07.10.2006 Business & Finance

Prez launches MCA for the North

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President John Agyekum Kufuor has announced that the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which earlier attracted some cheap criticisms from a section of the Ghanaian public, will not only reduce poverty amongst the poor, but will also provide the requisite technical know-how to farmers to mechanize agriculture in the country.

According to the President, modernizing agriculture and producing abundantly will provide a lot of employment to the idle Ghanaian and also ensure food security for the nation.

Speaking at the official launch of the Zonal Millennium Challenge Account Programme for Northern Ghana at Savelugu in the Savelugu/Nanton District, President Kufuor emphasized that the 23 districts, including the five in the Northern Region listed to benefit from the account were not selected on political or ethnic lines.

He challenged the beneficiary districts to endeavour to repay the credit extended to them on time to enable other districts and individuals benefit from the facility.

The MCA is the United States government's reward of 2.1 billion dollars to nine African countries that have prioritized the promotion of the rule of law, human resource and private sector development.

Ghana, as a developing country unlike the other beneficiary countries, received over 547 million dollars representing almost 35% of the total amount released by the US government.

The MCA compact, which was signed by the government on August 1, 2006, is a grant spread over a five-year period to support among other areas the agricultural sector, which contributes over 49% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

President Kufuor was optimistic that the MCA would help bring meaning to the lives of most Ghanaians since over 60% of the populace was into agricultural business.

He indicated that Ghana's participation in the programme did not come by chance, but through the indefatigable efforts by his government; thus the government will not allow any individuals or districts to jeopardize the programme.

President Kufuor however mentioned good governance, a general state of poverty, investment potentials and support for the private sector as some of the major criteria used in selecting the beneficiary countries.

The Minister of Public Sector Reforms and Chairman of the Millennium Challenge Authority, Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, also gave a thorough history about the MCA and how it will benefit the country.

He disclosed that Ghana's continued participation in the MCA was not guaranteed just like other beneficiary countries, and therefore Ghana 's programme could be suspended or even stopped if the country failed to adhere to the terms of the compact.

He therefore emphasized that the Millennium Challenge Authority Board would not hesitate to suspend any district that does not perform well during the course of implementation.

Present at the ceremony were the Northern, Upper East and West Regional Ministers, the Tamale Metropolitan and District Chief Executives, chiefs and opinion leaders among other high dignitaries.

In a speech read on behalf of Ms Pamela Bridgewater, the US Ambassador in Ghana said the hard work put in by the government to enable Ghana secure the grant was a testimony to its commitment to improving the quality of life of the people.

Alhaji Mustapha Ali Idris, Northern Regional Minister, in his welcoming address, expressed the gratitude and appreciation of the people to the government for selecting five districts in the Region to benefit from the MCA.

He said it was true that most farmers in the area were poor and lived below the poverty line due to the problems associated with farming.

He said it was for this reason that people in the Region saw the MCA as an innovation expected to help eliminate the constraints facing agriculture in Ghana in general and the North in particular.

The Regional Minister urged the people to embrace the programme as it was geared towards poverty alleviation and addressing the problems of subsistence farming.

Alhaji Idris said the Regional Coordinating Council would take up the responsibility of supervising and monitoring the programme in the beneficiary districts to ensure its success.

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