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Q: When you look at Ghana – and your eight years as president – do you see it with great pride and a sense of achievement, or a feeling that, like all other political careers, yours ended in failure because you couldn’t do what you wanted to do? A: My tenure wasn’t a failure at all. I came in very much aware of the limited time I had, and within the period I tried to achieve the most. And I can tell you without boasting that under my tenure the country’s GDP grew the most [compared to previous governments]. Even when the whole world was reeling from the effect of the financial and economic crises, Ghana still had a growth of 8% GDP in 2008, when I stepped down. It was during that same period that Ghana struck crude oil after 100 years of searching – in commercial quantities! And it was because of the business-friendly atmosphere that my government had engendered. That’s why the investors came in. Look at the infrastructure. When

you visit Ghana next time, you will see for yourself; all the arterial roads out of the capital are being redone. We introduced the National Health Insurance Scheme, including free maternity care, because when you look at the Millennium Development Goals, one of the targets is the high mortality rate among pregnant women. We tackled that, and then also infant mortality. Then for education, we introduced a

free compulsory universal basic education for all the children of Ghana – from kindergarten, age 4 to age 16. We were able to do all that within eight years…

50 | March 2011 New African

Special Report

Why Ghana is flying high

Ghana’s former president, John Agyekum Kufuor (pictured right), tells Henry Bonsu why the country is now doing well on all fronts. His eight years in power, he says, laid a solid foundation for future growth.

In 2001 the vision of the country was

to reach middle income status by 2020. Of course, within the short period of our tenure, we revised that and brought it forward to 2015. By 2008, when I stepped down, the multilaterals and the statistical department of Ghana said that by 2007 Ghana had hit per capita income of $1300- 1400 which already put Ghana within middle income status, even though at the lower ranks. These are fantastic achievements, so

I am happy with what I achieved. I can’t describe this as a failure. What I can tell you though is that I felt if we had a little more time, we could have done more, but then nobody ever did it all in this world – nobody. You may have visions, but you are allotted so much time, and within the time you do the best you can, and that’s what we did.

Q: And yet for all that, in 2008 the people of Ghana looked at you and at your party, the NPP, and looked at your candidate Nana Akufo Addo, and said “No, we’re going back to the NDC”. Did that feel to you like a slap in the face from an ungrateful population? A: No, I wouldn’t say it was an ungrateful population. I believe I appreciate democracy enough to know that people can vote against you because they are tired of looking at your face! Don’t forget, we had

come from a history where we had suffered dictatorships. So perhaps people worry about allowing even their pet politicians to continue indefinitely. So, yes they decided, but it was a very

marginal loss that my candidate suffered. Out of a voting population of about 9 million, he missed that win by only 40,000 votes. It was like 50-50, and you don’t call that a trouncing.

Q: Maybe the reason the people turned their back on the NPP is that the majority of them are still suffering in poverty - many are still unable to send their children to school, still unable to do the things they want to do, still wanting to leave the country. A: No, I don’t think it was any of these things. Access to healthcare? Don’t forget, when we came in, the policy was “cash and carry”. If you didn’t have money, you didn’t get medical attention. We brought in the National Health Insurance Scheme, which entitled everybody to healthcare for a whole year on payment of a premium of $10. And senior citizens are also entitled to free healthcare, so it’s not all about poverty. Democracy is not all about rationality.

Sometimes people vote just because they like the candidate’s looks. Or just because the candidate comes from their village! Or just because they are fed up with whoever

“My tenure wasn’t a failure at all...Ghana struck crude

oil after 100 years of searching because of the business- friendly atmosphere my government had engendered.”

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