Kumasi, Aug 21, GNA - Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, has announced the government's decision to allocate 65 billion cedis from the National Reconstruction Levy to help set up a Venture Fund.
Entrepreneurs would draw on the Fund that is going to grant interest-free loans to establish businesses and create more jobs. Mr Osafo-Maafo, who was addressing a public forum on the HIPC completion point at the Prempeh Assembly Hall in Kumasi on Friday, said a Bill on the Fund would be laid before Parliament when it reconvenes.
He told the well-attended forum held to assist remove doubts and misconceptions some Ghanaians continue to have about the HIPC, that the Initiative has been most helpful to the sound management of the national economy.
It had significantly contributed to the restoration of confidence and the health of the economy, he declared.
The Minister pointed out that Ghana, for example was spending an average of 392 million dollars annually between 1998 and 2000 to serve debts but this dropped to an average of 150 million dollars when the Kufuor administration took the bold step to take advantage of the Initiative.
He said the nation was able to save a total of 2.5 trillion cedis that should have gone into debt servicing for development. Mr Osafo-Maafo announced that approval had been given for the disbursement of 36 billion cedis from the HIPC fund to the four metropolitan assemblies with Accra receiving 12 billion cedis, Kumasi, 10 billion cedis, while Sekondi-Takoradi and Tamale take eight and six billion cedis respectively.
The municipal assemblies on their part have been allocated five billion cedis each and every other district assembly two billion cedis.
Mr Osafo-Maafo described the NPP government's economic performance as outstanding, saying, the country's present foreign reserve of 1.4 billion cedis has been the highest in many years.
Besides, for four years, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had seen consistent growth and is now pegged at 5.2 per cent.
The Minister said additionally, the current cocoa production level of 652,000 tonnes achieved through the mass cocoa spraying was the highest ever recorded by the country.
He gave the assurance that the government would continue to be fair in the distribution of resources for development since it recognises that discrimination does not augur well for national unity and even development.
Mr Sampson Kwaku Boafo, Ashanti Regional Minister, stated that the many school blocks, health, water and sanitation facilities as well as the improvement of a number of feeder roads through the HIPC fund were a vindication of the wisdom in joining HIPC. 21 Aug. 04