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20.06.2003 Business & Finance

We have no hand in removal of duties - WB

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The World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Mats Karlson, has said the bank did not pressurise the government to remove the additional taxes it imposed on the importation of rice and poultry products as is being speculated.

Answering a question to that effect at a forum organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in Accra he said the World Bank has not had any discussion with the government to that effect but that such a discussion might have been done by another agency.

The forum, which was dubbed the “World Bank Country Assistance Strategy/Civil Society Consultation Forum”, was attended by prominent economists, educationists, members of civil society groups, among others.

The minister of finance after imposing additional import taxes on rice and poultry products in the 2003 budget statement, later announced the withdrawal of those taxes, a move many have accused the World Bank of pressurising the government to accede to.

Earlier in his presentation, Karlson called on the government to shore up gain through macro-economic stability, secure the financing of the budget, reduce domestic debt and free up resources for development.

He said with stability, inflation will fall further and exchange rates will stabilise and lead to a decrease in real interest rates.

Karlson said “certainly, more better paid jobs would not come if potential investors cannot find access to finance on more reasonable terms than today.”

He also called for an improvement in the investment climate by having rules and regulations that actually favour the government’s declaration of the golden age of business.

He said there is a lot to do to facilitate the rapid movement of goods through harbours and airports, cut red tape and improve the overall environment that rewards entrepreneurship, adding that there is a potential to create more jobs.

Karlson further called for a major push on the infrastructure side, that is, improving access and quality and reducing the costs to business to boost investments.

On agriculture, he said there is the need for Ghana to make use of its huge agricultural and agro-business potential. Karlson said there is also the need for the country to slash the constraints to make the agricultural sector more vibrant since Ghana will never prosper unless her agriculture does.

Kwesi Jonah, a Political Science Lecturer of the University of Ghana who was the facilitator for the forum, also made it clear that the World Bank is not pressurising the government to embark on full cost recovery at the universities.

Reacting to another concern raised by a participant on the matter, he said the call for full cost recovery is a genuine concern of the universities because the government gives the universities only 52 per cent of its budget annually.

Jonah said it is, therefore, necessary for the University of Ghana to ensure that it recovers cost to prevent it from collapse. He said the World Bank has never been part of any board meeting of the university where such issues are discussed and indicated that the time has come for people to face realities.

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