Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity.
Mr Speaker, as you all do know, the obligation of the President to come to Parliament to deliver a Message on the State of the Nation is captured under article 67 of the 1992 Republican Constitution. Mr Speaker, a Session of Parliament begins in January on account of the birth of a Parliament of the Fourth Republic on January 7.
Mr Speaker, the state of the nation is the situation in which the nation finds itself at any given time, the circumstances of the State. That is what the President comes to deliver to us. The President would usually set out his vision into the ensuing year. Then, Mr Speaker, we expect the work programme of the Government to take a cue from the vision expressed by the President and to give expression to the vision that the President would have expressed in the State of the Nation Address.
Mr Speaker, until November, 1998, when the late Hon Baah Wiredu agitated the minds of this Parliament, that indeed we seem to have inverted the chronology of events and that we were not going according to the constitutional imperatives, the State of the Nation Addresses had always been presented to us in January, and then the Budget Statement would follow because the Budget Statement would derive its strength from the State of the Nation Address.
Unfortunately, when we started complying with the constitutional
imperative, we have a situation where the Budget Statement is presented, and thereafter, the State of the Nation Address follows. Really it should be the other way round.
Mr Speaker, article 67 of the Constitution is entrenched, but the article on the presentation of the Budget Statement is non-entrenched. So, I would want to believe that as a House, we would sit down and sort this chronology out. Otherwise, we would always have the cart before the horse -- [Interruption] -- Mr Speaker, I believe that would be the proper thing to do.
Mr Speaker, the contents of such an address, the Message on the State of the Nation, is captured in article 34 (2), and, Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, I may want to quote article 34 (2). It provides:
“The President shall report to Parliament at least once a year all the steps taken to ensure the realisation of the policy objectives contained in this Chapter; and, in particular, the realisation of basic human rights, a heathy economy, the right to work, the right to good health care and the right to education.”
Mr Speaker, appropriately, therefore, any analysis, any critique of the President's Message should be benchmarked on the contents of Chapter six of the Constitution.
Mr Speaker, at the very outset, the President acknowledged the collaborative effort of Parliament in partnering his Administration, by having extra Sittings to pass relevant pieces of legislations.
In particular, he mentioned the five flagship programmes, namely the Zongo Development Fund, the Northern Belt
Development Authority Fund, the Middle Belt Development Authority Fund, the Coastal Belt Development Fund and the Office of the Special Prosecutor.
Mr Speaker, this is the President who is the product of this House and who has not forgotten the contributions of Parliament to national development. He rose to the occasion by paying glowing tribute to Parliament. And this House should be proud of such acknowledge- ment.
Mr Speaker, the next issue addressed by the President was the health of the economy.
In his last Message on the State of the Nation, President John Dramani Mahama coined a hyphenated word, “evidence- based”, to describe his effort in various areas of national endeavour.
The President then, among other things, related to five piglets that he had given to a peasant farmer upcountry, as a testimony of which the State had to pay for the woman's transportation from upcountry to Accra, provide her with hotel accommodation for four days, provide food for her and took her on days of excursion.
Mr Speaker, that, indeed, satisfies the evidence-based Message on the State of the Nation.
The President of the Republic today, resorted to economic indicators GDP growth rate, inflation, interest rates, international reserves, reduction in fiscal deficit, reduction in debt to GDP ratio, consumer and business confidence, relative exchange rate stability, payment
of accumulated arrears in statutory obligations and many others -- to underscore the fact that the economy is experiencing a turnaround, even when he admitted that we are not out of the woods yet.
Mr Speaker, unless anybody would suggest different figures from what the President churned out -- and the President based his own on the figures given by the Ghana Statistical Service -- then clearly, as the President said, the macroeconomic indicators and fundamentals today, comparatively, are solid. Also, other critical indices point in the right direction for us as a country.
Mr Speaker, he was blunt in his declaration that the country he inherited was in economic mess. An economy that was in distress, choked by debt -- And with your permission, I quote the President's words: “an economy that was in distress, chocked by debt and with macroeconomic fundamentals in disarray.”
I know the blunt statement by the President has irked many Hon Members on the other side. But what are the facts? It is true that for the first time, adding proceeds to the national kitty increased our GDP growth rate to 14.4 per cent.
Mr Speaker, that was in 2011. Since then, economic growth has taken a nose- dive. In 2012, the GDP growth rate registered 9.3 per cent; in 2013, 7.3 per cent; in 2014, 4.0 per cent; in 2015, 3.8 per cent and worse of all, in 2016, 3.6 per cent.
Mr Speaker, within just one year, the GDP growth rate has bounced back and more than doubled to the provisional figure of 7.9 per cent. That is 119 per cent turnaround. [Hear! Hear!] As the President said, indications are that it would be better this year.