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15.08.2005 Business & Finance

Make your lending policies flexible- Minister urges banks

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Walewale, (N/R), Aug. 15, GNA - Alhaji Abubakar Saddique Boniface, Northern Regional Minister has urged banking institutions to make their lending policies flexible to enable small businesses to get loans on favourable terms to expand. He urged the banking institutions to take a cue from the Bank of Ghana, which recently lowered its prime rate to 16.5 per cent and said this should serve as a basis for the operations of Commercial and Rural banks in the country.

He noted that Commercial Banks had fixed their lending rates between 23 to 28 per cent, which he said, was still on the higher side. The Regional Minister however, cautioned the banks not to compromise the quality of their services and security of their institutions because of their lending rates and also appealed to beneficiaries of bank loans and overdrafts to live up to expectation and avoid the tendency of defaulting, which he said, had the potential of running down rural banks.

Alhaji Boniface was addressing the fifth Annual General Meeting of the West Mamprusi Community Bank Ltd at Walewale on Saturday.

Alhaji Boniface also called on Rural Banks to identify and build up local entrepreneurs in their areas of operations to help raise the financial position of the local entrepreneur, which invariably would go a long way to reduce the poverty level of the people.

He further urged Rural Banks to assist in the development of the Rural Enterprises Projects (REP) by identifying three major economic ventures in their areas for exploitation and development and also participate actively in these projects. He appealed to District Assemblies to patronize the Rural Banks by opening accounts with them to build their capacity base and suggested that Funds from the HIPC initiative and the District Assemblies Common Fund could be lodged with these banks instead of sending them to the Urban Banks.

The Regional Minister appealed to the West Mamprusi Bank Ltd. to establish a branch in the "Overseas" area of the District to provide banking services to the people of the area.

Alhaji Boniface announced that an investment Forum on the Northern Region would soon be held to advertise the economic potentials that abound in the region to attract both foreign and local investors and called on Rural Banks in the region to prepare and actively participate in the forum.

Mr. Ben B. Saibu, Board Chairman of the West Mamprusi Community Bank said the bank had chalked a number of successes, which included the increase in the granting of micro-finance loans to women from 218.6 million cedis in the year 2002 to 962 million cedis in 2004. This represents an expansion of 340 per cent and reaching a maximum of over 2000 women from the initial figure of 500 in 2002 and a few men, mostly, from the rural settings.

He said the beneficiaries of the loans had helped to break the poverty cycle by enabling them to, among others, engage in sheabutter processing, groundnut oil production, food processing, grain banking, farming, petty trading and the buying and selling of small ruminants. He said the expansion of the loans to the beneficiaries was made possible due to the positive responses received from development partners and the central government poverty reduction interventions.

The interventions include the Social Investment Fund, which supported the Bank with a loan of 180 million, the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs gave 88 million, while the bank from its own resources supported with a leverage to the tune of 529 million cedis.

Mr Saibu said the bank disbursed a total of 385 million cedis between the years 2003 and 2004 under the District Assembly Poverty Alleviation Fund benefiting a total of 589 individuals out of a total of 71 groups in the rural areas of the district.

He said the construction sector also benefited from a loan of cedis being part of a total of 4.344.000.000.00 disbursed as loans and overdrafts in 2004, he however noted with regret that contractors in the district had been the major defaulters in the payment of loans granted them.

The Board Chairman of the Bank announced that the stated capital of the bank now stood at 112 million cedis, which satisfied the Bank of Ghana's minimum requirement of 100 million cedis for existing Rural and community Banks.

He said the bank had projected to increase the figure to 200 million cedis and therefore, invited individuals and institutions to purchase more shares to improve the capacity of the bank to enable it to assist the people in the community.

At present the West Mamprusi District Assembly is the largest shareholder of the bank.

Mr Saibu said the bank in fulfilling its social responsibility donated a 21-inch colour television to the District Education office to support in organizing the Districts Best teacher Award Scheme. The Bank also supported the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the Ghana Education Service and the Mamprugu Youth Association with a total amount of 1.4 million cedis between the year 2003 and 2004 to fund their various activities.

Mr. Emmanuel Kwesi Kwapong, Managing Director of the ARB APEX Bank Ltd, in a speech read for him by Mr Hyginus S. Zon, Head of Inspection and Audit said by the end of the year 2004 the total assets of the West Mamprusi Bank increased by 41. 1 per cent from 5.03 billion cedis in 2003 to7.4 billion cedis in 2004.

The Banks net advances increased from 1.88 billion cedis to 4.01 billion cedis, while deposits also went up from 3.57 billion cedis to 5.25 billion cedis during the period under review, both of which, represent increases of 133.3 per cent and 47.1 per cent respectively. However the total short-term investments increased marginally from 1.12 billion cedis to 1.16 billion cedis.

Mr Kwapong exhorted the management of the bank to strengthen the internal control mechanisms of the bank to minimize fraud and urged them to ensure efficient operations in order to attain the objectives for which, the bank was established. He said in the direction of improving upon efficiency the Apex Bank was working in close collaboration with the donor community to institute various training programmes to address the training needs of rural banks.

The Managing Director of APEX Bank announced that the bank had embarked on the computerization of rural banks in the country to enhance their services.