Government pays 560 million Cedis NHIS debt

President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E 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 held in Bolgatanga this 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 of 1.2 Billion Ghana Cedis. He however revealed 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 services to the Ghanaian populace.

He also observed that the Upper East Region was among the regions with the lowest electricity coverage in the country at around 60 percent and said that the Energy Ministry has been instructed under its electricity expansion programmes to connect about 620 communities across the region onto the national grid before the end of 2018. According to him, he did not want to be a president limited to only the National Capital of Accra, thus the series of regional tours which have already taken him to the Brong Ahafo Region, Western and Upper West Regions were meant to let him touch base with the real issues affecting his country men and women at the community level.

President Nana Addo touched on the implementation of the Free Senior High School [SHS] programme which commenced successfully this September noting that, many were those who doubted his promise to deliver this programme during the 2016 election campaigns. But having started it, the President vowed that though a few challenges were encountered, there was no turning back. He remarked “politicians must be men and women of their word; if our children are not properly educated in the 21st century, they will be left behind”.

On agriculture, a source of livelihood for over 60 percent of the region’s population, the President noted 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 these trends and also 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 targets to benefit about 200, 000 farmers and that with more funds, the numbers will go up in the coming years. He 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, President Nana Addo assured the chiefs and people that the Ministry of Trade and Industry will work around the clock to capture these viable factories under the government’s “one district one factory” policy.

Vice President of the Upper East Regional House of Chief and Paramount Chief of the Bongo Traditional Area, Naba Baba Salifu A. Lemyaarum earlier in a welcome address, commended President Nana 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. He mentioned 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 issue of crowding on the school campuses will be greatly dealt with.

Naba Lemayaarum also made a passionate appeal to the President to revamp the Bolgatanga Meat Factory and the Pwalugu tomato factory noting that, these will perfectly dove-tail into the government’s “one district one factory” initiative thereby creating jobs for the thousands of youth in the region through the several production chains. He also revealed that, Upper East has large clay deposits in places like Bongo, Mirigu, Nangodi and Sirigu which can be exploited by companies in the building and tiles industry and asked government to help commercialise these natural resources.

The Bo-Naba further appealed to the President to award 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 thus increasing revenues to the state for the execution of development projects. He also noted that a railway line connecting the region to the rest of Ghana will 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 disclosed 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 are to succeed.

Meanwhile, Water and Sanitation Minister, Mr. Joseph Kofi Adda who also spoke at the function, 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 hinted that, there are plans 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 were almost at 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 to end the day with an inspection of the Tamne Irrigation Dam in the Garu-Tempane District.

Minister of Information, Hon. Mustapha Hamid, Deputy Attorney General, Lawyer J. Kpemka and Local Government Minister, Hajia Alima Mahama were among dignitaries in the President’s entourage.

 Source: Peter Atogewe Wedam (ISD)

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