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28.12.2005 Business & Finance

Ministry of Finance signs two credit agreements

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Accra, Dec. 28, GNA - The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning on Wednesday signed a 45 million dollar credit agreement with the World Bank for the financing of the Multi-Sectoral HIV/AIDS Project (M-SHAP) and Economic Management Capacity Building Project (EMCBP). The two projects, to be implemented by the Ghana AIDS Commission, the Public Sector Reform in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, would have 20 million dollars and 25 million dollars of the credit, respectively.

M-SHAP is aimed at reducing new HIV infection rate among vulnerable groups, mitigate the impact of the epidemic on health and socio-economic systems and help to promote healthy lifestyles. EMCBP is also intended to provide government with resources to facilitate renewed efforts in the fields of public sector reform and provide a platform for improving governance and service delivery. The terms of payment would be for a period of 30 years with a 10-year grace period.

Mr Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, Sector Minister, who signed on behalf of implementing agencies, said the agencies would be guided by the provisions in next year's budget, which spelled out some of the implementation challenges that faced project execution and implementation, adding; "we should endeavour to implement the project expeditiously to bring relief and development to our people". He noted that the EMCBP would catalyse the allocation of capital to Ghanaians, improve competitiveness and governance through long-term savings institutions and markets. "This should benefit the entire economy in terms of more rational investment decision, more sustained employment opportunities, increased production and exports and ultimately enhanced growth".

Mr Baah Wiredu explained that the agreement for the HIV/AIDS was a follow-up to a 25 million dollar agreement signed in December 2000 with the World Bank for the Ghana AIDS Response Project (GARFUND) coordinated by the Ghana AIDS Commission. The credit was for the support of prevention and care, strengthening public/private institutions for HIV/AIDS control as well as knowledge and project management. "Since the implementation of national response (2001-2005), the project has identified the need for the revision in approach and development of a comprehensive programme to address the wide ramifications of the pandemic in a more coordinated manner."

He noted that under the GARFUND, various achievements were made including the reduction of the prevalence rate from 3.6 per cent to 3.1 per cent. Awareness creation was nearly 100 per cent and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission service sites have been increased from two in 2003 to 85 in 2005. "About 3,700 people living with HIV/AIDS were now on antiretroviral drugs", he said.

Mr Mats Karlson, World Bank Representative, lauded the Ghana AIDS Commission for managing the first tranch of the fund well, adding, "after signing the first agreement we have seen tremendous improvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the results are encouraging". He stressed the need for the implementing agencies to focus on the high-risk groups with more emphasis on commercial sex workers and called for more efficiency in the banking systems to make more people have easy access to the funds. Mr Karlson recalled the attempts by the previous governments to improve the Public Sector Reform and commended government's efforts so

far in this direction. Professor Fred T. Sai, Presidential Advisor on HIV/AIDS and Population, commended the media for their contribution in achieving almost 100 per cent awareness creation of the HIV/AIDS saying it was a multi-sectoral approach and "each one of us have a role to play to fight this menace". He noted that though enough awareness had been created, "our major problem has been with the behavioural change and habit I must say is difficult to overcome but we are working hard to make a breakthrough". Prof. Sai called for more collaboration with the Commission and stressed "any information you come across on the Internet, please do crosscheck before publishing in our local papers".

Dr Paa Kwasi Nduom, Minister of Private Sector Reform, said the Ministry had done enough documentation and "the time has now come for us to commence with the implementation including pay reforms in the public sector, which would be done in phases".