Mr. Speaker, I thank you sincerely for this opportunity to join my hon. Colleagues to thank His Excellency, our President, Mr. J. A. Kufuor, for this sixth State of the Nation Address.
Mr. Speaker, the address, in my opinion, was is impressive. It was loaded with many interesting developments, but my focus would be on the following areas -- poor maintenance culture, the growth of the economy and employment.
Mr. Speaker, history, it is said, has something to offer us. It helps us to understand previous developments, the happenings of today, so as to forecast the future. Our history of maintenance, Mr. Speaker, is nothing to write home about; it is nothing to be proud of. It is rather disturbing and, in fact, embarrassing. It is therefore commendable that amongst other things the President is focusing on the need to change, direct and lead Ghanaians to appreciate the values in good maintenance culture. May I crave your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, to quote from page 18, paragraph 4 of His Excellency's Address:
“For so many years, we have surprisingly indulged ourselves in a destructive culture of non- maintenance. This government is determined to reverse this trend, and restore the country's prestigious properties appropriately.”
To support the above statement, the Government, we are happy to learn, has taken the needed step to rehabilitate the Ambassador Hotel, the City Hotel in Kumasi, the Peduase Lodge and the Flagstaff House which have been left to
deteriorate for so long a time. I hope this effort in rehabilitating the aforementioned structures would be extended to the National Theatre, the maintenance of which started last year, but at a very slow pace. Structures in the Ministries, departments, hospitals and schools have all been crying for rehabilitation for a long time - and in some cases, a complete face-lift.
The President proposed programmes and policies, courtesy of the Economic Policy and Budget Statement, which Parliament supported by offering criticisms here and there and finally approving them to allow for their implementation. So it has taken the combined effort of the Executive and Parliament to take us to where we are, Mr. Speaker. But as the President acknowledged, to get into the community of middle-income countries, we need a quantum leap into eight-to- en-percentage Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate.
So yes, indeed, Mr. Speaker, we have started well but admittedly we are not there yet. So the economist, the planners, the financial analysts, engineers and teachers, Members of Parliament and what have you among us must all put shoulders to the wheel to get the vehicle of state in a faster acceleration.
Mr. Speaker, one area of prime concern
is the unemployment in the country. His Excellency the President indicated that
some over two hundred and fifty jobs have been created over the last two years. This encouraging but we must all admit that, indeed, that is one area where, without in any indicating Government must shoulder the responsibility of creating employment for every single unemployed person.
Nevertheless, our circumstances still
oblige Government to not only facilitate the creation of employment but in many ways actually lead the way in job creation. His Excellency the President has talked about resuscitating or reviving some agro- based industries. That is also good news. But if our agriculture should be able to support such industries, we must stop our dependency on natural weather.
Mr. Speaker, we must embark on re-
fertilization of irrigation schemes whilst concentrating on small community based irrigation systems. Mr. Speaker, allowing our agriculture to be dependent on the vagaries of the weather will certainly not move agricultural production forward. And consequently, agriculture will not be able to support the agro-based industries. Already, the Government has led the way in the area of reforestation with over a hundred and fifty thousand people engaged in the endeavour. Can we imagine the many more people who will go into afforestation if we have irrigation systems complementing this effort?
Mr. Speaker, the threat of desertification
in the northern regions calls for an intensification of reafforestation of the degraded lands up country.
Mr. Speaker, how many of our children
are dropping out of school because they have to travel long distances to fetch water and firewood for their families use? How many people are living in the harsh environment up country and trooping down south in search of non-existent jobs?
The threat of desertification, of as one hon. Member said the other time, is a survival issue. This nation should confront it in my opinion, with greater determination.
Mr. Speaker, His Excellency the
President has shown the way, let us together and very dispassionately put our minds together to add muscle to the flesh to propel this nation forward.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the
opportunity afforded me.