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11.10.2005 Business & Finance

Financial institutions asked to assist nurture private sector

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Ho, Oct. 11, GNA - Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning on Tuesday asked banks and other financial institutions to provide a financing regime conducive to nurture a vibrant private sector to play its role as the engine of economic growth.

He said individual companies and trade associations should be encouraged and guided to realize their talent and channel their endowments into increased employment and income. Mr Baah-Wiredu made the call in a keynote address delivered on his behalf at the three-day delegates conference of the Association of Financial Institutions (ASOFIN) of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) at Ho.

The Theme for the Conference is, "The Challenges of Changing Global Economy - The Role of Financial Institutions in a Developing Country such as Ghana"

Mr Baah-Wiredu urged financial institutions to develop new products that would be responsive to the needs of agriculture and the formal sector to address issues on exports of raw agricultural products. He appealed to the banks to lower the current commercial lending rates to enable more people have access to funding of their business activities.

Mr Baah Wiredu asked staff of financial institutions to act as watchdogs of funds that go through their hands, " with the current high technologies where monies of customers could be transferred to other banks through the Internet, efforts must be put in place by the banks to safeguard savings of their customers."

He pointed out that the nation required rapid technological changes to develop its human resource base to meet global challenges. Mr Baah-Wiredu therefore, called on policy makers to remain focused, selfless and dedicated to the national cause and demonstrate the will to take decisions that would bring economic prosperity.

He commended the management of Barclays Bank for its bold initiative to offer its employees electronic learning opportunities and also help workers to develop their skills and competencies that would be advantageous to the individual, the bank and the country.

Mr Baah-Wiredu was optimistic that workers would take advantage of the initiative to add value to themselves to enable them play more beneficial roles in the bank.

Mr Joseph Kweku Nayan, Deputy Volta Regional Minister said the lending rates of the banks between 21 per cent and 24 per cent were considerably high and made credit from the banks more costly which constraints investment.

He therefore appealed to the banks to lower their lending rates further to encourage access to bank loans for development. "Financial institutions in Ghana would contribute tremendously to the development of the economy if they assist to finance projects and programmes on enterprise promotion."

"These include emphasis on rural industrialization, human resource development, upgrading of technology, marketing and promotion, quality and environmental management and information dissemination, " Mr Nayan added.

The Deputy Volta Regional Minister said most of the people were ignorant about the operations of insurance companies and therefore, charged insurance companies that to enable the people appreciate their operations, they should evolve educational techniques to get more clients.

He appealed to the Insurance Companies to bring their expertise to bear on the National Health Insurance Scheme to resolve the teething problems that had been associated with the commencement of the scheme.

Mr Napoleon Kpoh, General Secretary of the Union, said the ICU remained the largest registered Trade Union in the Country. He said the Union regarded every employer as a partner in development and would collaborate with them to achieve a goal without sacrificing the interest of its members.

Mr Kpoh, said employees of financial institutions especially those in the banking sector had become precarious, insecure and laden with avoidable stress as such institutions had now designated some jobs as temporary or on contract.

He said the level of commitment and loyalty of those on contract, temporal and outsourced worker was predicable below average leading to instability in the work of the sector.

Mr Kpoh said restructuring of the banks should therefore, not only be carried out by retrenching experienced workers but efforts must be made to retrain them to meet the new job requirements. He called on the banks that frowned on the self-development of their employees to change for the better, adding " Board of Directors of financial institutions should not look to abnormal profits only to the detriment of their employees in their desire to reorganize their banks."