Spending on health & education to increase …
Accra, June 13, GNA - The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu on Monday said the debt relief by the G-8 countries was an opportunity for the Government to increase spending in the major sectors of the economy. Speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, Mr Baah-Wiredu explained that the debt relief from these multilateral institutions would increase the stock of money available to the country to engender an accelerated pace of development in the years ahead. "What this also means is that we will now have more funds to go round providing for health, education, roads, port development, rail-roads and up-scaling services throughout the country," he said.
The G-8 spearheaded by the United Kingdom at the weekend announced the cancellation of the debt owed it by 18 countries to the tune of 40 billion dollars with Ghana's portion standing at 4.1 billion dollars. Africa's debt currently stands at 300 billion dollars and is still rising.
Other countries to benefit from the decision are Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Rwanda. The rest are Zambia, Madagascar, Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. Mr Baah-Wiredu said Ghana's debt to other multilateral donors such as the Nordic Fund, Arab Bank for Economic Development (BADEA), OPEC Fund, International Fund for International Development, European Development Fund, however, still stood adding, "we must work hard at meeting our payment schedules."
Nine other countries hope to qualify in the next year and a half bringing the total sum of debt relief to just over 55 billion dollars. According to the Finance Minister, the relief was for countries already benefiting from Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) relief since they had consistently met the criteria to effectively fight corruption and promote good governance. The Government has said Ghana would receive HIPC Relief of 3.6 billion dollars to be paid over a 20-year period.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said Ghana was this month due to be making a number of loan repayments and he was in the process of checking if this money should be paid and how much should be paid considering the news of the debt relief granted by the G-8 countries. Organizations such as Oxfam, Jubilee 2000 have over the years advocated for the total cancellation of debt owed to the world's richest countries by the poorest ones.
The rich countries had heeded this call, however, recent overtures of British Prime Minister, Tony Blair under the Africa Commission Project has pointed to either reducing or cancelling the debt owed to the world's rich. The UK, which would hold the G-8 Presidency in July, aims at increasing development aid to the poorest countries most of which are in Africa.