Thursday, 10 September 2009
GOVERNMENT STATEMENT AT THE ‘MATTERS ARISING’ PRESS CONFERENCE ON THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 10, 2009
Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you for finding the time to join us again. My Minister, Hon. Mrs. Zita Okaikoi who should have addressed you, unfortunately took ill last night and she has asked me to represent her and read out her statement to you this morning.
Today’s press conference dubbed ‘Matters Arising’ is a platform for government to give Ghanaians a status report on the Better Ghana Agenda President John Atta Mills and the NDC promised at the polls.
I’ll be focussing on three main areas this morning.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to report to the people of Ghana that President John Atta Mills is on course to redeeming his campaign pledge that he will not allow this country to be turned into a haven for narcotics trade.
A few months ago, this country was a fertile ground for the narcotics trade, gaining dangerous notoriety as a transit country and buoyed on by very confident drug barons.
Today, in furtherance of our pledge and the President’s personal commitment to the fight against drugs, the NDC government has initiated very effective and practical steps towards dealing with the drug menace.
In complete departure from the situation that existed over the last eight years, during which very pitiable and inadequate measures were put in place, this government is not only demonstrating the required political will but also implementing very key strategies and measures aimed at combating the very disturbing drug problems we inherited as a government.
These measures, which include skills training, exposure to modern techniques in fighting narcotic drugs and steps to transform the Narcotics Control Board into an autonomous Commission, are yielding very-very positive results that Ghanaians are generally very proud of.
Ladies and gentlemen, today, there is no perception as it was in the past that some powerful people in government may be collaborating with drug barons, and off course, that is enough motivation for our narcotics enforcement teams.
Over the last few weeks, some arrests have been made and which have been in the public domain, including the successful management of security information leading to the arrest of a ship and seizure of parcels of cocaine on board. A number of other people have been arrested either with parcels of cocaine concealed in tubers of yam, or heroine swallowed for discharge at their final destinations and cocaine concealed in private parts.
We can confidently report to Ghanaians that the Acting Executive Secretary of NACOB and his team, working in close collaboration with the National Security apparatus has over the last eight months monitored, traced and arrested a number of couriers and smart collaborators, who are been further investigated in order to smoke out their paymasters and barons.
Off course, structures have been strengthened to ensure that seized exhibits do not either vanish or metamorphose into some other substance overnight.
Ladies and gentlemen, President Mills’ Better Ghana agenda is very much on course and as he indicated in Cape Coast last Saturday, we are proceeding slowly but steadily and will fulfill our promises to the people of Ghana despite the present economic difficulties.
Fellow Ghanaians, my brothers and sisters, we promised a Youth in Agriculture programme and we have delivered. As I speak, a group of young people have cultivated a total of one thousand, four hundred and forty (1,440) hectares of land in Damango, the West Gonja District of the Northern region under the programme.
Over three hundred (300) youth of the area, organized into various groups are working on the Block Farm Concept deployed at Damongo. One thousand, two hundred (1,200) hectares of the land has been cultivated with maize, two hundred (200) hectares with rice and the remaining forty (40) hectares planted with soya beans.
They did not have to put in a pesewa up till this stage. Tractors were provided to plough the land, seedlings and fertilizers provided and pesticides supplied. In order to sustain the programme however, the various groups are required to pay the input cost after harvesting.
This has created jobs for the inhabitants, including holiday jobs for school pupils who have been engaged to administer fertilisers, weed the farms and provide other services.
Ladies and gentlemen, apart from Damango, the Youth in Agriculture Programme has also been rolled out in Komenda, Potsin in Gomoa West, Agona East and Gomoa West areas of the Central Region. So far, a total of 100 hectares have been ploughed in Komenda and ready for planting, 30 hectares in Gomoa West, 72 hectares in Gomoa East and 40 hectares in Agona East.
When fully operational across the country, a total of 14,000 hectares of land is expected to be on cultivation under the Youth in Agriculture programme. And more than 20,000 job opportunities, some periodic will be created.
For this programme, government has provided 10.7 million Ghana Cedis and we look forward to the programme offering tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs to not only the youth but the public generally. Regions that will benefit from the programme when fully operational include the Northern, Upper East and West, Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Central and Volta.
On page 51 of the NDC’s Better Ghana manifesto, we stated that despite the fact that agriculture contributes 35% of our country’s GDP and employs some 60% of our people, the sector has not been fully harnessed to drive the developmental process. Our promise to the people of Ghana was that we’ll develop a number of strategies aimed at exploiting the sector fully.
To enable us realise our objective of food security and reducing poverty, we have taken irrigation development very serious. By the end of this year, the required feasibility study and detailed designs for the first phase of 5,000 hectares under the Accra Plains Irrigation Project would be ready.
You can imagine the valuable use this large tract of land will be put to and the benefits it will bring to our economy in terms of employment, food security, improved standard of living, development of agro-based industries among others. You can therefore appreciate His Excellency the President’s keen interest in this project.
Up north, government is presently rehabilitating 70 breached dams in the three northern regions, which when completed will put 360 hectares of land under irrigation. These areas can engage in dry season farming with its attendant economic and social benefits to the people and the country as a whole.
Ladies and gentlemen, the laudable things we are doing in the agricultural sector are not limited only to farming. In the fishing industry, Government has also approved the construction of two fishing harbours and 12 landing sites at a total cost of 200 million dollars. We are currently sourcing for funds for the projects.
In addition to these interventions, which are aimed at addressing the challenges of safety and post harvest losses, six cold stores will be built in selected fishing communities with a 7 million Euro loan facility from the Spanish government.
To be able to effectively patrol and protect our marine domain, two out of the expected six patrol boats for the Ghana Navy are expected in December 2009 to augment their fleet. The two boats which have been paid for already would help the Ghana Navy to enforce our fisheries laws and also protect our fishermen who have suffered from heavy lights thrown at sea by big trawlers and also the activities of pair trawlers.
Government has also offered farmers a 50% subsidy on fertilizers as a result of which 10million Ghana Cedis has been released to support the subsidy payment. It is government’s hope that this will contribute to the expected expansion in agricultural production.
Let me take this opportunity to warn the nation-wreckers who have started making plans to smuggle the fertilizers bought at subsidized rates across the borders that the security agencies are on high alert at all entry and exit posts.
In our quest to improve on our capacity to produce rice locally and reduce the huge import bills on the cereal, parts of the projected irrigated lands will be planted with rice while we continue with the support we are extending to the Nerica Rice Production in the northern sector and cultivation of a further 700 hectares of rice farm.
This will be adding to the Aveyime rice farm which should be releasing their rice unto the market soon, and the 200 hectares being cultivated under the Youth in Agriculture programme in Damonga.
Finally to the third area of focus today- Education. And we are happy to report to Ghanaians that the John Atta Mills government is more than committed to providing the required infrastructure and incentives for the delivery of quality education.
It is this government’s position that quality education would lead to quality of life for the people, and noting that it is the right of every child and young person to have access to quality education, we will continue to do that to guarantee a better life for all.
In addition to on-going efforts to expand physical infrastructure, motivating teachers and making available required logistics, this government has activated a number of far-reaching interventions that are very key to the provision of quality education.
To encourage especially parents in deprived areas of our country to send their children to school, immediately upon assumption of office, President Mills ordered a 50% increment in the capitation grant per pupil.
In addition to the planned supply of free exercise books, two free pairs of school uniforms each to pupils in selected districts considered deprived at a cost of over 11million Ghana Cedis, government also made available 13million Ghana Cedis for the Ghana School Feeding Program. All these should in addition to improving the nutrition of children also enhance enrolment in schools as we prepare for the new academic year.
Government has decided to pay the full tuition fees for all teachers who will be pursuing further studies through distance learning.
This will start from next year and forms part of government’s efforts at motivating our teachers to both stay in the classroom and also improve themselves academically. The decision to encourage distance learning and pay the fees is very significant in order to keep the teachers in the classroom to teach while learning.
Government has also confirmed its commitment to science and technology education with the introduction of 41,000 scholarships accessible by mathematics and science students across the country.
The last NDC administration under the able leadership of President Jerry Rawlings introduced the science resource centre concept, which saw the establishment of 110 centres in all districts of the country. Buses were also supplied to each centre to help in the transportation of students from schools to the centre.
Over the last eight years however, deliberate government action resulted in the neglect of these centres leading to their near collapse in some cases, with almost all of them lacking equipment, materials and personnel required for the running of these centres.
To cap it all, they demonstrated their lack of interest in science and technology in the manner in which the established ministry was scrapped and science made an addendum to many other ministries during the last eight years.
Aside fulfilling our manifesto pledge of establishing a Ministry of Science and Technology, we have started the process of positioning science, technology, research and development at the forefront of our activities.
As we speak, funds have been made available for the establishment of the first ever ICT Park within the Tema Free Zones Enclave, and the Ministries of Trade and Communications have commissioned a feasibility study and a business plan for the ICT Park.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that the NDC’s commitment to revamping our local industries is not in doubt at all. We will have the opportunity to talk about this another day, but to demonstrate our commitment, government decided to procure all the materials needed for the free school uniforms from our local textile industry.
This was achieved by offering the selected company tax waivers that will enable its prices to be competitive with foreign firms. That simply means, over 11million Ghana Cedis will stay in our economy instead of been siphoned out.
The industry will receive a big boost ensuring job security, more employment opportunities and a gradual revamping of the sector. Vice President John Mahama has also announced that the necessary steps will be taken to begin the procurement of materials for the various security agencies and other organizations from our local textile companies.
Again, as we speak, there is a planned launch, hopefully next week, of a multi-ministerial and private sector partnership being coordinated by the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology. This initiative will offer employment to about 10,000 people including graduates, skilled and unskilled persons etc.
Under the initiative, details of which will be unveiled later, our beaches, from Aflao to Elubo will be constantly cleaned, coconut trees will be planted along the beaches and maintained to grow, general sanitation will be taken very seriously in the fishing communities and a core group will be trained in the management of oil spillage at sea. That is called the Oil Spillage Response Strategy.
Already, the trainers of trainers have received training in Nigeria and will be training another set of supervisors and trainers in management of the oil spillage.
You would realise therefore, that once we keep our beaches clean and plant more coconut trees we are making our beaches much more conducive for relaxation and by extension boosting tourism.
As we keep our fishing communities clean and sanitation improves, our folks in these communities will start to live much more healthy lives.
Since all the persons who will be engaged in this effort are from the various communities, it means we are using indigenous labour and that will improve the financial situations of 1000s of families and get them to live better lives.
This public/private partnership will also ensure technology transfer to Ghana for the development of the local capacity in the oil industry.
The transfer of expertise and technical capacity to the local staff will ensure the building of the needed capacity to support the oil industry in line with the NDC government’s objective of developing the human resource capacity of the people.
And the employment opportunities that will be created will go a long way in supporting the NDC’s government’s short-term objective of promoting and creating productive employment opportunities in all sectors of the economy.
Clearly, the John Atta Mills government is on course, despite the difficulties caused by the poor management of the economy by our predecessors resulting in huge deficits and undisclosed arrears.
The Better Ghana we promised is on course to be delivered.