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15.04.2005 General News

Govt would keep fuel prices within limits -Aidoo

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Half Assini (W/R), April 15, GNA - Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, Western Regional Minister on Thursday, said the fact that the government had removed subside on petroleum products and had deregulated the petroleum sector does not mean the government would allow fuel prices to be fixed at any level.

Addressing People's Assemblies at Axim and Half Assini, he said the government still had control over the fixing of fuel prices and would intervene to bring down prices when necessary. Mr Aidoo said the government could not afford to import crude, refine and sell it to the marketing companies.

He said deregulation of the petroleum sector means the oil marketing companies would now have to import and refine crude oil with their own resources and sell it to recoup their funds.

Mr Aidoo said the country's current prices of fuel prices were realistic considering the rising cost of crude oil on the world market. He said the government would not reverse these prices because doing so would mean the government has no control over the marketing of fuel in the country.

Mr Aidoo said last year, the government subsided fuel to the tune of 200 million dollars and this amount was equal to the HIPC benefit the country received for the whole of that year.

He said the government had managed to stabilise the economy and improved the microeconomic situation over the past four years. Mr Aidoo said the increase in fuel prices and other measures were geared towards consolidating those gains as well as reducing inflation possibly to a single digit.

He was not happy that, while the government's interest rate was reducing, commercial banks were charging interest rates thrice above that of the government.

Mr Aidoo called on the commercial banks to reduce their interest rates to encourage borrowing for development enterprises. He said measures that the government had put in place to mitigate the increase in fuel prices included importation of more buses for the Metro Mass Transit and reduction of corporate tax. Mr Aidoo said the government's attention for the next three years would be focused on the private sector, human resource development and good governance.

He said management of pre-mix fuel had encountered some problems and the sector was being restructured and this explained why the supply of the product had not been regular. Mrs Hannah Nyamekye, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, urged unit committee and assembly members to sacrifice to develop their communities.

She asked unit committee and assembly members not to allow political considerations and lack of remuneration prevent them from serving their communities.

Mrs Nyamekye said the government derives its income from taxation and donors and that placing taxes on fuel was feasible means of raising revenue for development.

She said Ghana does not produce oil and many oil producing countries had raised prices of fuel, adding, this was difficult in these hard times but the interest of the nation was paramount. Mr Samuel Owusu-Adjei, Deputy Minister of Health, said maternal delivery was now free at all government hospitals throughout the country.

He urged the people to embrace the National Health Insurance Scheme and register to benefit from free medical care. Mr Samuel Owusu-Adjei said the raising of fuel prices was necessary if the country wanted to achieve middle-income status.

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