TRANSFORMING GHANA – CREATING QUALITY JOBS: A SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE 2012 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OF THE NPP, NANA AKUFO-ADDO AT THE UNIVERSITY OF DEVELOPMENT STUDIES, NAVRONGO ON NOVEMBER, 29, 2012
I am very happy to be here at the Navrongo Campus of the University of Development Studies, a campus which was transformed by the extensive infrastructural development of the Kufuor government. I am grateful to the authorities of this campus for this opportunity to address you.
We are almost at the end of the campaign that leads to the elections on December 7, and I am glad for this opportunity to make this speech here in Navrongo, at this University, on the subject of jobs. In the course of the campaign, I have made speeches around Ghana spelling out what the NPP plans to do on various aspects of our lives, if God willing, the people of Ghana give us their mandate.
I have spoken about the need to modernize agriculture to improve the lives and circumstances of our farmers and fishermen and increase revenues and incomes. I have spoken about what we have to do to tackle the crisis in housing and about the urgent need to industrialize and change our economy.
I have spoken about our culture and the arts and I have spoken about corruption. I have also spoken about national security and the role of our service personnel in preserving law and order to ensure peace in our nation. I have spoken about how we will build a world class health service that provides quality healthcare for our people.
On Monday, I made a speech, at the University of Cape Coast, outlining our plans for the Education sector. The NPP’s plan to introduce Free Senior High School was extensively mapped out to show it is indeed possible, feasible and that, God willing, the NPP will roll it out from September 2013 and not at a later, indeterminate date.
Today, I address, at this appropriate forum of young men and women who are being trained to be the vehicles of our development, what is probably the most urgent problem facing young people in our country: JOBS. No matter where I have gone, – Kadjebi, Wa, Wenchi, Nsuaem, Atua, the number of people, especially young people, without jobs in our country is frightening. The problem hits home particularly hard when you are out and about in the mid-morning, and you see the clusters of young men idling under trees, some sleeping, and some staring vacantly ahead because they have no jobs to go to. And you know you are watching the life blood of Ghana oozing away.
When young people have no jobs, their self-confidence is undermined. Their dignity is eroded. Their parents are in despair and it is a certain recipe for social instability. Youth unemployment is, without doubt, the biggest threat to social peace in our country today. Images of rampaging youth during the voter registration exercise readily come to mind. For a pittance, unemployed youth were engaged to cause mayhem in Odododiodo in the Greater Accra Region. If these young men had jobs, they would never have been available as thugs-for-hire.
Considering the situation we are faced with, job creation must necessarily be the priority item for any government or party that aspires to govern this nation well. Unfortunately, for us, in Ghana these past four years, we have been landed with a clueless and cynical NDC government that seeks to exploit the misfortune of the youth and offers no solution to the problem. The government boasts incessantly about single-digit inflation and record level economic growth. Somehow, this has not translated into jobs and incomes for the people.
The government adds insult to injury regularly, by making claims that only make the suffering of the people worse. They announce they have created 1.7 million jobs at a time when a ban had been placed on public sector hiring, when they had sacked thousands of young people from jobs because they were said to be NPP supporters. I refer to young people engaged in cocoa spraying and NYEP programmes. They knew there were no such jobs, but if the lie was likely to sound good to the ear, they would say it anyway.
The President, on his part, is happy to trumpet Ghana’s economy being amongst the fastest growing in the world, but when it comes to unemployment, he is quick to add that unemployment is a global problem facing even far larger economies like the UK and the US. But, Mr President, those countries you mention are struggling to get out of recession and have growth rates of barely 2%. But I should not really fall into the trap of the numbers game. For the Ghanaian unemployed youth, reciting such figures and bandying economic data is pointless. They simply want a job!
The NPP is committed to building a new society of opportunities, where every Ghanaian has the opportunity to improve upon their circumstances, in order to move Ghana forward. We are determined to grow our economy and create the atmosphere for the private sector to flourish and provide jobs.
US President Clinton describes aptly why we need to create jobs, especially, for our youth. And I quote him: “When you stifle human potential, when you don’t invest in new ideas, it doesn’t just cut off the people who are affected; it hurts us all.”
Travelling around Ghana, during my campaign, people have spoken to me about how much worse off their lives have become, since this NDC government took office. This NDC government has been incapable of managing our economy. They have allowed the cedi to lose half its value and Ghanaians have looked on in dismay, as they have introduced all kinds of archaic economic interventions to stop the freefall of the currency.
Meanwhile, we are being told that the President and his government have achieved their promise of a better Ghana and that they have been ‘working for you’. Really? And is this the result? We are then subjected to the threat that they will “still pursue” their version of a better Ghana agenda, if elected for another term of office. Poor Ghana! Mr President, it is obvious you, and your government and party have lost touch with the concerns of the people of this country.
This week, it has emerged that a group supporting the election of the NDC presidential candidate wrote a letter to a state institution demanding a donation to support their campaign efforts. And the state institution ‘donated’ state money raised by taxpayers’ sweat ‘for peace sake’ to these NDC youth. This is how far we have come.
Also, we have now heard about Chief Executive Officers of state organisations are being coerced into giving taxpayers’ money to the NDC for its campaign. The blatant abuse of incumbency we are all witnessing today is unprecedented in the 4th Republic.
An Akufo-Addo government will strive to equip our young people with skills that will enable them improve their circumstances. We will present our young people with opportunities that show that there is dignity in labour. We will create job opportunities for all young people, simply because they are Ghanaian, unlike this NDC government, which is only interested in interventions, bankrolled with state money, for its supporters.
The hard truth is that the current size and structure of our economy is not big enough to provide the jobs that are needed. We need to change fundamentally the structure of the economy, from a focus on producing primary products to value addition and by modernizing every aspect of our society. We cannot rely on the current structure and the exhaustible resources to grow our economy and modernize our country. We have to make a deliberate effort to move on from the Guggisberg, raw material-exporting economy to a new economy that can deliver prosperity for our people. And this is the path the next NPP government hopes to pursue, if, by the Grace of God and your votes, we are elected into power, on December 7.
To be able to modernize our economy and industrialise our country, we need an educated workforce and that’s the basis upon which we have drawn our education policy. The dividends from the Free SHS policy, for example, will have both short-term and long-term benefits. We plan a rapid and vigorous development of educational infrastructure in the first 18 months of the next NPP government.
This will involve the building of 350 new Senior High Schools from scratch whilst rehabilitating and expanding existing ones. Since these schools will be spread across the length and breadth of Ghana, this construction activity will lead immediately to an explosion of employment in all districts of our country. And in all this, we shall ensure that there is value for money in all we do.
We intend to launch A “Skills to Build Ghana’s Future” programme. Through the Council of Technical, Vocational Education Training, refresher courses will be provided and continuing education opportunities will be made available to ensure that the best practices conforming to current trends are employed.
I am happy to announce to our skilled artisans like electricians, joiners and carpenters, masons and bricklayers, plumbers, tile layers, welders and others that the next NPP government has you all on its list of priorities. It also means more young people would be encouraged to learn these trades.
Building more schools and expanding existing ones means there will immediately be a high demand for teachers to fill places in our classrooms. We will empower the Colleges of Education to operate at full capacity, and expand their infrastructure to enable them to train more teachers to drive the Free SHS Policy. The Universities of Cape Coast and Winneba will be given incentives to stick to their core mandate of training teachers to fill the places for increased demands. The Association of Unemployed Graduates will be encouraged to join in this campaign to fill our classrooms with teachers.
Science, technology and innovation are the foundations upon which a modern economy is built. Nations that have made major strides in improving the lives of their people have integrated science and technology into their development planning. We will put a high premium on science, technology and innovation in our education modules to enable us train more scientists and technologists who can bring innovation in to the real economy through research.
Such research will give our Micro, Small and Medium Scale Entrepreneur (MSMEs) a boost, in terms of improved production methods, improved product quality, increased output, job creation and, ultimately, increased revenue.
For nearly 20 years, our education system has turned out onto the streets at least 150,000 Junior High School (JHS) graduates, each year. When they finish JHS, they are mostly under the legal age to be gainfully employed, and with no skills to boast of, they have become an army of untrained young people around our country. The next NPP government will target this particular group of young people and facilitate skills-training for all those who are looking for an opportunity to acquire skills that will enable them improve their circumstances.
We shall implement a comprehensive Technical and Vocational skills training programme by which skills-training institutions will be increased, equipped and enhanced to help fill this critical gap in our skills training in our efforts to industrialise Ghana. The National Apprenticeship Programme, established by the Kufuor government, will be further supported to make provision for young people who want to go straight into the world of work. We are inspired by the German dual system apprenticeship scheme and shall adapt it to suit our needs. Tax incentives will be offered to companies that participate in this apprenticeship scheme.
The next NPP Government will introduce new modules under the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) to focus on building badly needed urban infrastructure and sustainable development in rural areas (forest planting and maintenance, seasonal farm labour such as spraying in cocoa areas, dams, water points etc). This initiative will provide short-term training and employment to our youth, while also providing needed infrastructure in our towns and valuable contributions in the rural areas. The rural areas will experience a massive programme of reafforestation, financed largely by carbon credits, designed to restore the forest cover of our nation, which was carelessly devalued in the last century, and which will also generate a lot of jobs in the rural areas.
Any government’s ability to create jobs is, however, limited. The NPP has always believed that it is the private sector, which has the capacity to create jobs and sustain them in the long-term. The next NPP government will provide the needed political and macro-economic environment to ensure the private sector thrives. Government will provide the infrastructure and eliminate the obstacles that frustrate the running of businesses in Ghana.
We will invest in our infrastructure. We have plans to increase electricity supply, ensure a constant supply of pipe-borne water, expand our road network, build inland ports and expand our rail network. The next NPP government intends to increase spending on infrastructure from the current $2.2 billion a year to $6.8 billion. We will do this managing government resources and projects more efficiently. But, most significantly, we will raise the bulk of the money for these activities from the private sector through public-private partner initiatives.
Local businesses have a right to expect support from government and an NPP government will always be on the side of Ghanaian businesses. Ghana stands to gain tremendously if we look after the interests of the Ghanaian entrepreneur. The NDC/STX-type private sector policies will have no place under the next NPP government!
Ghana’s cities and towns are mostly unplanned and where plans do exist, they are rarely followed. We will, as a matter of urgency, provide the required support in order for the National Identification Authority to complete the national identification exercise. We will also urgently complete the nationwide naming of streets and the proper labelling of property addresses and promote the use of proper addresses. A functioning address system creates jobs because it drives commerce, the delivery business, efficient utility services, identification for financial transactions, and reduces risks to financing business.
Currently, Micro, Small and Medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) provide over 80% of employment in Ghana and hold the key to Ghana’s economic transformation. We will use the government’s purchasing muscle, through the procurement law, to favour Ghanaian businesses.
We intend to establish industrial parks to provide MSMEs with easier access to land to set up their factories, workshops, sheds and provide them with ancillary facilities like electricity, water and ICT. We will provide them with training to upgrade their skills to be able to run their businesses in a modern manner. Our goal is to have at least one such industrial park in each region, starting with two pilot schemes. Each industrial park will be sited so it can be linked to a polytechnic institute or technical university like KNUST. The advantages of linkages between industry and our educational institutions in this regard are obvious.
Agriculture is a business. It is, also, the biggest employer in our economy as over 50% of Ghana’s people till the land for a living. When agriculture is carried out in a businesslike manner, the reward to the farmer is enormous.
We now have the models used by the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), which we formulated when we were in government, as our guide to action. There are successful farms around here in the northern part of the country which are MiDA projects. We will use them to end the disgraceful situation of food crop farmers being amongst the poorest segment of the population.
The next NPP government intends to establish 250 Mechanization Centres or Plant Pools across Ghana. These centres will provide mechanization services to farmers at competitive prices and will immediately create openings for the services of agricultural engineers, technicians, business managers and machine operators/drivers.
We will promote both small scale and large scale cultivation and facilitate all-year round farming while placing strong emphasis on land development and preparation, high yield seeds, quality fertilizers, irrigation development. Once farming is modernized and it is no longer such back-breaking work, our youth will no longer regard it as an unattractive profession.
Housing facilitates the creation of jobs. Developing the housing industry creates demand for several associated industries in cement, timber, metal fabrication and so on. We intend to establish a Building Materials City, where a large number of companies that manufacture building materials will be centred. Materials that will be manufactured include several varieties of indoor and outdoor tiles, steel and aluminum products, PVC products, timber veneer and furniture, plumbing and electrical products, ironmongery and glazing products and household appliances.
We are committed to increasing the housing stock in the country to ease the acute housing shortage in the country. This immediately translates into the creation of a large number of jobs in the construction industry; the high level, middle, skilled and unskilled labour. Specific professionals shall include planners, architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, etc. in the high level; middle level technicians; and a large number of skilled workers such as electricians, carpenters, bricklayers, masons, plumbers and tile layers and unskilled labourers.
We shall work to develop the construction sector because contractors, construction personnel and consultants shall be the bedrock of Ghana’s infrastructure, industrialization and modernization programme. We shall empower a generation of contractors to compete on the global stage.
We intend to promote the aggressive use of local construction materials and new industries shall be opened for mining waste, limestone, clay, kaolin, marble and granite. The Environmental Protection Agency shall be properly resourced to streamline the operations of quarry activities and the mining of aggregates for the construction industry.
Thanks to discovery of oil by the Kufuor government, we now have another major sector that has the potential to create jobs. In this sector, even more than in others the need for skills development is critical. Take the example of welding which was traditionally on the lower rung of Ghanaian artisanship, it is now a skill-set in high demand on the oil rig. But, if we only export the crude, as we do our other natural resources, there would never be many jobs forthcoming from oil. Our oil and gas industry has the potential to provide tens of thousands more jobs, if a Petrochemical industry is properly developed.
The value of the minerals in our country, including salt, is estimated to be in excess of US$1 trillion. We have developed plans to add value to them. Ghana is blessed with huge deposits of bauxite that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars We will attract the necessary capital to mine our bauxite to build a multi-billion dollar integrated aluminium industry, as envisaged by the Kufuor government.
We will use a similar model to exploit our iron ore deposits and build urgently a new iron and steel industry, including the establishment of a refinery which can also process iron ore from other West African countries currently being shipped to Europe for refining.
The revival of the railway industry shall be linked to the development of the integrated aluminium, iron and steel industry. When implemented, the rail project will provide Ghana with a modern, safe, comfortable and affordable means of carrying goods and people to propel economic growth. It will reduce, drastically, the costs of transporting goods and foodstuffs to the great benefit of farmers and consumers.
We will revive and expand the initiative by the previous NPP government to make Ghana a hub for financial services. I recall the major feat achieved by the NPP in establishing Ghana as an offshore banking destination. Ghana has the skills, good reputation—political stability and a record of no banking scandals—to make this a viable quest. Indeed, the initiative had begun to take off under the last NPP government, but unfortunately, has become moribund under the NDC government.
There is great potential for job creation in the tourism sector in Ghana. We have numerous potential tourist sites, but we are not likely to become an attractive tourist destination unless we solve our sanitation problems. We will invest in the tourism sector in order to make Ghana a more attractive tourist destination. The potential for thousands of direct and indirect jobs for our young men and women cannot be over-emphasised.
The political atmosphere in a country has a direct impact on the creation of jobs, business confidence for locals and for would be foreign investors is directly connected to the politics of a country and the competence of the government. If a government has a reputation for incompetence and corruption, business will not flourish, as we are all seeing today.
Ghana has the natural and human resources that will drive our economic transformation. Ghana needs the leadership that will marshal these resources and set it on the path to modernisation and industrialisation. Ghana needs leadership that will judiciously apply its resources to the betterment of the lives of all Ghanaians and not a select few! We, of the NPP, have a well-thought programme and a competent, dynamic team of men and women who are ready to implement this programme and bring about the transformation of our country.
I would like to use this platform to thank all the supporters and activists of the NPP for the hard work they have put in during this campaign. This must continue till the last vote is counted and the results declared. We should not take anything for granted or become complacent in any way. We must continue with the hard work and remain vigilant to the end. God willing, this will give us the victory we seek.
Students of Navrongo, on December 7, 2012, vote for your future. Vote for the NPP and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo! Together, we can move Ghana forward.
God bless you and God Bless Ghana!