Anxiety All Over - As Prez Presents 2nd State Of The Nation Address

President John Evans Atta Mills� second State of the Nation Address to Parliament tomorrow is being heralded with great expectations, as Ghanaians from all walks of life remain anxious to see whether the issues he will touch on will address the bread and butter concerns of the ordinary man on the street. The address is expected to touch on governance, the economy, energy, education, health, international relations, agriculture, among other issues that are critical to the survival of the ordinary Ghanaian. However, one issue that ran through all the responses which the Daily Graphic obtained from a number of respondents centered around oil and how the President hoped to use the expected revenue from that industry to solve the country�s problems. In his maiden State of the Nation address last year, President Mills explained to Ghanaians the challenges he inherited from the previous government and pledged to reverse what he described as the decline in the fortunes of Ghanaians. He also proposed to adopt austere measures in the expenditure pattern and promote a vibrant and globally competitive private sector in order to fix the economy. One year on, and from the perspective of many Ghanaians, the President does not appear to have that luxury of detailing the problems he inherited. He is expected to deal with how far he has gone in fixing them. On that expectation, a political scientist, Mr Kwesi Jonah, told the Daily Graphic that he expected the President to tell the nation the current state of the Ghanaians economy, writes Mark-Anthony Vinorkor. He said a year ago when the President took office, he told Ghanaians that the economy was in a bad shape and that he had assembled a team to deal with the problem. �He should now let us know whether the economy has improved or not,� he said. Mr Jonah, who is the Head of the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana, Legon, said with the drilling of oil in commercial quantities in the last quarter of the year, the President needed to tell the nation what improvement the oil would bring into the lives of the ordinary people. �What is he doing to ensure that the benefits of oil trickle down to the ordinary people?� he asked. For his part, a security analyst, Mr Emmanuel Sowatey, said the President needed to address the issue of the recent fire outbreaks in the country and tell the nation whether they were mere coincidences or cases or arson. He said the discovery of oil had serious implications for national security and added that the President needed to assure the nation that the contracts signed would not be shrouded in secrecy. He said the lack of transparency and accountability in that area could lead to serious conflicts, adding that 2010 being the year oil would be drilled in commercial quantities, Ghanaians had to know the happenings in the industry and how the national interest was being protected. Mr Sowatey said the upcoming elections in Togo and Cote d�Ivoire, two of Ghana�s neighbours, had implications for the country�s security and added that President Mills would have to tell Ghanaians the steps that had been taken to support the Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS) to ensure peaceful elections in those countries. The Minority Spokesman on Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, told the Daily Graphic that he expected the President to be candid with Ghanaians about the state of the nation, especially with its fiscal management, noting that the government had been boasting about reducing inflation while, in actual fact, it had refused to honour its statutory payments, writes Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah. Dr Osei, who also the Member of Parliament for Old Tafo, said , for example, that the government was yet to release the third quarter payments of the District Assemblies Common fund (DACF), while payments had not been released to the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), among others. He noted that in a situation where the government was not spending inflation would definitely go down, but that was not sustainable. For her part, the NPP MP for Ayawaso West Wuogon, Mr Akosua Frema Osei-Opare, said Ghanaians expected the President to elaborate on how his government was going to provide jobs for the teeming youth as he promised during the 2008 general election. The current state of the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) should also be an issue that should engage the attention of the President, she noted. The MP said the way forward for the Single Spine Salary Structure should also be explained to Ghanaian workers, adding that low income earners were suffering as a result of high taxes, such as increased road tolls, among others. The NPP MP for Kwadaso, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, also said having stabilised the macro economy, the government was expected to ensure growth and generate jobs for the youth. For his part, the Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament and NDC MP for Ketu North, Mr James Klutse Avedzi, said he expected the President to give account of the extent to which the policy initiatives announced in his first State of the Nation Address had been implemented. He noted that efforts to grow the economy had yielded positive dividends and that should he reported to the people. Mr Avedzi added that Ghana was making strides in the production of rice and that would ensure a reduction in the rice imported into the country and save it some of its scarce foreign exchange.