Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Media, and dear People of Ghana! Good morning, and thank you for honouring our invitation to attend this press conference.
On 8th March 2023, the President of the Republic of Ghana delivered a message on the State of the Nation (SONA) under Article 67 of the 1992 Constitution as a symbol and practical demonstration of accountability, and with the utmost respect to the people of Ghana. The President, in his delivery, addressed critical issues of concern to all Ghanaians. The focus of the SONA was on the economic situation of our country and how quickly we are stabilising the economy and working our way back to the period of rapid economic growth.
The SONA provided an honest assessment of our country's situation and sought the support of Ghanaians in addressing the challenges facing our country with hope and confidence. Then, on 20th March 2023, the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), as usual, produced a distorted account of the President's state of the nation address in an attempt to ride on the emotions of Ghanaians for their political gain.
Activities leading to the NDC's UPSA press conference were dramatised as though the NDC had something unprecedented to present. It was an anticlimax because, in the end, nothing new was said except the same old exaggeration and deliberate misrepresentation of facts.
The statement read by the NDC Chairman, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, was far from a document seeking to discuss the state of our country. There was no serious analysis of the economy, no assessment of sectoral developments, and no attempt to propose solutions to the current economic challenges. Ordinarily, we would refrain from responding to the NDC on the SONA. However, given the extent of misinformation contained in their statement, we owe a duty to Ghanaians to straighten the distortions designed to incite disaffection rather than to inform Ghanaians.
My clarification of the NDC's statement will focus mainly on the economy and comments on the other matters to do with the misinformation about the size of the government and the subject of corruption.
First, let me thank the good people of Ghana for supporting the government as we work together to resolve this historic economic crisis that has disrupted the global economy and impacted Ghana.
Ghana's economy was the toast of the world until Covid-19. Before 2020, Ghana was hailed among the fastest-growing economies in the world. But COVID-19 disrupted the growth momentum of our economy and later the Russia-Ukraine War. As a result of these factors, Ghana's economy, which was among the fastest-growing economies in the world, started to decelerate in 2020, and the government has committed everything in its toolkit to regenerate
Ladies and gentlemen, the ravaging impact of Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine War on the global economy are visible all around us. But somehow, the NDC has refused to acknowledge or admit this fact to continue misinforming Ghanaians that this government has mismanaged the economy.
So, the NDC's press conference was merely a repetition of their denial of the impact of Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine War on the economy. The NDC hopes that by consistently propagating this blatant misinformation, it will get enough Ghanaians to come to believe it.
Ladies and gentlemen of the media, I am concerned about this deliberate misinformation campaign by the NDC to deny the impact of Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine War on Ghana's economy. This is because, over time, by hearing this lie repeatedly, it begins to resemble the truth for the consumption or acceptance of the general public.
The media is targeted exempted from this misinformation campaign because you too are feeling the pinch of the hardships in the country. Our pensioners were recently demonstrating against the inevitable Domestic Debt Exchange Programme, and many others are concerned about increasing taxes. These real bread-and-butter issues that make it difficult for anyone to believe it is not the government's fault that we are going through these hard times. This is the opportunity the NDC seeks to exploit, to weaponise the hardships caused by these external factors to make the government unpopular.
The plain truth is that this government has managed the economy diligently and well. The hardships we are experiencing in Ghana are being experienced everywhere because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine War. Workers in some of the world's biggest economies are demanding salary increases due to historic global inflation. It is happening in—the United Kingdom, France and Germany. In the United Kingdom, I was told a couple of weeks ago that they had to ration vegetables and cooking oil. Can you imagine rationing pepper in Ghana?
Kenya, one of the most dynamic economies in East Africa, has recently run out of U.S. dollars. Most fuel and oil importers claim they cannot import the product because they do not have foreign currency. This has led to widespread fuel shortages in major towns and cities, especially in Nairobi.
When called upon by the National Assembly's Finance Committee on 10th March 2023 to explain the situation, the Kenyan Treasury Principal Secretary, Dr Chris Kiptoo, said: “that the Kenyan shilling was weakening against the U.S. dollar at a very fast rate because of external shock factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine War.”
In his press conference, you would recall that the NDC Chairman was touting and holding Ivory Coast as a standard Ghana should aspire to become. The NDC deliberately misrepresented the economic situation in Ivory Coast by suggesting all in well with our western neighbours. In actuality, the Ivory Coast they were advertising was negotiating at the time with the IMF to obtain $2.6 billion in a blended Extended Credit Facility.
Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to quote from the IMF's release after its staff concluded a mission to Ivory Coast on 15th March 2023. “The Ivorian authorities and IMF staf have reached a broad agreement on the authorities' economic reform program that an IMF financial arrangement could support.
The authorities are advancing their agenda for deeper economic transformation under the 2021-25 National Development Plan. They have taken measures to strengthen macroeconomic stability and reverse widening fiscal and external imbalances as the economy has been hit hard by the triple shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, global financial tightening, and adverse spillovers from Russia's War in Ukraine.”
As it turned out, the NDC as a party are not just incompetent managers of Ghana's economy but also incompetent researchers. They should have known about this Ivory Coast-IMF negotiated deal just five days prior to their press conference.
Please share this link with Chairman Asiedu Nketiah or his communicators to read about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine War on the Ivorian economy, as it has had on Ghana.
RECORD OF THE TWO POLITICAL PARTIES—2013-2019
Ladies and Gentlemen, let's spend a few minutes examining the performance of the NDC and NPP governments between 2013-2019 before Covid-19 and the War. Before Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine War, the NPP government recorded an impressive 7 per cent average GDP growth for three fiscal years (2017-2019). Had Covid-19 not happened, Ghana's economy would have continued to grow into 2020, and the story of Ghana's economy today would not be one of hardship but of growth and prosperity.
The NDC-Mahama administration performed poorly. Between 2013 to 2016, the NDC returned a mournful 3.9 per cent average growth. GDP declined consistently over that period (2013-2016). Somehow, those who could not manage Ghana's economy in a relatively stable global economic environment suddenly claim they have a magic wand to turn the fortunes of Ghana around in this volatile global economy.
Ladies and gentlemen, the NPP took office in 2017 and turned around the mismanaged and collapsed economy inherited from the NDC. The Industrial sector grew from 4.3 per cent in 2016 to 15.6 per cent in 2017. The Services sector increased from 2.8 per cent in 2016 to 3.4 per cent in 2017, and the agriculture sector also grew from a dismal 2.7 per cent in 2016 to 6.2 per cent in 2017.
Let me remind you that the abysmal performance of the NDC in the Real sector was against the NDC inheriting a booming economy from the Kufuor-led NPP administration, which gifted the NDC oil discovery in commercial quantities.
After inheriting a booming economy, Ex-President Mahama and NDC left their successor, President Nana Addo, a collapsed economy in 2016. Ladies and gentlemen, sɛ wei nyɛ abrɔ a, na ɛyɛ deɛn? We managed the Cedi better before the pandemic and the War. The NPP managed the Cedi, with an average depreciation of 6.8% from 2017 to 2021, compared to the NDC's record of 18% average depreciation from 2013 to 2016.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are not particularly happy about the level of inflation today. It has affected our economy badly, but the truth is that it is a global problem. In February 2023, the United Kingdom's inflation was 10.4 per cent, up from the usual average of 2.7 per cent since 1989. In Nigeria, inflation jumped from 11.4 per cent in 2019 to 21.8 per cent in January 2023. That is almost a 50 per cent rise in inflation. The World Economic Outlook report, released on 11th October 2022, forecasted global inflation to rise from 4.7 per cent in 2021 to 8.8 per cent in 2022. That represents about a 50 per cent upwards jump in global inflation.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see, the Nana Addo-NPP administration has managed all aspects of the economy better than the NDC would have in this situation. Ghanaians would have been worse off.
Comparing the time the NDC went to the IMF for support in August 2014, Ghana had only seven days' worth of imports in net foreign exchange reserves, equivalent to $400 million. However, when the NPP sought the support of the IMF in July last year, Ghana's international reserves stood at $7.6 billion, covering 3.4 months of import cover.
One of the central claims of the NDC's false State of the Nation address is that this government has over-borrowed. This is not true, but the NDC keeps repeating it.
The NDC likes to promote this misinformation by computing our debt stock using nominal figures because it hides their unprecedented rate of debt accumulation. The best way to compute our debt to see which government has borrowed more is by using the rate accumulation.
Former President Kufuor inherited a debt stock of approximately GHs5.4 billion in 2001 and added about 81 per cent. The NDC inherited a debt stock of GHs 9.7 billion in 2009; by 2016, they increased it to GHs 122 billion. That represents an 819 per cent growth in the debt stock. The NPP government, which the NDC characterises as having over-borrowed, has added just about 304 per cent to the debt stock. The 304 per cent of the total accumulated debt under this government includes the cost of the banking sector cleanup, energy sector debt payment and Covid-19 debt.
Official data from the Ministry of Finance shows that the nominal debt stock increased by 50% from 2013 to 2014 under Ex-President John Mahama. For example, if Ghana owed GHS 80 billion in 2013, the John Mahama administration added 40 billion cedis, making it GHS 120 billion in 2014 alone.
Ladies and gentlemen, yes, Ghana has a debt challenge, but it is inaccurate for the NDC to suggest that this government has over-borrowed. This misinformation was captured on page 4 of the NDC's press statement. The borrowing narrative the NDC keeps propagating is a product of a misleading computation of Ghana's debt designed to misinform and mischaracterize the record of this government. Now, they have recruited their Chairman to sing this deceitful chorus.
Ladies and gentlemen, every adult knows, and young people who might not know ought to learn and know that in our personal lives, in the lives of our families, in the running of our businesses and enterprises, and while managing the affairs of any country, difficulties are inevitable; challenges will sometimes occur. However, true and bold leadership lies in confronting and solving problems when they arise. We had Covid-19, and we fixed it. If we had listened to the advice of the NDC's supposed Covid-19 Advisory Team, our children and students would not have gone to school until maybe two years later. They said the children would die; not a single student was killed by Covid-19.
Similarly, we are finding solutions to our current economic difficulties. We shall fix the economy. We have done it before in 2001 and 2017; we will fix the economy again. We did what needed to be done to save lives; now we are tackling the economy, and with the kind support of our hard-working citizens, we shall fix this one too.
Now, let me clarify and set the record straight on these other issues being disingenuously propagated by our friends who always struggle with the fact.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the government has addressed the call to reduce its size. Indeed, between this government's first and second terms, the number of Ministers and Deputy Ministers has been significantly reduced from 126 to 86. This is because we are a listening Government. Additionally, the government has taken a difficult path by implementing further cost-cutting measures, including the following:
- a. A 30% cut of the salaries of the President, Vice President, Ministers and Heads of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs).
- b. A discretionary 20% cut to central government spending has been implemented.
- c. A 50% cut in fuel coupon allocation for all political appointees and heads of government institutions to ensure efficient use of energy resources.
- d. Suspension of the purchase of imported vehicles for 2022 to reduce total vehicle purchases for the year.
- e. Suspension of all foreign travels except pre-approved statutory travels or critical travels.
- f. Moratorium on the establishment of new public sector institutions.
- g. A ban on using V8s or its equivalent, except for cross-country travels.
- h. Meetings and workshops should be held within the official environment or government facilities.
- i. Government-sponsored external training and Staff Development activities at the Office of the President, Ministries, and SOEs have been put on hold.
- j. A freeze on tax waivers for foreign companies while tax exemptions for companies in the free zone will be reviewed, including mining and oil and gas companies.
- k. No Ministry, Department or Agency, including SOEs, is permitted to use public funds to purchase and distribute hampers.
- l. There shall be no printing of diaries, notepads, calendars, and other promotional merchandise by MDAs, MMDAs and SOEs.
- m. A moratorium on bonus payment for SOEs that record losses in the year for which the bonus applies.
- n. All non-critical projects that can wait for a year have been suspended.
- o. Expunged “ghost” names from Payroll through periodic payroll audits and the link of the Ghana Card to the Payroll.
- p. Address off-budget expenditures by making sure all government expenditures go through GIFMIS.
- q. Enforce commitment control within the various ministries, i.e., eliminate unauthorised expenditure, as well as ensure that MDAs do not sign contracts without an approved budget.
- r. Establish inter-sectoral working groups to address cross-cutting issues; review contracts and ensure standard reporting among ministries.
Ladies and gentlemen, the preceding measures are among the decisive steps the government is taking to ensure fiscal discipline. The point I intend to make from the expenditure control measures outlined above is that the party and government took the feedback on the size of government seriously, considerably reduced the numbers from the first term, and are working diligently to control the expenditure as shown above.
Therefore, it is not true that the government has ignored calls to reduce its size.
Instead, the government has been listening to Ghanaians, establishing a more robust control mechanism to manage expenditure while maintaining a dynamic team of ministers and appointees to deliver on its mandate.
Ladies and gentlemen, The NDC has been promoting the view that this government has appointed people to needless positions and is paying them for doing nothing. It must be stated on record that many of the workers at the Presidency are public sector employees. Today, out of the 995 workers at the Presidency, 658 (66%) are public sector employees.
As a matter of fact, the NDC Government had more presidential staffers than this administration. While we have 44 presidential staffers and 1 Minister of State at the Presidency, the Mahama-NDC Administration had 61 presidential staffers, 6 Ministers of State and the 3 “wise men.”
Under President Mahama, the NDC appointed people to all kinds of roles, including:
- a. Valuer
- b. Brand Executive Officer
- c. Administrative Manager
- d. Citizenship Development Officer
- e. Personal Assistant
- f. Research and Monitoring Officer
- g. Research Assistant
- h. Officer Manager
- i. Senior Executive Assistant
- j. Executive Assistant/Officer
- k. Senior Administrative Liaison Officer
- l. Corporate/Stakeholder relations Manager
I can cite more, but that would be pointless because every President has a constitutional duty to create the relevant offices and portfolios to deliver his or her vision and development for the good people of Ghana.
Ladies and gentlemen, the NPP-led government has demonstrated its utmost commitment to fighting corruption.
You would recall that an NPP administration led by former President John Agyekum Kufuor passed the Public Procurement Act (Act 663) and the Whistleblowers Act (Act 720) to cure corruption in the public sector. The passage of these laws to regulate procurement in the public space has saved the economy billions of cedis from going into private pockets. Before the enactment of these acts by the Kufuor Administration, the PNDC/NDC had been in power for nineteen years but did nothing about the naked corruption in public procurement.
Consistent with the NPP's anti-corruption regulatory history established under former President Kufuor, President Akufo-Addo, established the Office of Special Prosecutor (OSP) by an Act of Parliament and has empowered the Special Prosecutor to fight corruption proactively. In addition, the historic Right To Information (RTI) Act has been passed. The Akufo-Addo administration continues to demonstrate support for anti-corruption agencies such as the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and the Auditor General's Department to protect the public purse.
Ladies and gentlemen, the NDC is a party that talks about corruption but not a party that fights corruption. If the fight against corruption has been a challenge for any group of people in Ghana, it is the NDC. They are the only political party in this Fourth Republic whose appointees or officials have been convicted and sentenced for corruption-related offences. Do you remember—create loot and share? That is the NDC's record, The media may recall how the NDC vilified former President Kufuor and his appointees, claiming they were corrupt. But, when the NDC won in 2008 and formed a government in 2009 until 2016, they could not convict a single appointee of the Kufuor Administration. This is a fact.
Today, the NDC is again talking about corruption and labelling President Akufo-Addo and his appointees as corrupt. I appeal humbly to Ghanaians to ignore and regard the NDC's shouts and name-calling as a ploy to create the impression of widespread corruption and to align itself undeservedly with public disapproval of the act of corruption.
I call on the rank and file of the NPP to arise and mobilise behind our government to defeat the onslaught of the NDC propaganda. This means that all of us in the NPP, from polling stations upward, must become canvassers and communicators to help disabuse the minds of our fellow Ghanaians from the misinformation that the NDC is feeding the nation.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me end by passing this piece of advice through you to the NDC. As a political party, the NDC has a sacred responsibility to be honest and upfront with Ghanaians in all things. The NDC must desist from the habit and strategy of deceit in its quest for power. Such methods are often short-term but have long-term ramifications for democracy, public confidence, and, not least, the global perception and embrace of our dear country, Ghana.
Thank you for coming, and God bless you all.