President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Saturday reiterated his government’s commitment to establishing the Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme (IPEP) – the vehicle which will ensure that each of the 275 constituencies receives the equivalent of $1 million per year for infrastructural development.
He said the Fund would be administered by three development authorities, namely, the Coastal Belt Development Authority, the Middle Belt Development Authority and the Northern Development Authority, disclosing that the Bill for the establishment of these Authorities would be laid before Parliament when the House reconvenes later this month.
President Akufo-Addo said this at a meeting with the Ghanaian community resident in Cote d’Ivoire, as part of the activities he undertook during his three-day official visit to that country.
“This year’s budget contains the money for the one million per year per constituency policy, the financial provision has been made. However, because my government and I are accountable to the Ghanaian people, we want to be diligent in everything we do. I do not want a repetition of the scandals that rocked SADA (Savannah Accelerated Development Authority) to befall my government and the three development authorities we want to establish,” the President said.
“So, I will plead with you and the Ghanaian people, who are eagerly awaiting the commencement of this policy, to exercise a little patience as we seek to do the correct thing. It might even be the case that, once the bill is laid before Parliament, some may even suggest improvements to the bill. But, at least, we have made provision in this year’s budget for this policy to begin.”
Touching on his broad vision for the country, he told the audience gathered at the packed theatre in Treichville, a suburb of Abidjan, that his vision was hinged on modernising Ghanaian agriculture to enhance its productivity; a clear industrial policy, and rationalising the financial sector so that it supports growth in agriculture, and growth in manufacturing and industry.
He told the gathering that it was for this reason, that on April 19, 2017, he launched the programme for “Planting for Food and Jobs”, at Goaso, in the Brong Ahafo Region.
He said the programme was the basis of the answer to the twin-problem of the migration of youth to city centres in search of non-existent jobs, as well as an end to the disgraceful spectacle of Ghana importing food stuffs from neighbouring countries.
With a looming shortage of agricultural extension officers in Ghana in the next two to three years, largely as a result of the then Mahama administration’s decision not to employ any of the 3,200 graduates from the country’s five Colleges of Agriculture between 2011 and 2015, President Akufo-Addo told the gathering that that his government has, in the last three months, employed 1,200 of these graduates.
He said “in 2018, we will employ 2,000 more extension officers, with the solemn pledge of employing more graduates from our Colleges of Agriculture in the subsequent years.”
On the economic front, President Akufo-Addo said his government has introduced measures to stimulate growth of the private sector. Amongst others, a monetary policy that would stabilise the currency and reduce significantly the cost of borrowing, in addition to a raft of tax cuts, he said, have been put in place to bring relief to businesses, with the aim of lowering the cost of doing business and shifting the focus of our economy from taxation to production.
This process of economic transformation, the President stressed, has to go along with ensuring that the most basic elements of social justice are met.
“To this end, we want to make quality basic education, i.e. education from kindergarten through to secondary school, accessible to all of Ghana’s children. Beginning with the intake from the 2017/2018 academic year, parents will no longer bear the cost of taking their children to secondary school. Free SHS is coming from September 2017,” he added, to a rapturous response from the packed auditorium.
President Akufo-Addo also assured the Ghanaian community in Cote d’Ivoire of his government’s commitment of engaging with the Electoral Commission to ensuring the full implementation of the Representation of the People’s Amendment Law (ROPAL), to enable them exercise their franchise in local elections.
“There are many countries in West Africa and around the world that do allow their citizens overseas to vote. I cannot understand why, in Ghana, we do not allow that to happen,” he said.