The conference hall of Royal Senchi Hotel at Akosombo, where the National Economic Forum (NEF) is being held, erupted into laughter when the Vice-President, Mr Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, announced that he was the Master of Ceremony (emcee) for the forum.
The Vice-President said this as he welcomed eminent economists, policy makers, business leaders, representatives of traders associations, development and social partners and members of academia to the four-day forum, which is being held on the theme, “Changing the narrative: building a national consensus for economic and social transformation.”
“To be efficient, there is no emcee for this occasion – I’m the emcee”, Mr Amissah-Arthur said, eliciting laughter from the participants.
As Chairman for the NEF, the Vice-President had earlier told the gathering that the forum aimed at turning “the short term challenges that we face into an opportunity for the future – into an opportunity for achieving transformation of economy in the medium term”.
According to him, the idea of NEF developed earlier this year, when President John Mahama met Ghanaian businesses and private sector participants “to discuss how the micro-economic challenges and our plans for resolving them were impacting on their business”.
Mr Amissah-Arthur said: “We probed them about what government could do to support their operations and how the private sector could create jobs for young Ghanaians.
“These were private sector operators, overwhelmingly Ghanaian, who addressed their problems in a national context.
“It became obvious that a general conversation – and not just a dialogue – was needed, and would benefit from the inclusion of the social partners, of political organisations of traditional authorities, religious leaders in all facets of the Ghanaian society.”
Addressing concerns by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) that position papers had not been made available to the NEF participants, the Vice-President said the move was deliberate, in order not to impose the views of government on the forum.
He explained that a concept paper had circulated for discussion at the forum.
Mr Amissah-Arthur added that the short-term measures to restore fiscal balance – which were first unveiled by Finance Minister Mr Seth Terkper on April 1, 2014 – had been further “developed and refined to address the longer-term opportunities for the economy”.
“At the request of the President we have circulated the latest version of this home-grown plan to the group of chairpersons and facilitators for this meeting,” he said.
Mr Amissah-Arthur stressed that, whereas the short-term measures had been developed and implemented, the government was determined to ensure that they did not affect considerations for the economy’s long-term prospects.