In an interview with the Daily Graphic and Ghana Television (GTV) in his office at the Flagstaff House in Accra yesterday, he declared: “I don’t believe that my government in the Fourth Republic has big numbers in view of the swollen challenges.”
He explained that the problems facing the country, with the persistent decline in the agricultural sector, low growth rate, major issues of corruption and leakage of revenue, demanded bold and ambitious measures to address them.
“These are the background and the circumstances that were facing my government and the people of Ghana, hence they need a new paradigm shift to solve the problems.
“We have a problem and what is the best way? It is better to have men and women capable of serving the nation’s interest and to work to grow the economy,” he said.
He insisted that it was not time for merry-making and pointed out that his government was going to work for the Ghanaian people and was poised to succeed.
“if I succeed, you will soon find out that the brouhaha is nothing, compared to the success,” he stated.
Mixed reactions greeted the number of appointees in the current government, especially when President Akufo-Addo last Wednesday named 54 ministers of state and deputy ministers to bring the number to 110.
For the second time in Ghana’s history under the Fourth Republic, the number of ministers and their deputies is more than the Minority in Parliament.
The second Rawlings administration had 83 ministers and deputy ministers, as against 69 MPs (including CPP and PNC members) on the Minority side in Parliament in 1997.
The Akufo-Addo administration has 110 ministers and deputy ministers, as against 106 Minority members of Parliament.
The debate has been trending on social media, where the President is being bashed by his critics and praised by his supporters.
While some commentators want Ghanaians to adopt a “wait-and-see approach”, others hold the view that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is burdening the public purse with the size of his government.
President Akufo-Addo recalled that during the 2016 electioneering, “I put before the good people of Ghana the most ambitious programme of social progress. Again, our parliamentary majority has brought a host of expectations.”
He said those demanded all hands on deck to deal with the huge problems facing the country.
“Already, the signs are there that despite the challenges, we are putting our house in order to deal with the issues,” he stated.
“I don’t believe that any government in the Fourth Republic has inherited the challenges that my government has inherited. We are talking about a country with 74 per cent GDP-to-debt ratio, a GH₵2.4 billion debt overhang in the energy sector, persistent decline in growth rate, lowest rate of 2.6 per cent growth in the agric sector over the past 20 years, widespread unemployment, the major issue of corruption and the persistent leakage of revenue in our system,” he stressed.
“This is the background to my coming into office,” he stated, saying: “It is the reason I’m in office because these were the same circumstances facing the people of Ghana that persuaded them to vote for a change.”
In order to address those challenges, President Akufo-Addo said, he put before the people of Ghana a most ambitious programme of social and economic transformation in the history of the Fourth Republic, including all sorts of new and dedicated initiatives.
Again, he said, the majority that the NPP had in Parliament had brought a whole host of great and excellent materials into the public space of the country.
“When you put all of these circumstances together, my assessment is that we need to really put all hands on deck. We need the co-operation of my party and my country that will allow me to deal with all these issues and already the signs are there that this government, in spite of these huge challenges, has begun to put some order in the circumstances of our country,” he pointed out.
President Akufo-Addo also said the 2017 budget had introduced very determined efforts to solve those structural problems in the economy.
“We are talking about moving from a deficit of some nine per cent to 6.5 per cent; we are talking about moving the rate of growth of our economy from 3.6 per cent,” he stated.
The focus, he pointed out, was to free and stimulate the private sector.
He said the era of high taxes and excessive taxation to feed the high and insatiable appetite of the central government was over.
“We are now seeing the fiscal and economic stance of growing our economy. I believe that this is the background to make this decision. I am aware that people are concerned about what they see as the cost of this large government.
“But, then, one thing that I can say is that 42 out of the 50 deputy ministers are all parliamentarians. In effect, the marginal cost of transforming them from parliamentarians into ministers is minimal in terms of its overall cost on the public exchequer.
“So, overall, out of the 110 ministers, 65 to 70 per cent are from Parliament and so the burden on the exchequer, which is agitating some minds, will not be as may be the case.
“At the end of the day, if our strategy for economic growth succeeds in a year or two or three years down the road, we are going to see expansion and growth of the economy, more jobs are coming to the market to be taken by our youth, our agriculture begins to grow. The various initiatives and stimulus package to revive our industrial sector, if these measures succeed in accelerating the rate of growth of our economy and create progress and prosperity, then the brouhaha over the size of government will be just what it is, brouhaha,” the President explained.
He made it clear that his agenda to protect the public purse was on course and indicated that his appointees would always work in the interest of the public.
“If the overarching strategy of the government to stabilise and boost the economy succeeds, I believe that what you call the brouhaha will be eliminated,” he noted.
President Akufo-Addo pledged that his government would work to ensure accountability in the public systems and that politicians should first recognise that they worked in the public interest.
“Those who think they are going to rip off the nation will be very disappointed,” he assured Ghanaians.
He disclosed that all the 36 sector Ministers of State had, as of last Wednesday, filed their assets declaration forms and declared their assets and gave an assurance that under his stewardship, “We will live with a political system that will eliminate or minimise corruption.”
The interview also touched on a broad range of issues, including when to expect the Independent Special Prosecutor to take office, the funding for the free SHS policy and how to achieve sustainability of the programme, whether it had come to his attention that there were state vehicles missing and the legacy he planned to leave behind.