Good evening and thank you very much, my friends from the Centre for Social Justice for the invitation and opportunity to share in your platform, the Leadership Dialogue Series.
Moderator Dr. Amanda Cofie and Panelists
Professionals, Businessmen and Women
Executives and members of the Ghana Disability Federation
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am glad to be here.
And to you, the distinguished guests with us tonight, thank you for coming.
Thank you, my brothers and sisters who are joining us from various parts of the country and the world on TV, Radio and various Social Media platforms.
Ladies and gentlemen, if there was ever any doubt about how unpredictable our world has become, how unknown the future remains, and the terrifying thought of how our collective existence could be threatened with little or no notice, the evidence is before our very eyes in this very hall, across our nation and the world.
Who would have thought – even a year ago – that a gathering of professionals and a cross-section of Ghanaians from various strata of society would be required to wear masks and sit apart from each other in public? And be viewed suspiciously should someone give as much as a little cough?
This why it is important to build a nation that is robust and resilient and has the necessary buffers to withstand the periodic global shocks that affect the world economies and dislocate normal living.
Where would we – our mothers, our fathers, our sisters and brothers, our wives and husbands, our children, our friends, colleagues and ourselves – have been without the various health facilities located across the country?
Without the valiant well-trained health professionals, without water and electrification infrastructure, and without the emergency stabilization fund to purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and other medical supplies, among other interventions the nation fell on in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic?
Ladies and Gentlemen, when we established the Stabilization Fund while in office as part of the PRMA, it was a visionary move. I am glad it came in handy, earlier this year, even before the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailed Ghana out when COVID-19 arrived on our shores. But there are many more threats ahead which we, together as one nation, must confront with vision, strategy and hard work.
Most of these threats are captured by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which must be achieved nine (9) years from now, by the year 2030. But, beyond the threats and even within the threats, are opportunities too.
My dear professionals, when you look ahead ten (10) years from now, what kind of Ghana do you envision for yourself and your children? Indeed, I have dedicated some quiet moments towards this exercise, and I see a peaceful, stable and prosperous nation with opportunities for all, where jobs and infrastructure are abundant, and fruits of our economic success are shared equitably.
Of course, this would be a mirage, a mere pipe dream, if we do not work at it together with the requisite structures and strategies. This vision can only be achieved if we defeat petty partisanship, toxic tribalism and ethnocentrism.
This vision can only be realized if we abandon the gown of favouritism during recruitment and promotions at workplaces – i.e. military, police, prisons, immigration, judiciary, civil and public services. We must don the garment of merit-based recruitment and promotions.
We are one people bound together by a common destiny. We can do it and I am ready, very ready, and willing to lead the way if you grant me your mandate on December 7.
My dear people of Ghana – the sovereign people of our land – this is why I come before you this evening as a unifier; to tell you once again why I am running for President. Let us make it a collective duty to bring about the positive change that we all desire in ourselves, in our youth, in our communities, in our country and for generations unborn.
In John Dramani Mahama, you have a unifier, a visionary and a President you can TRUST. You also have a President with the track record of delivering massive development with far less resources than has been available to the current Government over the past four years.
I do not take it for granted that I have been blessed with the unique opportunity to step back from Government, reflect and seek your mandate once again to be President of our Republic. I do not take this lightly because my brothers and sisters, there is so much to do, so much to avoid, and so much to repair.
So, let us be on the move from now till 7th December, and when you have voted for the NDC, hold our feet to the fire of accountability to deliver on your mandate.
HEALTH FOR ALL: FREE PRIMARY HEALTH CARE
Ladies and gentlemen, time is of the essence. Nine years from now, the timeline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will catch up with us. As humanity moves towards tallying the results another round of globally targeted development, how do we want to be counted?
I believe our dear Ghana must be counted as one of the nations that substantially met the SDG targets, and the impact reflected in the lives and conditions of our people.
Health, truly, is wealth. But this should not mean that one must be wealthy to access good healthcare.
We must work to eliminate the agony of a mother or father witnessing the death of a sick child due to his or her inability to pay for health care. Unfortunately, however, the quest for health for all cannot be achieved at our current pace, nor with the current arrangement, which is mainly, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
Our yearly population growth rate is 2.2%. Meanwhile, the NHIS has been growing on the average at 0.27% every year between 2017 and 2019. The rate must be consistent with population growth if we are to attain health for all by 2030. We have all not done too well.
Successive governments in our 4th Republican democracy have contributed to the establishment and growth of the Scheme. It was piloted in the 1990s by President Jerry John Rawlings and implemented in 2007 as a district mutual health insurance scheme by President Agyekum Kufuor.
Unfortunately, under the initial implementation of the scheme, subscribers could not access health care outside of the districts where they registered.
I was privileged to have served in the Government of President John Evans Atta Mills, which converted the Scheme into a truly national one with service delivery available to subscribers anywhere they found themselves in the nation.
As things stand today – only 40% of our population are on the National Health Insurance Scheme. And Oxfam International, which works in more than 90 countries, suggests in a 2019 report on extreme inequalities in Ghana, that only 2% of Ghana’s poor (as defined by the United Nations) are on health insurance.
This implies a staggering 98% of the poor, who are more susceptible to various communicable and non-communicable diseases, are excluded from the social protection provided by the NHIS.
Further evidence indicates that vulnerabilities within specific groups such as persons with disabilities and the aged impede access to the NHIS. Also, despite the existence of the NHIS, health care costs are still high. At this rate, we are nowhere close to achieving health for all by the year 2030.
My brothers and sisters, the situation may actually be more critical and dire than we realise. This state of affairs is a travesty that flies in the face of social justice! As a Social Democrat, speaking on the platform of the Centre for Social Justice, I wish to reiterate that we owe the poor and vulnerable groups, an urgent transformational solution and not a piecemeal approach.
This is why I urge you to support the Free Primary Health Care policy in the Peoples’ Manifesto. This urgent transformational solution to our health needs, Free Primary Health Care, will provide better health care for all Ghanaians including the poor and vulnerable.
People with disabilities will be supplied with assistive medical devices.
Let me be very clear, the Free Primary Health Care policy will provide health care for all Ghanaians at no cost, in district hospitals, polyclinics, clinics, health centres and CHPS Compounds. You will not need a health insurance card – state or private – to benefit from Free Primary health care. You will not have to pay a premium to benefit.
In addition, Free Primary Health care will emphasize preventive health and health promotion. And will include private health service providers.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Free Primary Health care will be the single largest social intervention under the Fourth Republic. It will create jobs for the youth – Nurses, Midwives, Physician Assistants, Drug store owners, Pharmacists, Doctors, IT professionals and many others.
We estimate to spend GH¢1.4 billion, annually on Free Primary Health care from December 2021. Ultimately, it will ensure a healthy nation. We believe a healthy nation translates into a healthy workforce that will contribute to the growth of the economy, lead to massive job creation and improve livelihoods.
JOB CREATION UNDER THE EDWUMA PA PLAN
Ladies and gentlemen, a healthy nation translates into a healthy workforce that will contribute to the growth of the economy, lead to massive job creation and improve livelihoods. We have outlined our plan to develop and create a minimum of one million jobs under our Edwuma Pa plan. We went to the people, they spoke, and we listened.
As stated in our Manifesto, our One Million Jobs in four years, Edwuma Pa, Job Creation Plan will be the predominant preoccupation of the next NDC Government. We will create 250, 000 jobs every year to enhance the livelihoods of Ghanaians.
This also fits into Goal 8 of the SDGs – Decent work and economic growth which must be attained by the year 2030. In order to foster fairness, transparency and accountability in the distribution of available jobs opportunities, we shall enact an Employment Act to provide a comprehensive framework for job creation and labour market statistics.
Under Edwuma Pa we will create a 24-hour economy where three shifts of 8-hours each a day would be a norm in order to meet the anticipated national and foreign demand for goods from Ghana as we aggressively diversify our economy and add value to our products for export.
The three 8- hourly shifts will place Ghana in sync with the world in order to prepare our economy to become an advanced one.
Ladies and Gentlemen, our competitive geographical advantage is that; we are at the centre of the world. When America is waking up and Asia is going to bed, we are wide awake in the afternoon. This is why I established the Accra Digital Centre to serve as a major hub for Business Process Outsourcing.
The NDC built the National Data Centre and also deployed 4G technology, which specifically is providing high speed internet today and has been a major driver of online meetings via Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp among others particularly during this COVID-19 period.
We will develop 5G technology, train more computer programmers, build a knowledge-based economy where e-commerce flourishes and moves Ghana faster into the new world of smart manufacturing and digital services.
This will provide decent and sustainable jobs for all Ghanaians. In addition, we shall establish a fertile environment for the private sector by significantly reducing the cost of doing business in Ghana.
Our decline on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index will be tackled to satisfy the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Traders and all Ghanaians. We automated the Registrar General Department to facilitate business registration and we are promising to do more.
We will also work hand in hand with stakeholders to be assured they will invest the gains in ventures that will expand businesses to create more jobs for the youth.
Let me reassure you, we will scrap the 25% corporate income tax for small businesses and reduce Corporate Income tax from 25% to 15% for medium-scale businesses. Furthermore, we will not only offer a 2-year tax holiday for youth startups and businesses, but also provide a 2-year Corporate Income tax exemption for newly incorporated medium-scale businesses that employ 20 people or more.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I promise to refocus and re-orient the operations of the Ghana EXIM bank, which I established in 2016 to promote exports and create sustainable jobs. The lack of transparency in disbursement and flagrant abuse of the funds of the bank on noncore activities to the neglect of many core and legitimate viable business plans begging for credit saddens me.
Under my watch, the Ghana EXIM bank in addition to other funding streams will support agriculture and agribusinesses for both the domestic and export markets through the creation of agro-production and processing zones in all major crop producing areas across Ghana.
It is our expectation that these interventions will make Ghana self-sufficient and a major exporter of finished goods. Processing of cashew, cocoa, shea, palm, cassava, pepper, ginger, fruits and rubber will also be emphasized to put money in the pockets of farmers and entrepreneurs.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the fishing, poultry and livestock industry will be a key pillar in the quest to make Ghana self-sufficient. We shall hand over the management of pre-mix fuel to transparently constituted Landing Beach Committees and ensure it is affordable and available for fishing communities.
We shall equip the Navy to fight “Saiko” fishing. Subsidized outboard motors will also be made available and fishers will also be encouraged to engage in commercial cage culture on lakes and rivers.
To meet our protein energy requirements, attention will also be given to both the poultry and livestock industry. Still in the agriculture sector, cocoa farmers will be given free fertilizer as it used to be under our administration. And in general farmers will be supported with inputs to improve their yield.
Ladies and Gentlemen, COVID-19 revealed the need to invest in our pharmaceutical industry.
Borders were closed and countries were looking inward. I am glad I invested in the industry. We laid a solid foundation by injecting over US$20 million in Entrance Pharmaceuticals (Tobinco) Ernest Chemists, Dannex, Danadams and Kinapharma to enhance production and provide jobs.
We have done it before, and we will do it even better by making available financial and technical support to indigenous pharmaceutical companies. We need them to produce to drive Free Primary Health Care and we also need them to serve the sub-regional markets while creating the needed jobs.
On my recent visit to the Western region, I assured small scale miners that my administration will pursue equity and justice. Their missing excavators will certainly be investigated, restored to them and the perpetrators punished severely. I also assured them we will establish a Gold Board (GOLDBOD) which will support them to mine in peace while respecting environmental health and safety guidelines. And to add value to their products we will refine more gold for export.
We will involve the Central Bank in certifying quality refined Ghanaian Gold. We will work with the KNUST Jewelry Training Centre to establish a first-class unique Jewelry market in Ghana. This is our strategy to create decent jobs in mining communities as we also protect the environment including water bodies in this climate challenged world.
PUBLIC SECTOR JOBS
As social Democrats, we also believe it is the business of Government to create jobs as we support the private sector to do same. As a result, we have conducted a thorough Human Resource Gap (HR Gap) study into the public sector.
I commend the team for their diligence and the professionalism which they attached to this study. The study reveals the need to optimize employment opportunities within the public sector if we are to deliver professional and responsive public service to Ghanaians including foreigners who come for tourism or for business including education and health care.
Specifically, analysis of the HR Gap study shows the Ghana Education Service has a gap of 98,650; and the Ghana Health Service has a human resource gap of 76,795.
The security services also revealed several opportunities. Ghana National Fire Service, 30,136; Ghana Immigration Service 3,522, Ghana Prison Service, 7,925; Ghana Police Service 35,020 vacancies and many more.
Together with the private sector, we will create real jobs, not temporary and artificial jobs, so that people can live dignified lives.
If you have been engaged under NABCO, I say to you that you belong to Ghana and not to any individual or group. You deserve permanent jobs like all citizens.
The welfare of workers is also key to our national progress and prosperity.
Therefore, we plan to amend the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766) to allow workers who lose their jobs suddenly – such as COVID-19 did to many private sector workers – to be paid allowances while they search for new opportunities.
Also, workers who have contributed for between ten (10) to fifteen (15) years will be allowed to use their contributions as collateral to access mortgage loans. And where applicable waivers on vehicle imports will be granted to facilitate productivity.
After long years of work, the day of retirement will come. Come it will. We know the formal sector has the tiered pension which must be enhanced. We have already committed to paying pensioners an annual thirteenth-month bonus. But how about the informal sector?
This is why the next NDC Government will introduce a new Pension Scheme for organised groups in the informal sector:
We will contribute a percentage on behalf of any group that participates in the new informal sector pension scheme. With this, both young and older adults can enjoy a fair share of the national cake and our quest to build a resilient and sustainable nation would be well rooted.
Colleagues, it is well-documented that, in spite of our first term challenges, including an almost one year of an election petition, the fall in the price of global commodities and dumsor, which we eventually resolved, we were able to chalk significant successes in the area of socio-economic infrastructure and economic stability for job creation.
We developed our oil, gas and energy infrastructure, built secondary schools and universities, hospitals, interchanges, roads, airports, markets, expanded electricity and water to communities that did not have them, built ICT and digital infrastructure including the e-Government project and many more to prepare the youth to part take in the opportunities that liberalized economy will present
This we did with the relatively little resources we had compared to what the current government has today.
After we resolved the power crisis, in late 2015, my government worked very hard to create the right business environment, culminating in the World Bank declaring Ghana as being the best destination for doing business in West Africa, ahead of Nigeria and Ivory Coast.
Indeed, due to our investment in the economy, Ghana was projected to achieve a growth of over 8% in 2017, which was going to be sustained in the years to come.
Predictably, the NPP inherited the growth but they could not increase or sustain the height we chalked in the economy and in subsequent years – 2018 to 2019 – recorded growth that was below the 8% mark.
Contrary to the impression created by Nana Akufo Addo that he inherited nothing from me, I left him revenue from two new oil fields (TEN and ENI Sankofa), $270 million in the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund (GIIF), more than $207 million in the stabilization fund, about $300 million in the sinking fund with which the final payment of the Kufuor Eurobond was made on maturity in 2017.
As for the 2020 growth, the economy that was sold to us as being resilient and capable of withstanding shocks for three months could not stay without IMF support for three weeks. Even worse, the rate of borrowing by this Government has dazed many observers.
The IMF in its Sub Saharan Africa Regional Economic Outlook forecasts the current rate at a frightening 76.7% of debt to GDP ratio. Officially Ghana is back to HIPC status under Nana Akufo Addo and Ken Ofori Atta. But growth in itself would not mean much if the people it is supposed to give improved livelihoods and jobs are left behind, and this we, the NDC, are determined to address.
We observed that a vast percentage of Ghana’s economy is controlled by foreigners, who end up repatriating the profits made in the country to their countries of origin. This is why we have decided that the next NDC government will create more opportunities for Ghanaian businesses to sprout and thrive.
We will strengthen the regulatory framework and restore and work actively to increase Ghanaian stake in the financial sector, especially in the banking, microfinance and savings and loans enterprises.
This will enable many banking professionals who lost their lifetime employment during the deliberate, poorly thought through, callous collapse of banks and financial institutions by this administration.
This is particularly important because the traditional foreign banks have limited lending portfolios to our SMEs and the informal sector. It is the indigenous Ghanaian banks that do and thus stimulate the economy.
We must and we will put Ghanaian businesses at the centre of our economic growth. It is only when Ghanaian businesses thrive that our economy can grow and create jobs and prosperity.
In doing this, and in line with social justice, we will create equal opportunities for Ghanaian businesses and not deal with them based on their political colour or family affiliation of their owners. Government will give them priority in procurement from budgetary sources and we will use Government’s financial muscle to boost Ghanaian business.
THE BIG PUSH
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an undisputed fact that the NDC government delivers on social and economic infrastructure; we are therefore very much aware that it is our duty to provide these for the people of Ghana under the Ten Billion US Dollar Big Push infrastructure agenda.
Let me assure you, architects, engineers, surveyors… that only locally registered professionals and contractors and local artisans will be used under this policy. We have the men and women right here in Ghana. And we estimate to create about 400,000 jobs from the US$10 Big Push.
We may have the Terminal 3 at Kotoka, or the Greater Accra Regional (Ridge) Hospital or the University of Ghana Medical Centre, or the National Data Centre, or the Accra Digital centre, or the Kwame Nkrumah and Kasoa Interchanges, or the Kejetia Market, or the Community Day schools, or the University for Environment and Sustainable Development among many other infrastructural projects; but in order for our country to attain the height we know we are capable of achieving, we must further invest in socio-economic infrastructure.
These notwithstanding, we need this Ten Billion US Dollar #BigPush to put our six newly created regions and other deprived regions on an even keel with the endowed regions, so that no one is left behind in terms of development. Rightly so, as we are social democrats and we seek social justice and balanced socio-spatial development.
The US$10 billion investment under the #BigPush in five years will complete abandoned projects, and projects commenced by the current administration. The Eastern corridor road will be one of the key priorities. Major markets will also be constructed in Aflao, Mankessim, Techiman Kintampo, Sampa, Elubo, Nima, Madina and Asesewa. The markets will have Day Care facilities and amenities which meet the needs of market women and their clients.
The Big Push will also provide social housing for workers including the Soyayya Housing Scheme in Zongos, expand rural electrification, expand the 37 Military Hospital, build universities in regions that do not have any, build modern theatres and centres for the promotion of the Creative Industry, construct a multi-purpose Convention and Exhibition Centre aimed at positioning Ghana as West Africa’s destination for Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing and Exhibitions (MICE), refurbish the National Theatre, upgrade infrastructure linking tourism sites to people, provide sports facilities across the regions, and complete and operationalise the Suame and Dawa Industrial Parks. Dualization of key highways.
EDUCATION, SKILL TRAINING AND TVET
I will make the free SHS programme better, and also expand and drive support for skills, technical and vocational training; God willing when I am elected as President on December 7.
My interest in TVET gained firm roots when I inspected an oil and gas project and was informed by the supervisor that they often bring in professional welders from abroad because Ghana did not have enough trained personnel to deliver according to specifications.
From that moment I decided that we needed to rebrand TVET from the basic level to the Technical University so that our youth can be equipped with the needed skills, knowledge and qualifications and be well-positioned to take advantage of the numerous employment opportunities, or to employ themselves and others.
As I embark on my tour of the country, and in many communities, I observe that there are numerous unemployed young men, and also young women many of whom are teenagers with babies strapped on their backs.
Our Manifesto straddles all such youth. When I see them, I know instantly that we made the right decision going to the people themselves to ask them what we can do to improve their lives because we have initiatives such as the National Apprenticeship Programme (NAP) that suit youth in this category.
With the free National Apprenticeship Programme the next NDC administration will institute, government would engage and pay for the services of master craftsmen and women and artisans in the communities to equip and train the youth including the youth in Zongos in various traditional vocations such as dressmaking, catering and hairdressing. Upon completion of their training programme, government would give them the needed tools and equipment so that they can start their own businesses and earn a living for themselves.
We believe that the NDC’s one million jobs plan and free TVET and National Apprenticeship Programme as contained in the People’s Manifesto are important because the failure to create jobs for the teeming youth could prove disastrous for the nation. It is a ticking time bomb as events in our neighbouring countries are clearly demonstrating.
We stand to gain a lot as a nation because we will rope in the informal sector in our proposed digital economy which seeks to train many computer programmers. And the country can earn more revenue to support our nation’s development.
On education, we will strengthen preschool and basic level education and improve upon the constitutionally mandated Free Secondary Education. We will also ensure quality.
This we will do by removing the dreaded ‘double track’ system through a fast-track completion of the abandoned Community Day schools, as well as expansion of existing infrastructure and inclusion of Private secondary schools in the implementation of the Free SHS programme. This will address congestion and ensure quality teaching and learning experience.
Our manifesto pledges to open up legal education so that more of our qualified students who want to study law get to do so.
Since we launched our manifesto, we have noticed a quantum jump in the number of admissions to the Law School. We shall, similarly, ensure that medical education is equally accessible to qualified persons without compromising quality.
Recently we learnt that the obnoxious Public Universities Bill has been suspended after several months of protests by the university community.
Once again, the Peoples’ Manifesto is working wonders even from opposition.
Many are convinced that if the government truly wanted to withdraw it, it would do so and not suspend it only to bring it back after elections. We, the NDC, believe in the independence of institutions and not the politicization and control of institutions that have been foisted on us in the past 4 years.
For us, an insincere suspension is not good enough. We shall completely withdraw the vexatious Bill. The tertiary institutions need Government’s support not Government’s tyranny.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we will absorb fifty per cent (50%) of fees of tertiary students for the 2020/2021 academic year to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on students and parents and among others establish free Wi-Fi zones in all public and private tertiary institutions.
And for the youth in Zongos, we will award scholarships to brilliant but needy students from basic to tertiary level.
MARGINALISED GROUPS AND INCLUSIVE EDUCATION
My brothers and sisters, the National Democratic Congress is the party known for addressing the challenges of the marginalized such as Persons with Disability. We however feel we must do more.
This is why we have embarked on an affirmative action targeting Persons with Disability in the area of education. The next NDC government will implement a free tertiary education programme for the disabled.
This means that our challenged brothers and sisters will not pay any fees from the basic level to the tertiary level of education. To support special needs education, we will work closely with the Paediatric Society of Ghana and parents to institute early medical screening for new-born and pre-school children in order to identify children with challenges.
Apart from this, we shall reverse the shortfall in allowance to PwDs caused by this Government’s reduction of the District Assemblies Common Fund. We will raise it back to 7.5% from the current 5%, so that PwDs can receive more support.
To remove the existing bottlenecks which militate against PWDs’ easy access to their funds, we have decided to establish Disability Fund in the Districts to meet their needs. While we create new jobs, we will also prioritise people with disabilities and ensure they have their fair share of the jobs as citizens in line with the principles of social justice.
I am overjoyed that even before the first vote is cast, the promises in the Peoples’ Manifesto have significantly aroused the sleepy conscience and attention of this Government and have shaken them to act selectively albeit too late in the day on some of our policy proposals.
At this critical stage of our nation’s history, Ghanaians deserve more than ever before, a government that is honest and truthful to them. A government that takes responsibility and gives them results, not excuses or blame.
We shall work to unite and create opportunities for all – not just for a privileged few, bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, end the repression of the media and end intolerance and discrimination against ethnic groups, religious groups, gender and age groups.
Above all, we shall consider it a civic duty and support all citizens to hold our Government accountable to the people of Ghana without fear of recriminations. Together with you, we shall build the Ghana we all can be proud of. And we shall adopt a root and branch approach to the fight against corruption
Unfortunately, time will not permit me to share more of the many nuggets that are in the People’s Manifesto that we will be implementing, God willing, from January 2021.
But I am happy there is an opportunity to discuss the issues I have raised namely – Free Primary Health Care, Economy, Education and Skills Development as well as Job Creation, The Big Push, The plight of people with disabilities and education. I look forward to the Question and answer session.
I thank you and the Centre for Social Justice for this opportunity.
I urge you all including Civil Society to invite the President for a one-on-one debate on our stewardship and our programmes for the future.