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18.08.2005 General News

Empowerment of rural economies is a challenge - Kyeremanten

GNA

Kumasi, Aug 18, GNA - Mr Allan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade and Industry, has stated that one of the crucial challenges confronting the country is the economic empowerment of the rural population. Speaking at the inauguration of the Kumasi branch of the ARB Apex Bank on Wednesday, Mr Kyerematen said there was need for a mechanism whereby rural dwellers can easily access credit and deposit excess funds, which in turn could be used to support productive sectors of the rural economy.

He was also not happy with the continuing high interest rates despite a reduction in base rates by the Central Bank. Mr Kyerematen said high interest rates continued to be a major contributory factor to inflation, which in turn, was responsible for the high cost of goods produced in the country.

"If Ghanaian companies are therefore not competitive, it is not the Minister of Trade and Industry who is refusing to assist them. It is BoG (Bank of Ghana) which should be responsible." The Minister therefore charged the BoG and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to take action to reverse the high interest rates still being charged by the banks.

Perhaps the rural banks can set the tone to indicate that this can be done, he said.

Mr Kyerematen urged the Apex Bank to direct its efforts at supporting the rural and community banks to propel industrial investment as well as the small and medium scale sector.

He said in order to mainstream rural productive activities into the national economy and bring development to the doorsteps rural communities, his outfit was facilitating the establishment of at least one commercially viable flagship medium scale enterprise in each of the 138 districts, based on the comparative advantage of each district. He said the rural banks could play a vital role in this programme by becoming strategic investors.

Dr Samuel Dufu, acting Board Chairman of the ARB Apex Bank, lauded the performance of rural banks and said they had lived up to expectation.

Mr Alex K. Kwapong, Managing Director of ARB Apex Bank, said the Kumasi branch, which is the third to be opened, occupied a strategic position and would serve a network of rural banks in Ashanti.

Mr Sampson Kwaku Boafo, Ashanti Regional Minister, was happy to note that Ashanti had the highest number of rural and community banks in the country with the highest concentration of agencies and said it bore testimony to the commitment of the region to rural banking. He said most importantly was the fact that the performance of the rural and community banks in the region was encouraging and that the leading rural bank in the country was in Ashanti.

Mr Boafo said, however, that all these successes chalked in the region would be empty and meaningless if there was no improvement in the standard of living in the communities in which they were located. Mr Della Selormey, who deputised for the Head, Banking Supervision Department of BoG, asked rural and community banks to get copies of the new Banking Act to be conversant with its provisions.

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