over I,000 km of feeder roads have been surfaced nation-wide
About 4,800 km have undergone rehabilitation.
[THE PRESIDENT] [THE PRESIDENT]
10,000 km have undergone spot improvement, while;
2,300 have been regravelled;
84 bridges have been built;
500 km of roadside drains have been constructed for all cities.
Mr. Speaker, sadly, the accident rate on these improved roads, even though falling, is still unacceptable. I charge the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, the Road Safety Commission, and the Motor Transport and Traffic Unit to redouble their efforts to ensure that quality of driving on our roads improves.
Mr. Speaker, after years of neglect, the railway sector is at long last receiving attention. In the course of the year, rehabilitation of the network will commence, in partnership with the private sector. USD$90 million of the proceeds from the Euro-bond is being used as leverage with a consortium so that the network which has not seen rehabilitation for the better part of the last century -- The plan is to extend the network all the way to the northern part of the country, and is expected to generate thousands of jobs across the country and also revive some of the old railway towns.
Let me use this opportunity to appeal to the squatters along the railway line to make arrangements to relocate before construction commences.
Mr. Speaker, both the Tema and Takoradi ports are undergoing various forms of rehabilitation for modernization and expansion. Partly due to this, the
[THE PRESIDENT] volume of freight with the sister landlocked countries in the sahel region has increased immensely. Government's intention is to make the country's sea ports the preferred entreport in the ECOWAS sub-region.
Mr. Speaker, thanks to the just-ended Soccer Tournament, three regional airports in Takoradi, Tamale and Kumasi have been upgraded to enable them cope with bigger aircrafts and flights around the clock. Customs and immigration services are also available to support international flights. During Ghana CAN 2008, Tamale and Kumasi received eight and 10 direct international flights respectively, while Takoradi received 14 through Kotoka.
Mr. Speaker, the Government is endeavouring to make information and communication technology available to large sections of the society. The National Communications Backbone Infrastructure Network is being pursued vigorously to provide open access broadband connectivity. Through this, all senior high schools are being connected to the system to facilitate distance education programmes. Again, all sectors of our society including commerce, health, and government will access information speedily for decision-making.
The Government is also promoting a competitive Telecom Market to ensure fair-play among the operators and higher quality and more affordable service delivery to the people. The importance of this is spreading information all over and introducing uniformity of standards and values.
Mr. Speaker, the energy sector has
proved a challenge throughout the life of this administration because of the very high cost of crude oil and the occasional drying up of the Volta. Last year, after the energy crisis which led to a country-wide load-shedding exercise, the Government announced a short to medium and long- term energy policy to solve the problem once and for all. The new policy involves a mix of thermal and hydro energy for electricity generation.
With the success of the short-term measures, the load-shedding exercise was discontinued. Implementation of the medium-term policy is in progress, while the Bui Hydro Electric Project, which is a long-term measure, has started, completion is expected in 2012.
Mr. Speaker, smaller dams are to be constructed on the Ankobra, Tano and Pra rivers, [Hear! Hear!] And negotiations are ongoing with the contractors on the Bui Project towards that end. I am confident that successful implementation of the policy will provide the country's energy requirement for our looming Industrialization.
The West Africa Gas Pipeline
Mr. Speaker, one of the legacies of this Government is the West Africa Gas pipeline which is now completed. The first free-flow of nitrogen has been done. [Hear! Hear!] This Project is expected to impact positively on energy generation in the country since gas is a relatively cheaper source of energy than crude oil.
Mr. Speaker, on assumption of office, I declared the ushering in of the Golden Age of Business, hence the critical focus on the private sector which inherently,
[THE PRESIDENT] generates more wealth and employment than the Public Sector. Various laws and tax rates and other measures have been put in place to facilitate the Sector's growth, including capacity-building programmes, provision of Government guarantees as well as different forms of credit like the Venture Capital Fund, Micro-credit and Small Loan Scheme.
Mr. Speaker, the private sector is doing very well. I must acknowledge the substantial investment which is now making its way into the economy, particularly from mining, services industry, commerce, tourism and hotel development. The financial sector, perhaps the most vibrant, continues to do well, with an influx of many new banks, both local and foreign. In a month, I should be launching the Central Bank's E-ZWICH system, which is radically going to modernize the financial system towards greater efficiency and security.
Also, Mr. Speaker, the vigorous and almost miraculous developments in real estate which have become a feature country-wide are mostly private sector initiatives. The Government has stepped in with a housing scheme to help workers. The project is ongoing in Accra, Kumasi, Koforidua, Tamale and Wa. I commend the private real estate developers highly for staying resolved in the face of high input costs.
Mr. Speaker, there is the need to build greater entrepreneurial spirit to take advantage of the existing opportunities within the system. At the moment, a number of world class companies are vying to partner the country to invest in the bauxite industry for both upstream and downstream processing locally, justifying the Government's acquisition of VALCO, a true cornerstone of the looming industrialization of our nation.
Mr. Speaker, agriculture forms the biggest part of the private sector and employs the larger population in the rural area. It is also the obvious sector to lead industrialization. The Government has sought to modernize the sector through mechanization and irrigation to change the rural economy, create more wealth and help attain the Millennium Development Goals. So far, more than 3,000 tractors have been sold to farmers at highly subsidized rates. Small-scale irrigation projects are also being promoted, especially in the northern parts of the country.
Despite this, much remains to be done to transform the sector, mainly because of outlook and also financial constraints. However, through various interventions including the supply of improved planting materials, extension services and micro- credits to farmers, significant results have been recorded. Food has been available around the year at affordable prices.
Mr. Speaker, the agricultural sector is attracting some large scale commercial farmers like Golden Exotics Company Limited, which is the local subsidiary of the internationally renowned French company, “Compagnie Fruitiere”. Another company is the Blue Skies. These in turn are attracting numerous commercial satellite farms. Cocoa
The cocoa sector in particular registered the highest ever production level of over 740,000 tonnes during the 2005/2006 crop year. The target is to attain a million tonnes in the next couple of years. The significance can be appreciated by considering that around 2001, the tonnage was not higher than 340,000. [Hear!
Currently, the Government's policy is towards value-addition and is therefore welcoming both local and foreign investors into the sector. At the moment over 30 per cent of cocoa beans are processed locally by such world class companies as Barry Callebaut and Cargyll in the free zones in Tema. Our own cocoa processing company is also doing very well. Processing of shea-nuts is also going a pace with other high profile companies like ADM investing in it.
Millennium Challenge Account
Mr. Speaker, under the Millennium Challenge Account, Ghana is the highest recipient of an amount of USD547 million. [Hear! Hear!] It may prove to be the long-awaited opportunity to transform and modernize the rural economy through mechanization.
Under the programme, farmers in twenty-three districts in five regions of the country are being assisted to undertake commercial agriculture, mainly in the cultivation of horticultural produce. The project is to serve as a model to other farmers and to promote best practices from farms to the ports for export. Many ancillary jobs are expected to be created not only in the participating districts, but also throughout the country.
National Youth Employment Programme
Mr. Speaker, unemployment has bedeviled the nation's economic efforts. The search for economic growth is to expand opportunities for employment generation and job creation for the youth. Projections are that with the improving GDP, the employment opportunities will expand. Mr. Speaker, in 2007, a total of
200,000 jobs were created. This was a major improvement over the 120,000 created in 2006.
Mr. Speaker, the stagnation in the economy caused a huge backlog of unemployment which the recovery of the economy is gradually resolving. In the formal sector, there is a steady growth in employment generation. In 2006, 120,000 jobs were created, while 200,000 jobs were created in 2007. Some youth take up jobs in the informal sector which go unrecorded because of the very nature of the system.
Mr. Speaker, on this score, I am happy to say that the National Identification Programme is about to take off. The equipment is in; the offices are almost ready; training of personnel is about to start. By the end of this year, all residents of 16 years and above will have photo identification cards. By the middle of next year, both Ghanaians and legally resident foreigners will have their photo identification cards.
Mr. Speaker, the Youth Employment Programme is one key s t ra tegic intervention to engage the otherwise unemployed youth to prepare for more permanent job positions. Since the inauguration of the programme, in October 2006, it has provided placements for over 108,000 young people. Given the transient nature of the placement and funding arrangements for them, the programme tends to suffer delayed payment of wages.
I have directed the Ministers for Finance, and Manpower, Youth and Employment to ensure that funding for this programme is streamlined and sustained, to ensure regular and timely payment of allowances.
I am happy to note however that the programme has already attracted the attention of sister African countries, the international development community as well as Ghana's private sector, which is proving to be a reliable partner in supporting the youth.
The Public Sector
Mr. Speaker, in the past, the public sector tended to stand aloof from the private sector. The Government is reforming it to be very professional and very supportive of the private sector. The new concept for development is public/ private partnership. The Government has initiated the establishment of the Citizens' Charter in all institutions to enhance responsiveness to the private sector and to look into place the partnership between the two. The first phase of the charter involves the land and revenue sectors.
Public Sector Pay Reform
Mr. Speaker, as part of the reform, the Government is developing a compre- hensive objective job evaluation as the basis for establishing equity in public sector wage administration.
Fair Wages and Salaries Commission
In the same way, the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission has been constituted to ensure that public sector pay is administered with equity, fairness, and transparency, so as to minimize labour disputes over pay administration.
National Labour Commission
In the face of the growth in the economy, the National Labour Commission should be even more up and coming in settling labour and industrial disputes using negotiation, mediation, and arbitration, as against confrontation. The work on the
National Pensions Scheme is also near completion.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Government's main social partners -- organized labour and employers, for displaying good faith in our relationship over the past seven years.
Mr. Speaker, Ghana prides herself as a beacon of good governance. But as self assessment is ever so suspect, we should be happy with the African Peer Review Mechanism which provides external monitoring. Ghana as you know Mr. Speaker, was the first nation on our continent to sign up to be reviewed by the APRM.