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11.01.2006 Business & Finance

Ghana must increase exports to Japan- Baah-Wiredu

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Accra, Jan. 11, GNA - Mr. Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, on Wednesday said it was unlikely that the price of crude oil would reduce below 50 dollars per barrel and therefore it behoved on Ghana to adopt further strategies to be able to absorb the shocks.

He said even though the price had recently come down from beyond 60 dollars it would not reduce further than 50 dollars. Among the economic strategies, the Minister mooted to be able to absorb the shocks was for Ghana to expand and increase exports to countries like Japan to ensure a good balance of payment. Mr Baah-Wiredu, who was speaking during a courtesy call on him by Mr Hiroshi Murakami, the new Resident Representative of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Ghana, said that country did not produce crude oil but had been able to resist the associated shocks of world price hikes by producing bio diesel from oil palm. He therefore said apart from increasing and expanding exports, Ghana could also learn from Japan how to extract bio diesel from oil palm from the abundant fertile land.

Ghana and Japan already has a long-standing technical and bilateral cooperation dating back to 1973.

"Indeed currently, Japan is one of Ghana's largest development partners and over the years, JICA has become one of the biggest vehicles for the delivery of Japan's development aid to this country," Mr Baah-Wiredu said.

In 2004, Japan made a stock cancellation of one billion dollars of Ghana's debt owed her and turned the loan for the construction of the Kasoa Yamoransa trunk road in the Central Region to a grant. Japan has also given a non-programme grant of 42.84 billion cedis for allocation to small enterprises for which the Minister expressed the hope that though it was not enough to go round the more than 281 qualified applicants, it would make a significant positive impact on the Ghanaian private sector.

Other assistance from Japan include the cultural grant of 3.94 billion cedis in 2005 for the procurement of science equipment for the chemistry department of the University of Ghana, the approval of 81 billion cedis from the counter value account to implement basic and teacher education projects and a 30.87 billion cedis grant aid for the procurement of agricultural equipment and other inputs for underprivileged farmers towards increased food production signed last week.

Mr Baah-Wiredu said the assistance given Ghana had so far given some added strength to the economy and called Japans suggestions to the development of the multilateral donor support programme which is aimed to eliminate duplication of programmes, reduce time spent in negotiations and the cost involved in the procedures in acquiring donor support.

Mr Murakami said as at March 2004, Japan had assisted Ghana through JICA to the tune of 270 million dollars in technical cooperation projects such as health, education and agriculture. He said grant assistance also amounted to 580 million dollars used for roads, bridges and boreholes while the country dispatched about 780 science and mathematics teachers, dress-making and handicraft teachers and electrical and mechanical engineering teachers.

In addition, 1,784 Ghanaian officials had benefited from various training courses in Japan and in 2005/6 fiscal year, JICA has dispatched newly recruited 20 short term and long term experts and 42 volunteers to Ghana.

About 106 Ghanaian officials are also being sponsored to train in Japan and other countries within the same period. Mr Murakami said Japan had revised her Country Assistance Plan for Ghana and the new programme had the main goal to reduce poverty through economic growth under two key pillars of assistance notably; the accelerated rural development and promoting industrial development. MR Murakami however, said to make further progress it was important that Ghana continued to provide the needed leadership and played the facilitating role in the Ghana-Japan collaboration.

"In this regard, good governance, prudent financial/economic management and public accountability should be the priority of the government in order to create an enabling environment to propel economic growth and achievement of poverty reduction and the Millennium Development Goals," he added. 11 Jan. 06