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Ghana: Forum to brainstorm on economic challenges ends

A national economic forum that discussed the challenges facing the Ghanaian economy and chart a non-partisan way forward ended on Thursday at Senchi, just outside the capital, Accra, with broad agreement on several issues on economic management, restoring stability and motivating the people.

Dubbed “The Senchi Consensus”, the 22 points in the final document agreed by some 140 participants from all walks of life, would be fleshed out later with the necessary details and timelines to check the slide in the economy characterised by rising inflation at 14.7 per cent, unreliable energy supply, high wage bills at nearly 60 per cent of tax revenue, high depreciation of the local currency the cedi, which has lost more than 20 per cent of its value this year and general hardships being experienced by the population.

The forum, which ended one day early, said the Ministry of Finance should as a matter of urgency review the targets set in the 2014 budget with the review identifying likely deviations and making proposals for plugging the resultant financing gap while the Bank of Ghana traced the implications of the revisions for monetary policy.

The participants said a mechanism must established to realign the budget whenever the economy was affected by unanticipated shocks.

They asked the Bank of Ghana (Central Bank) to expedite work on the assessment of the recently announced foreign exchange measures and take speedy and appropriate action “to restore confidence and relieve the unintended consequences of the measures”.

The Central Bank, a few months ago, announced far reaching measures on the operation of foreign exchange accounts and pricing of goods and services in foreign currency to halt “dollarization” of the economy that, it said, was putting severe stress on the local currency.

The document called for further efforts to improve the efficiency of tax collection as well as broaden the tax base and reduce recourse to the introduction of new taxes, adding the incidence of discretionary tax exemptions should be reviewed and reduced.

The participants, concerned about the high borrowing of successive governments, especially in election years, said consideration should be given to the amendment of the Bank of Ghana Act to set a ceiling on its lending to government that was based on government’s revenue collection in the previous year, rather than the current year as was currently the case.

The government was urged to take steps to develop long term financing instruments to minimize reliance on short term financing.

They document said an investment programme to deal with the energy crisis must be put in place as a matter of urgency in order to propel growth, employment, competitiveness, and macroeconomic stability.

The final document also stressed that long term national interest should supersede all other interests saying that the State should encourage and promote indigenous entrepreneurship and continue to execute projects and programmes commenced by the previous Government.

It said governments should foster a state whose day-to-day management was supported by “a professionally competent civil service working in an environment devoid of political victimization and intimidation and where support for the Government is not interpreted as political affiliation”.

The participants said it was imperative to strengthen the public accounts and finance committees of Parliament to play their oversight responsibilities more effectively; and also to develop a mechanism for effective synergy and coordination between the Monitoring Units of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and the Office of the President.

They urged the government to establish a One-Stop-Shop for investments, electronic templates to simplify business processes, streamline the activities of the Ghana Export Promotion Council (GEPC), Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) and Free zones Board.

It should also and strengthen the capacity of the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) and other statistical reporting agencies “to deliver reliable and timely economic and social statistics for planning, research and development”.

On wages, the document said for the purposes of encouraging high national productivity, government, labour and the private sector must collaborate to institute a management and labour productivity crusade including the introduction of a Service Charter that ensured that productivity was matched with remuneration.

Participants urged the government to take steps to revamp the manufacturing and agriculture sectors, encourage domestic production of some agricultural products as well as import substitutable manufactured goods.

President John Mahama in his closing remarks said he was satisfied with the outcome of the forum stressing, “We are committed in taking the next steps.”

“This Forum is ending, what lies ahead is the beginning of a new day for Ghana, shaping together as a nation,” he said, and pledged that his government was ready to implement the decisions.

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