I get the impression that putting a State of the Nation Address (SONA) together takes weeks, if not months. But, how long does it take to put a True State of the Nation Address together?
A matter of minutes, a few hours, at best. That is the impression Ghanaian minority parties give – whether they are under the umbrella or riding the elephant. Else, how come that the government side takes weeks or months to prepare the SONA, but, almost as soon as it delivers it, the Minority rubbishes it with what it styles as the True State of the Nation Address? Whether it is the New Patriotic Party or National Democratic Congress that is in opposition, they rush to rubbish instead of react objectively to the government’s statement. And, often, the True State of the Nation Address is an irony, if not a euphemism for a false statement of the state of affairs.
Result of indecent haste
If this is not the result of indecent haste, what else is it? I mean, our Minority in Parliament’s wrong writing of the President’s name in their True State of the Nation Address rendition. This is how the report read by the otherwise brilliant Minority Spokesman, Haruna Iddrissu, as the True State of the Nation Address carried the name: Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo. Instead of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. If our lawmakers and national leaders are getting the spelling of the name of the President wrong, you can guess the results of our WASSCEs and BECEs.
What is a SONA?
In the United States – from whose Constitution Ghana generously copied – the State of the Union Address is a report on the condition of the nation. It also allows the President to outline his legislative agenda (for which he needs the cooperation of Congress) and national priorities. The address fulfills rules in Article II, Section 3 of the US Constitution, requiring the President to periodically give Congress information on the “State of the Union” and recommend measures necessary and expedient. In Ghana, the State of the Nation is an annual address to Parliament given by the President covering economic, social, and financial state of the country, and it is a requirement under Article 67 of the Constitution. Imagine a giant cameraman wielding an equally gargantuan camera snapping a shot from the skies to depict the true state of the nation. That imaginary photograph is what should be rendered by a Ghanaian President in the State of the Nation Address. While it is true the SoNA earmarks plans to improve the state of affairs, it is equally true the address must primarily portray the true picture of the nation at the time of delivery.
Therefore, the Minority’s charge that the President blew the opportunity to carry Ghanaians along on his much vaunted promises would have been unfair, even if he did not give much indication of how he intended moving the nation forward. In any case, didn’t the President give some elaborations of his vision for agric, education, health, economic etc., development? He surely did!
What really irks the Minority is the evaluation of the Atta Mills-John Mahama handling of the economy from January 2009 to January 2017. Here we go: a) Total debt stock now at GHC122billion; from GHC9.5billion in 2009 b) Current GDP growth rate is 3.6%; lowest in 23years c) Almost all IMF targets missed under Mahama d) 2016 budget overspent by GHC7billion, and, e) 2016 revenue targets missed by GHC4billion. This makes a mess of the achievement the NDC lays claims to; that is what the Minority NDC wouldn’t hear of – not that President Akufo-Addo failed to present what passes for a SONA. But, it is just history repeating itself: early 2009, when President Agyekum Kufuor delivered the very first SONA under the Fourth Republic, it drew the ire of his predecessor, Jerry John Rawlings, and that marked the beginning of a bitter relationship that worsened over eight long years. The truth about the performance of the one you just defeated in the election can very easily illicit sour grapes.
Facts or fiction
The opposition’s claim that President Akufo-Addo should have given a broad overview of his vision and plan for Ghana, “especially in the light of the extravagant promises he made on the campaign trail in 2016” is therefore insincere. True, in 2009, the national debt translated into GHC 9.5billion. Current total debt is US$28.37billion and that equates GHC122billion. The Minority contends that of the GHC122billion, it is GHC87billion that it actually contracted. Even if GHC87billion is what stands in the name of the NDC, one wonders what exactly that enormous amount was used for. It also stands to reason to acknowledge that the 2009 GHC9.5billion – which stands in the name of the NPP and preceding governments – and which is part of the $28.37, has been affected by exchange rate movements over the last eight years. The NDC puts the NPP’s part at GHC34.72billion. Let us grant that. If we put the NPP’s projects and social interventions side-by-side those of the NDC, we shall surely arrive at who has been of service and who has been a disservice to this dear nation of ours. The Haruna Iddrissu account accuses the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government of still being at “the distortions, half truths and outright untruths” they resorted to while they campaigned in opposition.
The Minority says the current regime’s claim that all the macroeconomic targets under the IMF had been missed and those were as a result of reckless expenditure is false. Many people still remember how recently most – if not all – the claims made by Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia came to be vindicated one after the other. Is it not true that Ghana’s debt stock equates 74% of her Gross Domestic Product? Was the budget deficit of GHC7billion occasioned by shortfall in revenue and grants targeted, or, it was a clear case of overspending contrary to the repeated assurances? If it was the missing of targets, what feasibility and planning went into the budgeting? The NPP accuses the NDC of stagnating the economic growth at 3.6%; the NDC says even the Ghana Statistical Service has no final record on the 2016 growth. So NPP, what is your source? The NDC claims to have built the largest economic and social infrastructure in Ghana’s history; we probably need annotated diagrams to trace those projects larger than the ones executed under Kwame Nkrumah, Kutu Acheampong and Agyekum Kufuor. Which real value was added to Ghana’s economy under President Mahama? Where are the thousands of jobs created under Mahama; the casual road construction works? And, the NDC has the nerve to lay claim to housing units after the STX scandal and the abandonment of the affordable houses initiated by the Kufuor regime?
NPP, beware of loans
One other disturbing trend is the fondness for loans. When out of government, our parties vehemently oppose the rampant contracting of loans. Wait till they are in government and they pride themselves in being creditworthy. If the NPP is gearing up for a GHC17billion loan by next month, we beg to caution the regime. Contradictions are their stock-in-trade; these our politicians. At the same time that the NDC is quoting the IMF and other authorities as projecting Ghana’s economy to perform strongly this year, and claiming credit for itself; the same NDC is blaming the NPP for the 4.5% fall in the value of the Cedi that happened – not in the whole 2017 – but at the very beginning of the year.
Truth is scarce in our politics. That is why it is very difficult for the unsophisticated to separate the truth from falsehood, especially when you have the State of the Nation Address being followed by the True State of the Nation Address in a matter of one day. We need a paradigm shift from these poly-tricks. And both the regime and minority parties must change accordingly. Let’s look again at Ghana Today next week.
By A. C. Ohene/Ghana Today