General News of Saturday, 28 February 2015
The President John Dramani Mahama on Thursday said government was looking forward to building a strong and resilient economy through diversification for development.
The President said the economic benefits of a diversified and transformed economy are enormous, saying “as a people we must make a conscious effort to eat what we grow, and add value to our primary raw materials.”
He said the vision is to transform the structure of the Ghanaian economy- transformation through diversification, value addition to our primary products, the promotion and patronage of locally manufactured goods and services.
“This is intended to make us self-reliant and position the country as an export-led economy to create decent jobs.” He said.
This, he said, would support a stable economy and job creation to improve Gross Domestic Products (GDP) per capita and enhanced standard of living for the people.
He said the initiatives introduced last year to enhance local production had already started bearing fruit, especially in the area of rice cultivation, for example, local production increased by 60%.
According to the latest statistics from the Bank of Ghana, our rice import bill fell by a whopping 41 percent, reducing from US$467.2 million in 2013 to US$275.1 million in 2014. He said.
The president said “on my fraternal visits as ECOWAS Chair to our sister countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, at the height of the Ebola crisis, I donated 100 tons of food products to the 3 countries.”
Prominent among these products he said was a long-grain made in Ghana rice brand called “Pride”–“a clear evidence of the pride I felt in presenting our own homegrown variety to our neighbors in their time of difficulty”.
He said it is expected that as the Transformation Agenda gains traction, they would be able to reduce import bill on other commodities and indeed be able to export some of the surplus.
“Two weeks ago, I constituted a task force chaired by a former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana to work on the modalities for the establishment of a Ghana Export and Import (EXIM) Bank that would consolidate all past efforts and become the key engine of the development of Ghana’s exports”. He added
President Mahama said the Ghana EXIM Bank would act as an intermediary between government and exporters, and assist exporters to compete internationally by providing insurance and finance facilities to support their overseas contracts.
He said in Komenda, in the Central Region, a new sugar factory is under construction which when completed, would be reducing significantly, the over US$300 million spent annually on sugar imports.
“We would also be able to support local industries, such as beverage and ice cream manufacturers, who require large amounts of sugar for their products. Ghana imports, on average, three hundred and seventy-five thousand (375,000) metric tons of sugar annually”.
In addition to the Komenda factory, discussions have been concluded for another sugar estate and factory in the Northern Region. Put together, the two plants should be able to reduce by more than 80% the import of sugar in the coming years. He said.
The President said establishment of these sugar plants would also create employment opportunities, especially for the youth, in their host communities. The Komenda Sugar Factory alone he added would create seven thousand, three hundred (7,300) direct and indirect jobs in addition to the savings on foreign exchange.
Not forgetting the poultry industry, the President said this is one of the sub-sectors receiving major government attention and benefiting from a policy to invest in strategic sectors to produce locally some of the products on which they are currently expending a huge amount of foreign exchange.
He said one year on, they have launched a 20 million Broiler Project with a target to reduce the importation of poultry by 40% by the end of next year, 2016 and save this economy about US$150 million.
“Indeed latest statistics show that we have achieved a drop of 30% in poultry imports from $208.7 million to $149 million”.
He noted that poultry farmers are already reaping the benefits associated with the increased demand for their products on the domestic market as a result of this policy, adding that the financial support to poultry farmers from the Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund is helping them re-organize their businesses and produce to meet local demand.
He said this year, an additional 200 poultry farmers would receive financial support as part of the broiler project.
Government has also extended support of GH¢51 million, to a number of local pharmaceutical companies to expand their operations, retool their factories and obtain critical certification to enable them meet international export standards. He stressed.
“My working visits to Ernest Chemist and Tobinco Pharmaceuticals reaffirmed my belief in what Ghanaian industries can do when given the needed support. I am proud of the dominant role of indigenous Ghanaian entrepreneurs in this particular sector of industry”.
He further said, this healthy partnership with pharmaceutical companies, including Dannex and DanAdams, would continue and would be extended to other sectors to generate more decent work for the youth of Ghana.
These successes he said have been attained within the context of a transition to a lower middle-income country status and its attendant challenges, which include dwindling access to grants and concessionary financing from development partners, and a growing demand for essential social services, by a growing and affluent middle class.
The President said notwithstanding the recent macroeconomic challenges, investor confidence in Ghana continues to grow as a result of measures introduced to stabilize the economy.
“Last year, inflows from foreign direct investment stood at US$3.57 billion from 184 projects”.
He said the over subscription of the 2014 US$1billion Eurobond as well as the US$1.7billion syndicated loan for cocoa purchases is a further testimony of investor confidence in the country’s economy, adding “our subsequent market activities would target the development of infrastructure and refinancing of the 2007 Eurobond”.