Accra, June 28, GNA - Parliamentarians were on Monday urged to act as watch dogs to ensure that the Government pursued realistic economic policies to enable the country to qualify to join the second monetary zone being established in the West Africa Sub-Region.
Currently, Ghana is still grappling with difficulties in achieving the single digit inflation rate necessary to join the Second West Africa Monetary Zone, which would establish a Central Bank and introduce the ECO currency on July 1, 2005.
Dr Kofi Konadu Apraku, Minister of Regional Cooperation and NEPAD, told a section of Parliamentarians in Accra that they were responsible for approving Government's expenditure and it was their duty to ensure that the country pursued a disciplined fiscal policy to bring down the current inflation rate of about 11.2 per cent to a single digit. The Minister was speaking at a day's workshop on the introduction of the ECO to the Parliamentarians.
It was organised by the Ministry of Regional Cooperation and NEPAD to seek the support of Parliamentarians, who are expected to give legal backing to the establishment of a West African Central Bank, which would be charged with the responsibility of issuing the ECO, a second currency for the Sub-Region.
Dr Konadu Apraku said attaining a single digit inflation rate had eluded the country but it was a major pre-requisite under the convergence criteria to join the Second Monetary Zone.
He said Parliamentarians had the sole responsibility to pass into law the statutory requirement needed to bring into being the Second Monetary Zone.
The Minister said the introduction in July next year of the ECO in Ghana, Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Nigeria and Guinea is expected to facilitate the creation of a single monetary zone in the Sub-Region in 2007 with the merger of the CFA currency.
He said the merger of the CFA and ECO in 2007 would create a pool of 700 million people into a single market, which would open up the Sub-Region for trading with the European Union.
Dr Apraku, however, said to enable the common currency to achieve its objective of integrating the economies of the Sub-Region it was "crucial for all of us in the ECOWAS to reduce barriers to trade and implement the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme and the Protocol of free movement of persons and goods."
He said member countries must also pay up their dues and levies owed ECOWAS to speed up the process of integrating the economies, adding that Ghana had paid its share of all levies on time.
Dr Apraku, therefore, urged parliamentarians in the ECOWAS Parliament to bring pressure to bear on their respective countries to speed up the integration process.
Mr Yaw Osafo Maafo, Finance Minister, in a speech read for him, said the idea of a single currency for economic growth was mooted 29 years ago.
He said the introduction of the ECO would remove the difficulty of trading in the Sub-Region and remove the burden of converting currencies for trading.