Full text: President Akufo-Addo’s 2023 SONA speech delivered to Parliament
Mr Speaker, I am glad to be here in this august House to perform, once again, one of the most pleasant duties on the calendar of the President of the Republic, that is, to give Honourable Members and the Ghanaian people a Message on the State of the Nation, in fulfilment of article 67 of the Constitution.
In accordance with protocol and convention, it is good to see that my wife, the First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, Spouse of Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Alice Adjua Yornas Bagbin, Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah, and Justices of the Supreme Court, Chairperson Nana Otuo Siriboe II and Members of the Council of State, Chief of Staff of the Office of the President, Hon. Akosua Frema Osei Opare, and officials of the presidency, Chief of Defence Staff, Vice Admiral Seth Amoama, the Inspector General of Police, Dr. George Akuffo Dampare, and the various Service Chiefs, are all present. Mr. Speaker, the House is also duly honoured by the welcome attendance of the former Presidents of the Republic, their Excellencies John Agyekum Kufuor and John Dramani Mahama, former First Lady, Her Excellency Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, and the Dean and Members of the Diplomatic Corps.
Mr. Speaker, it is the 8th of March today, and that means it is International Women’s Day, the day set aside globally to honour all women. Please allow me to acknowledge and appreciate the significance of the day, and heartily congratulate women all over the world, and especially women in Ghana, for the role they play in realising the dreams, cares and aspirations of humankind and of this great nation. The presence of women leaders, at both the local and national fronts, have advanced rights, enhanced equality, and, in general, improved the living standards and quality of lives of all concerned, including that of men. The theme for this year recognises and celebrates women who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education.
Mr Speaker, apart from my own personal fond memories as a member of this House, Parliament stands as a symbol of our democracy and its values. It stands as a reminder to all of us that our country has chosen to travel on the path of democracy, and at the heart of that journey is the idea that the government can only govern with the consent of the people.
Mr. Speaker, it is important that we stress this point because after thirty years of democratic practice, we may be tempted to take it for granted. We need to remind ourselves that our compatriots, the majority of whom are in their early adulthood, have no personal recollection of the struggles that got us to this point in our development. In the same way that only a small percentage of our population can recall life under colonial rule, similarly the memory of dictatorship, one party rule and military rule is receding into the dim past, and the struggles that have brought us so far are disappearing into the recesses of history.
Today, we live in a country in which we enjoy complete freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and political affiliation. Indeed, freedom of speech has now reached such heights that even members of the diplomatic corps feel able to join in our national discourse, and pronounce on matters that would be problematic for Ghanaian diplomats in their countries of origin. Nevertheless, Mr Speaker, it seems to me the important thing in our free speech environment is actually to try and hear each other, instead of raising the decibel level of our individual points of view.
Mr. Speaker, to come before this House to deliver a Message on the State of the Nation is a symbol and practical demonstration of accountability, and I have always treated the occasion with utmost respect. This address offers us, as usual, the opportunity to provide an honest assessment of our country’s situation, and seek the support of all in addressing it with hope and confidence.
Mr Speaker, when we make an assessment of what the state of our nation is, it would necessarily have to include what state it was in yesterday, the state it is in today and what state it would be in tomorrow, based on reasonable grounds of expectations.
How far back should we be looking to make a judgement on the state of affairs today?
Mr. Speaker, I believe that the issue, above all, that is, quite properly, dominating the concerns of all Ghanaians is the gravity of the economic situation of our country, and how we can quickly stabilise the economy, and work our way back to the period of rapid economic growth. Our currency has been buffeted, our inflation rate has been very high, and, for the first time in our lives, debt exchanges have become the language of everyday conversation.
As such, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a departure from the usual format of Messages on the State of the Nation, and concentrate, predominantly, on the economy, which will enable me, nonetheless, also to make some statements about the state of our agriculture, education, energy, health, infrastructure, mining, tourism and security. This is not to belittle the contribution of the other sectors to the growth of our country, but I believe the exigencies of the moment justify the position I am taking, particularly as all sector Ministers continue to provide official updates on happenings in their respective sectors.
I have said, and many others, including the Managing Director of the IMF, have said that our economy was doing well until COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine took us off course.
Maybe, because of the severity of the present difficulties, or maybe because it suits their preconceived agenda, some people are unwilling to accept that we were on a good trajectory until the arrival of COVID-19. The Ghanaian people, however, accepted this proposition, as evidenced in the results of the 2020 presidential election, which were unanimously endorsed and upheld by the seven-member panel of the Supreme Court.
Mr Speaker, allow me to go back on a short trip down memory lane, and remind ourselves what things looked like back at the beginning of 2020, when I came to this House to give an account on the state of our nation.
This is what I told this House on 20th February 2020, and I quote: “Mr. Speaker, in three years we have reduced inflation to its lowest level (7.8% in January 2020) since 1992. For the first time in over forty (40) years, we have had a fiscal deficit below five percent (5%) of GDP for three years in a row. For the first time in over twenty (20) years, the balance of trade (that is the difference between our exports and imports) has been in surplus for three (3) consecutive years. Our current account deficit is shrinking, interest rates are declining, and the average annual rate of depreciation of the cedi is at its lowest for any first term government in the Fourth Republic. Our economic growth has rebounded to place Ghana among the fastest growing economies in the world for three years in a row at an annual average of 7%, up from 3.4% in 2016, the lowest in nearly three decades. The international investor community has recognised this development, resulting in Ghana, today, being the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in West Africa. The sovereign credit ratings agencies have upgraded our ratings, and also improved the outlook for this year, notwithstanding the fact that it is an election year.”
Mr Speaker, that was where we were at the end of February 2020.
Three weeks after this speech, in which I expressed our sympathies and solidarity with China on the difficulties they were having with a new virus, our world changed. The virus, I referred to, arrived in our country and in the rest of the world with a vengeance.