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ADDRESS BY GHANA's VICE PRESIDENT AT SOCIAL WATCH

ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA

JOHN DRAMANI MAHAMA AT THE FOURTH SOCIAL WATCH GENERAL ASSEMBLY

HELD AT M-PLAZA HOTEL, ACCRA ON 27TH OCTOBER, 2009.

 Mr.  Chairman

Ministers of state

Your Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Delegates to the Fourth General Assembly of Social Watch

Representatives of Civil Society Organizations

Distinguished Invited Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am privileged this morning to welcome those of you who have travelled to Accra from more than fifty countries to attend the 4th General Assembly of Social Watch.

Let me on behalf of the government and the people of Ghana say “Akwaaba” and assure you of our traditional hospitality and warmth, our exquisite indigenous cuisine and the sights and sounds of our culture and legendry historic castles, forts, and coastal beaches.

Since its emergence into the global scene fourteen years ago, the 4th General Assembly through its network of thousands of activities in more than sixty countries, have demonstrated the importance of contributions civil society makes generally to strengthening democratic culture as well as international policy making.Indeed the persist demands from social movements and citizen groups such as Social Watch for accountability from governments and the international institutions have added a new dimension and momentum to the global policy making and implementation.

This stand has made your movement a strong voice for the voiceless and marginalized in society who constitute the majority of the poor. Indeed you provide the ingredients of moral conscience in global policy making and global governance institutions.

Mr. Chairman, the theme for this august Assembly “People First”, Social Watch’s response to the global crises is appropriate and timely. There is great optimism in some countries and circles that the worst economic crisis to hit the world in 80 years is bottoming out and that an upturn is in the horizon in some countries for which there are better times ahead.

However, for many millions around the world from which it will take many years to recover from the negative impact of the multiple crisis starting with the food crisis and financial crisis, these pronouncements do not reflect the reality as they affect millions of Africans on the ground.

Ghana’s experience over the past three years exemplifies the impact of these crises. In the last 17 years before the crisis, our record of reducing poverty and hunger had been impressive. The proportion of the population below the national poverty line declined from 51.7% in 1991 – 1992 to 28.5% in 2005 -2006. The number of hungry people in Ghana declined from 5.4 million in 1990 – 1992 to 1.9 million in 2003 – 2005.

The proportion of under nourished people declined from 34% in 1990 -1992 to 9% in 2003 – 2005. Indeed, Ghana is the only country in the sub-Sahara Africa that has reached both the World Food Summit target and the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of under nourished people. But this encouraging trend suddenly became gloomy.

The increase in food prices in 2007 caused a huge jump in the cost of living because of Ghana’s significant dependence on imported food. Alongside this, the country faced a big increase in its oil import bill because of the unprecedented rise in the world market price of crude oil despite the fact that the prices of the country’s main exports, cocoa, and gold remained relatively buoyant.

Ladies and gentlemen, the effects of the crisis on the poor and many women and children have been profound. The proportion of the incomes of the urban poor that goes into food increased significantly. The price of sheanuts, which grow  in the poorest parts of the country in the northern Ghana, the production of which women predominate slumped in commodity prices with the consequences of deepening rural poverty in that part of the country.

Over the past 10 months, the NDC government has taken measures to deal with the impact of the crisis on Ghana. We have initiated a stabilization programme with financial support from the IMF and World Bank. The engagement by government with these institutions has generated a lively debate in the country about the implications of their policies.

I am aware that the role of these two multilateral institutions in the economic policies of countries such as Ghana and the unequal power relations within their governance structures and global economic governance systems generally is something that Social Watch has been concerned with.

Indeed, the global crisis and the response to it have firmly placed the issues of global economic governance including the role of the IMF and World Bank firmly at the centre of the global policy agenda and small countries such as Ghana will use the processes within the UN system to articulate its views on an equal footing with other states.

The Ghana government like other African governments welcomes the broadening of the global policy dialogue represented by the developing role of the G20 visa Vis the G8. We however stand by the views expressed by Africa’s continental bodies that Africa is inadequately represented in the G20 and hope that it will gain a stronger voice in that forum.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my Party was elected on the platform of building a better Ghana for all especially the disadvantaged. But the fallout from the global crisis has made this task more challenging thereby calling the need for each country to pay attention to its particular circumstances and carry out policies that best advance the interest of its people. As a social democratic party the renewed recognition of an important role for the state not only as a regulator is something which contains important lessons for us.

As a responsible government and a social democratic one as such, we do not intend to shirk our social compact with the people by sacrificing their welfare on the altar of fiscal and monetary expediency. The welfare of our people is a human right issue in as much as the basic needs of Ghanaians, food, shelter, health and education among others have implications on good governance and democracy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, before I draw down the curtain, let me draw your attention to the one relatively neglected issue. The collapse of the prices of commodities has again highlighted a long running problem facing African countries which appear to have fallen off the radar of the international agenda in recent times. Even for many African countries who have diversified their exports away from dependence on a single commodity, price fluctuation remains a dangerous economic Achilles heel. Thus, livelihoods of farmers of old commodities such as coffee as well as new crops such as fruit and vegetables have been badly hit by the price slumps and their economies badly shaken as a result.

I believe this issue deserves to be given more visibility in the laudable campaign work of groups such as Social Watch to ensure a more equitable global trading regime.

As mentioned in my introduction remarks, we believe that governments and citizens should work together to ensure that the path of development is not crooked but offer equal opportunities among citizens and countries.

I do hope that your deliberations in the next three days will be fruitful and will make important contributions to our common desire to build a better world, a world without poverty and gender inequality.

Once again on behalf of the government and people of Ghana I welcome you to Accra and hope to receive the report of your meeting which should provide an essential input to help us in our quest to build a better Ghana, a better Africa and a better world.

Thank you.

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