Parliament has a duty to salvage our downward economy from the present mess
Parliament on Tuesday, February 7, 2023, resumed sitting of the First Meeting of the Third Session of the 8th Parliament of the Fourth Republic of Ghana after it adjourned sine die from plenary sessions on the 22nd December, 2022.
The resumption of the House was a historic and momentous occasion characterized by a lot of leadership changes, especially among the Minority caucus which was headed by a popular and indefatigable Haruna Iddrisu, the then Minority Leader. You can call it a coup detat or a palace coup and you may not be far from right.
RESHUFFLING OF NDC CAUCUS
Few days towards the resumption of Parliament, the leadership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), aided by its Council of Elders, threw in what could be described as a bombshell by causing a major reshuffle within the leadership of the NDC Parliamentary caucus.
It was an issue that nearly caused a disintegration within the rank and file of the party. The new General Secretary of the NDC, Fiifi Fiavi Kwetey, by a letter dated 23rd January, 2023, to the Speaker of the House, Rt Honourable Alban Sumana Bagbin, announced a major reshuffle within the top hierarchy of the Minority caucus.
The new leaders who took over from the previous Minority leadership in parliament are, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson who replaced Haruna Iddrissu as Minority Leader, Hon. Kofi Armah Buah, Deputy Minority Leader, Hon Kwame Agbodza, Minority Chief Whip, Hon. Ahmed Ibrahim, First Deputy Chief Whip, Hon. Comfort Doyoe, who retains her position as Second Deputy Chief Whip.
RESOLUTION OF GRIEVANCES
Thank God, the controversy surrounding that major shake- up has been resolved by the top hierarchy of the party assisted by the Council of Elders, thus instilling sanity and understanding within the party and among members, especially those who were substituted. It is the hope of every Ghanaian that the new leadership will cooperate with the outgone leaders to ensure vibrant opposition and positive result in parliament. That is, indeed, a positive democratic practice in the world.
What was, indeed, profound and refreshing was the Speaker’s welcome address which touched on this important very issue within the Minority caucus especially those affected by the changes. Hear him, “The former members of the leadership, led by Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, must be applauded too.
“Their record of performance is visible for all to see and I hope the new leadership will continue to draw from their fountain of wisdom, trove of wealth and experience. I know what it entails as a veteran of this journey and experience, to lead a populous Minority caucus in Parliament.”
SPEAKER’S COMMENDATION TO HARUNA’S TEAM
“All I can say to the former leaders is, the Lord is your Shepherd, you shall not want. When one door closes, many doors open, and l tell you for sure, that many of the open doors are better and higher than the closed door. Look at the opened doors and the closed one. With these opening remarks, I welcome all of you, once more”.
A PROFOUND ADVICE TO THE NEW NDC LEADERSHIP
To the new leadership of the Minority Caucus, Speaker Bagbin forewarned them to prepare themselves for the hot duty bestowed on them by the executives of the opposition NDC.
“The new leaders have all been in this house for a while and are conversant with the culture and law of Parliament. I have confidence in their ability to meet the high expectations of our stakeholders. On behalf of the House, I warmly welcome them to the hot seat of the leadership of Parliament. Congratulations and I wish you well”, he said, urging them not to be troubled because he would support them.
Indeed, that was an encouraging and profound welcoming statement by Hon Speaker Bagbin, who appeared resolute and happened to have seen it all when it comes to parliamentary affairs and duties. He had served in various capacities within the NDC in parliament and held responsible leadership positions before assuming his latest role as the Speaker of the august Ghanaian parliament.
No wonder, he prides himself as the Third Gentleman of the land after the President and his vice. He is a force to reckon with as far as parliamentary procedures and duties are concerned and he continues to exhibit those qualities through some fatherly advice to both the Majority and Minority sides of the House.
He has not allowed his affiliation to the NDC to influence his sense of judgement when it comes to parliamentary duties in the house. Even though, on few occasions he had been accused by the Majority side of supporting the Minority, he always stood firm and resolute in his judgemental opinions.
WELCOME ADDRESS TO THE HOUSE
Welcoming the whole house, Mr. Bagbin stated that the members re-connected as well as established strong bonds and warm relations with their constituents and the public during the Christmas and New Year Season. He said their impact had given a boost to the democratic credentials of the country and congratulated them on a good job done.
During this session, members we are told, have 51 bills to consider, 49 instruments to be presented, 230 papers to be presented, 827 questions both normal and urgent and additionally, there will be 34 Private Members and three petitions before the House. This implies that it will be a busy schedule, indeed.
HECTIC PERIOD FOR PARLIAMENT
From all intent and purposes, the work in parliament this year is going to be tough, strenuous and hectic, considering the harsh economic conditions and the deplorable state in which Ghanaians find themselves in at the moment.
The total hardship and sufferings by the people have assumed an alarming proportion and Ghanaians are finding things difficult to manage. The current social problems in the country include, rural-urban migration, unemployment, forest encroachment and desertification, corruption, poverty illiteracy, inaccessibility of quality education among others. Besides, the country is faced with a debt crisis, high inflation rate and devaluation of the local currency.
The issue about the Domestic Debt Exchange Programme vis-a-vis attempts by government to include pension funds towards the restoration of macroeconomic stability of the country which has been raging on for some time now and giving the government a sleepless night as a result of the rejection by pensioners and other affected individuals, is a matter that will engage the attention of Parliament as it resumes sitting.
Parliament is so passionate about this particular issue which has attracted a lot of publicity in the media. No wonder, the Speaker has to summon the Finance Minister to appear before the House to brief members about the entire programme.
IMF BAILOUT AND OTHER URGENT ISSUES
Another pressing issue that will engage the attention of Parliament, is the call by Ghanaians to the President to downsize his government and to reshuffle some of his ministers and introduce freshness into his administration to propel the wheel of progress and also to assist the Executive to address the numerous challenges the country is facing.
The issue about whether the government has been able to satisfy the laid down conditions for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and whether the loans being expected will be advanced in due course, are matters that will be discussed by the august House.
From all intents and purposes, we expect parliament to be very busy and to tackle the myriad of problems that have bedevilled the economy in order to restore the macroeconomic stability of our dear country.
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By Charles Neequaye