Ghana’s economy has become debt-distressed under President Nana Akufo-Addo, the presidential candidate of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr John Mahama, has said, adding that he is ever ready to rescue the situation.
In an evening interaction with young business leaders and entrepreneurs in Accra on Wednesday, 4 November 2020, the former President said: “I am speaking to you at a time when the indigenous financial sector of our country has been dealt a crushing blow by this administration”.
“This has not only led to massive job losses and dwindling credit for startups and SMEs in general but has also placed many Ghanaian homes and businesses in a difficult situation.
“As a result, a hopeless and debt-distressed situation has been occasioned within the business community because the economic outlook is dire”, he noted, adding: “But there is hope. There is hope because Ghana has people such as you”.
Mr Mahama noted: “I am ready, very ready to lead our nation out of the ashes of both the financial sector crisis and the general mismanagement of the economy. I believe Ghana will rise again!”
Read Mr John Mahama’s full speech below:
Presentation by John Dramani Mahama at an evening with young business leaders and entrepreneurs
Good evening, my dear friends, my brothers and sisters.
I trust that you are doing well- in these trying times- and also staying safe? Forgive my voice, which has taken some stress from lots of talking on the campaign trail.
I thank you all for joining us tonight to discuss our dear country – about jobs, job creation and entrepreneurship. I had planned to call you all, individually, to say thank you for accepting the invitation from our friends from AccraSpeaks to interact with me. But we finally ended the day yesterday after midnight, but I hope all the same, that you got my text messages.
Let me also say hello, to the millions of Ghanaians who have joined us via radio, TV and online.
Tonight, is a continuation of an ongoing purposeful conversation about the forward march of our dear country – the transformation of Ghana for all Ghanaians, and not just a few.
I have been having this conversation with different stakeholders. Last week, we met with professional groups. It was exciting, refreshing and a mutually beneficial engagement.
I am always happy to interact with your good selves – young business leaders, entrepreneurs, and let me add, achievers. This is because you represent the present and the future of Ghana’s socio-economic transformation into an advance economy. An economy that creates jobs and opportunities.
Therefore, our quest to create 250,000 jobs every year; one million jobs in the minimum, in four years will be successful if and only if we work with you and all stakeholders.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in this very hall, tonight, we could have Ghana’s captains of industry and other successful innovators and entrepreneurs. And in this very hall and across our nation, there are several women and girls watching us who must be encouraged to take after the courage, industry and entrepreneurial spirit of our celebrated Madam Esther Afua Ocloo – of Nkulenu fame – who pioneered small loans to stimulate businesses.
This is needed because I am speaking to you at a time when the indigenous financial sector of our country has been dealt a crushing blow by this administration.
This has not only led to massive job losses and dwindling credit for startups and SMEs in general but has also placed many Ghanaian homes0 and businesses in a difficult situation.
As a result, a hopeless and debt-distressed situation has been occasioned within the business community because the economic outlook is dire. But there is hope. There is hope because Ghana has people such as you.
I am ready, very ready to lead our nation out of the ashes of both the financial sector crisis and the general mismanagement of the economy. I believe Ghana will rise again!
That is the reason why I accepted immediately the invitation to meet you tonight to hear you speak your mind about the future of our nation. Indeed, your voice matters – everyone’s voice matters.
In these last few years, we have seen, more than any time in our recent history, that our country cannot move forward if we do not focus on inclusion. Listening to one another and providing opportunities for all; instead of giving room to exclusion and division.
No country in the world has accomplished anything of worth with an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. It is critical, therefore, that, as leaders, we recognise, welcome, respect and accept diverse constructive views from all our people, including young men and women, if we are to build an inclusive society for ourselves and generations to come. If we are to achieve true sustainable development. This is why I am particularly delighted about tonight’s engagement.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I wish to congratulate all you young leaders, entrepreneurs and achievers. Your presence here tells a story, and that story is that you have rejected the notion, “life begins at forty” as the farce that it is.
Sometimes I go on Social Media particularly, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, and I get thrilled reading and appreciating the depth of knowledge and the many incisive thoughts and ideas that are shared by young people on subjects spanning governance, science, technology, engineering, agriculture, entrepreneurship and many more.
Some of you have proven that you more than deserve a seat at the decision-making table of national affairs. There are many brilliant stories of perseverance and effort, and yet there are many other stories of broken dreams and despair, because of the lack of opportunity to live those dreams and bring them to reality.
Many young people are looking for the slightest push in life: to start a business, expand your business, an employment opportunity and for some the opportunity to develop skills to meet the demands of the world of work.
This is a reality we must confront and urgently if the Ghanaian youth will be able to eke a decent living to relieve parents from over dependence of their adult children on them. We will provide that needed push an NDC administration.
With our Edwumapa jobs plan, tax cuts for jobs and skills development initiatives, we of the National Democratic Congress have taken a position that it is the responsibility of government to find sustainable jobs for our citizens, particularly the youth.
We will create the supportive environment and opportunities for the creation, growth and expansion of new and existing businesses. We will deliberately ensure indigenous Ghanaian businesses benefit fully and significantly from projects funded by the Government of Ghana.
At this point, let me share with you some of the proposals we have put together, in the Peoples’ Manifesto – which is our social contract to provide jobs and prosperity for all Ghanaians.
BUSINESS PROMOTION FOR JOBS
In our next government, God willing from January next year, we will provide the best and most supportive business environment for businesses, particularly Ghanaian-owned businesses.
We shall put Ghanaian businesses at the centre of economic growth because it is only when Ghanaian businesses thrive that our economy can grow and create jobs and prosperity for all.
Mere GDP growth is not sufficient unless the proceeds stay in our country and benefits Ghanaians. This is especially important because a significant percentage of Ghana’s economy is controlled by foreign entities, leading to huge outflows of capital.
We have to create more opportunities for Ghanaian businesses in order to staunch this bleeding and retain more within, in order to create the multiplier effect that will allow for an accelerated economic take-off. We started it before, and we will make it even better. We provided support to the Pharmaceutical Industry.
This was injected into several indigenous pharmaceutical enterprises, which allowed them to retool and expand production and labour force. The injection enhanced their ability to export into the sub-regional market.
We set up the Youth Enterprise Support (YES) Programme and provided young Ghanaians with entrepreneurial skills and capital. I remember vividly the inauguration of YES and the subsequent presentation of funds to the beneficiaries.
Under the Ghana Free Zones Authority, several factories and industries were established including the Wankang Ceramics and Tiles factory for the manufacture of floor and wall tiles in the Western region.
Also, we preserved Government contracts, as much as possible, for textbook printing for the local printing firms and inaugurated a private sector-led gold refinery. We ordered some sandals from young Ghanaian shoemakers for distribution to our school children.
In agribusiness, we also invested in the rice and poultry industry and embraced the need for Boards to be established for Rubber, Oil Palm and Cashew.
In addition, several Cold Stores and a factory at Elmina for the storage and processing of fish were established along the coast of Ghana.
And talking about Elmina, my Running Mate Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyeman will not forgive me if I leave out the abandoned Komenda Sugar Factory.
We have done it before, without pomp and pageantry and we will do it even better! Under our programme to create 250,000 jobs every year – one million jobs in four years – Ghanaians will be given the advantage in the financial sector, construction, energy, agriculture and agribusiness, ICT and other sectors.
We shall strengthen the regulatory framework, restore and work actively to increase the indigenous Ghanaian stake in the financial sector, especially in the banking, microfinance and savings and loans enterprises. This will also restore lost jobs.
Ladies and Gentlemen, given that it is indigenous Ghanaian banks and not the traditional foreign banks that typically lend to our Small and Medium Scale Enterprises to stimulate our economy, this will be a major priority for us.
We will introduce a tiered banking sector that allows indigenous Ghanaian businesses to invest in the financial sector and offer credit products targeted at different segments of the market.
In order not to suffocate businesses, especially following the shocks from COVID-19 and the general mismanagement of this debt-burdened economy, we shall offer tax reliefs to small businesses including start-ups.
Beginning from next year, all small businesses will be exempted entirely from corporate and personal income tax as promised in the Peoples’ Manifesto- Tax holiday.
We will also reduce corporate income tax from 25% to 15% for medium-size companies and newly established medium-sized companies that employ up to twenty (20) staff will be exempted entirely from paying corporate income tax for one year and same will be enjoyed for two years if you employ more than twenty (20) Ghanaians.
We know you import to do business. We will exempt commercial vehicles and other equipment imported into the country for commercial, industrial and agricultural purposes from import duty
To save our struggling local automotive industry in Suame Magazine, Kokompe and Abossey Okai from collapse, we will review the Customs (Amendment) Act, 2020 (Act 1014) and scrap the law, which bans the importation of salvaged vehicles. Vehicle assembling companies will operate as a complement to local industry but not to cancel out the daily bread of Ghanaians.
My dear entrepreneurs, we want you to locate some of your businesses in rural areas where the raw materials are produced. You will create jobs and help address rural-urban migration. Therefore, we will introduce a Rural Investor Incentive (RII) to motivate you to do just that.
Under the RII we will exempt you from dividend and capital gain tax and provide additional special tax incentives for indigenous value chain entrepreneurs in mineral processing, petroleum-based, agro-based, and pulp and paper-based industries.
We shall introduce a special tax incentive to Ghanaian businesses in the Export-Oriented Industries (EOI) to stimulate exports, propel the Shipping Industry to make Ghana a world-class cargo hub on the West African coast (similar to Singapore).
Processing of cashew, cocoa, shea, palm, cassava, pepper, ginger, fruits and rubber will also be emphasized to put money in the pockets of farmers and entrepreneurs.
The future looks good for Ghanaian indigenous businesses.
When I established the Ghana EXIM Bank in 2016, my dream was for the bank to promote exports and create jobs. I did not envisage the current lack of transparency in the disbursement and flagrant abuse of the funds of the bank on non-core activities to the neglect of many core and legitimate viable business plans; some from many hardworking young Ghanaians.
I will re-focus the operations of the EXIM bank, back to its core mandate of promoting businesses. The EXIM Bank under my watch, will in addition to other funding streams support agriculture and agribusinesses for both the domestic and export markets through the creation of agro-production and processing zones in all major crop-producing areas across Ghana.
It will also support the digital economy and fund ICT innovations. The Accra Digital Centre, which was purposed to provide 24/7 jobs for the youth will begin Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) activities on a larger scale. We will establish additional regional digital centres to provide young entrepreneurs with platforms to hone their innovative skills among others.
E-Commerce will also be prioritised on a Government-supported platform that will promote Made in Ghana goods.
We intend to run a 24-hour economy, which will be 3 shifts of 8 hours each. This means more employment and even more important, greater productivity and growth for the economy. We shall make it seamless so that it will become a norm, just like it pertains in advanced countries.
Recently, when I toured the mining communities in the Western Region, I pledged that justice would be served for those who had been treated unfairly – those who had their excavators, pickup vehicles and water pumps seized and given to NPP cronies to mine. It is their right and I will pursue it.
I believe we must regulate small scale mining to protect the environment and ensure safe mining so that the youth in those communities can have a source of livelihood for themselves and their families. So, I informed them that the next NDC government will institute a Gold Board, which will work with the University of Mines, Tarkwa and the regulatory agencies to ensure they reclaim land and protect the environment while they mine.
To add value to their products, we must, and we shall refine more gold for export. The private sector is invited to invest in this sector too. Let me assure you, we will involve the Bank of Ghana in certifying quality refined Ghanaian Gold and we will work with the KNUST Jewelry Training Centre to establish a first-class unique Jewelry market in Ghana.
This is our strategy to create decent jobs in mining communities.
Ladies and gentlemen, there are, indeed, a lot to look up to in the next four years under my Presidency, God willing.
We are presenting to you workable and practical solutions and that is why we are not afraid to allow the sunlight of your scrutiny on our Manifesto. But we know that to achieve these noble programmes and projects and to create one million jobs in four years, we also need infrastructure.
We need infrastructure: roads to access raw materials; digital real estate and 5G network to propel jobs and the economy as a whole; hospitals to implement Free Primary Health Care to ensure a healthy and productive nation; schools to end the double-track system to make the free SHS programme better and many more.
This is why we are poised to roll out a $10 Billion Big Push investment in infrastructure development.
THE BIG PUSH
The Ten Billion US Dollar #BigPush will also put our six newly-created regions and other deprived regions on an even keel with the endowed regions so that no one is left behind in terms of development.
The US$10 billion investment under the #BigPush, in five years, will complete abandoned projects, and projects commenced by the current and previous administration. The Eastern corridor road will be one of the key priorities.
Major markets will also be constructed in Accra, Aflao, Mankessim, Techiman Kintampo, Sampa, Elubo, Nima, Madina and Asesewa. Architects, engineers, surveyors, contractors… must be of good cheer because only locally registered professionals, contractors and artisans will be used under this policy and it will anticipate creating more than 400,000 jobs.
So, I say to all you Ghanaian registered businesses, today, position yourselves for better days ahead in the coming months and over the next four years.
SKILLS TRAINING AND JOBS
Ladies and Gentlemen, as Government and Entrepreneurs create jobs and we roll-out the BigPush infrastructure programme we will need the youth to implement the projects.
We needed them when we were working on the University of Ghana Medical Centre, the Greater Accra Regional (Ridge) Hospital and the Ga East Hospital.
During the expansion of the Tema Port, we needed skilled youth and same applied to the construction of the Community Day Secondary Schools, the Kasoa and Kwame Nkrumah interchanges and Airport Hills flyover and others.
We will need more of them going forward and even more and more as the oil and gas sector expands. I am determined to further pursue the skills and TVET programmes, which we began – to complete the conversion of Polytechnics into Technical Universities and in addition, rebrand TVET education while making it free in Ghana.
The National Apprenticeship Programme (NAP) will also pay for master craftsmen and women and artisans to equip and train the youth.
PUBLIC SECTOR JOBS
Ladies and Gentlemen, job creation will not only be the burden of entrepreneurs and the private sector. This explains why we have conducted a thorough Human Resource Gap (HR Gap) study into the public sector.
The analysis shows there is more room for graduate employment in the public sector as well. The Ghana Health Service has a human resource gap of 76,795.
The Ghana Education Service has a gap of 98,650 and altogether, the security services – Ghana National Fire Service, Ghana Immigration Service, Ghana Prison Service, Ghana Police Service and Ghana Armed Forces – have over 100,000 job vacancies.
NABCO and the youth in temporary employment within the public sector and graduates can be assured of permanent employment based on the Human Resource Gap Analysis we have conducted.
My dear friends, brothers and sisters, let me end by thanking you once again for joining me tonight for this engagement on jobs and entrepreneurship. We are poised to address unemployment and to help entrepreneurs to overcome the challenges which stifle their progress.
Access to opportunity under my administration will not be based on your political colour, ethnicity or family. We will do our part as a Government and provide opportunities for all and we invite the private sector to join us as we create 250,000 jobs every year – One million jobs in four years for Ghanaians.
We have thoroughly considered the programmes and projects and the approaches. They are feasible and innovative: The Big Push, Tax cuts for jobs and massive investments in agribusiness.
Vote for me on December 7 and let us create jobs and transform our nation together.
On this note, I am ready for the next phase, your questions.
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