The Senior Minister-designate, Yaw Osafo-Maafo yesterday demonstrated high composure and competence in answering a barrage of questions fired at him by members of the Appointments Committee of Parliament to their admiration. The Senior Minister-designate defused the controversy surrounding his position as the Senior Minister, telling the committee that he would be coordinating, particularly the ministries that have direct impact on the economy in an effort to quickly transform the economy with his rich experience as former Minister of Finance and banker. He explained that his role would not conflict with that of the Chief of Staff, who would also oversee the day-to-day running of the presidency. He told the committee that the Akufo-Addo-led government had decided to review all the last-minute appointments entered into by President John Mahama’s administration, just after the December 7 general elections and before the handing over to the current administration. According to him, those actions were not in line with the Transition Act. He said the government would also definitely review the IMF programme that the past government adopted to fall in line with the new economic policies and objectives of the present government, adding that after such review the programme would be sent to parliament for approval. Mr Osafo-Maafo said it would also be unthinkable for the government to pay off all debts of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) – as demanded by the Millennium Compact Agreement – and allow an outsider or a foreign concern to come and take over the running of the company. “It would not be fair for the government to pay off the total debt of ECG and allow an outsider to come and run such an important public company,” he said, stressing that Ghanaians would be made to run the ECG on behalf of government if it (government) was to pay off the debt. Mr Osafo-Maafo noted that because of the huge debt portfolio left by the past government and the consequent huge re-payment agreement, the Akufo-Addo government would continue to borrow in a humane manner in order to finance the servicing of the huge debt left by the past government and to change the debt profile of the country. When he was asked how the government was going to stabilize the economy and also provide jobs for the teeming unemployed as indicated in the manifesto of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Osafo-Maafo said the first major challenge is to block all the loopholes in revenue collection and also be disciplined in expenditure. Teachers Alawa According to him, the economy is fundamentally strong with about 26 million population and therefore, finding means of maximizing revenue and cutting down on expenditure would help grow the economy. He said for instance, budget deficit to GDP growth under the NDC administration was 7% and that if the current government is able to reduce that by even one percent, that money could be used to pay for the allowances of teacher and nursing trainees – whose allowances make up of just 0.1% of GDP. Mr Osafo-Maafo said for jobs to be created the Akufo-Addo government would create the enabling environment for the private sector to grow by way of making the country business friendly. He said the government would also critically look at the land tenure system, the rent laws and how businesses could easily be registered to help build the environment for them to thrive. He said in the public sector too, the government would see to the capitalization of most the collapsed industries or those affected by lack of capital in order for these companies to stand on their feet again and create employment opportunities. The Senior Minister-designate further answered questions on how to reduce housing deficit in the country and also debunked a vile propaganda that he had said somewhere in the Eastern Region that only people from the five regions that provide the country’s resources should be made to lead the country. Kan Dapaah After Osafo-Maafo’s vetting, the Minister-designate for National Security, Albert Kan Dapaah, was vetted in camera because of the sensitive nature of his ministry; but a petition filed by a member of the public was thrown at him to answer. The petitioner had maintained that one John King had informed him (Kan Dapaah), who was then the Minister of the Interior in 2005, that there was a ship carrying cocaine to Ghana, but the minister was dismissive and irritated about such an information. In response, the Minister-designate parried the allegation and said at the time of the said information, he was not the Minister for Interior. He said the incident happened on May 3 and he became the minister two days later on May 5. He added that he disagreed with the said petitioner over the role of the Ministry of the Interior in such illicit drug matters because according to him, it was the duty of NACOB to handle such matters. He said as Interior Minister his supervisory role over NACOB was only administrative and had no hand in the operational activities of the Board. According to him, King raised strong and passionate points on the subject and he also defended his decisions and actions in a similar fashion. He did not understand how his response would be described by the agent as dismissive and irritated. Kan Dapaah quoted portions of the wikileaks which had given him credit for fighting drugs in the country. His vetting was later held in camera as planned. Leakages Finance Minister-designate, Kenneth Ofori-Atta, has given the fullest assurance that the Nana Akufo-Addo government would raise the necessary revenue to fulfill the campaign promises of the NPP and to improve the standard of living of Ghanaians. According to him, leakages in Ghana’s financial sector alone amount to some 5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He also quoted an Auditor General’s report which indicated that an amount of GH¢6 billion is lost through misappropriation of funds in the public sector. The minister-designate said even from leakages alone, there is an “incredible amount we can save” to fulfill the promises. On how to raise $275 million for the one million dollars, one constituency policy, the Mr Ofori-Atta said 15% of the country’s revenue is spent on capital expenditure and that that amount could be reallocated to cater for the $275 million. On the Zongo development project, Finance Minister-designate said an amount of $50 million would be put into a development fund to begin the process of sharing the country’s resources equitably. “All citizens deserve a minimum thresh hold of development,” he stated. As at press time, the committee was still vetting the Finance Minister-designate, after which it would vet the Defence Minister-designate, Dominic Nitiwul. The Ministers-designate for Interior and Attorney General and Justice, Ambrose Dery and Gloria Akuffo, respectively, will appear before the committee today.
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