National dialogue on economy opens next Tuesday

The Vice-President, Mr Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, has announced that the much anticipated non-partisan National Economic Forum on the economy comes off from next Tuesday.

He told a gathering of investors at the ongoing Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, Texas in the United States of America, that the President had invited 300 people from all walks of life to share ideas on how to fix the challenges facing the national economy. 

The platform at the OTC, facilitated by the Corporate Council on Africa and the US Embassy in Accra, brought together players in Ghana’s oil and gas industry and Ghanaian and US businesspeople seeking opportunities in each other’s country. Economic forum

Mr Amissah-Arthur said the four-day retreat would be attended by the political parties, business interest groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society groups and all sectors of the society to agree on the issues that would guide policy formulation by the government in the medium term.

It will be on the theme, “Changing the narrative: Building a national consensus for economic and social transformation”.

Mr Amissah-Arthur said participants in the forum would take a critical look at the structure of the economy and discuss the challenges with the view to creating a national consensus on the way forward.

“In the medium term, we have a very good outlook from oil and agricultural processing but we have short-term challenges that we have to deal with to put the economy back on track,” he explained. Fiscal challenges

The Vice-President noted that the government had observed that the fiscal challenges of the last two years were cyclical and were associated with electoral expenditure that must also be addressed, just as the microeconomic challenges associated with the huge wage bill. 

“Subsidies on petroleum products are being eliminated, those on utility tariffs are being reduced, the effects of public sector wages on the economy too are being addressed, while maintaining subsidies on agricultural inputs to stimulate productivity,” he said.

Mr Amissah-Arthur reiterated the government’s commitment to make Ghana the most attractive destination for business, despite the present challenges, hence the decision to take the harsh decisions now for the good of society.

“We will work diligently to ensure that our commitment to economic reforms enhances our democratic stability, a strong base for human and material resources to establish Ghana as the strong base for investment in Africa,” he noted. Commendation

Mr Amissah-Arthur thanked the US government for its continued support to Ghana, particularly in the areas of trade, education and culture, and expressed the hope that it would be extended to other fields.

He said Ghana decided to host the forum at the OTC to get the opportunity for the candid discussion of the issues without leaving space for conjecture and rumour.

“We seek partners who are ready and willing to assist Ghana to develop its oil and gas fields to become a major player on the continent.

“Ghana provides a fertile opportunity as a safe democratic and stable society, as well as an investor-friendly country ready to attract the best from the business community for a mutually beneficial partnership,” he said.

The Veep said the discovery of oil in 2007 set the tone for more investor interest in Ghana and that was the reason the country set out to put the necessary legislation in place to guide all players.

“Sometimes, the players complain that our laws are too elaborate and seen to be frustrating. We are aware of the expectations of the investor but we have a common interest of ensuring fairness and transparency in the sector to avoid the mistakes of others,” he assured. US Ambassador

Mr Gene Cretz, the US Ambassador to Ghana, expressed concern over the economic challenges facing the Ghanaian economy, saying the challenges were stalling short-term growth.

He said the government was taking some bold steps, such as the removal of subsidies on petroleum products and adjustment in the VAT rate, to deal with the structural deficiencies.

Mr Cretz spoke about steps being taken by the US government to help Ghana resolve its challenges and said soon the second compact of the Millennium Challenge Account would be signed as a significant investment by the US to improve Ghana’s power sector.

Meanwhile, a statement signed by a Deputy Information and Media Relations Minister, Mr Felix Kwakye Ofosu, on the national economic forum said it would also seek to institutionalise a regular consultative machinery that promoted economic dialogue between the public sector and social partners in order to develop common national positions on some of the critical economic policy issues confronting the nation.

It said former Finance ministers, former governors of the Bank of Ghana, eminent economists, political parties, parliamentarians, business leaders, representatives of traders associations and members of academia were some of the participants to attend the forum at Akosombo.

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