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08.07.2004 Business & Finance

House adopts report on $7 million OPEC loan agreement

By GNA

Accra, July 8, GNA - Parliament on Thursday, unanimously adopted the Finance Committee's report on a seven million US dollars loan agreement between the government and the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) to support the second phase of the Ghana Poverty Reduction Project (GPRP) through the Social Investment Fund (SIF).

A motion for the adoption of the report by Mr. Eugene Atta Agyepong, Chairman of the Finance Committee said the loan, when approved, would provide 10,000 micro-credit loans to income generating activities to be implemented by target beneficiaries such as kente weavers, women in farming and gari processing and bee-keeping among others, under the SIF project.

He said the loan was also expected to benefit at least 100,000 persons in 25,000 households in the country, adding that the project would target the rural and urban poor.

The report quoted Dr. Akoto Osei, a Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning as saying that government was providing an amount of 10 billion cedis as counterpart funding to the project. The first phase of the GPRP/SIF project set up in 1998, under the previous government was financed by the Government of Ghana, African Development Fund (ADF) and the UNDP.

Mr. Steve Akorli, NDC-Ho East noted that most of the projects under the SIF were failing and needed close monitoring by the appropriate government agencies to ensure that maximum benefit was reaped from investment made.

He said the SIF was meant for income-generating activities and not for the provision of toilets, school buildings and other projects captured under the HIPC fund, adding that the disbursement of the SIF should be demand driven to ensure judicious application.

Mr. Enoch Teye Mensah, NDC-Ningo/Prampram appealed to the Speaker to set up a committee to monitor the application of loans meant for the SIF projects to ensure that they were properly and judiciously applied. He said: "in sourcing funds for poverty alleviation, government must be careful to go for grants other than loans, else in the long term we compound the poverty problem instead of alleviating it."

Mr. Edward Salia, NDC-Jirapa, said care must be taken to avoid duplication of projects in the phase of various programs aimed at poverty reduction including the HIPC, District Assembly Common Fund, NEPAD and other funds.

He therefore urged the government to bring all government agencies involved in poverty reduction projects together to exchange notes and ensure that they did not duplicate their activities and thereby waste resources.

Mr. Mike Hammah, NDC-Effutu-Awutu-Senya, said there was the need for measures to be put in place at the national, regional and district levels to monitor the application of the SIF, saying that there were incidents of gross misapplication of the fund in his constituency. Captain Nkrabeah Effah-Darteh, a Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development said since 2002, the NPP government had covered at least 80 communities with 849 SIF projects, adding that, that was an indication that the government was lifting living standards in the country to a higher pedestal.

Mr. Modestus Ahiable, NDC- Ketu North, said Parliament must bring its oversight role to bear on the application of SIF, to check, whether the 849 projects that the Capt. Effah-Darteh mentioned, were underway, completed and commissioned or still on paper and yet to be implemented.

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