May Day Address By The President Of The Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, On Tuesday, 1st May, 2018, At The Baba Yara Sports Stadium, Kumasi, On “Sustainable Development Goals And Decent Work: The Role Of Social Partners”

I thank the leadership of Organised Labour very much for the invitation to be here with you, as we mark the day set aside to celebrate workers around the world.

Permit me to begin on a personal note. I am exceptionally touched that this second May Day celebration of my presidency should take place in this stadium, which is named after one of the greatest Ghanaians and most talented footballers our nation has produced – Baba Yara. I had the privilege of knowing him in my youth, when I was a young Republikan, at the great club, Real Republikans, which was organised by that remarkable 1st Director of Sports, the late Ohene Djan. Baba was the star of the club, and all of us youngsters, young Republikans, had the great fortune of being able to train with him. He favoured me with his friendship, and I continued to visit him in his home at Independence Avenue in Accra, after the tragic accident which cut short his brilliant career. Kumasi Asante Kotoko has produced two of Ghana’s true footballing greats – him and the lately deceased James Adjei. May their souls rest in perfect peace in the bosom of the Almighty. Amen!  

As Co-chair of the Group of Advocates of Eminent Persons of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, I am particularly pleased that the TUC has chosen as the theme of this year’s celebration “Sustainable Development Goals and Decent Work: The Role of Social Partners”.

The adoption of the SDGs has presented our generation with a historic opportunity to eradicate global poverty and hunger, address the challenges of environmental sustainability, achieve quantum leaps in the economic well-being of millions of people, and ensure that no one is, in fact, left behind. We, in Ghana, can be justifiably proud of having taken up the challenge of the SDGs. All the goals have been captured in our Co-ordinated Programme for Economic and Social Development Policies, which, in accordance with the dictates of Article 36(5) of the Constitution, I submitted to Parliament last year on 13th November, and recently outdoored on 11th April, 2018.  

If the SDGs are to be successfully implemented, every citizen must get involved in the programme. I am glad that Organised Labour sees the SDGs and their implementation as its business, and is ready to play its role as a social partner. Government is also doing its bit. On 7th September, 2017, I inaugurated a 15-member Inter-Ministerial Committee on the SDGs, which has been working to ensure that Ghana effectively implements the SDGs.

Chairperson, Secretary General, workers of Ghana, in the 16 months that it has been my privilege to be president of our country, on most days, one subject features prominently in all that I do. I suspect there is no prize for guessing that subject is jobs. On the day that we celebrate workers, jobs must necessarily take centre stage in all our discussions. On May Day last year, the first of my tenure of office, I reiterated my conviction that, even though I had discovered, much to my discomfort, that I had become chief employer, the private sector was best placed to create long term sustainable jobs, given the right atmosphere.

Our belief in the capacity of the private sector does not, of course, suggest that government would be a helpless bystander that would simply look on in hope. Government, therefore, set about the task of putting in place the fundamentals that promote the enabling atmosphere for our entrepreneurs to thrive and create jobs. It has taken a lot of hard work and strong nerves to stay on the straight and narrow path to get the economy to start growing from the deep hole it was in. I am happy to report that all the indicators are pointing in the right direction: GDP growth rate has more than doubled, from 3.6% in 2016, the lowest in two decades, to 8.5% in 2017; inflation has reduced from 15.4%, at the end of 2016, to 10.4% in March 2017; interest rates are going down; we are witnessing a more stable cedi; fiscal deficit has reduced from 9.3% in 2016, to 6% of GDP in 2017, and there are positive signs of revival in the industrial sector, with growth increasing from an abysmal negative 0.5% in 2016 to 17.7% in 2017.

We have made a number of deliberate interventions to reduce the cost of doing business and formalize the economy. The e-business registration system, the paperless port clearance system, the digital addressing system, the mobile interoperability system, and the national identification card system, would all help quicken the pace of change to bring us into the technology-driven era and make our businesses competitive.

It is in pursuit of the same aims that we have abolished a raft of nuisance taxes, to shift the focus from an emphasis on taxation to an emphasis on production. The reduction in electricity tariffs is a major plank in this policy, and the effects should be visible soon in an improvement in cost of doing business and confidence in the economy as a whole. Chairperson, it is not often that there is such good news on the economic front in our country, so I believe it bears spelling it out here that, as from 1st April, residential customers, are enjoying a 17.5% reduction; non-residential customers, such as tailors, fitters, barbers, hairdressers, carpenters, mechanics, electricians, and chop bar operators, have seen their electricity bills cut by 30%; the mining companies are now benefitting from a 10% reduction; whilst special load tariff customers, such as our manufacturing companies and industries, are also enjoying a 25% reduction. Long may it continue that our affairs are managed efficiently to enable relief to be brought to the Ghanaian consumer and industry.

As these reforms and changes work their way through the system, I am certain that we should, very soon, be seeing a vigorous turnaround in the creation of jobs in the private sector. To build on the jobs created in agriculture, through the Programme for Planting for Food and Jobs, there has also been recruitment into the public sector of personnel in critical sectors like education, where thirty three thousand, one hundred and sixty (33,160) teachers were recruited by the Ghana Education Service; and in health, where sixteen thousand, five hundred and two (16,502) new health workers were employed. Thirty two thousand (32,000) more nurses will be employed this year. It is important to note that there was no employment in the public sector in these two critical areas for more than three years before my government took over last year.

Government’s commitment to job creation will be manifest through the accelerated implementation of our flagship programmes of “One District One Factory”, “One village One Dam”, and the vigorous implementation of projects by the Development Authorities and the Zongo Development Fund. The Planting for Food and Jobs programme, that was launched last year, has been successful, and is being improved upon, based on the lessons learnt. This year, we are expanding the Programme to cover five hundred thousand (500,000) farmers, up from the two hundred thousand (200,000) that were beneficiaries last year.

Before I got to the stadium here, I had the happy duty to launch the Nation Builders Corps. This programme, which, I am glad to learn, has the full support of the Trades Union Congress, will take on one hundred thousand (100,000) persons this year, and should provide some relief from the depressing fate that has become the lot of so many young graduates. They will be paid GH¢700 a month, which is a modest, but important beginning for the restoration of their dignity. Other transitional job creation avenues, existing under the Youth Employment Agency (YEA), also continue to offer opportunities for young school leavers to develop their skills and to create their own enterprises. These are not the long term sustainable jobs that would characterize our economy when it is in full gear, but we need some dramatic interventions in the interim, and I have no doubt that they would provide the breathing space and the platform from where many young people will launch successful careers.   

I remember that, during last year’s May Day parade, one of the issues that took centre stage was the ECG Concession, and the fear of layoffs of Ghanaian workers. You will recall that, in my address, I pledged that the terms of the agreement would be in Ghana’s interest. I am happy to report today the existence of an MOU between organized labour, the Ministry of Energy, and the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, which will ensure that no worker of ECG would be negatively affected or laid off as a result of the coming into effect of the ECG concession. Again, the majority of shares of the ECG concessionaire, i.e. 51%, after the signing of this agreement, are in the hands of Ghanaians.

Chairperson, Secretary General, we know we can only become that self-reliant and prosperous nation our forebears envisioned for us when we industrialise and add value to our economy. A world class labour force is needed for this, and that can only be achieved through education. It is clear that education is the gateway to the high-paying jobs of the future. A good start to ensuring that all of Ghana’s children get an equal chance to this has been the introduction of Free SHS, which ensures that all children access a minimum of secondary education with money no longer a constraint. All students, who sit this year’s BECE and gain access to Senior High School, will be beneficiaries of Free SHS, together with their colleagues who are currently in SHS 1.    

Chairperson, Secretary General, we are agreed that Free SHS is important for all of us, but, I dare say, the skills development that is offered by the technical and vocational aspect in particular is equally critical, and I hope I can count on the support of the TUC to help push TVET to the level it deserves to be. We shall be able to transform Ghana’s economy and reduce unemployment when we pay attention to technical and vocational training. That is where the skills needed for the modern economy can be developed. The strategy is to expand technical and vocational opportunities at both secondary and tertiary levels, and, thereby, strengthen the linkages between education, industry, and the world of work, as well as empower young people to deploy their skills, to employ themselves and others.

Workers of Ghana, what I envisage in the technical and vocational education sector would involve a truly radical change in attitude on the part of all of us. Throughout the years, enough lip service has been paid to the TVET sector. This time we are backing the talk with money and political will. This time, the interventions will be focused and seen through to proper conclusion, and, that is why, we have decided to bring all TVET institutions under the supervision of the Ministry of Education, instead of under the 19 agencies which, hitherto, were responsible for TVET, to provide for better co-ordination and training.  

As we seek to establish a world-class labour force comparable to any in the world, we must address the concerns of workers in the public sector over their remuneration. An Inter-Ministerial Committee has been established by the Ministries of Employment and Labour Relations and Finance to undertake the review of the Single Spine Pay Policy (SSPP), and to make recommendations for implementation by Government. Having operated with the Policy since its inception in 2010, it is time to institute this review. The team is expected to do a thorough review of both public and private sector pay policies, not only in Ghana, but also across the globe, to make informed recommendations for implementation. Productivity should be taken into consideration in the determination of remuneration for work done by employees in both the public and the private sectors. Whilst we seek to review the remuneration, I continue to count on you, Secretary General, to lead the campaign for a change in attitude to work and increase in productivity.            

This Government, through the Ministries of Finance and Employment and Labour Relations, has, with the co-operation of the TUC, ensured the smooth transfer of GH¢3.1 billion of Tier 2 pension funds into the custodial accounts of the pension schemes of labour unions; funds that had been outstanding for six years, and about which TUC had been loudly complaining. Our concern has been to ensure that the Pension Funds are secured ahead of their retirement. Persons who have also been nominated to chair these Schemes are well equipped, and possess the necessary experience in the management of the affairs of the Schemes. Workers can be assured that their contributions, and accompanying investment returns, are safe, and would be promptly disbursed as and when they retire from active service. Nonetheless, Mr. Secretary General, I have listened to your concerns, and the call for the setting up of a special committee to review Tier I and Tier II pension schemes, and will be looking forward to receiving the proposals of Organised Labour for the review.

Let me also assure the Secretary General that the composition of the Board of the National Pensions Regulatory Authority has been completed, and will be sent shortly to the Council of State, as is required by law. Already, the Council of State has concluded its consultation on the composition of the Boards of the National Labour Commission and the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission, both of which will be inaugurated within the next week.

Let me, at this stage, applaud Organised Labour heartily for the calm industrial climate our nation has enjoyed over the last 16 months. This has been the result of the greater engagement by tripartite partners, and Government, through the diligent and hardworking Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, Hon. Ignatius Baffuor Awuah, Member of Parliament for Sunyani West. I look forward to the continuation of the constructive dialogue with organised labour to find mutually satisfactory solutions in order to guarantee industrial peace.

I welcome the partnership of organized labour with Government and the private sector, so that we can work together to develop home-grown solutions to our problems. This would present us with the most effective path to realising the vision of a Ghana Beyond Aid. That is why I am setting up a 10-member committee, comprising 3 members each from Government (Ministries of Finance, Planning and Employment and Labour Relations), Organised Labour, and the Private Enterprise Federation, to work out, under the chairmanship of that good servant of the Ghanaian people, Hon. Yaw Osafo Maafo, the Senior Minister, in the next six months, a Charter on Ghana Beyond Aid. The Charter will, then, be subjected to scrutiny and debate by Parliament, and adopted as a follow up to the Co-ordinated Programme of Economic and Social Development Policies. The nation will then know in detail how we intend to move Ghana to a situation Beyond Aid.

It is propitious, then, that Ghana completed yesterday its 5th and 6th reviews of the IMF Programme, leaving two more to be done before the completion of the programme this year. This takes to three the number of successful reviews achieved by this government since August 2017. The previous administration managed to register just three reviews in three years. The end of the programme means that we will have the space to design our own social and economic programmes, without jettisoning the fiscal discipline and proper economic management necessary to give entrepreneurs the predictability and stability to plan properly, invest boldly to grow their enterprises, and create jobs. The Charter on Ghana Beyond Aid will then come into its own.  

Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen, I must now turn my attention to a matter that should concern us all. Child labour is a problem that must be addressed in a manner consistent with our humanity, our international obligations, and in the context of our history. It is regrettable that some amongst us permit their children to undertake activities that affect their health, education and development negatively, mainly because of their lack of awareness about or indifference to the rights of children. Ghana has ratified all the applicable international conventions and passed the Children’s Act of 1998. Our children must be treated as children and do what children do: they must be in school, learning to be the productive citizens of tomorrow. Whilst attending school, children must only perform child work, which prepares them for the future. The daily spectacle of children, weaving through traffic on our roads and hawking all manner of things, when they should be in school, must affront our conscience and spur us to action. Government is working with all partners towards the goal of eliminating child labour. We aim to ensure that our children do not work under hazardous conditions to support themselves and their families.

Before I end, Chairperson, Secretary General, workers of Ghana, I wish to stress again that our nation cannot continue to be dependent on the production and export of raw materials, and expect to be a prosperous and wealthy nation. We must turn our back on the old economy, and build a value-added, industrialised economy with modernised agriculture, which is neither victim nor pawn of the world economic order. Our relations with the world must be characterised by an increase in trade and investment co-operation, not aid. This is the way to develop healthy relations with other countries, and put Ghanaian products at the high end of the value chain in the global market place, and create jobs for the teeming masses of Ghanaians, particularly the youth. The vision is to build a free, prosperous, independent country, a Ghana Beyond Aid.  

Whilst we pay tribute to past labour leaders like the great Pobee Biney, Anthony Woode, Vidal Quist, John Tettegah and others for their outstanding contribution to the liberation of our nation from colonialism, I am hopeful that today’s generation of labour leaders will also leave their own indelible marks on the history of our country, as we seek to fulfil the dreams of freedom and prosperity that animated the founders of Ghanaian nationalism. Organised Labour must help in the realisation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, for they are an investment in our future – the future of our youth and that of our children. We are obliged to leave them with an enduring legacy of a more prosperous, more stable, more secure, more just, and more peaceful world.

Let me, in conclusion, commend the TUC for holding this national event outside Accra, just as it has done on some previous occasions. I believe more national events, like Independence Day celebrations, should follow the TUC’s lead, and be held outside the nation’s capital. Who knows, next year, why not Tamale for Independence Day?!

May God bless us all and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong. I thank you for your attention.

About Ghana

Ghana, is a west African country, bound on the north by Burkina Faso, on the east by Togo, on the south by the Atlantic Ocean,and on the west by Côte d'Ivoire.

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