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13.03.2009 General News

Economy gets thumbs up


Top business executives from the 10 regions of the country have declared their confidence in the economy and predicted a steady growth for 2009.

In all, 5l9 chief executive officers (CEOs) of prominent companies in the 10 regions and representing the various sectors of the economy gave a positive assessment of the performance of the economy last year and registered their optimism that 2009 would continue with positive economic growth.

The positive views of the business champions emerged from a survey conducted by the Association of Ghana Industries (AGO which covered 519 business executives between mid-December 2008 and mid-January 2009, the third successive survey the association has conducted since 2007.

The German Technical Co-operation (GTZ) is a major sponsor of the survey.

The optimism cuts across all sectors of the economy, with the finance, banking and insurance and agricultural sectors being more optimistic about future prospects.

Business climate surveys (BCSs) are regular features in many countries, particularly the developed ones, as they are critical to shaping government, policies regarding the creation of a friendly climate for investors and the business community

However, the business executives listed inflation as the topmost challenge facing the business sector, followed by the high cost of credit and high levels of taxation.

Commenting on the results, presented at a ceremony in Accra on Thursday, the President of the AGI, Mr Tony Oteng-Gyasi, however, expressed concern over the fact that the business community still considered inflation as the major chal1enge facing the private sector, followed by the high cost of credit, as wel1 as high levels of taxation in the country.

ECOBANK and the Coconut Groove Regency supported the survey.

He said Ghanaian companies were as competitive in the area of factory floor cost as those in India and China but had a higher dispensation in the area of indirect cost that made the private sector uncompetitive in the global marketplace.

"These indirect costs include the cost of borrowing, energy, public services, transportation cost, the exchange rate and security that reduce the, competitiveness of the private sector," he said.

Mr Oteng-Gyasi said since those factors were beyond the control of entrepreneurs but within the ambit of the government, the latter should work seriously on them to create a better environment for businesses operating in the country.

Placing inflation as the topmost chal1enge facing the business community, with the related high cost of credit, meant that the country needed to begin to look at its inflation fighting tools, the AGI President stressed.

"If the methods we have used over the past two decades have not resulted in the achievement of consistent single digit inflation, then we should take a second look at them," he stated.

The Bank of Ghana has recently come under fire for raising its prime rate, which the public says raises interest rates charged by commercial banks. It has called on the central bank to consider other monetary policy tools to fight inflation and the cost of borrowing.

The survey also captured one-third of the respondents as expecting a negative impact of the global slowdown on the economy.

Most of such surveys conducted in the West at the end of last year gave a negative outlook.

In the AGI survey, more than half of the business executives, representing 56 per cent, expressed the view that government policies stimulated economic growth in the country over the last four years.

When asked to list areas they considered priority for public spending, the executives named improving basic education, public health service and employment creation for the youth.

These areas, analysts believe, directly affect the efficiency of the private sector and so hold not much surprise.

However, the respondents' prioritisation of basic education is interesting, as many would have thought their emphasis would be on tertiary and vocational education.

"Very often we talk about the tertiary level but more people hold the view that a solid foundation is required," Mr Oteng-Gyasi stated about the results.

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