Akufo-Addo: Why The President’s First National Address On Economic Crisis Failed Its Mission

Akufo-Addo: Why The President’s First National Address On Economic Crisis Failed Its Mission

One thing is clear about Nana Akufo-Addo’s address on Sunday, October 30: it did not deliver on expectations. Three days after the president’s highly anticipated speech, preponderance of social media and mainstream media reactions suggest that it failed its purpose. YEN.com.gh looks into why the president’s address to tell Ghanaians what his government is doing to solve the economic challenges triggered a storm of sarcastic, and even vile reactions.

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Nana Akufo-Addo’s national address on the debilitating economic crisis had one purpose only – show Ghanaians both home and abroad that government has a plan to restore order to the current economic chaos. But the deafening public uproar on social media after the address demonstrates that the last “Fellow Ghanaians” delivery may not have been a success.

Days to the address, some Ghanaians felt the president was better off spending his energy on finding solutions to the skyrocketing inflation, the cedi depreciation and the volatility petroleum local market. However, those who felt the drastic economic situation needed to be treated like a crisis took to social media to say that they expected an honest, measured and matured address that outlined bold measures.

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A previous forum on the economic situation by the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and addressed by former president John Mahama as the keynote speaker seemed to have raised the bar of expectations even further.

President Akufo-Addo
President Nana Akufo-Addo. Source: UGC
Source: Facebook

Mahama’s submissions on how Ghana can solve the economic challenges resonated with those proffered by academics, experts and even some politicians of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), thereby giving them a more mature feel. That was the bar that Ghanaians measured the president’s speech with.

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Recap Of Akufo-Addo’s Speech On The Economy

Nana Akufo-Addo’s speech opened with a flashback of the Covid-19 era economic and social challenges. This somehow sought to send the message that ‘if my government could weather the storm of the pandemic with right decisions, trust me to do same in this crisis.’

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After dragging on the Covid-19 and the effects Russia-Ukraine war a bit too much, the president made a firm statement about why he was addressing the country:

“Fellow Ghanaians…I am back in your homes this evening to ask for your support, as we work together to get our economy back into good shape.”

Then he proceeded to outline some measures his government took a few months back to deal with the economic challenges that had reared their head. Here, he sought to justify the decision, albeit belated, to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout programme.

“For us, in Ghana, our reality is that our economy is in great difficulty. The budget drawn for the 2022 fiscal year has been thrown out of gear, disrupting our balance of payments and debt sustainability, and further exposing the structural weaknesses of our economy.
“We are in a crisis, I do not exaggerate when I say so. I cannot find an example in history when so many malevolent forces have come together at the same time,” he said, and promised to steer the country out of the crisis.

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After that, he made a few observations about the current debilitating economic atmosphere, meant to demonstrate his empathy to the public, appealed to traders to be measured in the profit margins they put on their goods as inflation bites hard, and then he began outlining measures to check challenges with debt sustainability, improve revenue collection and restore and sustain macroeconomic stability.

The president also touched on the need to diversify the structure of the Ghanaian economy to check excessive imports that pile pressure on the local currency.

Furthermore, he sought to discourage speculation in the currency market with his now-popular “sika mpe dede” or “money hates noise” joke and then outlined measures to strengthen the cedi’s depreciation against the dollar.

After a few more mentions about the achievements of his government in efforts to improve education and social intervention, he concluded with the promise that with God’s help Ghana will weather the current economic storm.

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What Analysts Think About Akufo-Addo’s Address On The Economy

Shortly after Nana Akufo-Addo’s speech, social media was abuzz with negative comments about the content of his speech, particularly about his “sika mpe dede” joke. Outspoken lecturer and a leadership analyst with the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Nii Armah Addy, thinks that joke got the sarcastic best of Ghanaians because the president failed to admit anywhere in his delivery to missteps of his government that has led to the current crisis.

Nii-Armah Addy and Akufo-Addo
L-R: Nii-Armah Addy, a lecturer and a leadership expert with Centre for Social Justice and Nana Akufo-Addo. Source: UGC.
Source: UGC

He explained that since March 2022, the government has been accused many times of hiding behind the Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war for Ghana’s economic crisis, instead of admitting that factors like the fat size of government, reckless borrowing and spending among others played the major part.

Dwelling on Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war again in the critical speech was a bad call, he said.

“I am not impressed the least by the president’s address…if what the president delivered was an answer to an economics question, I can tell you that I will not score him anything more than 17%,” he told YEN.com.gh.

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In his view, the contents of the president’s address should have touched on some of the poor decisions of his government that plunged the country into the crisis.

“To deliver such critical speech in these difficult times by praising yourself and recounting things that you have done in the past when we are actually talking about the here and now, is a big shame,” Nii Armah Addy surmised.

He also said the president could have delivered a meaningful speech without drawing parallels between the rising inflation in Ghana and those of other countries. But even if he had to do that, he should have gotten his numbers right because there were preventable factual inaccuracies.

“The difficulties and the hardship Ghanaians are facing are real and let nobody say otherwise. The president can still blame the Covid-19 and Russia-Ukraine war but Ghanaians are not gullible,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, development economist, Dr George Domfe, takes a different view of the president’s delivery.

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Breaking away from other critical comments, the University of Ghana lecturer said the president’s address was spot on.

“The address was brief and concise. It was able to articulate measures immediately needed to address the exchange rate volatilities,” he said.

For him, the president made a clear statement about the regulatory framework that will ensure the flow of foreign exchange through the Bank of Ghana to the accounts of the oil and mining companies with the commercial banks, and that is bold enough.

“The medium-term measures to ensure that Debt-to-GDP ratio declines to 58% by 2028 is commendable. Importantly, the long-term measure to cut import and boost export was equally good to mention.
“However, the details of the import reviews were missing from the address. I expect the president to provide the details in his subsequent addresses. Indeed, I agree with him for not giving the details this time because Ghanaians are already annoyed and long essays would've put many off,” Dr Domfe said about Akufo-Addo’s address.

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L-R: Dr George Domfe and Nana Akufo-Addo. Source: UGC.
Source: UGC

He, however, urged the president to find solutions to dealing with the economic challenge by consulting the two former presidents, John Agyekum Kufuor and John Mahama.

“In the next address, the president should invite the two former presidents for them to also share a word or two with Ghanaians. The problem at hand is an old problem currently exposed by the several concomitant forces. The experience of the former presidents is obviously needed. Importantly, a round table discussions by these individuals will trigger the need for us all to forge ahead in unison to address the exchange rate vulnerabilities once and for all,” he told YEN.com.gh.

Renowned social commentator, Bright Simons, also vice president of think tank IMANI Centre for Policy and Education, however, scored low marks for the president’s address.

“One of the things I did not expect to see even though it was a minor issue was the fact that the president’s speech had some serious factual inaccuracies. This was his biggest speech on the subject matter, so you’d assume that his research assistants and his aids would have spent significant amount of time making sure that he’s presenting something of unimpeachable integrity.

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“I was surprised to find out that he was suggesting that Senegal has seen inflation go up 11 times, Togo has seen inflation go up 16 times, and that’s just not the fact because you can just go and look either at their own statistical authorities, the data that they put out, or from the IMF which performs the global surveillance function and you’d realize that none of that is true,” he told Joy News on November 31, 2022.
Bright Simons (L) is a social innovator and founder of mPedigree. Source: Twitter/@BBSimons.
Source: UGC

He also warned that if the president continues to insist that none of his policies has been responsible for the current economic crisis, it will become increasingly difficult for him to take the very hard decisions at the heart of his government to improve the economic situation.

What Akufo-Addo’s Next Address On The Economy Should Consider

According to Mr Addy, a bold and sincere speech should admit to some leadership lapses and delays to implement some key policies.

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“An honest address would, for instance, acknowledge the call to sack the finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta – even though it would have been a masterstroke to announce his sacking during the address – and then announce bold steps,” he stressed.

Inferring from the submissions by all three experts, it is appropriate to conclude that because these are trying times, a presidential address that seeks to unite the nation and exude public confidence must show genuine empathy.

It must also make concessions. It must also outline bold and sweeping measures; well-thought-out measures that have a national character. Not promises. And finally, it must also ring with a sense of urgency.

Cedi-Dollar Depreciation: Value Of Local Currency Higher Than 'Empty' Akufo-Addo's Address – Manasseh Azure

Meanwhile, YEN.com.gh reported in a separate story that president Nana Akufo-Addo's televised address to the nation on Sunday drew wild reactions from some Ghanaians.

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One such person who has joined the litany of Ghanaians to describe the address as 'empty' is journalist, Manasseh Azure.

In a series of tweets, Manasseh said the value of the cedi is even higher than the address.

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Source: YEN.com.gh

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