The President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has given the strongest indication that his government is doing everything possible to ensure that the country's National Health Insurance Scheme [NHIS] is strengthened and enhanced.
Addressing a durbar of chiefs and people of the Upper East Region at Bolgatanga on Wednesday to mark the start of his two-day tour of the region, the President disclosed that his administration inherited an NHIS with a debt portfolio to service providers amounting to 1.2 billion Ghana Cedis.
He disclosed, however, that within the past nine months, his government had so far paid 560 million Ghana Cedis of the debt and that the scheme was currently on a sound footing, and in a position to continue rendering quality health service to the Ghanaian populace.
The President observed that the Upper East Region was among the regions with the lowest electricity coverage in the country at around 60 per cent, adding that the Energy Ministry had been instructed under its electricity expansion programmes to connect about 620 communities across the region onto the national grid before the end of 2018.
He said he did not want to be a president limited to only the national capital of Accra, hence the regional tours which had already taken him to the Brong Ahafo, Western and Upper West Regions and which were meant to let him touch base with the real issues affecting his country's men and women at the community level.
President Akufo-Addo touched on the implementation of the Free Senior High School [SHS] programme.
He said there was no turning back on the implementation of the programme, adding that many were those who doubted his promise to deliver this programme during the 2016 election campaign. "Politicians must be men and women of their word," he emphasized.
On agriculture, which is a source of livelihood for over 60 per cent of the region's population, the President expressed regret that the sector was almost collapsing under the previous government as the country was importing tomato from Burkina Faso and other farm produce from sister nations in the sub-region.
He said it was, therefore, to reverse the trend and to create jobs for the Ghanaian youth that his government launched the flagship "Planting for Food and Jobs" [PFJ] programme a few months ago.
He disclosed that this programme would benefit about 200, 000 farmers and that with more funds, the numbers would increase in the coming years.
President Akufo-Addo appealed to the citizenry to be vigilant and help the security agencies to stamp out smugglers in the system in order to achieve intended purpose of the programme.
Responding to calls by the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs for the defunct Bolgatanga Meat Factory and the Tomato Factory at Pwalugu to be revamped, the President assured the chiefs and people that the Ministry of Trade and Industry would ensure that these viable factories were captured under the government's "One-District One-Factory" policy.
In a welcome address, the Vice President of the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs and Paramount Chief of the Bongo Traditional Area, Naba Baba Salifu A. Lemyaarum, commended President Akufo-Addo for the prompt implementation of the free SHS programme saying though it came with its own challenges, the chiefs had faith in him that these will be ironed out in the near future.
Naba Baba Salifu A. Lemyaarum reminded the president. for instance, that almost all SHSs in the region had a number of uncompleted projects ranging from dormitories to dining halls and classroom blocks, among others, and that if these were speedily completed, the challenge of crowding on the school campuses would have been sufficiently addressed.
Naba Lemayaarum reiterated the call to revamp the Bolgatanga Meat Factory and the Pwalugu Tomato Factory noting that these would perfectly dove-tail into the government's "One-District One-Factory" initiative to create jobs for the thousands of young people in the region through the several production chains.
He disclosed that the Upper East Region had large clay deposits in places like Bongo, Mirigu, Nangodi and Sirigu which could be exploited by companies in the building and tiles industry and urged government to help commercialise these natural resources.
The Bo-Naba further appealed to the President to construct the Bolga-Naga-Navrongo road, the Binduri-Bawku road and the Bongo-Balungu-Bolga road, among other important roads in the region, stressing that these roads held the potential of boosting economic activities in the region and increasing revenue to the state.
In addition, he said, a railway line connecting the region to the rest of Ghana would be good for businesses as well as prolong the life span of the roads as huge hauling of goods and other commodities could be done effectively and quickly via rail.
While calling for major renovation works to be done at the Regional House of Chiefs which he said, had not seen any such works since the 1970s, he also charged government to do compulsory land acquisition if its "One-Village One-Dam", "One-District One-Factory" and the intended affordable housing schemes were to succeed.
On his part, Water and Sanitation Minister, Mr Joseph Kofi Adda, disclosed that over 30 million Euros credit facility was being processed by the Ministry of Finance to develop the Tono Dam in the Kassena-Nankana Municipality into a huge water treatment plant to serve the area and other communities in the Kassena-Nankana West, Builsa North and South Districts.
He also disclosed that plans were far advanced to develop the Pwalugu Dam into both irrigation and hydropower uses.
From the durbar grounds, the President inspected redevelopment works at the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital which had almost reached completion.
The works, among other things, will add 175 more beds to the hospital giving it a total bed capacity of 381.
Day two of the President's working tour will take him and his entourage to the Vea Water treatment plant in the Bongo District while he will inspect works on the Bolgatanga-Bawku-Pulmako road and end the day with an inspection of the Tano Irrigation Dam in the Garu-Tempane District.
Minister of Information, Hon. Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, Deputy Attorney-General, Lawyer J. Kpemka and Local Government Minister, Hajia Alima Mahama were among the President's entourage.
Source: ISD (Peter Atogewe Wedam)