18.03.2005 Regional News

Journalists in Western Region discuss 2005 budget

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Takoradi, March 18, GNA - Dr Augustine Gockel, s Senior Lecturer in Economics, University of Ghana, Legon, on Thursday said the economy should be diversified if the country is to achieve middle-income status. Speaking at a one-day seminar on Improving Economic and Financial Reportage for media practitioners in Takoradi, he said the economy was now largely dependent on the agriculture sector, especially on cocoa production and the mining sector.

The seminar was organised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and KAB Governance consult.

The seminar, which was a follow up to a similar one organised by the three bodies four months ago, was under the theme: "The 2005 Budget".

Dr Gockel said the reliance on the cocoa and mining sectors makes the economy liable to external shocks such as fluctuations in world market prices adding that the manufacturing sector was not growing as expected to reduce unemployment.

"The 5.8 percent growth rate of the economy is very commendable but such a fragile economy cannot usher the country into a middle income status".

Dr Gockel said the government's vision was to raise per capita income to 1,000 dollars in the longer term, probably by the year 2012 and the present level of per capita income has been variously put at 370 dollars, 390 dollars and 400 dollars.

"By this, the expected increase to 1,000 dollars is very ambitious but not impossible".

Dr Gockel said the 2005 budget was not based on the government's Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) because the document was being revised.

He said poverty had reduced in the cocoa, mining and construction sectors but was still endemic in the crops, livestock and fishery sectors.

Dr Gockel said the increase in petroleum prices was a contributory factor to the present inflation rate of 14 percent, adding that the deregulation of petroleum prices could bring down the inflation rate. Mr Kwasi Afriyie Badu, Chief Executive Officer of KAB Governance Consult, said the seminar was intended to improve the capacity of Journalists to cover economic and financial issues. 18 March 05

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