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BUDGET: Ghana has achieved economic stability

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Accra, Nov 10, GNA - All fair-minded Ghanaians will acknowledge that under the leadership of President John Agyekum Kufuor, Ghana has achieved economic stability, has become an attractive place for investment and is positioned for accelerated growth, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu said on Thursday. This achievement, he said in the 2006 budget to Parliament on Thursday, had been the result of a combination of an efficiently implemented macro-economic policy and a vigorous pursuit of other policies.

These include first, infrastructure development in roads, energy, ICT and the ports; secondly, enhanced social services in education and healthcare delivery and thirdly, modernizing agriculture, including agro-processing.

The others are good governance including the rule of law, maintenance of law and order, enhancing the decentralization process, respecting human rights, upholding freedom of expression, including the repeal of the criminal libel law and respecting property rights, and fifthly, government's facilitation of Private Sector Development and engendering an investment-friendly atmosphere.

"Mr Speaker, Ghanaians are proud of major international companies who have decided to do business here.

"We already have the world's two top gold mining companies, Anglo-Gold Ashanti and Newmont Mining Company. In the meantime Gold Fields is also enhancing its operations in the country." Mr Baah-Wiredu said the world's largest aluminium company, ALCOA, recently pitched camp in Ghana to work in partnership with government to revive the VALCO Plant and expand the development of an integrated aluminium industry.

This, he said, will cover the exploration of the bauxite deposits at Kyebi and Nyinahin.

He said it was therefore not surprising that Canada recently unveiled its Africa Investment Fund and chose Ghana as the launch site.

The Minister said it was gratifying to note that several indigenous companies had also taken advantage of enabling investment climate to establish and/or expand their businesses.

He identified some of them as Tropical Cables and Conductors, Kinapharma, Ernest Chemists, Strategic African Securities, MKOGH, Domod, Camelot, Ashesi University, Central University, Nexans, ANC Mall, just to mention a few who are leading the renewal and revival of Ghanaian Industry.

He said these were worthy successors of trail blazing indigenous Ghanaian businesses of the likes of Pambros Salt Industry, Tata Brewery (Gh) Ltd, International Tobacco (Gh) Ltd. Combine Farms and Mark Coffie Engineering.

Mr Baah-Wiredu said the realization of the medium term objective of stabilizing the economy had been achieved earlier than anticipated pointing out that this must be attributed to the comprehensive coordination and skilful political management of policies and the sustained goodwill of Ghanaians and timely support of external donors and creditors.

"The World Bank has identified Ghana as one of the most capable countries of using aid more quickly across a wide range of interventions."

Mr Baah-Wiredu said at the recently held Consultative Group meeting Ghana's Development Partners, pledged 1.2 billion dollars to support the country's development programmes for first year of the GPRS II, with strong prospects of increasing their level of support to 5 billion dollars for the 4-year duration of the programme.

He pledged that the government would continue to focus on guarding the macro-economic stability that has been achieved.

"The 2006 budget injects more funds to growth sectors like agriculture, lands, forestry and mines, tourism, housing, industry, information & communication technology, energy and transport - buttressing the cardinal objective of the GPRS II -through private sector development.''

"The Government firmly believes that creating the environment for the private sector to serve as the propeller of economic growth is absolutely essential to reducing poverty in the country."

Mr Baah-Wiredu said at the recent Consultative Group meeting, participants were also reminded of the saying that "Investment goes where it wants, not necessarily where it is wanted".

"Ghana is currently attractive to investors who are looking to invest in West Africa and mindful of this, Government will continue to improve on the necessary regulatory reforms especially those on 'ease of doing business'".

The Minister said government was mindful of the difficulties faced by operators in the informal, small and medium scale sectors to access credit for their businesses.

Mr Bah-Wiredu said Ghana was nearing the completion of the first phase of the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) adding that the sum of collective efforts had been a significant turnaround in the fight against poverty, illiteracy and disease.

"We have also achieved a major transformation of our economy from the chaotic and turbulent environment that we inherited in 2001 to today's 'Ghana Incorporated' of purposefulness, stability and certainty of the environment in which the Business of Ghana is carried on. "With this Budget, we have signaled that we are ready to travel down the road of sustained growth and development, covering wealth creation, the gainful employment of more of our people and the sharing of the resulting gains through better pay for a more productive and happier people."

Mr Baah-Wiredu said the GPRS II, taking cognizance of the objectives of NEPAD and the Millennium Development Goals, had been developed as the principal instrument for fulfilling the aspirations of Ghanaians to be the architects of their own destiny and the custodians of their hopes, aspirations and expectations to bring their social and economic standing to comparable levels with the best in the Global village of nations.

"Mr Speaker, today's Budget marks a major turning point for this Government and this country. We came into power in the full knowledge that the ultimate yardstick by which we would be measured at the end of our term, will be whether or not we have been able to make real and measurable improvements in the life of our people.

"Put simply, the people of Ghana will want to know whether we have made them better off now than we found them at the beginning of 2001." The Minister said the Budget had brought the benefits of the undoubted macro-success down from the skies into the tangible human forms of more jobs and improved wages.

"Now that we have enabled the environment for honest toil leading to handsome rewards, let us stimulate and harness the creativity, skills, and commitment of this nation and its people to put its collective effort together to 'make poverty history' in the lifetime of our children."

Mr Baah-Wiredu said Ghanaians were better prepared today than they were yesterday in developing our country.

"We will be better prepared tomorrow in developing our country. It is a continuing assignment. No nation is ever perfectly prepared before it embarks on major initiatives. Let us muster the courage to act now. No nation is waiting for us. In the face of distraction - expected or otherwise, natural or manmade, let us stay focused in building a stronger nation."

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