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13.05.2004 Business & Finance

Qatari businessmen want to 'see things for themselves' in Ghana

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From Beatrice Akua Asamani- GNA Special Correspondent, Doha, Qatar

Doha, May 13, GNA - Leaders of Qatari businesses and industries expressed their interest to assess the business and investment opportunities in Ghana at first hand at the end of a Business Forum held by Vice President Aliu Mahama in the Qatari capital of Doha, as part of investment seeking State Visit.

After a two-hour session, led by the Vice President, the business and industry captains expressed strong interest in doing business in Ghana and asked for the guarantee of the safety of their investments in legal and investment framework.

Led by Mr Khalid Abdul Aziz Al Baker, Board member of the Qatar Chamber of Commerce, they said the Forum had given them a better understanding of the country's economic environment but they also wanted to have access to specific feasibility studies and business plans of possible areas, products and services for investments.

Mr Baker said though Qatari economy, with a budget revenue of five billion dollars, was self-reliant, no country could survive as an island, hence the zeal to reach out to other safe and reliable destinations like Ghana.

However, Vice President Mahama assured them that Ghana was well positioned to partner them for fruitful and safe businesses and all their concerns would be addressed.

He explained that the West-African country, which will link them to the 250-million Sub-regional market, has a very stable political environment, which guarantees business people the right to freely enter into businesses and leave at will.

Vice President Mahama urged them to put their monies into banking, insurance and other products in the financial sector, because they would reap good returns.

Several opportunities, he said, also existed in agriculture, which is the mainstay of Ghana's economy, tourism infrastructure, mining of precious minerals, wood processing and others.

"Ghana is well-positioned to receive you as business partner, our economy is private-sector led and we believe in the rule of law," he told them.

The well-endowed Gulf-State of Qatar, whose economic backbone is oil and gas, has a vibrant industrial base of crude oil-production and refining, fertilizers, petrochemicals, steel reinforcing bars and cement.

While oil and gas account for more than 55 per cent of its GDP, with 16 billion dollars purchasing power parity, agriculture contributes only 0.4 per cent.

The country has proved natural gas reserves exceeding 17.9 trillion cubic metres, more than five per cent of the world's total, thus making it the third largest in the world.

With proved oil reserves of 14.5 billion barrels, the country's per capita income is reported to be nearly as much as that of leading industrial countries in Western Europe. In 2002, the GDP per-capita purchasing power parity was estimated to be 15.91 billion dollars.

Hajia Alima Mahama, Ghana's Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Presidential Special Initiatives, encouraged the rich businessmen to invest in the garment, oil palm industry and agro-processing. She said special incentives were available for those who would operate under Export Processing Zone, cottage industry and in rural Ghana.

The Chief Executive of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre told them that Ghana outlawed the confiscation of businesses to the State in 1992, therefore, they should not be wary in that area, adding that investors were free to repatriate their profits, technical and managerial fees.

Additionally, he said, the country had a business friendly legal system, which rapidly settles business and industrial disputes. He said the friendly and flexibly investment framework, which is constantly reviewed to meet modern trends, had earned the country highly favourable ratings from UNCLAD and other international industrial rating agencies.

The President of the Ghana Chamber of Commerce, Mr Solomon Abam Quartey, also assured them that the Chamber, which has 2,500 plus members, would work with its Qatari counterpart to facilitate their businesses.

Ghana has signed four agreements with Qatar for the founding of a Joint Permanent Commission to facilitate the establishment of economic, commercial, technical and cultural relations.

The two countries have also agreed to establish trade and investments relationship under which the oil-rich country would assist Ghana, mainly the private sector, to explore natural gas, develop its petrochemical industry and boost salt mining.

The State Visit of the Delegation was at the invitation of Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Crown Prince of Qatar.