Incomplete visions in the State of the Nation Address

 

The President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, delivered his address on the State of the Nation to Parliament on Tuesday, February 21, 2017, as required by provisions of the 1992 Constitution.

While the relevant portions of the constitutional requirements are specific to the extent that –  “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 healthy economy, the right to work, the right to good health care and the right to education,” the president chose to dwell on “state of our economy, of our governance and of our national culture and attitudes.”

Expectations:

Prior to the address, different people had different expectations but they all converged at the point of hope and inspiration. For many people their “hope” was in the context of the regime change yielding transformation they can feel in their own lives and the lives of their compatriots.

In the inspiration vane, the expectations were on casting a great vision of the future accompanied by Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) whose attainment should motivate citizens everywhere to put their shoulders to the wheel and collectively push towards one destiny. It however, became clear at the end of the address that the expectations were not met.

Former New York Governor, Mario Cuomo, is credited with the phrase ‘campaign in poetry, govern in prose,’ which translates into painting a rosy picture of what one would do when voted into office as if by merely saying it, means it will happen without raising a finger.

Listening to, and sometimes watching the president deliver the statement, he came across as stuck in the poetic campaign mode, selling the strengths of the party and its campaign promises and of course taking a swipe at the previous administration for its failures.

The Economy:

In the 2016 election campaign, the president, then a presidential candidate, promised to establish a factory in each of the 216 districts across the country if he got the nod to constitute the next government of Ghana. He has the nod and has formed his government. But the vision of one – district – one factory was not sharply painted in the address to inspire those looking out for the whole vision like me.

Again in their 2016 manifesto, the NPP promised to shift focus from excessive taxation which the then administration was engaged in, to production by reducing the corporate tax rate from 25% to 20%.

The party also promised to “remove import duties on raw materials and machinery for production within the context of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) Protocol abolishing the Special Import Levy; abolish the 17.5% VAT on imported medicines not produced in the country; abolish the 17.5% VAT on Financial Services; abolish the 5% VAT on Real Estate sales; abolish the 17.5% VAT on domestic airline tickets; reduce VAT for micro and small enterprises from the current 17.5% to the 3% Flat Rate VAT; introduce tax credits and other incentives for businesses that hire young graduates from tertiary institutions, and review withholding taxes imposed on various sectors (including the mining sector) that have constrained the liquidity of businesses in Ghana.”

It is interesting that the president said little about these fantastic policies ahead of the presentation of the budget by the finance minister. Did the president conveniently pass on the benefits of the policy to the minister for delivery so he can avoid the “prose” in governing?

Free SHS Education:

And so did he treat the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy vision which was an anchor in the campaign to be elected. Fortunately the free SHS vision is not difficult to see. It can be imagined. What everyone is waiting to know, is the source of funding the good policy. Following the controversy over source of funding, the president could have used the State of the Nation Address to address that particular concern. Again, he chose to leave that to his minister of finance to announce.

I would have been clearer in my mind by now as regards, the workability or otherwise of these policy visions. Unfortunately I have to wait for one more week when the minister of finance comes out with the details. Since I am a patient man, I will sit here and wait for the details to complete the president’s vision I want to buy a stake in.

 

By William Doworpkor

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