This is in recognition of their sacrifices and inputs made to the growth and development of the nation.
The decision was made public on Saturday, July 1 – on the occasion of Ghana’s 57th Republic Day celebration.
July 1, 1960 was the day the first President of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was sworn into office and Ghanaians bade goodbye to the Queen of England’s Governor-General, thereby bringing to an end British colonialism to make Ghana a sovereign state.
Speaking at the 57th anniversary celebration at a lunch organized by President Akufo-Addo for the aged, he stated, “Government remains committed to providing the aged with a ‘freedom pass’ to enable you ride for free on all public transportation.”
A similar policy was implemented by the erstwhile Kufuor-led NPP administration, which enabled students at the basic school level to join public buses free of charge.
It is, however, not clear when the free ride policy for the senior citizens would take effect and whether it would include free train ride.
President Akufo-Addo stressed the belief that there should be no demand for any more work from the aged in society.
He, however, had one more last favour to ask of them, “Be citizens not spectators.”
In that sense, he has tasked them to “speak out and join government’s fight against the ills of our society; corruption, social and economic injustice, crime, the illegal mining menace, popularly referred to as galamsey and the phenomenon of vigilantes and mob justice, amongst others.
“I urge you also not to fall into the well-known temptation of telling what I want to hear. It will be equally tempting to tell me that I’m the best thing that ever happened to Ghana than it will be equally tempting to tell me to ignore my critics.”
As senior citizens, the president said he does not expect them to walk that road but should allow the moral authority of their status to justify their interventions.
In all, 600 senior citizens were invited for the lunch. President Akufo-Addo could not but thank them for their respective roles in the struggle for independence and the development of the nation.
“Our nation remains indebted to you; your names should be enshrined in letters of gold in our history because you have helped enhance the image of our country.”
The president recounted the long and tortuous road that Ghana and Ghanaians have travelled over the years to this day, insisting, “The first Republic, like the second and the third, was ill-fated, ushering our country into a prolonged period of authoritarian rule actuated by …unsuccessful democratic governance.”
He therefore underscored the fact that the Fourth Republic, which began in 1992, has seen the longest period of stable constitutional governance in Ghana’s history with its underlying sustained economic growth, freedom of speech, which is now taken for granted, with government exercising its oversight duties and the judiciary continues to demonstrate its independence.
Nonetheless, the president indicated, “We are not quite yet there as a country; for we continue to suffer important institutional and other deficits.”
“The economic transformation that we all yearn for are still not materialized and unemployment is widespread, corruption in the Executive continues to remain a major challenge of governments, parliament does not have full authority over our public finances, the judiciary is still reeling from the dramatic expose’ of corruption within its ranks.”
He also stressed, “Our security services lack the full logistical complement and personnel required to provide adequate and effective safeguard for the nation’s stability and security.”
In spite of all these, President Akufo-Addo insisted, “There is far more self-confidence among Ghanaians today than has been since the early days of self-government; freedom and the spread of democratic values are strengthening the determination of Ghanaians to build a new Ghana that is neither poor nor victim of the world economic order.
“This new Ghana is a Ghana beyond aid; it is a united Ghana where we aim to be masters of our own destiny, where we marshal our own resources for the future, breaking the shackles of an economy dependent on the production and export of raw materials to position itself in the global market place at the high end of the value chain. It is a country where we focus on trade not aid; a hand up, not a hand out; it is a country with a strong private sector; it is a country that recognizes the connectedness of its people and economy to those of its neighbours; it is a country that is governed by the rule of law, respect for individual liberties and human rights and the principles of democratic accountability,” according to President Akufo-Addo.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu, Presidential Correspondent