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15.02.2005 General News

Country not ready for full deregulation, says Asaga

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Accra, Feb 15, GNA - Mr Moses Asaga, NDC-Nabdam, on Tuesday said the country was not yet ready for full deregulation of the petroleum sector because of the country's present weak economic state. He also urged the government not to hide under the cover of deregulation to increase the price of petroleum.

Mr Asaga, who was contributing to the debate on the President's State of the Nation address, said the deregulation process should not be rushed since the industry was capital intensive.

He said the government should hasten slowly with the process of deregulation while maintaining a stake in the industry in the application of the pricing formula until Ghana's economy expands and more Ghanaians became shareholders in the sector.

Mr Asaga said the crude oil sector was a strategic one and that this was not the time for the sector to go into private hands.

Currently, he said, there were only few private people operating in the sector with more multinational operators and oil companies having a large share of the market and as such, government should still have a say in the running of the sector.

Mr Asaga said the NDC told Ghanaians to prepare for increases in petroleum prices in February and that it was IMF conditionality but the NPP sought to deny it.

''When I said last year that we should brace ourselves for the shock, I was told I was telling a lie."

On President's Kufuor's disclosure that the GPD had exceeded all expectation and was pegged at 5.8 percent at the end of last year, Mr Asaga said it was not true because of certain factors on the ground. He said there was not enough inflow of foreign direct investment in 2004, unemployment was still high and productivity over a period of time had been low and as such it was not wholly true that economic growth rose up to 5.8 percent.

Mrs Esther Obeng-Dapaah, NPP-Abirem, who touched on the National Health Insurance Scheme, emphasised on the need to promote preventive health care as a measure to ease pressure on the health system She said the incidence of diseases such as malaria and typhoid could be minimised if good care was taken of the environment and the district assemblies enforced laws on sale of food under hygienic conditions. Mr Charles Hodogbey, NDC-North Tongu, touched on employment and said it was surprising that President Kufuor did not mention the issue of high unemployment in his address, which was a critical situation facing the country.

He said it was common sight to see many young people selling on the streets in major cities, which should be given adequate attention. On tourism, he said most hotels in the country were so expensive that it was not an incentive for tourists to travel to the country and even when they do, the poor nature of the road network to tourists sites were a discouragement.

Mr Hodogbey said there the need for the government to rapidly develop the information communication technology sector. He was concerned that Parliament could not boast of an Internet facility to afford MPs the opportunity to check their mails.

Mr Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, NPP-Mfantsiman West, said there was the need to encourage Ghanaians living outside to contribute financially to the growth of the economy and to take active interest in the political development of the country.

He said he was looking forward to the day when Ghanaians living outside would be able vote in general elections.

Mr Stephen Kunsu, NDC-Kintampo, spoke on sports development and said it was sad that celebrated sports men and women who had contributed to the development of the sector were left to wallow in poverty with little recognition after retirement.

He said one way to give recognition to such heroes was to build stadiums in the districts from which they come and name such stadiums after them.

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