President John Agyekum Kufuor on Tuesday said the signing of the Compact of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and its successful implementation in Ghana would launch an epochal transformation of her agriculture into modernity.
He said the modernity would not only be in agricultural practices but also in value addition and agro-industrialization with great promise for enhanced productivity, commerce, food security, employment generation, rural development and poverty alleviation. President Kufuor was speaking at the signing ceremony of the Millennium Challenge Corporation's (MCC) Compact with Ghana in Washington D.C.
Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, Minister of Public Sector Reforms and Chairman of the Millennium Challenge Authority Board signed for Ghana, while Ambassador John Danilovich, Chief Executive Officer of the MCC, signed for the U.S. President Kufuor and Ms Condoleezza Rice US Secretary of State witnessed the signing ceremony.
Under the Compact Ghana would benefit from a 547 million dollars grant for the next five years towards poverty alleviation. President Kufuor noted that Ghana, being one of the first nine nations of the South to benefit from the first tranche of the MCA would position herself to apply the Compact resources so efficiently and purposefully for sustained socio-economic development as to become a beacon for other needy nations to seek to emulate the good governance practices which had qualified her for a share in the accounts.
"I am sure good democratic governance; the rule of law, respect for human rights; recognition and promotion of the private sector as the main engine for economic growth; gender balance; rural development; sound macroeconomic management and the poverty alleviation policies of the Government were all taken into account by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to decide to select Ghana," he said.
President Kufuor said the MCC had not been sparing in its study of Ghana's entire socio-economic system to be convinced that whatever was approved for her would be well invested and applied to become a catalyst and a living agent in the economy to generate sustained growth for the society.
He said over the past five years Ghana had managed herself so competently as to be acknowledged on the Continent of Africa as a stable and peaceful nation, registering steady economic growth with increasing social services in education and health care delivery for her citizens.
In spite of the progress, however, President Kufuor said Ghana still had a serious problem of poverty to alleviate with the per capita income around 600 dollars.
He said about 60 per cent of the population was rural and the economy largely agricultural with much of it subsistent. Fortunately, Ghana was blessed with fertile lands and good watercourses. On the economy, President Kufuor said since 2002, the Government had been pursuing a development strategy to move the nation into middle income status by year 2015 with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of about 1,000 dollars.
"Marked progress has been made on this trajectory with rate of growth moving from 3.7 per cent in 2001 to 4.2 per cent in 2002; 4.8 per cent in 2003; 5.2 per cent in 2004; 5.8 per cent in 2005 and now over six per cent, " he said.
President Kufuor said it had been realistically estimated that with this obvious acceleration, Ghana could achieve and sustain eight per cent growth rate in the next two years and thereby enter the threshold of middle income.
He said among the priority policies of this strategy were human resource development and modernization and commercialization of agriculture for wealth creation and alleviation of poverty.
However, President Kufuor said the main constraint and handicap had so far been the lack of the requisite capital investments, adding: "The successful implementation of the Millennium Challenge Accounts, which we are signing today, therefore, should go a long way to help to eliminate this handicap and facilitate the realization of the envisioned agricultural transformation."
President Kufuor said the Government with the active cooperation of the MCC had identified specific farming projects with relevant infrastructure and credit schemes for beneficiary private farmers under the Millennium Challenge Account Project for Ghana.
He said a thorough feasibility programme had been prepared for the benefit of the farmers, while Government had also set up an independent authority to manage the implementation of the programme for sustained success.
"Of course, the Government retains an oversight commitment to ensure that resources are transparently and effectively deployed. With this landmark help from the United States, Ghana is determined to succeed using the concept of the public-private partnership, which the MCA represents in accelerating her wealth creation not only in the rural areas, but also throughout the economy as a whole."
President Kufuor noted that the success of the implementation of the Compact should lead to an ever-deepening friendship between the two nations - Ghana and the United States of America.
"My nation appreciates this practical humanitarian support which your Government led by President Bush is extending to the people of Ghana. Ghana shall never forget."
Ms Rice said the ceremony represented a great achievement for the people of Ghana and their Government. She said it was also a testament to the friendship of the nations that shared the foresight of President Bush and President Kufuor. Ms Rice said the 547 million dollars Millennium Challenge Compact, the largest and by far the most ambitious to date, would go a long way towards helping Ghana to achieve its goal of reducing poverty and improving the lives of its poorest citizens.
She said President Bush was committed to empowering developing nations to achieve sustainable economic growth that reduced poverty. "More than just good intentions, President Bush wants real results that transform the lives of the poor. So he created the Millennium Challenge Account Initiative to help developing nations to access and benefit from opportunities in the global marketplace," she said.
Ms Rice noted that the MCC rewarded those countries that had demonstrated their commitment to ruling justly, advancing economic freedom and investing in their people.
"Since the MCC's inception, the United States has signed eight Compacts with nations like Honduras and Nicaragua and Benin and now Ghana, for a total commitment of 2.1 billion dollars." Ms Rice said: "The ninth Compact that we sign today with Ghana is a wonderful example of how President Bush's full vision is being transformed into a brighter future for men, women and children in developing nations across the globe.
"The Ghanaians developed this programme to fight poverty and improve the lives of the rural poor. In fact, the Compact will directly touch the lives of those in the greatest need. It will help Ghanaian farmers to grow more food, to get their crops to market and to integrate more fully into the global trading system. This Compact will fund rural development and the renovation of schools so Ghanaian children will have the best environment in which to learn.
"President Kufuor, I want to recognize you personally for the instrumental role that you have played in bringing our nations to this historic day. You've made a tremendous contribution to the future success of your people. Mr President I want to thank you for it. But I also just want to add a personal note. I've had the opportunity to work with President Kufuor over the last several years on a host of issues including issues of regional conflict and development. Mr President, you are one of the best examples of a new Africa in which responsibility counts."
Ms Rice said the Compact and the eight others MCC had signed to date, reflected the US shared vision of accountability for both rich and developing nations alike.
"By taking responsibility for their own development, Ghanaians are laying the foundations within their own country to spur economic growth; create opportunities and build a future of hope and prosperity for themselves and for their children.
"We look forward to our continuing strong partnership with Ghana as we implement this Compact, and we look forward to stories in the future that the lives of Ghanaian farmers and Ghanaian children, the Ghanaian people in general, have been made better by what we do here today."
Ambassador Danilovich commended President Kufuor, for his outstanding leadership and instrumental role in bringing the important milestone in the relationship between the two countries. He said helping the world's poor to escape from the grips of poverty was one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.
Ambassador Danilovich noted that President Bush established the MCC as a new way to meet this challenge by encouraging nations to establish policies that reduced poverty and promoted economic growth. "Our investment in Ghana will lift more than 500,000 poor Ghanaians out of extreme poverty and will lift over one million people out of poverty in total. The people of Ghana have developed an integrated, results-oriented anti-poverty programme that seeks to improve the lives of the rural poor by raising farm incomes through private-sector led agribusiness development."
Ambassador Danilovich said agriculture was the backbone of Ghana's economy, representing 40 per cent of her gross domestic product and employing more than 70 per cent (55 per cent according to recent statistics) of the labour force.
He said for the regions that were the focus of this programme, the incidence of poverty among the rural population ranged up to 90 per cent and since women made up 70 per cent of the agricultural work force, the Compact would particularly enhance their quality of life.
Ambassador Danilovich said the MCC Compact with Ghana was a great example of how President Bush's bold vision was working to transform lives and to provide hope for men, women and children in developing nations around the globe.
"Through this programme, Ghanaians are building the capacity within their country to access and participate more fully in the global marketplace.
"The Ghanaian economy is growing, and this programme will help the rural poor to participate in and contribute further to Ghana's growth. "The MCC and MCA countries are guided by US's shared partnership, accountability and results. The signing of this Compact today is an affirmation in our confidence in Ghana. We are confident that Ghana will continue its commitment to good governance and to building and strengthening the institutions that will deliver results to the Ghanaian people.
"We are excited as we embark upon the next chapter of our dynamic relationship and we begin implementation of this Compact. We are proud to be associated with you in this endeavour.
"To President Kufuor and people of Ghana; our sincere congratulations for your terrific achievement," he said. The five-year 547 million dollars Millennium Challenge Compact with Ghana is the ninth Compact and the largest grant to date. The agreement funds three integrated projects: agricultural development, transportation and rural development. The first component of the 547 million dollars Compact is a 240 million dollars agricultural project that would benefit farmers of all types and scale.
This programme also includes seasonal and term credits to farmers, investments in irrigation, investments in storage and processing facilities and services to facilitate land transactions.
The second component of the Compact is a 143 million dollars transportation initiative that complements the agricultural programme by reducing the transportation costs of getting crops to the market. Finally, the 100 million dollars rural development component is designed to expand community services and build local government capacity. The funds would be used to build schools, invest in water and sanitation and provide electricity to homes and businesses in rural areas and would greatly improve the lives of the rural poor.