2014 Hajj Will Be Better Organised -Prez Mahama

The President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, has promised that this year's Hajj would be even better organised than the previous year's, looking at the arrangements put in place so far. He disclosed that August 8 had been fixed as the closing date for the payment of fares for the pilgrimage. He advised prospective pilgrims to pay the fare before the date, since the Bank of Ghana could not guarantee the payment of the official rate after the deadline. He said visa processing would begin on August 11. President Mahama made this known when he was addressing hundreds of Muslims at the forecourt of the Kumasi Central Mosque yesterday to mark Eid-Ul-Fitr. Organised Labour concerns President Mahama also promised to not sleep over the concerns raised by organised labour in last Thursday’s nationwide demonstration. In his first public comment on the demonstration, which drew thousands of workers to the streets to protest against economic hardships in the country, the President described the event as a positive development and said he would take the protesters' message in his stride to help restore hope in the economy. He noted that, as a social democratic government, his administration saw working people as natural allies and would, therefore, not trample on their views. The President was of the conviction that public criticisms of the state of the economy would encourage him to work extra hard at turning things around. Tradition broken It has been the tradition for Presidents to observe the Eid-Ul-Fitr at the Black Star Square in Accra every year. That was, however, not the case yesterday when President Mahama responded to an invitation by the Ashanti Regional Chief Imam and Muslim chiefs in Kumasi to celebrate this year's event with them, an invitation which the National Chief Imam endorsed. Economy dominates President's time Mr Mahama reiterated the fact that the economic challenges the nation was going through were temporary and expressed the hope that the tough measures taken by the government to restore normalcy would start bearing fruits by the end of the year. He said matters concerning the economy and energy currently occupied the chunk of his time, adding, "As captain of the ship of state, I can assure you that the signs of recovery will manifest in the latter part of this year for all to see." He said later this week, he would preside over a meeting of the presidential advisory committee on economic recovery, which is guiding him on the path to restore economic progress. "We will work to stabilise the currency, bring down inflation and interest rates," he told the gathering. Mr Mahama underscored the need to reform public financial management, as well as expand local production of goods and services to achieve economic stability. Revealing that he had apportioned tasks on restoring economic stability and growth to his ministers, the President said he was closely monitoring how they were working to meet the targets. Investments Mr Mahama stated that investments in agriculture had resulted in a tremendous increase in local rice production, while the poultry sector was also progressing. Besides, the government was making every effort to revive the Komenda Sugar Factory to reduce the importation of sugar. “Other investments have been in resourcing the pharmaceutical industries,” he said. Mr Mahama admonished Ghanaians to be optimists, rather than pessimists. He said Ghana had encountered even more serious challenges in the past but with a common purpose the people were able to overcome them. Congratulations While congratulating Muslims on successfully going through the month-long period of fasting, the President expressed the hope that Allah would listen to the prayers offered during the period. Mr Mahama indicated that the fact that Eid-Ul-Fitr was celebrated just three weeks after the National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving gave hope that the prayers offered would be answered. Religious tolerance He praised the various religious groups in the country for their tolerance for one another, saying that development had further projected the respect Ghana had internationally. "The level of tolerance, understanding and compassion demonstrated by various religious faiths has contributed to the creation of an atmosphere of hope, peace and security in our nation," he stressed. Asanteman praised Mr Mahama hailed Asanteman’s contribution to cultural diversity and progress in the country and said it was not out of place that he chose to celebrate the Eid in Kumasi. "The greatness of the Asante people in commerce, skills and talent drew many people into the kingdom," he said, and emphasised that it was little wonder that many people of varied religions and ethnic backgrounds considered the Ashanti Region their home. Regional Chief Imam Earlier, the Regional Chief Imam, Sheikh Abdul Moumin Harun, in a welcome address, had commended the President for the decision to move out of Accra to Kumasi to celebrate the festival. He prayed to Allah to guide and lead the President out of the economic challenges facing the nation. He also appealed to the President to use his position as ECOWAS Chairman to fight the Boko Haram menace. Those present at the Eid service were the Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Samuel Sarpong; the Kumasi Metropolitan Chief Executive, Mr Kojo Bonsu; the NPP General Secretary, Mr Kwabena Agyepong, chiefs and leaders from the Christian community.