Accra, Dec. 9, GNA - Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama on Friday observed that lack of sustainable financial services to rural communities explained the low levels of production as well as the cases of abject poverty in these areas.
He said: "If we are to confront poverty holistically and effectively, then we must ensure that the poor and vulnerable in society have access to a decentralized and sustainable financial service." Vice President was speaking at a ceremony to climax this year's national celebration of the United Nations International Year of Micro-Credit at Mantse Agbonaa in Accra on the theme: "Micro Finance: A tool for Job and Wealth Creation."
The UN declared 2005 as the International Year of Micro Credit to intensify the awareness of micro-finance as a tool for wealth creation and poverty reduction.
Vice President Mahama noted that micro finance was universally acknowledged as a key strategy for providing flexible and broad access to financial services for the poor. Vice President Mahama said for such services to be viable, affordable and sustainable, there was the need for the poor to become partners in the planning, ownership, control and management of the scheme.
He said Government would soon establish a special micro finance and small loans fund to support entrepreneurs.
Vice President Aliu Mahama expressed satisfaction that most grassroots micro finance institutions placed emphasis on savings, adding that finance was not only about loans and grants.
"No matter the amount of credit we receive and how productive we become, if we do not get out of the extravagant spending habit, we will never make the necessary savings for investment," he warned.
Mr Daouda Toure, UN Resident Coordinator in Ghana, said although there were many dimensions to poverty, the basic lack of financial resources leading to limited opportunities to improve one's conditions of life were among the most unfair to the poor. He said micro-finance had proved its value as a weapon against poverty and hunger, adding: " A small loan, a savings account, an affordable way to send money home, is making a lot of difference to poor households."
Mr Toure, who is also the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Country Representative, said with an initial investment of 3.3 million dollars, UNDP had supported 11 micro-finance institutions to scale-up their outreach while achieving managerial and institutional sustainability.
Professor George Gyan-Baffour, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, said when the economically active got to know about micro-finance and embraced it, it would enhance productivity leading to job creation and poverty reduction.
Prof. Gyan-Baffour, who is also the Chairman of the Ghana National Organising Committee on the Year, said: "Evidence on the ground during the expositions from all shades of beneficiaries including school pupils point to the fact that micro-finance, if properly packaged can indeed create wealth and improve on the livelihood of the vulnerable and our rural folks."
Sheikh Ibrahim Cudjoe, Greater Accra Regional Minister, said the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy was a direct response and machinery for the attainment of the global agenda through its micro-financing component.
Mr Emmanuel Oduro Darko, General Manager, Ghana Co-operative Credit Union Association, Limited, co-sponsors of the programme, said Ghanaians lacked the ability to save; adding that the little money set aside was likely to grow into a huge business capital.