2001 Budget is a Foundation Budget- Nduom
The 2001 budget is a foundation- building one meant to stabilise the nation's economy for the long-desired take off, says Dr Kwesi Nduom, Minister of Economic Planning and Regional Co-operation.
"It is not a risky budget that will put the economy into jeopardy", he told a workshop on the state of the economy in Accra on Tuesday.
Dr Nduom explained: "The economy inherited by the new government was found to be very weak because it was based on a huge component of borrowing resulting in a huge debt and loss of focus in economic management."
The workshop was organised by the Joint Consultative Forum (JCF) on the topic: "Is the 2001 budget a step in the right direction?"
The JCF comprises the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), Civil Servants Association (CSA), Ghana Registered Nurses Association (GRNA) and Judicial Service Association of Ghana (JUSAG)
Other speakers were Mr Smart Chigabatia, Chairman of JCF and Mrs Grace Coleman, MP for Asokore.
Dr Nduom said the budget tries to ensure that government handles fiscal policies in a way that it does not stay in the borrowing cycle.
"It is in this direction that we have made debt management a priority item and opted for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative."
He said HIPC takes care of the nation's external debt situation and helps to initiate moves to plan a new poverty reduction programme for the country.
Dr Nduom said the government is negotiating with local banks on the possibility of converting the percentage of domestic debt owed them into long-term bonds.
A decision, he indicated, would be out in the next four weeks. Dr Nduom said there would be no growth whatsoever, "until we take care of the debt situation we find ourselves in."
He said HIPC is one of the ways to provide some form of relief for the country.
Mrs Coleman who spoke on what contributions workers can make towards reaching set targets, called for a stable macroeconomic environment that will enable the economy to take off properly.
She said workers should ensure that their demand for a fair deal is first backed by increase in productivity.
Mrs Coleman said strikes increase the cost of production and damage the economy, which takes time to repair.
She therefore stressed the need for workers to follow laid-down procedures for the redress of all grievances.
Mr Chigabatia expressed regret that workers have been left out in the debate on the economy even though the decisions taken affect them directly.
He said workers are tired of the countless reform and economic packages fashioned by the World Bank and IMF, adding, "none of these things has served the interest workers."
"The time has come for us to know about what government does, especially, to involve workers in its affairs, so that we become part of the entire movement to carry the nation forward," Mr Chigabatia said. "It is unfair to be just dragged along."
Mr Chigabatia said issues such as salaries should not be put in the budget as they have the tendency of putting undue pressure on workers.