State of the Nation Address – What’s new?

The President, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills presented the State of the Nation address to Parliament Thursday morning February 17, 2011. It is his third, since becoming President of Ghana. And I guess like many other Ghanaians, I was expecting a forward looking and inspirational address, but it turned out to be “business as usual”. Not many new issues came up.

Among others he addressed the following issues:

The construction of roads, ending the situation of schools under trees by building more schools, improving the wages of public sector workers and improving the health sector.

He captured other issues of importance, but not in necessarily new ways. The approach was the same, the situations not dramatically different from what he inherited from the previous government, and running into the third year of his being in office he didn’t present any innovative solution.


The President spoke about expanding support for agriculture by converting the Export Development Investment Fund (EDIF) into Export and Agriculture Development Fund to cater for investors who are interested in investing in agriculture.

He also spoke about constructing an irrigation plant at the Accra plains which will cover 5000 hectares of land to boost agriculture production in that area.

The importance of expanding the National Buffer Stock Company to hold 60,000 tonnes of food from 34,000 tonnes is a very important initiative that should not remain on paper. Especially so in the face of current global hike in food prices, which the World Bank says is driving 44 million people into deeper poverty. Ghana should be able to produce enough food to feed its people and have enough surpluses for export.

Broadcasting Law

On the country’s pending Broadcasting Law, the President said he wants to see to it’s enactment to curb excesses in the media. He therefore, called for fair and objective discussions when the bill comes up for debate. This law has been gathering dust for many years now, and if indeed, he means his word, it is a good thing to have it passed.


Corruption is a serious setback to efforts of development in Ghana. While, it is not clear how much money the country loses to corruption, it is believed millions of cedis are lost to the canker. The President said the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was turned into the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) and given additional powers to fight corruption, as if to say change of name of institutions and giving them more powers have done much in turning bad situations in this country around.

He also called on the Ghana Revenue Authority to pursue tax dodgers relentlessly.

On the Ghana Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) he said in the light of the recently broadcast video by Anas Aremeyaw Anas exposing corruption at the Tema Harbour, “I expect the management of CEPS to take steps to restore public confidence in the institution.” And where does that leave us? As if the CEPS bosses were unaware of the sickening situation before the video was broadcast.


President Mills urged officials of the Ghana Standards Board (GSB) to work stop the dumping of substandard goods into Ghana. Unfortunately, he missed out on the very serious problem of e-waste dumping in Ghana. Despite local and international exposure of the situation in Ghana, not much appears to be happening on the part of government to deal squarely with the deadly crime of e-waste dumping in Ghana. E-waste contains dangerous substances that put human health and the environment at risk.

Audit Service Act

More importantly, he urged the Auditor-General to enforce Act 584 of the Audit Service Act 2000  – which empowers the Auditor-General to withhold salaries and emoluments of public officials who refuse to respond to queries from that office. Does the Auditor-General need a directive from the President to enforce the  existing law?

War on drugs

Responding to the country being labelled as a transit point for drugs within West Africa, the President says his government will re-open investigations into missing cocaine at the Police Headquarters and 77 parcels from a vessel, MV Benjamin in 2006.

He also indicated that he subjects himself to body checks at the Kotoka International Airport because he wants to energise anti-drug organisation officials NACOB into doing their job and to shield them from being intimidated by any ‘high placed’ people.

What the President has said is nothing new.  As it turned out not much of what he said he would do in his first State of the Nation Address has been addressed. Indeed, there were no indications in his presentation that he was making reference to any of the objectives he set out to achieve in his earlier address.

With nothing new in the President’s State of the Nation Address, it is hard to see how far the country will get, especially in an ‘Action Year’.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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