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General News Wed, 22 Jun 2005

Debt relief figure to depend on cut-off point - Baah-Wiredu

Accra, June 22, GNA - Finance Minister Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu on Wednesday reiterated that the Government would only be certain of the exact figure of the G-8 debt write-off when the cut-off point date was known. He said until such details were made available during and after the G-8 Summit and the IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings all figures being mentioned should be considered as estimates.

Mr Baah-Wiredu was speaking at the launch of the Ghana Journalists Association Manual on Financial and Economic Reporting, produced with the sponsorship of United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Minister said the amount of 4.1 billion dollars being cited represented about 80 per cent of Ghana's external debt stock to the IMF, World Bank and the African Development Bank, but the actual debt write-off could be more depending on the cut off date. He said the country's economy stood to benefit substantially from the implementation of the multilateral debt relief since money, which otherwise would have been used for servicing the debts, would be released for poverty reduction programmes to enable the country to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Besides, it would reduce the pressure on the country's foreign currency obligations as a result of reduced external debt servicing, stimulate economic growth and reflect positively on the overall balance of payment position. Commenting on the current crude oil prices, which have hit the 60 dollars per barrel mark, the Minister said the country would need about 500 million dollars additional resources to manage the crude oil import bills. He said the 2005 budget estimates were based on an average of 42 dollars per barrel.

The rising price would affect the country's foreign exchange reserves as the oil marketing companies and Tema Oil Refinery would need more foreign exchange to bring in the needed imports. The Minister said the Government's decision to deregulate the petroleum sector and the adoption of a new petroleum product pricing mechanism would reduce the vulnerability of the Budget and free resources for economic growth and enhance poverty reducing expenditures.

Mr Baah-Wiredu said the Government's efforts to strengthen public expenditure and financial management were helping to improve transparency, accountability and efficiency of the use of public resources. He said to ensure that the Government stayed within the approved budget, Cabinet had instituted periodic review on the implementation of the 2005 Budget as well as preparatory activities towards the 2006 Budget.

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The Minister said that in compliance with Article 179 of the 1992 Constitution, Government was proposing to present the 2006 Budget Statement and Economic Policy to Parliament around November 24 with the Appropriation Bill for passage before December 21. He lauded the publication of the Manual and expressed the hope that it would go a long way to promote professionalism.

Mr Dan Botwe, Minister of Information, who launched the book, asked the Media to break down jargons and explain issues to the understanding of the average Ghanaian. He said continuous education was the only way to enhance professionalism and praised the GJA for the initiative.

Ms Ajoa Yeboah-Afari, President of the Ghana Journalists Association, said the launch of the Manual was a measure by the Association to equip Journalists to discharge their duties effectively by adhering to correct interpretation of financial and economic issues. She said the USAID-sponsored project had assisted in drawing attention to the general importance of financial and economic reportage. It had also strengthened the ability of the Media to continue to dialogue and provide informed analysis on economic and financial issues.

Mrs Gifty Afenyi-Dadzie, Member of the Council of State and Immediate Past President of GJA, said the political transformation and the growing democracy could be consolidated through strengthening the country's economy. This, she said, required vibrancy in education and information flow to the average Ghanaian on important developments on the economic front.

Source: GNA
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