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Ghana Opposition Parties Show Concern over Presidential Palace

In Ghana, President John Kufuor is coming under intense criticism after Monday unveiling a presidential complex named the Golden Jubilee House, which is expected to serve both as office and official residence of the president and the vice president. The parties say the government demonstrated its insensitivity to the plight of the ordinary Ghanaian by using more than 30-million dollars to build a palace for the president. They also accuse President Kufuor of reneging on his promise after saying he would not be the first president to use the new building and claiming that it would be his legacy. This comes after the government announced the president's staff would be moving into the new complex today in preparation for President Kufuor's arrival before the end of his second term. But the government dismissed the accusations as without merit.

Stephen Asamoah-Boateng is Ghana's Minister for Information and National Orientation. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Accra that Ghanaians should be proud of having a historic national monument befitting a seat of government after half-a-century of political independence.

"The president and of course the government today commissioned the new seat of government for the Republic of Ghana. And within it we have the Nkrumah heritage house, which is the old flagstaff house that housed the first president and his family and now has been turned into heritage, where we would exhibit some of the monuments and things that we used to have. But today is very significant and it is a day that we have all welcomed the arrival of the new home for the seat of government and for the first family and the second family. It also houses a very imposing administrative structure that you can see from anywhere in Accra," Asamoah-Boateng pointed out.

He said the complex was built under the auspices of the government of India.

"The structure is built with the cooperation of the government and the people of India and Ghana government money. So it is a very imposing edifice, which is a national pride and honor, and when every nation becomes as republic and even when you are not a republic or even a monarchy or whatever, you would need something that shows as a nation your pride and your honor at where your first family is housed. And we are very happy to see to it today," he said.

Asamoah-Boateng denied the complex, which would serve as both the residence and offices for the first and second family, would not pose a security challenge in the future.

"We've done enough with the security arrangement at the compound. It is a 20-acre land, so you can imagine. It's not a small place piece of land. It is huge. And where the first family is, is separated from where the second family is by a huge stretch of land as well. But also they both work in the administrative block, so it makes sense to put them together. But when obviously those two are together, then the security arrangement changes and it becomes tighter," Asamoah-Boateng noted.

He said Ghanaians have unanimously welcomed the era of democracy rather than the subversion of the country's constitution.

"I believe that as a nation, we have gone beyond the time of adventurism of military takeovers, we've gone past it. I'm fairly sure that even if we house the speaker (of parliament) in the same compound," he said.

Although Asamoah-Boateng declined to reveal specifically when President Kufuor would move into the new office building, he admitted his staff would begin moving in today.

"Today we did the unveiling or the christening and also the naming of it, but the work is not complete. What we've completed is the administrative block for the offices to run. What I know is that some sections of the staff of the president from the castle would start moving in today. They were packing away from the castle last night and they would be there from today. So we need to have a gradual movement of the staff. But of course, the staff would have to settle down to know where everything is and then the president also moves in. I know he would move in but the time I cannot tell you. Sometimes, President Kufuor keeps things to himself for a while, so I think I would give him that as the president to keep those things close to his chest. But we've discussed it and I know he would move in," Asamoah-Boateng pointed out.

He said the new complex would provide more room for the office of the first and second offices.

"The other key thing is what this new building brings to us is the efficiency of work. Here, we have enough space and in most of the offices there are stretches of room where there are only small partitions where at least managers or directors would see their staff and work with them. It brings that kind of culture of togetherness and every office or organization needs that culture to hold people together," he said.

The decision to construct the complex generated robust national debate tainted with partisan sentiments, which sought to suggest the timing as wrong, and as not taking into account the hardships the nation was experiencing.

Meanwhile, while Inaugurating the phase one of project, President John Agyekum Kufuor said the Government at every stage of the construction had been sensitive to the financial implications of the venture as well as the conditions of life of the society.

The project was originally estimated to cost 36.9 million dollars but with the provision of added facilities to enhance external and internal security as advised by the Security Services, it is now expected to go up. It was undertaken with an Indian concessionary loan that has a 50 per cent grant element and an interest rate of 1.75 percent, repayable in 25 years, including a five-year moratorium. Indian contractors Shapoorji Pallonji undertook the project. The construction works started in 2006.