|Speech By H.E. John Atta Mills, President Of The Republic Of Ghana On The Occasion Of May Day Celebration, Friday ,May 01, 2009.|
My brother Secretary General of TUC, My brother Chairman of TUC, Leadership of Organised Labour,Your Excellencies and Distinguished Invited Personalities
Colleague Workers of Ghana,
In the past, I participated in the May Day celebrations as Vice President.
In very recent times, I participated in the celebrations in my role as Leader of the NDC in opposition.
Today, by the Grace of God, and thanks to your support, I join in this year’s celebration as President of this dear country of ours.
I thank you for the opportunity to serve.
I extend my greetings to you all and express appreciation to the leadership of organised labour for the early manifestation of goodwill towards the government especially your willingness to dialogue and build consensus on a sustainable wage and salary structure for the country.
My brothers and sisters, this year’s May Day celebration is taking place against the backdrop of a global economic downturn which has serious repercussions on economic policies and employment the world over.
In Ghana, and indeed in the developing world, we seem to have become used to economic crisis on a daily basis.
Therefore, to many, the situation now and before the global economic crisis is all the same.
There is the temptation to play down the extent to which the global situation can worsen the crisis we may have become used to.
We face exposure to the current crisis because Ghana, like other emerging economies, is more integrated into the international economy than before.
And we are likely to experience the effect of the economic downturn through dwindling donor support, a decline in trade and reduced remittances and investment in the economy.
Aside the global economic crisis, our own management of the economy over the past several years has left a lot to be desired.
Indeed, what we inherited is a far cry from what was described as a robust and resilient economy.
However, I am not interested in interminable arguments over who did what in the past as far as the national economy is concerned.
We face challenges, and I do not believe the solution lies in constantly arguing or holding out the begging bowl.
Let us put aside partisanship and deal with the real issues.
In much the same way as other countries have agreed on stimulus packages which place emphasis on government interventions, we in Ghana must work out our own homegrown solutions that will enable us weather the economic downturn and enhance our capacity to provide social protection for people facing the brunt of poverty.
I am interested in practical outcomes and will continue to stress on the need for all Ghanaians to work together for the common good.
We have no intention of reversing the role we believe the private sector must play as the engine of economic growth, but the circumstances surrounding the global financial crunch point to the need to ensure strict application of rules and regulations.
As a government, we will not hesitate to review legislation and agreement to make sure the people of Ghana are not shortchanged.
In this regard, I have directed a review of the pension act passed last year bearing in mind the lessons of how deregulation in the financial markets has and the philosophy of each man for himself and God for us all has brought the world virtually to its knees.
The Government is critically examining all protocols and agreements, such as the Economic Partnership Agreement, and will seek advice and inputs from all key players in Industry, including Employers and Unions before taking a decision on the matter.
The Government’s social contract with Ghanaians is built on the firm belief that the people have a right to decent living and well paid jobs and we intend to promote and create employment opportunities in all sectors of the economy.
Our employment strategies include assessing past and current programmes such as the “Youth In Agriculture” and “National Youth Employment Programme” and doing the necessary re-engineering that will make them respond to present needs.
The Government is committed to creating jobs in the economic and productive sectors such as, Agriculture, Trade and Industry and Tourism.
Through our programme of expanding infrastructure in the areas of, Housing, Public Works, construction of Dams and the construction of roads, we hope to provide more job opportunities to both skilled and unskilled labour.
Government is putting in place support mechanisms to ensure the environment remains friendly to both old and new investors by way of proper legislation as well as improving public utilities delivery.
Wages and Salaries
My brothers and sisters, I know that off all the things that matter to us as workers, it is our wages and salaries that tops the list.
Let me assure you that the Single-Spine Pay Policy remains high on our agenda.
In the Budget Statement, the Minister for Finance spoke about Government’s commitment to fine-tune the Single-Spine Pay Policy taking into consideration the concerns of all interested parties in order to build consensus and overcome any implementation challenges.
At the end of February, Organised Labour and Employers met with the Ministers of Finance and Social Welfare.
Progress has been made on the discussions and Government is studying a Report submitted by a Technical Team for further action.
In anticipation of the implementation of the Single-Spine salary, Government is providing adequate funds and logistics to the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission to execute its mandate.
My brothers and sisters, Government places a high premium on making sure that living standards are significantly improved.
Improving the living standards of especially the rural and urban poor is high on our agenda.
A lot of attention is being given to improving access to social services.
We are introducing a range of social protection schemes in line with our social democracy philosophy. We are providing security to the informal sector, caring for the disabled as is evidenced by the establishment of the Disability Council, and making sure that people living with HIV/AIDS are not discriminated against.
We have already shown commitment to our social intervention agenda by expanding the school feeding programme, increasing the capitation grant, and working towards a more efficient healthcare delivery system.
To begin with, we are in the process of providing free school uniforms and free text books to at least 1 million needy school children.
In the area of Agriculture, we have already provided a 50% relief on the cost of fertiliser.
Government has also approved a sum of GHC 7.5 million for the continuation of the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty Programme (LEAP).
My brothers and sisters, I pledge myself to a committed approach to nation building and a very strong determination to move Ghana to a higher level of growth.
The Government I lead regards organised labour as an indispensable partner in our determination to build a Better Ghana.
We may not always agree, but as a Government, we will not be found wanting where truth and sincerity are concerned.
We will always seek to strike a meaningful balance between of workers and the economy as a whole.
Once again, Ayekoo, to you the hardworking Ghanaian workers.
God bless our homeland Ghana and make Her greater and stronger.