STATEMENT AT MINISTRY OF INFORMATION PRESS CONFERENCE ON GOVERNMENT ACTION YEAR ACHIVEMENTS ADDRESSED BY HON. JOHN TIA AKOLOGU ON DECEMBER 20, 2011
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen of the media. Let me begin by wishing all of you a very merry Christmas and a prosperous new year. I also wish to welcome you to this press briefing and thank you for your kind support throughout this action packed year. It is my belief that we shall continue to enjoy this cordial relationship between your good selves and this Ministry as well as the government at large in the coming year.
We have called you this morning to share with you some thoughts on what government has been able to achieve in the year 2011. As you may all recall, H.E President John Evans Atta Mills at the end of last year declared 2011 an Action Year and indicated that the good people of Ghana will witness considerable improvement in all aspects of national life. I am happy to report Ladies and Gentlemen, that the President has kept his promise and this year has indeed been an Action Year.
Across all sectors government has chalked remarkable successes which have brought significant improvements in the lives of Ghanaians and I will proceed to enumerate some of these achievements:
Today the NDC government led by H.E President John Evans Atta Mills has given this country the most stable macroeconomic climate in Ghana's entire history. All the relevant economic indices point to an economy which is on a sound footing.
Inflation which stood at a worrying 18.1% in 2008 now stands at 8.55% and has been at single digit for 18 months. This is the longest ever sustained period of single digit inflation in Ghana's entire history.
Interest rates have continued to decline. This is evidenced by the significant reduction in the yield of the 91 day money market instrument from 24.67% in 2008 to 9.1% in September2011, making it the lowest recorded money market rate in decades.
The fiscal deficit on cash basis which had skyrocketed in excess of 14.5% of GDP (or 8.5% in new series) and posed a major threat to the stability of the economy at the end of 2008 is at an all- time low of 2% of GDP.
The country has also improved its gross international reserves from $2 billion in 2008 representing import cover of 1.8 months to $ 4.98 billion (representing 4 months import cover). The gross international reserves realized in October 2011 is also the highest ever recorded in our history. The exchange rate has been stabilized and the very rapid depreciation of the Ghana cedi halted.
This year Ghana recorded its highest ever growth rate with provisional estimates showing that the country's GDP grew by a whopping 13.6%.
Only last week the Board of the International Monetary Fund(IMF) gave its nod for Ghana to access its biggest ever single loan deal i.e the $ 3 Billion CDB loan which will be used to undertake major industrial and infrastructural projects of unprecedented scale from next year. These will include the Western Corridor Gas Infrastructure Project, Western Corridor Petroleum Terminal Project, Western Corridor Infrastructure Renewal Project (Western Railway Line Modernization and Takoradi Port Rehabilitation/Retrofit), Sekondi Free Zone Project, Accra Plains Irrigation Project, Accra Metropolitan Area Intelligent Traffic Management Project , the Eastern Corridor Multi-Modal Transport Project, the Development of ICT Enhanced Surveillance Platform for Western Corridor Oil Enclave, SME Projects Incubation and finally the construction of Coastal Fishing Harbours and Landing Sites Projects for our fisher folk from Keta to Axim. These projects will enable us bridge the infrastructural gap, fundamentally transform Ghana's economy and generate thousands of jobs for our youth. That Ghana has the green light to draw down on this $3 billion facility testifies to the visionary and competent management of our economy. It is no wonder that for the first time in this country's history Ghana has met all four primary convergence criteria of the West Africa Monetary Zone.
In this action year also, COCOBOD succeeded in its bid to raise $ 2 billion in syndicated loan – another unprecedented feat in the annals of this country which also underscores the confidence that the international business and financial community has in the Ghanaian economy owing to its prudent management.
Another major achievement in the year under review is the seamless implementation of the single spine salary structure which has seen the migration of 97% of public sector workers. All indications are that in the next few weeks all public sector workers will be captured under the scheme. By this, the wage bill grew from GHS 1 million to GHs 4 million. Certainly Ghanaian workers in 2011 have also felt the action year in their pockets.
Ladies and Gentlemen education remains one of the topmost priorities of the Mills administration and as proof of this, the action year saw the roll out of a vigorous infrastructural development programmes to provide the congenial atmosphere for our school children to study. The unacceptable phenomenon of schools under trees was tackled with alacrity. Currently more than 1,200 schools under trees out of the near 4,000 that existed in 2008 have been replaced with modern six unit classroom blocks. Hundreds others are at various stages and will soon be brought on stream to further enhance teaching and learning.
At the SHS level over 300 classroom blocks and dormitories have been completed to ease the acute congestion that resulted from the ill-advised extension of the duration of SHS from 3 to 4 years.
The capitation grant has been increased by 50% from GHS 3 to GHS 4.5.The free exercise book initiative gathered momentum and as we speak 42,166,000 free exercise books have been distributed to Ghanaian school children. The free uniform intervention introduced to relieve parents off the burden of providing school uniforms for their wards is also on course with 1.6 million school uniforms earmarked for distribution especially to school children in deprived arrears. Teachers' salaries have also seen considerable improvement and will go a long way to motivate them to give off their best.
In this action year, the Basic School Computerization Program was launched to distribute 66,000 computers to school children across the country to boost practical ICT education. This follows the earlier program undertaken by the Ministry of Environment Science and Technology under which 6000 Laptops were given to students across the country in addition to over 2,000 laptops distributed by GIFEC.
The Mathematics, Science and Technology Scholarship Scheme (MASTESS) program aimed at enhancing the study of Maths and Science through the award of scholarships has so far granted over 5,000 students was implemented with an amount of GHS 5 million. The first ever Science Congress also came to light in this action year.
The school feeding program which covered just over 600,000 pupils as at 2008 has been expanded to cover 1.4 million school children and most importantly is now fully funded by the Government of Ghana. This year GHS 50 Million was released to finance the program.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, you will recall that earlier this year, H.E The President cut the sod for the implementation of the establishment of two new public universities to augment the existing ones, in the Volta and Brong Ahafo Regions respectively. I am happy to announce that all the preparatory works have been completed and following the passage of the respective bills by Parliament last week the Councils and Management of these two Universities have been identified and will be announced soon. Most importantly, construction works on the campuses of the two universities will take off shortly.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, the action year was abundantly on display in the Agric sector as well. For the first time in our history, Ghana has produced 1 million tons of cocoa and this has been achieved one whole year ahead of the 2012 target. Government intervention through the distribution of subsidized fertilizer as well as improved Agric extension services culminated in this historic achievement.
Rice importation which stood at nearly a staggering $ 500 million dollars a year in 2008 has been significantly reduced by 30%.This has been achieved through the support given to local rice farmers and the implementation of the youth in Agriculture concept.
The National Buffer Stock Company which is mandated to stockpile food reserves both as a strategic food security effort and as a mechanism for checking escalating food prices in the lean season has also been set up. In the action year between, May and August, NAFCO released over forty thousand bags of rice, maize and soya onto the Ghanaian market -a move which helped to curb sharp rises in food prices especially cereals- and this has helped keep food inflation at the barest minimum thereby helping check inflation in general. Indeed average food inflation for 2011 is the lowest in over three decades.
The construction of a Shea nut factory in Buipe, in the Northern Region gathered pace and will be completed by the 7th of February next year, while the next two will also be located in vantage areas of the Upper East and Upper West Regions.
A Fifteen member steering committee on Shea nut was inaugurated in Tamale in the Northern region. The essence of the Committee is also to give recognition and boost efforts of Shea nut farmers and pickers who are mostly women by providing them with minimum guaranteed price as pertains within the Cocoa sub sector.
The following initiatives were also undertaken in the action year to boost Agricultural output:
• Provision of GH¢3 million facility by EDIF for cotton farmers and an additional GH¢2 million as subsidy on fertilizer and chemicals to revive the once vibrant cotton industry
• Subsidized fertilizers available to all spectrum of farmers (small, medium and large scale farmers)
• Government is subsidizing 150,000 metric tons of fertilizer (3 million bags) at an estimated cost of GH¢69 million for farmers across the country for 2011 farming season, under the fertilizer subsidy programme.
• A total of eighty four (84) Agricultural Mechanization Services Centres (AMSEC's) established and operationalized.
• Harvesting of rice improved by the introduction of forty five (45) combine harvesters.
• Ten Planters, two boom sprayers were also procured for the use of farmers
• 10 Industrial Vessels were fined US$500,000 for contravening various sections of the Fisheries Laws.
• Pair trawling & light aggregation banned and vigorously enforced.
TRADE AND INDUSTRY
Ladies and Gentlemen, a cursory look at this sector will also reveal an impressive performance. In this year, a 2011 IMF/World Bank Doing Business report adjudged Ghana as a global best reformer in access to credit and also the best place to do business in West Africa. It is not surprising therefore that for the first quarter of 2011 alone 109 new businesses with an estimated value amounting to GH¢567.66 million were established in Ghana. Limited capital transfers for the newly registered projects amounts to GH¢103.35 million (increase of 360 percent, compared to 2010. The expected jobs to be created from these projects are 7,004 an increase of 18.80 percent compared to same period of 2010.
The Ayensu Starch Factory was revamped and so far 1000 acres of cassava has been cultivated to keep the factory operational. 1000 outgrower farmers have also been organized to feed the factory with raw material.
The Pwalugu Tomato Factory now Northern Star Tomato Factory has been revamped with a minimum capacity of 250 metric tons per day.
Government has also instituted a Cotton Support Programme in the 3 Northern Regions with a fund of GHC 3.5 million from EDIF and GHC 1.5 million in the form of subsidy from MOFA.
First batch of 1,000 graduates from the LESDEP programme passed out this year. They were given skills training, equipped with tools and given start up capitals. Almost 10,000 youths are still undergoing training. New modules were introduced under the NYEP Programme and this year alone over 300,000 have been engaged. Additionally Government implemented policies in entrepreneurial training of graduate unemployed youth. Hundreds are receiving special coaching and incubation attention. The local content policy has also ensured that Ghanaians and Ghanaian businesses receive adequate attention in all sectors of the economy especially in the fledging oil industry.
Visible programmes of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) which involves the construction of low cost houses using local materials and new technology was launched.
The construction of the houses, dubbed, “sustainable housing project” is a collaboration between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and SADA, with the UNDP committing over half a million dollars to the project while SADA provided GH ¢2.5 million.
The project was launched at Malzeri, a farming community in the Yendi district of the Northern Region. It will start on a pilot basis at Malzeri in the Northern Region, Paga in the Upper East and Wechau in the Upper West regions and later it will be extended to other parts of the country.
The introduction of the new building technology will help reduce the housing deficit in the country since the cost of houses will become affordable to the people.
An $8.5 million 161/34.5 kilo volts power substation, to provide reliable bulk power to the Savannah Diamond Cement Company Limited at Buipe in the Northern Region.
Apart from feeding the cement company, the project, executed by Ghana Grid Company Limited (GRIDCo), would also replace the existing power supply system at Buipe from the shield wire scheme with a conventional supply scheme, to meet the anticipated growth in power demand.
Government also commissioned the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Accra estimated to cost US$90 million. It is aimed at reducing vehicular traffic on the road connecting Kasoa to the Central Business District of Accra.
2011 also witnessed the commencement of work of the Great Consolidated Diamonds Ghana Limited (GCDGL) with a commitment to all Ghanaians that government will ensure that the company succeeds since it will create sustainable jobs, revamp the local economy and conserve the environment.
Government also commissioned 50 buses for the Metro Mass Transit in Accra. The buses which cost 8.2m are part of a fleet of 150 the company has ordered to increase its fleets with a Belgium government loan.
Government also embarked on the construction of by-passes as alternative roads to ease congestion on the Mallam-junction- Kasoa and Tetteh Quarshie-legon roads, commuters between Mallam-Junction and Accra, who spend about two hours before reaching their destinations, could now cover the same journey within 20 minutes through the newly created Panbros- Dansoman road. Also under construction is the Airport-Spintex road by pass.
Government launched the Ghana Social Opportunities Project (GSOP) at Nadowli, which covers 40 districts throughout the country. The $89.1 million-dollar project which will among other things facilitate the graduation of ultra-poor households out of poverty by exploiting synergies.
Only last week, Government in an additional effort to equip the Ghana police Service presented 24 four-wheel vehicles made up of Nissan Patrols and Toyota Land-cruisers to the Ghana Police service in Accra.
Government launched the first ever ICT programme in Accra which seeks to train 5,000 persons living with disabilities (PWDs) in the assembling and repairs of mobile phones and computers. The government is expending GH¢21,741,000 on the project of which rlg Communications would absorb GH¢1,983,000. Known as the Persons with Disability ICT Project, the beneficiaries would be deployed to the 45 training centres of the Institute of Technology of the rlg Communications spread across the regional and district capitals where they would be provided with the best hands-on ICT training expected to commence in January, 2012
Government assisted about 5,000 head porters (kayayei) and truck pushers with sewing machines, electronic and auto mechanic equipments. They underwent vocational and technical skills training under master craftsmen in sewing, hairdressing, garment-making, electronic and auto mechanics this year under the National Apprenticeship Programme being implemented by the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET). This followed a meeting between the Vice-President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, who made the presentation in Accra said the decision to train the head porters and truck pushers followed the outcome of a meeting held with about 1,000 of them in 2010.
Government also presented 6,060 Longda motorbikes, valued at GH¢10.8 million, to the more than 6,000 assembly members in the various electoral areas across the country, the first of its kind since we embarked on decentralization.
A newly refurbished Forensic Science Labaratory for the Ghana police service was commissioned on the 16th of December this year. The laboratory is the first of its kind in Sub Saharan Africa and comparable to forensic laboratories in South Africa. It has the document examination, chemical, photography, ballistics and DNA sections.
Only yesterday, Government inaugurated a twin-turboprop transport aircraft for the Ghana Air Force, the CASA C-295-M, which is manufactured by Constucciones Aeronauticas SA in Madrid, Spain, would replace the Fokker 27 plane that had been used by the Air Force for the past 37 years. The new aircraft, which has a civil forward facing capacity of 46 seats, military troop capacity of 70 seats and 24 medical evacuation stretchers, can fly for 11 hours non-stop and maximum speed of 245 knots with a range up to 2100 nautical miles. The aircraft, apart from carrying passengers and goods would, also be used for supply dropping, surveillance, search and rescue and communications purposes.
Very significantly, the action year has also witnessed the first ever successful review of the 1992 Constitution as the Constitution Review Commission presents its report to H.E President Mills this morning. This report has been presented ahead of schedule and by this Ghanaians can be assured that the processes which should make our constitution work better for us is very much on course.
It is important to add ladies and gentlemen that in this Action year, the Ghana Black Stars also achieved one of their best qualification performances ever to next year's African Cup of Nations.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have tried to give you just a summary of how action packed the action year has been. The summary of interventions contained in this statement is by no means exhaustive as it does not cover all sectors neither have we factored the thousands of development projects that have gone on at the regional and district levels some of which became evident when the president embarked on his nationwide tour during the year. We have also deliberately not touched on the Roads Sector as tomorrow the Roads and Highways Minister will do a detailed assessment of his sector.
It is important to appreciate that it is due to hard work, determination and judicious management of the nation's resources that these strides have been made. It is no wonder therefore that Ghana during this year has attracted much international praise. A few weeks ago, the United Nations decided to launch its 2011 Human Development Index report here in Ghana because of what they touted as Ghana's tremendous achievements in increasing life expectancy from 53 years to 64 years. The report acknowledged that we were amongst the best performers in Africa and indeed that many more Ghanaians are today well educated and prosperous. This is what President Mills means when he talks of a Better Ghana.
Another international recognition for our gains came from the recently held UN conference on the environment in Durban, South Africa where Accra received high scores for sanitation and environment management. Ghana's capital and five other cities in Africa were rated above average in the African Green City Index which studied 15 African countries. The index was produced by the Economist and Siemens Africa and was released in Durban, South Africa, Friday December 2, on the sidelines of the COP17. Unlike in 2008 where a WHO report ranked Accra as the filthiest in city in West Africa, today we are ranked in a different league together with Cape Town, Casablanca, Durban Johannesburg and Tunis.
An icing on the cake has been Ghana named as amongst the top 10 tourist destinations for 2012.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is obvious that many historic strides have been achieved in 2011. Those who fail to recognize our gains have consciously chosen not to see. They only remind us of Jesus Christ's observation in Mark 8:18 and with all apologies to those of other faiths that “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember?”
Ladies and Gentlemen, the action year so proclaimed by President Mills has been real, it has been remarkable and it certainly has been unprecedented in many respects. This feat can only encourage us to continue to work hard to improve the living conditions of our people and address other challenges that confront our dear nation.
Thank you for your attention.
Merry Christmas and a Happy and Better New Year.