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30.01.2007 General News

Annan’s Visit Has Helped Defuse Tension - Prez Kufuor

By Daily Graphic
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Ghana's President John Agyekum Kufuor has said that the homecoming of the former UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan to Ghana has helped defuse political tension.

He said his visit served as a rallying point for leaders of different political parties in the country to meet and talk.

Addressing a section of the Ghanaian community in the Addis Ababa on Sunday President Kufuor said the cordial relations which were generating among people of different political persuasions would be the feature for the rest of the country's political life particularly as the nation celebrated its Golden Jubilee.

He said the government had made a lot of progress on many fronts particularly in the areas of education, health, finance, road construction among others.

Briefing them on developments backhome, he said the country was indeed gradually taking its glorious place in the comity of nations.

Earlier, African leaders attending the 6th Africa Peer Review Mechanism Forum(APRM)in Addis Ababa have praised Ghana for adopting a forward looking and focused approach to address the gray areas of the country's democratic and corporate governance as well as social and economic development.

The commendation followed a comprehensive presentation made by President J.A. Kufuor on Ghana at the APRM forum held in Addis Ababa on Sunday on the margins of the African Union Summit.

The presentation by the President captured what the country had done and planned to do to address concerns raised by the African Peer Review Panel of Eminent Persons when the country was peer reviewed in Abuja, Nigeria in 2005.

Although the panel of eminent persons commended Ghana during the review in Abuja, 2005 for the progress made in deepening democracy, political governance, corporate goverance and social and economic development, it pointed out some gray areas such as land administration, decentralisation and chieftancy disputes which the country needed to work on and improve.

In reponse to the recommendations, the Ghana government drew an action plan to address those concerns.

Ghana was the first country to accede to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) in 2003.

The APRM, widely heralded as the crown jewel of New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) is a mutually agreed instrument which African leaders have voluntary acceded to as part of an African self-monitoring mechanism.

The primary focus of the APRM is to foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices that will lead to political stability, high economic growth and sustainable development.

The President said in response to concerns about land disputes and administration, the government had initiated $50 million land administration project to rationalise land administration and management.

Currently, he said pilot projects of land administraiton were being implemented in Eastern, Volta Region, Greater Accra Region and Ashanti Region.

To engage the chieftaincy institution on regular basis in development efforts and particularly,to reduce chieftaincy succession and disputes, President Kufuor said the government had appionted a Minister of State in charge of Chieftaincy.

The President said to ensure efficient delivery of government and public services, a Minister of Public Sector Reform had been appointed to look at issues pertaining to the restructuring of the public sector, pensions and fair wages and alluded to the setting up of the Fair Wages Commission.

To enhance economic governance and management, President Kufuor said officials of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the Bank of Ghana and Controler and Accountant-General met on weekly basis to track government expenditure and debt management.

He said the country had managed to reduce the country's debt stock by as much as 43 per cent through the adoption of the HIPC initiative and debt cancellation.

On corporate governance, President Kufuor ssaid the Registrar-General's Department was being supported to decentralise its operations to all parts of the country.

Additionally, he said credit facilities were being made available to business entities to ameliorate the shortage of credits to businesses.

To enhance the capacity of the manufacturing sector to deliver, President Kufuor said corporate tax had been reduced and businesses were not required to pay VAT upfront on their raw materials.

On social and economic development, President Kufuor said steps were being taken by the goverment to revamp the educational sector through the implementation of educational reforms.

Furthermore, a Capitation Grant, School Feeding Programme and free ride for school children had been instituted to enhance quality education.

However, the President conceded that there were a number of challenges facing the country with respect to implementing all the details of the action plan.

For example, he said the country's quest to achieve a single digit inflation had not been successful because of increased oil prices on the world market.

Story by Nehemia Owusu Achiaw,

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