THEGHANAREPORT.COM's 10 major issues ahead Akufo-Addo's 2020 SoNA

10 major issues ahead Akufo-Addo’s 2020 State of the Nation Address

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is expected to appear before Parliament on Thursday to deliver the last State of the Nation Address of his four-year tenure.

The President is expected to hone in on issues such as free education and the performance of Ghana’s economy, a political horse he hopes to ride to re-election in November.

President Akufo-Addo has frequently touted his stewardship of the economy, scoring himself high marks which his opponents hold with scorn.

It will be the last time in his four-year tenure the President will deliver the State of the Nation— the last chance to convince and sum up interventions that have and would improve the lives of citizens by the end of 2020.

Ghanaians will look up to an improvement of the 48% scorecard on achievements by IMANI Ghana even though government scores itself 78%.

The State of the Nation Address (SONA), it is expected to highlight the achievements and challenges that will make or break the President’s chances of a consecutive term as has been the case of most presidents in the Fourth Republic.

The address is supposed to cover every sector including the economy, security, education, health, agriculture, governance, sanitation, infrastructure and other developmental areas.

Ahead of the presentation, Ghana’s most trusted news portal, theghanareport.com, brings you 10 issues that require answers from the president.

1. Scandal-plagued ‘galamsey’ fight

“I have said it in the Cabinet, and perhaps this is the first time I am making this public, that I am prepared to put my Presidency on the line on this matter.”

That was the assurance President Nana Addo-Dankwah Akufo-Addo gave in 2017  on illegal mining.

This was followed by a nationwide ban on small scale mining, and illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey. The government set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM) and also the Operation Vanguard, a joint military and police task force specifically tasked to combat the menace.

After three years, the assessment of the illegal mining campaign has been mixed. Water bodies like River Pra are still looking brownish with residues of cyanide. Some areas of the country initially covered by thick vegetation are barer than the Sahara Desert.

a. Most Ghanaians were shocked to hear that a Chinese national, Aisha Huang, had been deported on December 18, 2018.

Ms Huang, who was described as “untouchable”, had been charged with undertaking small-scale mining operations, contrary to Section 99 (1) of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006, (Act 703).

She was also charged and put before a court. However, unlike some Ghanaians who were prosecuted and jailed for similar offences, the court case was discontinued and she was allowed to leave Ghana without any punishment.

Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo, justified the outcome.

President Nana Akufo-Addo, however, was forced to defend the issue. He admitted that the deportation was a mistake.

And so we ask, what is the government’s commitment to the galamsey fight?

2. Missing excavators

The biggest saga that has rocked the anti-galamsey fight is the admission by Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM), Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, that several seized excavators were missing.

The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the former Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu, pegged the number at 500.

The NDC is claiming that some of the excavators are being used by party members shielded by the government. Professor Frimpong-Boateng has been implicated in the scandal with Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, calling for his resignation.

The NDC called for accountability on all confiscated items, including gold, some 4,045 other mining equipment, 2,779 weapons and ammunition, and several other items seized from alleged illegal miners.

Where did the excavators go? This is the question on the lips of some Ghanaians.

3. Corruption

One of the main campaign issues which the governing party used to defeat the NDC in the 2016 election was corruption. The Akufo-Addo-led government promised to fight corruption, which resulted in the passage of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Act and the appointment of Mr Martin Amidu as the first Special Prosecutor.

Two years down the lane, Mr Amidu’s office is yet to bring anyone to book for corruption-related offences.

An analysis of the recent Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) attests that Mahama’s worst score was better than Akufo-Addo’s best. The country scored 41 out of 100 and ranked 80 out of the 180 countries/territories assessed annually by the global anti-corruption body.

Several foreign missions in Ghana have called on the government to tackle the canker, which is hampering international business transactions.

The Danish Ambassador to Ghana, Mrs Tove Degnbol; U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie Sullivan; the Netherlands’ Ambassador to Ghana Ron Strikker; UK Ambassador to Ghana, Ian Walker; and Australian Ambassador to Ghana, Andrew Barnes, have made public pronouncements calling on the government to act.

Has the corruption fight been lost?

4. Sanitation

The filth that engulfs the capital has been a major concern for successive governments. President  Akufo-Addo told Ghanaians that his government would ensure that the city became the cleanest cities in Africa by the end of his tenure.

Open defecation is still rife. The sanitation courts used by the assemblies to prosecute offenders and other measures of deterrence has not prevented members of the public of wanton littering of the environment.

Mr Akufo-Addo said in last year’s SoNA that “a significant improvement in sanitation” had been chalked. However, Accra remains far, perhaps a million miles from the destination of even the top three cleanest cities in Africa.

As the sun gradually set on his Presidency, will the President concede that he punched above his weight as far the Accra filth is concerned?

5. Infrastructure

“2020 is the year of roads!” That was the declaration by Mr Akufo-Addo and a rehash of proclamations by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta in his 2020 budget and economic policy.

The government has said it is embarking on a massive campaign to address the poor road networks in major parts of the country. Ridiculing the opposition NDC’s claims of massive road infrastructure in its Green Book, the government has promised a revamp, but with a year to end a four-year term, the earth-moving equipment is yet to roar.

Beyond roads, Ghanaians would like to see an expansion in other infrastructure as the current capital expenditure is out-muscled by interest on loans and payment of emoluments. Infrastructural development spurs economic growth but less than 20% of revenue is dedicated to infrastructural expansion.

Capital expenditure as at January 2020 had increased to 1.8% of GDP, which was 1.6% GDP for the same period the previous year but Mr Akufo-Addo needs to provide answers on extensive expansion to solidify some of the economic gains.

The 2020 budget sets aside over GH¢19bn to pay interests alone and is one of the biggest items on the government’s expenditure bill. The government wants to spend GH¢86bn in 2020 but is projecting to raise only GH¢67bn.

6. Road accidents

A total of 2,284 lost their lives to road carnage while 14,397 were injured in 2019 across the country. The figure was derived from 13,877 crashes recorded in 2019 which involved 22,789 vehicles.

Notwithstanding recklessness by drivers, policy and investment in the sector are responsibilities of the leadership of the country to tackle the incapacitation of productive lives. Government officials have often spoke about the dualisation of major roads leading to Ghana’s regional capitals but not much has been seen of it. Until the next accident, it remains locked up in the midst of government officials.

Mr President, respectfully, when will the dualisation of the roads start in order to reduce the carnage?

7. Controlling borrowing, expenditure and budget deficit in an election year

Except for 2004, election years are noted for high expenditures spiraling budget deficits out of control. All other election years have recorded budget overruns.

This is usually so due to the overnight rollout of construction projects across the country to sway votes in favour of incumbent governments.

The government’s target for 2020 is 4.7% of GDP. But there are fears that the government will overshoot the mark violating its fiscal rule ceiling of 5%. The government wants to spend GH¢86bn in 2020 but is projecting to raise only GH¢67bn. It leaves a deficit of GH¢19bn, a source of concern.

Ghana’s public debt as at the end of 2019 was GHC 214.9billion according to the summary of economic and financial data representing 62.1% of GDP.

A new IMF staff report in 2020 said Ghana is closer to being classified as a high debt distressed country due to ballooning debts. This is even before the recent Eurobond of $3bn issued in February which is yet to be captured as part of the debt stock.

Will the President put his Presidency on the line should he win another mandate and we find out in 2021 that the party gulped more than was in the cup.

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8. RTI implementation challenges

When President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo assented to the Right to Information Act last year, Ghanaians were told its implementation will start in January 2020. Among the conditions for the take-off are the establishment of a commission and the fixing of rates for applicants seeking information.

But January has come and gone, so is the sun about to set on February, but there is no sign that the government is in a hurry (apologies to the President) to start the implementation of the law.

While the nation waits, a public interest lawyer, Martin Kpebu tested the law on behalf of his client, the Member of Parliament for Ashaiman, Ernest Norgbey. The lawmaker demanded information on the procurement of services from some two consultants the EC is working with.

The Commission, in its response, said, although it was willing to provide the information requested, it is unable to release it “because the fees and charges applicable are yet to be determined in accordance with the law.”

So as the President appears before the lawmakers, it will only be fair that he tells Ghanaians the status of implementation of the law, which took more than 19 years to be passed is headed. And there is no better place to do this than in Parliament.

9. Vigilantism law/missing tricycles

The passage of the vigilantism law last year was applauded by many Ghanaians because it appears to be a launchpad for dealing with hoodlums who attempt to strangle the country’s democracy through violence.

After the passage of the law, little has been heard from both sides of the political coin—the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party– on what they are doing with their vigilante groups—Azorka Boys, Eastern Mambas and the Hawks [all for the NDC), the Kandahar Boys, the Delta Force, Bolga Bulldogs and the Invisible Forces [for the NPP).

For now, the latest updates on that part of our national headache is that the NDC has refused to sign the roadmap to end vigilantism. The NPP, on the other hand, found an irritating way to reward the Kandahar Boys in Tamale by giving them tricycles bought with taxpayers’ money.

Although the official position is that the tricycles meant for the work of the Northern Development Authority was sold, some members of the pro-NPP militia confessed appropriating tricycles belonging to the Northern Development Authority (NDA).

So, Mr President, is the NPP disbanding its vigilante groups?