CONVENTION PEOPLE’S PARTY YOUTH LEAGUE STATE OF GHANA YOUTH ADDRESS.
Regional Commanders present, members of the WAR COUNCIL, The media, Comrades, Fighters, friends; you are warmly welcome to our press briefing on the State of Ghana Youth. Almost three weeks ago, precisely on Wednesday the 25th of February 2016, President John Mahama delivered his state of the nation address as required of him under article 67 of the 1992 constitution. We all know what happened at that event; parliament house was virtually turned into an SHS Assembly Hall or a church auditorium where members are called to give testimonies. Such was the theatrical display that it will not be far-fetched to conclude that the real essence of the SOTN address was consummately debased. Not long afterwards, on Monday, 29th February, 2016, Nana Akuffo Addo also delivered his so-called “Real State of the Nation Address”. For us, that was nothing but a display of hypocrisy and pretense, speaking as though the NPP were better. But the real question is “did those two speeches adequately reflect the conditions of the youth as pertains on the ground? We have posed this question to many young people on and off the streets and the answer we continually get is a bold NO. It has become imperative therefore for the youth side of things to be heard and who is better qualified to do that than the Youth League of the CPP, the vanguard of the youth? That is the purpose of this press conference today.
Fighters, comrades and friends, the media, fellow Ghanaians; everybody now knows that the youth constitute the largest demographic group in our population; more than 50% of our population fall within the age bracket of 24 and below. This increases more substantially if we add those within the 25-35 age bracket. Thus by sheer numbers, there is no doubt that the youth are very important in the scheme of things. Indeed this is even true about Africa as a whole – The Youth remains the lifeline of our country; and so is true for the entire continent, ladies and gentlemen.
2. ROLE OF THE YOUTH IN POLITICS
Over the years, young people have been used for various roles in our electoral process from mobilizing voters, manning ballot boxes to causing violence. But it seems that is where it ends. No one remembers us after the election until 4 years later when another election is due. We have become 29th February borns whose birthdays come once every four years.
Clearly, the youth have been abandoned and relegated to the background as tools for the selfish ambitions of a select class; this become very obvious when one looks at the massive unemployment that exists among young people of country. Currently, For us, this is the state of the youth of Ghana and it certainly very much reflects the state of the nation today. Comrades, to appreciate the gravamen of this problem, we need to look at it in its proper perspective.
The Head of the economic Division at the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER) Dr. Charles Ackah, in July last year declared that Ghana was sitting on a time bomb due to the worsening graduate spate of graduate unemployment in the country. He revealed that there are over 200,000 unemployed graduates in Ghana with over 71,000 more who were pushed out last year alone from both private and public tertiary institutions. If this is the magnitude of unemployment facing the youth who have actually gone through our educational system and graduated, then the question is, what quantum of human resource are we wasting when we consider the many more youth who never made it to the tertiary level at all?
The major catastrophe waiting to happen due to mass youth unemployment in the country was confessed just a few months ago on October 2, 2015, when the Minister of Employment and Labour relations, Haruna Iddrisu, admitted to this total neglect and relegation of the youth to a state of complete joblessness by the current and previous governments. I’ll quote him; he said, “We are in a crisis, a crisis of growing unemployment in our country, a crisis which is informed by continuing gaps in skills development and a crisis that we are not taking urgent steps to address…” In that report Haruna Iddrisu conceived the possibility of an Arab Spring if this dire situation is not addressed. Now, if we’re being told this by the crocodile which came out of the water, why would anyone doubt the forthcoming plague that has been made inevitable by the absolute recklessness of the NDC government and the governments immediately preceding it?
Indeed, Professor Kwesi Yankah has predicted that the situation will worsen in the coming years. So looking at the numbers, we hold that the NDC’s pie in the sky plan to employ 100,000 youth in the YEA is woefully inadequate. In fact, that will not be enough for unemployed graduates alone. If we add the non-graduate and the uneducated youth bracket to the equation, 100,000 pales into pathetic insignificance. This does not in any way mean that we even believe the 100,000 jobs pledge because we have come to a point where believing any of the NDC government’s promises is tantamount to drinking DDT and hoping that it will increase your lifespan. Almost every school kid in Ghana today can recite Mahama’s litany of failed promises as they do the English alphabet. Beyond this, we believe that YEA is set to continue the worrying tradition of paying people what can hardly take them home, thereby exacerbating the underemployment we have in the system.
What has brought about this? The government’s reckless romance with the IMF has caused much pain to us as young people in this regard. It appears we never learn any lessons in this country. The IMF is not known to have saved any country on this planet. Theirs is a one-size-fits-all approach which has no regard to time changes and to peculiar circumstances. This has been shown by many scholars across the world. In Ghana, a report titled “Implications of IMF Loans and Conditionalities on the Poor and Vulnerable in Ghana” written for ActionAid Ghana by Benjamin Addo and others concluded that IMF policies “Ghana’s relationship with the IMF has at best resulted in stabilization and economic growth which, however, occurred at the expense of employment as evidenced in the era of Structural Adjustment Programmes. At worst, the pursuance of IMF policy prescriptions has led to socio-economic hardships and political instability…”. There is no doubt that the interest of the IMF is always something other than helping developing countries out of economic difficulties. What we have seen in this current programme is increased taxes, removal of subsidies and freeze on employment while people wallow in joblessness.
Another cause of the unemployment situation is dwindling manufacturing. It has been established that manufacturing is where the jobs come from. Unfortunately, this sub-sector has been declining. What this reflects is an economy which relies heavily on imports of everything and manufactures close to nothing. Further, much of the industrial activity we see in Ghana is foreign-owned. Bernard Avle, host of the Citi Breakfast Show, on citi fm asks one very poignant question always that ‘if all foreigners were to withdraw their capital or investment from our country, will we have an economy?’
The truth this question exposes is that Ghanaians do not own the Ghanaian economy as a perusal of John Sutton and Bennet Kpentey’s “An Enterprise Map of Ghana” will show. But even the few Ghanaians that are surviving are being stifled with high taxes, high utility tariffs and incompetent management of our currency, thereby reducing their capacity to employ young people. Worse still, the Economic Partnership Agreements which this government signed with the European Union will further collapse our local industry. We still oppose the EPAs even today. What is baffling is the loud silence of the NPP on the matter since it came into the public for debate. Did they perhaps connive with the NDC government to finish off our local manufacturing for the benefit of their paymasters in Europe? We live to see. So here is a government that has taken instructions from the IMF not to employ us into the public sector and further impedes the private sector from employing.
Consequently, many young people including children as young as 14 years and below have had to resort to risky, unsustainable jobs. You see them on every street selling sachet (pure) water, phone recharge cards, hair brushes, chewing gum etc putting their lives at the risk of being knocked down by vehicles and Kayaye rears its head high. That is the state of the youth. Today in our country, the existence of young, energetic, enthusiastic but unemployed people has made the possibility of an uprising even more real. For there to be peace therefore, there must be jobs. Those who have ears, let them listen.
4. EDUCATION AND HEALTH
Comrades and friends, in delivering his State of the Nation Address, president Mahama talked about school/health infrastructure being built. It is to be noted that the figures churned out by the president have subsequently been challenged at various levels on various platforms. Nana Akuffo Addo in his speech also touched on education promising to restore teacher and nursing trainee allowances. There are critical issues that both speeches ignored that we will like to highlight here. One of such issues is the welfare of teachers and nurses. There are thousands of teachers and nurses in the system who are owed several months of arrears. Indeed, there are 100s who have completed school and have been awaiting appointment for several months, sometimes years. This situation has become a sure way of pushing teachers and nurses into poverty because they are unable to get by especially given the rising cost of living. Lately and indeed severally, teacher and nursing groups have had either to go on strikes or threaten to go on a strike before they are even called to the negotiation table. We support any such actions by teachers and nurses and we encourage them not to relent in their efforts to push for what is rightly theirs.
Another important issue critically left out that needs addressing is the school curriculum. The content of our educational system as well as the structure of the curriculum need to be overhauled immediately. Talk of restructuring the economy, providing jobs and industrializing will continue to elude us if we continue to produce graduates whose education rarely matches the needs of industry. Kwame Nkrumah declared in 1964 that “education consists not only in the sum of what a man knows or the skill to with which he can put this to his own advantage. In my view, a man’s education must also be measured in terms of the soundness of his judgment of people and things and in his power to understand and appreciate the needs of his fellow men and to be of service to them. The educated man should be so sensitive to the conditions around him that he makes it his chief endeavour to improve those conditions for the good of all”. For us, that is the only way education can ever make any meaning in any country. In doing this, we should move away from exam-focused schooling to problem-solving education that is relevant not only to our peculiar circumstances but also to the global system and re-tailor it towards creating a citizenry who don’t only know their heritage but are proud of it and are ready and capable of making it better. With the current system, passing exams remains the main preoccupation of students at all levels and those who fail tend to have no place no matter how much potential they have or how well they did in school. It is like a football game in which one team can play the best football and still lose the match so far as they do not score the goals.
We must make it a point to guard against the tendency of the system to create a wedge between two classes of people; the first being rich, privileged few and the other being poor, disadvantaged majority. Whereas cost and other factors prevent the second group from rising to the higher heights in education and accessing healthcare, the first group continues to enjoy the best education and the best healthcare, for themselves and their children’s children. We risk creating a society of unequals that will be safe for nobody.
If the above issues are not addressed, all the infrastructure and allowances will only play palliative roles whereas the root causes remain, thereby making the problems persist.
5. COST OF LIVING
Fellow Ghanaians, comrades and friends, one of the things we cannot ignore is the cost of living in this country today. We are being collectively fried in the frying pan of high electricity and water tariffs, high petroleum prices and high taxes. Electricity tariffs have risen over astronomically since the last announced increment which took effect in December last year. High petroleum prices, high taxes and high electricity and water tariffs have increased transport fares and the prices of basic supplies. For example, in some parts of Accra, a one-cedi ball of kenkey is now GHS 1.5 and young people are forced to buy because the one-cedi ball can hardly satisfy their hunger. Trotro fares have not been stagnant either. Commuters travelling from Madina to Accra have to pay 30 pesewas more to get to their destination. Madina to Circle has also increased from GHS 2.00 to GHS 2.30. Circle to Tema is now 4 cedis 40 pesewas from 3 cedis 30 pesewas. What this means is that a watch repairer who lives in Tema and works at circle is now having to spend 8 cedis 80 pesewas per day or GHS 44 a week or GHS 176 a month on transporation alone. If that person earns GHS 200 a month, what will be left for food, clothing, rent?
If you put this into perspective, it is a double burden that Ghanaians are bearing. They pay these high utility tariffs in their homes and again pay higher prices for goods as a result of those same utility tariffs.
Now consider the boy or girl who sells pure water at 37 bus stop who makes not more than GHS 3 a day or the guy on the liberation road who has to forcibly wipe people’s car windscreens for tokens and who makes not more that GHS 4 a day. How much will be left in their pockets for food and clothing? What about a security guard whose monthly income is less than GHS 300? What about the graduate who is not even employed and thus earns nothing? How does the government expect these people to survive?
One thing that is interesting is the loud silence of the PURC. Will they have been this silent were we in a season of increment of utility tariffs? Who does the PURC protect, government and its agencies or the masses? It obviously is not the masses. Hmm, Ghana definitely needs salvation.
6. YOUNG WORKERS
At this juncture, comrades, I must extend our sympathy to the suffering masses. Ghanaian youth should know from today that the Youth League of the Convention People’s party stands with them and will continue to stand with them in happiness and in pain, for better or for worse. I must again note that despite these difficulties, our gallant youth continue to sweat and survive and I take this opportunity to salute all the young workers in Ghana, the young teachers, young nurses, doctors, watchmen, barbers, pure water sellers, trotro drivers and mates, kenkey sellers who brace these difficultites to make a living. I also salute our young business people, young farmers, social entrepreneurs who soldier on under this suffocating business environment. We reaffirm our solidarity with the TUC to continue to fight for the rights of the Ghanaian worker.
7. STATE OF THE GHANAIAN YOUTH
So what really is the state of the youth of Ghana today? To answer this question, we conducted an online survey of young people in Ghana called YOUNG VOICES SURVEY. The answers we got are revealing. I will share a few with you.
Regarding the State of the Nation Addresses, we asked the question “whose speech best reflected your state as a young person? 28.26% of our respondents said they did not listen to any of them, 11.96% chose Mahama’s state of the Nation Address, 16.30% chose Nana Addo’s so called Real State of the Nation Address. 43.48% said neither Mahama’s or Nana’s state of the Nation’s Address reflected their circumstance as youth. This perhaps shows how detached the NPP and the NDC are to from the real issues affecting the youh.
On the question of what best describes their current circumstances as young people (note that this was a multiple response question), financial difficulty topped with 62.11%, followed by Low Standard of Living with 46.32%, followed by Despair and Unhappiness with 43.16% each. Only 16.84% chose Joy while 7.37% chose Happiness as what currently best describes their situation. What does this tell us in the light of the fact that Happiness is now being considered a development indicator since the publication of the first World Happiness Report in 2014?
Finally, when we asked the youth which theme in their opinion best represented the true state of the youth of Ghana currently (this was also a multiple response question), 82.29% chose unemployment while 57.29% chose Loss of Hope.
Ghanaians should judge for themselves.
Comrades and friends, in conclusion, I call on all Ghanaians to put their anger and frustrations to a positive end; such that the absolute disregard for our welfare as well as the corruption and rot going on in government and public service is brought to an end. The power to ensure this rather positive outcome from our frustrations lies on the thumbs of each and everyone one of us; we must vote massively against the NDC government come November 7; and replace it with none other than a CPP government. Our party has demonstrated that it is the most progressive party in Ghana. Historically, we were the first party to form a government in Ghana and while in government, we did many things that ranked first in Africa and the world. In contemporary times, we were the first to elect a woman as our chair and leader and today, we are the first again to elect a physically challenged person as our flagbearer, Mr. Ivor Kobina Greenstreet. Our policy alternatives for the betterment of the lives of the ordinary Ghanaian are unsurpassed by any other political party in Ghana today. We have consistently shown that we are with the masses. We hereby call on all Ghanaians to give their support the CPP to rescue Ghana from three decades of incompetence, mediocrity, hardship and suffering perpetrated by NDC and NPP. The formula to cure our ills as a country is this; Vote NDC out, Keep NPP out, bring CPP in.
God bless you.
CPP Youth League