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22.07.2005 Business & Finance

Veep commissions Bolgatanga Area Apex Bank


Bolgatanga (UER) July 22, GNA - Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama observed on Friday that the absence of banking facilities in a number of communities nationwide, was hampering the ability of Government to implement poverty alleviation schemes. He stressed, "Even worse, the gap in services is filled by dubious Susu operators who often than not, vanish with the hard earned savings of people".

Alhaji Mahama who made the observation, when he commissioned the ARB Apex Bank Limited Area office in Bolgatanga, in the Upper East Region, said wealth was created "when hard working people are supported with viable savings and credit schemes".

The Bolgatanga branch, the second after Sekondi, will cater for the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions where only 11 out of the 120 rural banks in the country operate currently.

The Vice President called on the Management of the Bank and the Bank of Ghana (BOG), to develop innovative ways to facilitate the setting up of financial services in less endowed areas.

"I am informed that a rural bank needs a minimum of 500 million cedis as capital to set up, but we know that there are several communities, which may find it difficult putting together this sum of money."

Alhaji Mahama emphasized that, "Once the bank appears, such communities can generate good businesses to make the bank viable".

Alhaji Mahama asked the district assemblies to expand their scope as centres of development to include the setting up of new rural and community banks.

He noted that most banks were reluctant to finance farming ventures due to the unpredictable nature of agriculture in the country, and urged the banks to team up with other investors to develop dams and marketing facilities to create a more predictable environment for farming activities and thereby increase returns from credit facilities.

Mr Emmanuel Kwapong, Managing Director of the Bank, said the new branch would offer full range banking services to the rural and community banks in the north.

"We also plan to upgrade the Wa office to complement the services to be rendered from Bolgatanga.

Mr Kwapong said the expanded services to be offered by the branch would include clearing, specie or cash movement, accounts maintenance Treasury and investment, product sales, Information and Communication Technology Services and training services.

He said the Bank would collaborate with the BOG and the Association of Rural Banks to operate a special programme to assist in the establishment of new rural banks in the three northern regions.

Dr Sam Dufu, acting Board Chairman of Apex Bank said the branch would serve as one of the 11 clearing centres to support financial transactions in the area.

Naaba Martin Abilba III, Paramount Chief of the Bolgatanga Traditional Area and Chairman for the occasion, appealed to the Government and the Bank to encourage the establishment of more rural banks to build the capacity of the youth to embark on income generating enterprises.

The Regional Minister, Mr. Boniface Gambilla noted that the provision of tractors and water pumping facilities would enable over 2000 farmers along the White Volta Basin to cultivate crops three times in a year, thus promoting food security in the Region. Vice President Mahama had earlier paid a courtesy call on the Bolga Naaba, during which he called on Ghanaians to support the Kufuor Administration to put in place the necessary structures that could ensure sustainable development when the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) was no longer in power.

"It is unfortunate that our political opponents are eager to discredit all our policies even if they are made in good faith. That is not constructive and we would like to urge them to give this government their goodwill so that we can lay a solid foundation for continuity even if we are no longer in power tomorrow," he emphasised.

He appealed to the people of the region to pay the yearly 72,000 cedis premium as a prerequisite formality to enjoy quality health service under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). He said the NHIS was the viable alternative in the search for a humane health delivery policy.

Vice President Aliu Mahama later joined the Bolgatanga Muslim community for Friday congregational prayers at the Central Mosque, after which he thanked them for their support for the NPP in last December's elections.

He told the Muslim community that Government would continue to count on their support to bring the needed development to the Region, and cautioned them to be wary of politicians who are out to erase all the good deeds of the ruling government. " It is not good to call a government a bad name just because you want to come to power," he said. He said the main cause of poverty in the area was the absence of a reliable source of water for sustainable agriculture. This, he said, was what drove the youth from the area to the South, and gave the assurance that government in conjunction with other development partners was working towards a lasting solution to the problem.

He explained that the increase in the prices of petroleum products was part of government's plan to free enough resources for the provision of other important social services such as schools, clinics and roads. He assured the people of the region that the mass transport system introduced in the urban centres of the South would soon be extended to the Upper East to relieve them of their transportation difficulties. Vice President Aliu Mahama also informed them about government's abolition of school fees at the basic education level as from September this year, and said good quality education would be brought to their doorsteps through the Model School project.

He pledged 500 bags of cement towards ongoing works at the Bolgatanga Central Mosque.

The Regional Chief Imam, Alhaji Yussif Adam, said special prayers for President J.A. Kufuor, the Vice President and all members of government. He also prayed for continued peace, stability and prosperity in Ghana.