General News Fri, 19 Dec 2003

Five Heads of State arrive for ECOWAS Summit

Accra, Dec. 19, GNA - The five remaining Heads of State attending the ongoing 27th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS arrived in Accra on Friday morning.

They were President Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Pedro Verona Pires, Cape Verde and Henrique Perrera of Guinea Bissau and Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d'Ivoire.

The Summit would elect its chairman. President John Agyekum Kufuor, who currently chairs the regional body, would end his first term this year. He is eligible for re-election for one more year.

It would among its deliberations, review the report of the Convergence Council on the performance of the economies of Member States in relation to their monetary programme.

The Heads of States would consider the report on the implementation of the second monetary zone as well as the report of the Foreign Ministers meeting.

Fontomfrom drums welcome ECOWAS Heads to 27th Summit

Accra, Dec. 19, GNA - Traditional Ghanaian Fontomfrom drummers and dancers demonstrating the rich cultural and artistic African instincts on Friday ushered Heads of States and Governments into the 27th Ordinary Summit of ECOWAS in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

As the Heads of State arrived at the Accra International Conference Centre, venue for the Summit at 0845 hours, the drummers saluted each with appellations while the dancers, wrapped in beautiful costume made dramatic gestures and animated indigenous African rhythmic movements to the admiration of those present.

Notwithstanding the tight security, the infectious reception thrilled some of the Leaders, who broke protocol by responding to the appellations and dance with gestures to signify their appreciation. The whole Conference Centre was under heavy security guard while all roads leading to and from the venue had been closed to the public. Meanwhile the Heads of State and Governments that formed the second Monetary Zone had moved straight into action to deliberate on the proposals and considerations submitted by the Committee of Governors of Central Banks of the West African Monetary Zone.

The official programme made available to the Ghana News Agency indicates that issues on the agenda of the Leaders would include addresses by the Chairman of ECOWAS, President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana, Chairman of the African Union, Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and the United Nations Secretary-General Mr Kofi Annan. The rest are ECOWAS Executive Secretary's Annual Report; Message on the Situation of Children in West Africa; The Adoption of ECOWAS Agenda and Report on Integration and Development.

The reports of the Convergence Council on Multilateral Surveillance, at the level of Ministers of Finance and Governors of Central Banks and meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs would also be considered.

The climax of the Summit would be the election of the Chairman of the Authority and the fixing of date and venue of the next summit.

Ghana pledges commitment to Monetary Zone targets

Accra, Dec. 19, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Friday pledged Ghana's commitment to the attainment of a single digit inflation rate by the end of 2004, to make the country ready for the launch of the second monetary zone in the West Africa Sub-Region by July 2005. President Kufuor made the pledged in his acceptance speech as the in-coming Chairman of the Heads of State and Governments of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) at the its sixth Summit in Accra. It heralds the official opening of the 27th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Governments of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

He said Ghana's attainment of three out of the four criteria was a manifestation of the Government's commitment to the realization of the targets set for the five countries forming the Zone. The targets were, budget deficits as against Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, which should be less than or equal to four per cent, Central Bank financing of the budget deficit in relation to the previous year's tax revenue equal to 10 per cent and three months reserves as import covers.

Ghana was yet to attain the single digit inflation threshold. At a Summit held in Conakry in November 2002, Heads of State of the five countries decided to defer the introduction of the currency from January 2003 to July 2005 to enable the states to satisfy the criteria set for its introduction.

President Kufuor, who is the current Chairman of ECOWAS, said "the Accra Summit would underpin our determination and also deliberate on our collective effort to accelerate economic integration and development for the community."

The ECOWAS Chairman said when the members took the decision to create a common currency they knew that it would mean attenuating the individual national sovereignty over monetary policy, and adhering strictly to sound fiscal policies and prudent financial management. It also meant modernizing the financial systems and harmonizing the financial laws and taxes, adding: "We were also aware that the common currency would facilitate rationalization of commerce, industry, telecommunications, energy and agriculture to engender a more vibrant sub-regional market."

President Kufuor said the monetary zone would also empower the Sub-Region to become more competitive in the wider international market. He said, "such regional cooperation would foster peace and security, and reduce poverty among the peoples to free them to use their creative talents to pursue higher standards of living."

He commended members the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) for their commitment and support to the realization of the second zone adding: "This is a stepping stone to the eventual achievement of the common currency for the entire ECOWAS." He also encouraged greater collaboration between UEMOA and ECOWAS in order to enhance coordination between the two institutions to ensure the smooth implementation of programmes.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Out-going Chairman of the WAMZ, said the monetary integration programme was very much on the right track despite some setbacks in meeting the macro-economic convergence criteria.

He said although the overall performance of countries towards the convergence dropped from 60 per cent to 35 per cent as at the end of September, 2003, this should not deter member countries from working progressively towards realizing the goal.

"We do not expect instantaneous results to our various economic reform programmes. Rather, we should commit ourselves to progressively sustaining our efforts at attaining convergence, particularly in the area of total elimination of budget financing from our Central banks."

He urged member countries not to relent in their efforts even in the face of less satisfactory performance, knowing that macro-economic convergence was not an easy task for the various economies.

President Obasanjo said: "Today, we will be faced with certain critical decisions in our march towards the 1st July, 2005 deadline for the attainment of a single monetary zone. Let me emphasise the need for objectivity in deliberations over the issues facing us." He appealed to Heads of State and Governments of WAMZ to seriously address the issue of funding the Zone's programmes, especially the stabilization and cooperation fund.

The Nigerian President also called for the prioritisation of funding for the West African Central Bank, saying that members' commitment to the monetary Union should be reflected in their meeting the financial contributions needed to support programmes.

He said reports indicated that most member countries' contributions were outstanding.

President Obasanjo emphasised education and mobilization of support of the citizenry for the monetary integration programme and about the new currency, including practical steps at putting the people through the process of determining the exchange rates and conversion of existing local currency into the ECO.

"The Year 2004 should, therefore, feature as the education of our people on the monetary union to ensure the success of this lofty programme," he said. 19 Dec. 03

Source: GNA