Sunyani, April 6, GNA - Dr. Kofi Kobi Barimah, lecturer at the Catholic University at Fiapre, near Sunyani on Tuesday suggested that poverty reduction should be focused on genuine human development through the strengthening of the education sector.
He said if this was done "we can break the vicious circle of poverty" and again suggested that 80 per cent of the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) funds be channelled into the sector, in addition to the funds already earmarked for the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) programme.
He noted that the introduction of the FCUBE, with equal educational opportunities would help "poor talented disadvantaged children" to have a greater chance of breaking out of the vicious cycle of poverty. Dr. Barimah was speaking on "Poverty Reduction and Utilization of HIPC Funds" at a one-day public forum organised by the Centre for Budget Advocacy of Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) in Sunyani.
Representatives of political parties, educationists, NGOs and a cross section of the general public attended the forum, which was aimed at generating awareness and interest in the National Budget Process and to spread budget activism among civil society and the general public. He stressed that the country would have a rich store of labour, capable of surviving in the competitive global 'village' if the FCUBE was successfully implemented.
Dr Barimah called on the government to come out with a policy on the disbursement of HIPC funds allocation of resources to sector ministries to ensure the true empowerment of vulnerable communities. He noted that by the end of last year, the total government expenditure, excluding donor funds, but including HIPC resources used to implement direct actions for the poor amounted to 6,441.39 billion cedis.
"This amount went into human development areas such as primary health care, basic education, provision of safe drinking water, employment generating activities in area such as agriculture, skills training and provision of basic infrastructure and human rights and public safety", the lecturer added.
Mr Kwasi Annan-Frimpong, Sunyani Municipal Director of NADMO, who spoke with the New Patriotic Party's views on the 2005 National Budget statement said human resources development, private sector development and good governance were the government's three priority areas to break the vicious cycle of poverty and to accelerate national growth.
He said, "the Committee for Joint Action (CJA) supports the budget, except that they have a problem with the fuel deregulation measures. "The very people who were agitating for increase in fuel prices, prior to the 2004 elections were the same people, who have joined certain "professional" demonstrators to go on protest marches", he added.
Mr Annan-Frimpong explained that due to the volatile nature of world crude oil prices, the government had to bite the bullet by increasing fuel prices to recover full cost.
"The government is not unaware of the hardships that might accompany the direction chosen to economic recovery and measures to mitigate the hardships have been set in motion, the NADMO Director added.
He said the NPP Government was of the view that Ghanaians need to take their destiny into their own hands and hoped that the country would achieve a middle-income status by 2015.
Mr Annan-Frimpong said the end of the NPP government's first term in office had seen an impressive turn about in the hitherto nose-diving economy.
"Our free-falling cedi, as against the dollar had relatively stabilized, prices of commodities had stabilized to some extent, whilst the minimum wage earner for the first time in several years got something more than a dollar a day".
The NADMO Director added that investor confidence was on the rise, bringing in two gold-mining giants, Newmont and Anglogold, into the country, saying, revenue from Anglogold for 2003 was the highest ever in the mining history of the country.
Mr Samuel Ofori Boakye, Brong Ahafo Regional Manager of ISODEC said the Centre had since the year 2001 been organizing series of fora on budget statements throughout the country to provide a platform for the public to openly express their views on the statements as an economic policy document.
"The budget statement is the most important policy instrument of government that provides the needed direction to resource mobilization and allocation as well as the policy framework in its efforts to have a health economy to improve the lives of the people", he said.
The Regional Manager stated that ISODEC would collate all the emerging concerns and issues from the regional fora to prepare a feed back to the government for consideration.