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15.06.2005 General News

Kufuor & Co Get Thumbs-Up


...for Good Governance as NPP secures total debt cancellation · It's reward for HIPC – Prez STILL SAVOURING THE massive vote of confidence in his administration with the G8's write-off of the nation's $4.1 billion debt (estimated at $6 billion when he entered office in 2001), President John Agyekum Kufuor has also received a significant endorsement from US President George Bush, who described him as a friend and a democrat.

President Bush was speaking at a ceremony to welcome President Kufuor and four other leaders of Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, and Niger to the White House over the weekend.

Bush said the five African presidents have all made strong statements about democracy and the importance of democracy on the continent of Africa by holding conducting democratic elections in the past year, adding, “all of us believe that one of the most effective ways to advance democracy and deliver hope to the people of Africa is through mutually beneficial trade.”

He also underscored the reason why Ghana and few other African countries were nominated among beneficiaries of the first total debt write-off, disclosing that “the countries eligible for this relief are those that have put themselves on the path to reform. We believe that by removing a crippling debt burden, we'll help millions of Africans improve their lives and grow their economies”, the US President added.

He also spoke on why he invited President Kufuor and his four other colleague presidents to the White House.

“The reason I ask these Presidents to join us today is because I applaud their courage, I appreciate their wisdom, I appreciate them being such good friends that they're able to feel comfortable in coming to the White House to say, Mr. President, this is going well and this isn't - how about working together to make this work better. That's how we solve problems. We solve problems by having a frank and open dialogue.

“We believe Africa is a continent full of promise and talent and opportunity, and the United States will do our part to help the people of Africa realise the brighter future they deserve.”

Speaking on the debt write-off in a press statement issued yesterday, President Kufuor said the country's inclusion in the debt write-off beneficiary list is the reward for opting for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative in March 2001.

“We opted for the HIPC Initiative in 2001 to allow us breathing space, recognising our priorities and this is the reward for all”, President Kufuor said.

He added, however, that the move, which was a feather in the cup of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration, provided inspiration for hard work.

The statement said Ghana's inclusion followed from the successful record time of HIPC completion and eligibility in the United States Marshall Plan dubbed “Millennium Challenge Account” in which Ghana hopes to reap about $290 million.

President Kufuor said the dividends of democracy borne out of the pursuance of good governance, investing in the people while establishing economic freedom through prudent economic management, should elicit widespread support for the concept of Ghana incorporated.

Meanwhile, the historic write-off has kicked off a huge debate across the globe.

In London, debt cancellation activists welcomed the news but noted that the deal to scrap billions of dollars of debt owed by the poorest countries must be matched by huge increases in aid and an end to European and US agricultural subsidies in order to eradicate poverty, British newspapers and debt experts said Sunday.

“Of course debt cancellation can be only part—an important part—of any serious attempt to make poverty history,” The Independent newspaper said in an editorial.

The Group of Eight industrialised countries on Saturday struck a landmark deal to immediately write off all multilateral debt owed by 18 countries, most of them in Africa, amounting to $40 billion (33 billion euros).

But they failed to agree to a call to double annual development aid to $100 billion by 2015.

While hailing the debt cancellation as a “milestone,” The Observer newspaper cautioned: “So far, the money on the table only goes part of the way.”

The left-wing weekly added: “While the focus has been so exclusively on debt, the impact of unfair agricultural subsidies has received too little political attention.

“The Common Agricultural Policy does great damage to Africa, locking its farmers out of European markets. Meanwhile, excess European production is sold on world markets, depressing world food prices.

“The United States is no better . . . Reform the CAP—and remove US farm subsidies—and poverty might really become history,” the paper said.

The G-8 finance ministers' communiqués released at the end of their two-day meeting called for a “timetable to eliminate all trade-distorting export subsidies in agriculture.”

The debt-relief decision by Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States concerns money owed to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank.

Max Lawson, debt expert for British charity Oxfam, said the cancellation was worth only $2 billion a year at most for poor countries.

“G-8 leaders need to urgently pick up the pace, respond to the calls of millions of campaigners around the world and put up an extra $50 billion of aid to fund the fight against poverty.”

Debt relief has assumed a higher profile as the world struggles to meet the UN's Millennium Development Goals calling for the proportion of the world's population living on less than a dollar a day to be halved by 2015.

It is also a vital part of a broad strategy to wipe away chronic poverty in Africa which British Prime Minister Tony Blair is making a centrepiece of the G-8 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland on July 6 to 8. Britain is chairing the informal group of the world's richest nations this year.

Eighteen countries, some in Latin America, will be the first to benefit from what British Finance Minister Gordon Brown Saturday called “the most comprehensive statement that finance ministers have ever made on the issues of debt, development, health and poverty.”

They are Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Nine other countries will become eligible for 100-percent debt relief totalling an extra $11 billion over the next 12 to 18 months, after which 11 nations could receive similar debt cancellation of $4 billion—bringing the total amount of debt relief to $55 billion