Accra, Sept. 28 GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Wednesday inaugurated the Phase One of a 13-million dollar state-of-the-art pasta processing plant at the Spintex Road in Accra, with the assurance that his Government was determined to build on Ghana's present investor-friendly environment that had resulted in growing investment inflow.
"It is Government's policy to sustain and improve upon this environment in order to attract further investments, expand employment opportunity for the nation's workforce and also to help in the fight against widespread poverty," he said.
The plant, built by Dry Foods Processing Limited, a member of Finatrade Group of Companies, has targeted to export about 50 per cent of its products to West African countries including C=F4te d'Ivoire, Togo, Benin and Sierra Leone.
President Kufuor said the presence and continued expansion of Finatrade that groups 12 companies whose total investment holding in the country stood at about 20 million dollars indicated its level of confidence in Ghana and its future.
Finatrade has been engaged in the commodity markets and distribution with investments in cocoa, transport, real estate development and fast food.
President Kufuor said private sector development was high on the list of priorities of his administration since it believed that it was through the strengthening of the sector that accelerated growth of the economy would be achieved.
"Support from government is in our commitment to provide a stable and efficient macro-economy, which already shows in the ever-lowering interest rates, declining inflation and easy accessibility to credit." President Kufuor said the establishment of commercial courts and a National Labour Commission for speedy resolution of commercial and industrial disputes should strengthen private sector confidence in the economy.
Infrastructure improvement of the highways, ports and telecommunications must also go to enhance the sector's competitiveness and profitability, he said, adding that new and enabling laws for transparency and accountability were guarantees for fair business. President Kufuor said he was glad that the Company's investment was in the area of agro-processing, requiring some local raw materials to give a boost to the agricultural sector.
He reminded the Management about the need to promote good corporate governance practices saying, this should reflect in the areas of human resource policies and social responsibilities, requiring prompt discharge of all legitimate obligations while being mindful of the environment.
Mr Kwamena Bartels, Minister of Private Sector Development and President's Special Initiative (PSI), said the Government recognised that macro-economic stability alone could not get Ghana to its desired destination of middle-income status in seven years.
It was for this reason that it had since July 2004 implemented a programme of wide ranging market, institutional and legal reforms with the goal of enhancing the competitiveness of the private sector and reducing the risks and cost of doing business in the country. The reforms, he said, were yielding significant results as evidenced in the 2006 World Development Report on the cost of doing business, which ranked Ghana 82 out of 155 countries compared to a ranking of 86 in 2005.
He said credit extended to the private sector by the banks had increased by 32.1 per cent in June 2004 to 12,079.1 billion cedis in June 2005.
Mr Bartels said the reduction of secondary reserve requirement of banks by the Bank of Ghana had even made available more money to the private sector - 20 per cent of their deposits.
"The 20 per cent difference for the Ghana Commercial Bank alone, based on 2004 deposit levels, means that over 2,038 billion cedis became available to the private sector. If this figure is averaged across all banks in the country, it is clear that the quantum of loans available to the sector as a result of this decision by the Bank of Ghana is phenomenal."
Mr Nabil Mourkarzel, Managing Director of Finatrade Group, said for them to be competitive in the West Africa Sub-Region, they would require Government's intervention in order to obtain some form of temporary tax exemption.
This is against the backdrop of Nigeria currently subsidizing its exports of up to 40 per cent and where producers in Cote d'Ivoire enjoy lower duty rates.
He said such intervention would aid the manufacturing industry in Ghana and boost investor confidence in the Gateway to West Africa Project.
The Managing Director said since its incorporation last year, it had provided scholarships worth 500 million cedis to 26 brilliant but need students in four public universities.
This year, they are offering 400 million cedis to 20 freshmen from four of the same public universities. Phase One of the plant, cost seven million dollars and would operate until 2007 when the next phase valued at six million dollars would be implemented.