatest victims of the irresponsible section of the media, i.e. those who have created an industry from spewing calumnies, falsehoods and outright fabrications against my person, I do not regret one bit my role in repealing that old, discredited law. The repeal has inspired the Ghanaian media to be one of the freest and most vibrant on the entire continent of Africa, if not in the world. I may not go as far as Thomas Jefferson when he said that “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”, but I will say that I much prefer the noisy, boisterous, sometimes scurrilous media of today to the monotonous, praise-singing, sycophantic one of yesteryear. The Ghanaian media has, in fact, enriched the nation’s governance by its persistence, curiosity and investigative skills.

Eleven days ago, 7th July, was exactly six months since I swore the oath of office as the 5th President of the 4th Republic. Needless to say, it has been an eventful six months. But, apart from one or two brief encounters, I have not had a sustained, direct engagement with the media. I believe that, symbolically, this is a good time to do so. Hence my invitation for this occasion. It will enable me to share some of my thoughts on what has gone on, and allow you, members of the media, to express your concerns and questions, if any, for my response. It is my intention to have such encounters twice a year.

On 7th December, 2016, Ghanaians went to the polls, and voted decisively for change. A change to advance the economic fortunes of this country and bring about improvements in their livelihoods. A change to eradicate the perception of widespread corruption in public life and enhance the quality of governance in our nation. A change to banish the spectre of national demoralisation and renew the spirit of confidence of the Ghanaian people.

I said in my first Message on the State of the Nation that the times in which we live demand that all of us be in a conscious hurry to deal with the problems we face. This was what has motivated my actions till now. Half-way into my first year in office, it is good to take stock of what has happened and the way forward. This forum is not intended to give another Message on the State of the Nation, neither is it to announce my achievements. It is guided, rather, by the principle of accountability.

We, and I mean we, in government, and you, in the media, together, have a responsibility to bring the details of the governing process to the people of Ghana. They deserve to know what we are doing and why we are doing it, and how that would lead to the betterment of their lives. If the people are not kept informed or do not understand the activities of the government, then, we in government, and you in the media, are failing in our duties.

My first important task was to assemble a team of quality, capable of working to overcome my government’s poor legacy, and setting Ghana on the path of progress and prosperity. By 12th April, the full central government was in place, in the fastest period of time in the history of the 4th Republic. By common consent, so as not to be seen to be blowing my own trumpet, it is regarded as being composed of some of the best persons in public life today, men and women of achievement, experience, integrity and knowledge, together with youthful elements who are full of promise. By that date, the regional government was also in place, again, a strong representation of competence and integrity. I must, once more, thank the Legislature, the Parliament, for the expeditious, but responsible manner in which it exercised its constitutional power of approval of my nominees, notwithstanding the bizarre, incomprehensible episode of the non-existent bribery of members of Parliament’s Appointments Committee. The process of constituting local government is also now almost complete, with the nomination and approval of 208 out of 216 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives. The remaining 8, hopefully, will soon be in office. Let me use this medium to thank the relevant Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies for their vote of confidence in my nominees. I am confident that, on their part, they will work harmoniously with their Assemblies. It is worth stressing that these MMDCEs will be the last batch to take office under the current system, if the constitutional proposals for reform are accepted and passed. We have to expand full democracy to local government.

I knew that the biggest problem we would face on coming into office would be the economy, but I can safely say that I was still shocked at the state of affairs we found. A very competent Economic Management Team, with the brilliant Vice President, Aljahi Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, in the chair, has initiated, with my support, measures to deal with the mess. Our desperate economic situation has meant that we have had to take some unorthodox, but brave measures. There was never any chance that this government, voted into office with a mandate for change, would dare to do things in the business as usual manner.

The Asempa Budget that the highly respected Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, presented in March set the tone for the new ways of doing things that will transform our economy. It also provided the opportunity to deliver on some of the promises we made during the election campaign.

Nurses and teacher training allowances have been restored to take effect at the start of the new school year. Nuisance taxes have been abolished, and other measures have been taken to shift the focus of our economy from taxation to production.

The macroeconomic indices are beginning to show a turn for the better. The monetary policy rate (MPR) of the Bank of Ghana has been cut from 25.5 percent to 22.5 percent in the first half of the year. Inflation has gone down from 15.4% in December 2016 to 12.1% in June 2017, i.e. a period of six months, the lowest in four years. The benchmark 91-day Treasury Bill (T-bill) rate was 22.8 percent in January last year, and has narrowed to 11.9 percent in June 2017, the lowest in 5 years.

We are encouraged by the gradual decline in the cost of borrowing and the increase in banks’ credit to the private sector by nearly 6 percent in the first quarter of 2017, compared to a decline of about 7 percent in the same period in 2016. But we have to continue to work to bring down the cost of borrowing to enable businesses to have access to much needed credit. It is my hope and expectation that these statistics will soon translate into tangible benefits in the lives of Ghanaians.

We have also introduced a number of innovative interim packages to help, particularly, new entrepreneurs. I do not need to repeat that the greatest challenge we face is the creation of jobs. Young people are very anxious about not finding jobs, and their parents are even more anxious about the future of their children after seeing them through school. I am well aware that the success or otherwise of my administration will be judged largely on job creation. Last Thursday, I launched the National Entrepreneurship and Innovations Plan (NEIP) which is an innovative scheme, under the Business Development Ministry, to help startups, and the difficult early stages of setting up businesses. We have committed $10 million of public funds, which we hope to leverage into $100 million from private sources to back the plan.

The Asempa Budget has allocated an amount of $100 million dollars as Government contribution either as equity or in kind support for the establishment of the district enterprises, 1-District-1-Factory. An additional amount of $340 million has been leveraged from local financial institutions for the programme. Government, in collaboration with the Association of Ghana Industries, has also arranged a Suppliers Credit Facility for $2 billion from China to provide equipment, machinery and other facilities in support of the programme. It is now clear that this programme is destined to succeed.

The Asempa Budget also provided a $50 million stimulus package for the revival of distressed companies. At the end of June 2017, 285 applications had been received. So far, 118 of these applications have been screened, of which 80 have been adjudged eligible for various stimulus packages. In addition to Government’s contribution, an amount of $20 million has been earmarked by local financial institutions as part of the stimulus package. This will definitely help in the revival of our industrial sector under the dynamic leadership of the Minister for Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen.

At this stage of our development, agriculture will necessarily have to provide the majority of the jobs, and that is why we have to pay urgent attention to the modernisation of our agricultural practices. Extension officers are being employed, for the first time in many years, to provide hands-on support to farmers, and we are generally paying extra attention to every stage of farming.

The one-village-one-dam scheme is taking off in the three northern regions with the rehabilitation of the existing ones that are in sad states of disrepair. Planting for Food and Jobs, one of our flagship initiatives, has also started with increasing enthusiasm. The Programme has registered 185,000 farmers out of the 200,000 targeted; government is bearing 50% of the cost of fertiliser for farmers; and to date eighty thousand and thirty seven (80,037) tonnes of fertiliser have been distributed to farmers enrolled on the programme. Thirty five thousand seven hundred and forty seven (35,747) metric tonnes of seedlings have also been supplied to farmers. It is noteworthy that many of the suggestions for the 1-district-1-factory initiative are agriculture based, and that tells me that my many sermons on agriculture and food processing as the basis for our industrial take-off are finding many converts.

Over the years, several diseases such as the swollen shoot, black pod and mealy bugs have attacked our agriculture. The latest in the series is the fall army worm invasion, which is ravaging farmlands across Africa. Government is fully aware of the infestation. Our statistics indicate that it has affected one hundred and twelve thousand eight hundred and twelve (112,812) hectares of land. So far, fourteen thousand four hundred and twenty (14,420) hectares of land have been destroyed. In dealing with this menace, Government has mobilised support for farmers by supplying them with seventy two thousand seven hundred and seventy four (72,774) litres of insecticide. More are in the pipeline to confront effectively this scourge.

In the six months of our being in office, easily the headline subject has been the fight against galamsey. I am glad that the majority of our compatriots have recognised the danger posed to the existence of our nation by the practice of galamsey.

As I have said before, since the Almighty has blessed our land with mineral resources, we cannot do without mining, and we have the right to exploit the minerals in our land. But we cannot and should not destroy our lands and water bodies and our environment in the search for gold and other minerals.

I am grateful that the majority of people and you, the media, have lent their support to the campaign against galamsey. I am hoping that the programme to restore the degraded lands will attract the same enthusiasm. For my part, I will not relent in this struggle, nor will the Cabinet Committee, headed by that eminent Ghanaian, the Minister for Environment, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, which is spearheading government’s efforts in this fight.

Government’s plan to find funds to deal with the dramatic deficit in our infrastructure needs, has at its heart, the exploitation of our mineral wealth. The Vice President went to China, with a plan to leverage some of our bauxite deposits to raise money to tackle the programme for industrialisation and the building of roads and other infrastructure.

If proof were needed, this must surely be it, that this government is neither against mining nor against Chinese. But we certainly are against the degradation of our lands and water bodies by whoever.

I suspect it is not a surprise to anyone that we have spent a lot of time these past six months on the vexed subject of the ease of doing business in our country. By the end of the year, we intend to have our ports functioning properly and those who require the services of the ports should not feel oppressed by unnecessary and repetitive paperwork and corrupt practices. I expect to hear an announcement shortly from the Attorney General about the prosecution of the customs officials and clearing agents who have been allegedly responsible for the unlawful loss of GH¢1.2 billion to the central treasury.

As we have already stated, all internal customs barriers will be dismantled by the beginning of October. Moving around the country should be easier not just for business people, but for the ordinary citizen as well.

The National Identification Scheme will be working by the end of the year as promised, and the digital address system will be functioning.

If I had been having this function back in January, I suspect I would have had to start with DUMSOR. Today, things have improved quite a bit. We are not yet where we should be, particularly with regard to the cost of energy. This is a great threat to the operations of business and the cost of living in the country. The Minister for Finance, in collaboration with the Minister for Energy, is at an advanced stage of floating the $2.5 billion energy bond to retire the $2.4 billion debt overhang on the energy sector. This development will attract more investment into the sector, and reduce the cost of energy.

I am much relieved, however, that the supply and distribution have improved and we are working to bring costs down and make energy supply generally more reliable.

One of the tenets of my government is the commitment to inclusive and accountable governance. Inclusivity requires wider participation of the mass of our citizens by broadening our democratic base. This explains our desire to reorganise our system of regional governance.

We have signalled our intention to honour the petitions that have been received for the creation of potentially six new regions; two each out of the Northern and Brong Ahafo Regions, and one each out of the Western and Volta Regions. The Ministry of Regional Reorganisation and Development has worked well, under the skillful guidance of the Minister, Hon. Dan Kwaku Botwe, aka, The General, to oversee the demands of all groups and communities that will be affected. I have initiated the formal process for the consideration of these petitions by seeking by letter, dated 26th June, 2017, the advice of the Council of State on them, in accordance with Article 5(2) of the Constitution. If the consultation is positive, the Constitution requires the President to set up a Commission of Inquiry to inquire into the demands and make recommendations on all the factors involved in the creation of these new regions. The President is further required to act in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission, which will involve a Referendum being organised by the Electoral Commission in the affected areas to solicit the views of the affected people.

A fundamental part of our strategy for growth has been to associate Ghana strongly with the process of regional and continental integration. The transformation of our economy, through the measures we have begun to put in place these past six months, should make Ghanaian businesses more competitive in West Africa, Africa and beyond. As the empowered Ghanaian businesses become stronger and more successful, they will need bigger markets. West Africa has a market of 350 million, which will expand to 500 million people in 20 years. Africa’s population will also increase to 2 billion, up from its current 1.2 billion, within the same time frame. This means that establishment of genuine regional and continental markets in West Africa and Africa should be in our economic interest, for these markets will present immense opportunities to bring prosperity to our nation with hard work, creativity and enterprise. The principal reasons for my journeys across West Africa since May, are to renew friendships with our fellow ECOWAS member states, explore areas of co-operation, and reaffirm Ghana’s commitment to the important process of regional and continental integration.

Let me address a few words on the matter of BOST, and the sale of the five million litres of off-spec products. I want to reiterate that, even though investigations have been concluded by the security agencies and the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), a 9 member Committee, under the chairmanship of Dr. Lawrence Darkwah, Head of the Petroleum Engineering Department, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, has been setup by the Minister for Energy. Amongst others, the Committee is tasked with making recommendations to ensure that we put the era of contaminated and off-spec products behind us, by tackling issues such as: the integrity of the pipeline infrastructure; improving pipeline operations and maintenance; continuous training and skills upgrade of pipeline operators; and implementing improved Standard Operating Procedures, including the controlled evacuation and disposal of products under the direct supervision of NPA.

I want to stress the importance I attach to ICT development, because its potential is enormous, both at the macro and micro levels. The sector’s link to GDP is well proven. Key initiatives such as the automation of tax and business registration systems are already beginning to yield dividends. Upcoming digital platforms for procurement, immigration, parliamentary and judicial services will transform the way government conducts its business, including the business of Cabinet. Also, we want every Ghanaian to have access to good and affordable connectivity. Every Ghanaian everywhere must have access to voice and data connectivity. This is the imperative of our times. The energetic and knowledgeable Minister, Hon. Ursula Owusu Ekuful, is another Minister providing strong leadership to her sector.

It would be remiss of me not to say anything about sanitation. In the short-term, it is important to recognize that there are huge debts owed to the service providers which are hampering their ability to deliver the needed services in a timely and regular manner. Government has, however, taken measures to begin to settle these obligations to facilitate the evacuation and disposal of the heaps of refuse in our cities. It is my understanding that meetings have been held between the Ministry, led by an experienced Minister, Hon. Kofi Adda, and the service providers on this matter, and the evacuation of the refuse, which has already started on a modest scale, would be aggressively pursued to rid the cities of filth. Additionally, provision has been made to augment the sanitation infrastructure by constructing waste transfer stations at strategic locations to facilitate rapid waste collection to final disposal sites, beginning in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area. As you know, I have committed to making Accra the cleanest city in Africa, and the new Metropolitan Chief Executive of Accra, Mohammed Adjei Sowah, is working assiduously to meet this commitment.

When I came to this job, I knew there would be difficulties and I knew there might be some mistakes. For instance, I wish that voluntary groups within my party, the NPP, who had worked so hard with us during the campaign, had not overstepped the mark, and had not got into the news for all the wrong reasons. I refer to some of the Invincible and Delta Forces, who got into trouble and gave the party and the government bad publicity.

My often stated view, which I have communicated clearly to the law enforcement agencies, is that the best way of dealing with such incidents is to let the law take its course without any political interference. The young men have shown remorse and the legal process is working. I hope that we all learn the required lessons from these unfortunate incidents.

Then there was the horrendous murder of Major Mahama. I trust and pray that the trauma suffered by the whole nation as a result of the incident will cure us of the barbaric practice of mob justice. It is absolutely essential that we leave the prosecution and punishment of suspected criminals to the Police and the Judiciary.

And when it comes to wrongdoers of the kind that, indeed, cause our nation the greatest harm, corrupt public officials, I am glad to say that the Office of Special Prosecutor will be with us shortly. The bill has currently been gazetted and will be in Parliament during this meeting. We all, in and out of Parliament, should take an interest and help with the rapid passage of a law that will serve us well.

In responding to the concerns not just of Ghanaians at home, but of overseas Ghanaians as well, Government facilitated this year’s Ghana Diaspora Homecoming Summit. It afforded Government the opportunity to listen, at first-hand, to the concerns, suggestions and opinions of overseas Ghanaians on the development of our country. We know from the examples of several countries what fruitful collaboration between their overseas nationals and their governments has brought to their national development and prosperity, and my government intends to emulate them. And to our overseas Ghanaians, let me again apologise for the whining.

I declared my assets within two weeks of my inauguration, and so has the Vice President. The Ministers have declared their assets, and I am insisting that all those required to do so, under the law, should comply. I suspect this has not happened before, and I intend to make sure we keep to the intentions behind this requirement of the law. In other words, I am sticking to my word that those who would serve in my government must protect, and not abuse the public purse, and must at all times recognise that they are in public service, not for private gain.

Thank you very much for your attention, and may God bless us all and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.

 

A case made for a change of AFCON timing

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Cameroon celebrates being crowned Champions of 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Finals

There are those who believe the Cup of Nations is perfectly placed at the beginning of the year while others reckon a change on the calendar year will serve the tournament well and help increase the profile of the competition – whichever way you look at it, the tournament needs some sort of change and it might just be the timing of it.

In the 2017 edition, some countries felt the pressure when their star players rejected the invitation to play the AFCON, simply because of the reason well sounded by the proponents of change – it will affect the players and their clubs if they leave in the middle of a club season for an international tournament.

Cameroon boss Hugo Broos had to dig deep, which he did and eventually won the showpiece, but he missed seven players, most notably Liverpool’s Joel Matip, Andre Onana of Ajax and West Brom’s Allan Nyom.

The Indomitable Lions were perfectly fine and didn’t need their big boys from the European leagues but there’s no hiding the team could have been better, had they reported to Broos’ camp.

Long gone are the days when locally based players will inspire their countries to victory at the AFCON. A case can be made of Mohamed Aboutrika of Egypt in recent years but that is the one example in the last two or three decades.

The days when Laurent Pokou led Cote d’Ivoire to victory leading the tournament’s scoring charts while playing in his native country for ASEC Abidjan are in the past.

These days, the major football countries are led by players who ply their club trade in Europe and elsewhere. We have witnessed talismanic performances from heroes such as Samuel Eto, Didier Drogba and Asamoah Gyan and all these electrifying shows have come while they play outside the continent.

Their influence in the game and on their teams cannot be underestimated and with the growing concern we might fail to see most of these players at subsequent AFCONs due to their commitment to club football will hurt the future of the African football showpiece.

CAF will have to act fast, hence the meeting in Morocco this week to settle the issue. Some say Africa should not bow to European pressure and continue to play the AFCON in January.

The AFCON trophy could be won in summer if the timing changes

The decision to be made by all 50 national football association presidents, chaired by the CAF Executive Committee and other African football greats will make or unmake African football at the highest level.

They will make decisions to impact African football and the next generation. Hopefully, we get a CAF that understands that football in Africa has not matured yet to the level to keep hold of it’s local stars.

The big boys will move abroad and flying back in January will always affect their club football – either returning to rot on benches or simply not signed at all with foreign coaches fearing they will lose their stars for a month – a risk most of these superstars aren’t ready to take.

CAF should change the time of the AFCON to the summer and understand they need to fall in line with the global order.

By Theirry Nyann

The writer is a Sports Journalist with TV3, 3FM & 3news.com

Urban contemporary music in today’s Church

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file

There is an undercurrent flowing through the river of our church culture that has not yet received much coverage.

The undercurrent is the integration of urban music into modern praise and worship. A short video of a praise and worship session at the Royal House Chapel International, World Movers’ Generation service, which has flooded or taken center stage on our social media platforms in the country depicts this kind of urban music.

Pastor Nana Yaw a songwriter and the fore bearer, of the praise and worship ministry, has given DJ Khalid’s 2010 hit song “All I Do Is Win” a unique but spiritual affirmation.

The song composed in anticipation of the upcoming World Movers’ Generation (WMG) conference  at legon, themed, “I change my language”, which is scheduled to run from the 27th through to the 30th of July, 2017 has got a lot of people talking.

Is urban music becoming an integral part of Ghana’s music history? Are our churches adopting wrongly especially when they take bits and pieces from the secular music out there in as much as they make changes to suit the gospel trend? Or, are they not being creative enough with their craft? These are but a few of the many questions on the minds of gospel music lovers. But urban contemporary music to many is a modern form of Christian music that expresses either personal or a communal belief regarding Christian life giving alternatives to mainstream secular music. This then transcends to say that, rhythms, beats and sound really are irrelevant rather the lyrics that make the song which mostly takes on a religious subject is most important. The lyrics very often have an explicitly Christian nature, although “inspirational” songs feature lyrics that can be construed as secular in meaning.

With the tempo faster, emphasis on the performer and an emotional connection to the audience and a highly valued lyrical content, I get where most eyebrows will be raised against the new Christian hip hop. But would you say it boils down to the soloist, intentions which are mostly defined by personal testimonies and communal experiences or a farsighted belief in the faith they partake and represent? The likes of Kirk Franklin, Donnie Mcclurkin, Yolanda Adams have featured “sizzling beats and bass- heavy” contemporary accompaniment.

Akesse Brempong, Cwesi Oteng, Chosen Yesuba and preachers are equally in that trail and have, if not, gained an appreciable level of recognition. It so happens that, a lot more people identify and are pleased with this new craze, or would you say, they haven’t enough option to choose from, maybe  a typical depiction of the father-son bond that the word of God elaborates and a realization of the position a Christian hold defines their way of expression.

All the same its praise and thanks giving, praise and worship that the almighty deserves and to that, there are no boundaries if you should say. Your relationship with GOD will definitely come to play when addressing him. As it is best said of us not to judge.

By Sonia Moffatt

Email: [email protected]