Dubbed the State of the Nation Address (SONA), the event normally gives the President the platform to recount salient happenings in different segments of society, stretching from security, industry, services, the social sector, such as education, healthcare delivery and sanitation, to agriculture and the economy.
The SONA is a constitutional obligation that provides a platform for the President to appear before Parliament to state the condition in the country, indicating the progress made and the challenges over the past year, and indicate succinctly what it is that the government intends to do to better the lot of the citizens.The stakes are high, as many Ghanaians eagerly await pronouncements from the President on how one expectation or another will be met.
While individuals are expectant of the President to announce measures to turn around their fortunes and restore hope to them, interest groups and industry players are equally pressing the wish button.
However, in spite of the varied needs, the expectations of Ghanaians will converge on some critical and cross-cutting national issues.
For instance, ahead of the SONA, industry players, including the Ghana Union of Traders Associations (GUTA), the Public Utility Workers Union (PUWU), the Institute of Chartered Economists of Ghana (ICEG) and the Ghana Federation of Labour (GFL), have given indications that their topmost expectation is for the President to state categorically how he intends to deal with the security challenges in the country.
In separate interviews with the Daily Graphic, the industry players observed that the peace of the country surpassed all other concerns, since no business could be conducted if there was no peace.
The convergence of expectations on security stems from the fact that the country is still nursing wounds from a number of unfortunate happenings that have disturbed its security architecture.
The puzzles surrounding the kidnapping of girls in Sekondi-Takoradi in the Western Region, the murder of the investigative journalist, Mr Ahmed Hussein-Suale, and other related killings, the violence that marred the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election and the murder of a member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Wasiu Iddrisu, at the party’s Ashanti Regional Office in Kumasi still remain unresolved.
Another issue of convergence of expectations of some Ghanaians is how the depreciation of the cedi against the major currencies, especially the dollar, will be addressed.
As of yesterday, $1 was exchanged for GH¢5.01, a development that shows how the cedi is gasping for breath against the major currencies.
The business community will, therefore, be all ears to know how the President and the Economic Management Team (EMT) intend to deal with the situation.
That notwithstanding, the economy has achieved some relative stability, with inflation slowing to nine per cent and the Bank of Ghana’s policy rate dropping to 16 per cent last month from 17 per cent in May last year.
Rates of short-term government securities have also reduced drastically to 14.71 per cent for the 91-day and 15.13 per cent for the 182-day treasury bills, signalling that the government now borrows less from the region of 21 per cent in 2015.
Ghanaians will also be anxious to know how the government is dealing with the challenges in the energy sector, especially in the wake of intermittent power outages that have crept into homes in recent times.
Electricity and water tariffs will also be in focus. This is an area where the President will most likely touch, since it is fundamental to the social well-being of citizens and the success of businesses.
Consumers are particularly worried about electricity tariffs, in the wake of the planned take-over of the Electricity Company of Ghana by a concessionaire.
President Akufo-Addo came to power on January 7, 2017 with a manifesto that promised to deliver a number of things in education, health care, agriculture, the economy and infrastructure.
The government rolled out policies such as the free senior high school, one village, one dam, one district, one factory (1D1F), Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) and one constituency, $1 million.
These policies are expected to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youth, boost agricultural productivity, open up the local economy and reduce poverty.
Already, the Nation Builders Corps (NaBCo) has engaged about 90,000 young graduates to work on various modules to deliver services and mobilise revenue.
The President is also expected to expatiate on the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda. Last Monday, a 13-member committee, headed by the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, delivered a strategic document on Ghana Beyond Aid to the President, who indicated his intention to get parliamentary backing to make the framework widely accepted to deliver on its targets.
Ghana’s ports of entry, particularly the Tema Harbour and the Kotoka International Airport, are important hubs of revenue mobilisation.
A number of reforms have been introduced there to enhance revenue mobilisation, but these have not been without challenges, as some port users and importers have expressed concern, first about the high level of import duties, and second about multiple service providers.
The government has been working to streamline activities at the ports and many Ghanaians, especially freight forwarders and importers, expect President Akufo-Addo to inform them about the results and programmes the government intends to institute.
The government is also undertaking an ambitious railway rehabilitation programme that has led to the rehabilitation of the Accra-Tema rail line, while work is ongoing on the Accra-Nsawam line.
Work has also begun to connect Tema to Paga by rail.