The Presidential Special Initiatives (PSIs) introduced by the Kufuor administration in 2001 can be described as "the most successful industrial intervention" in the country, Trade Minister-designate Alna Kyerematen has said.The four initiatives included the Integrated Action Programme for Cassava Starch Production and Export and the Export Action Programme for Garments and Textiles in Ghana, which were both launched in 2001 by President John Kufuor in 2001.
Under the cassava programme, about 25,000 farmers from 10 selected districts were to have been identified and assisted technically and financially to grow and process cassava into high-grade industrial starch. These could be used in the paper, textile, food, pharmaceutical, oil drilling and petrochemical industries while two by-products, pulp and juice could be used as cattle fodder and fertiliser.
Mr Kufuor at the time said cassava was chosen because over 90 per cent of Ghanaian farmers cultivate cassava either as a main crop or in combination with other crops and it also accounts for about 22 per cent of the country's agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
"It is easy to cultivate compared to other major crops and its production is highly labour-intensive with a high potential for job creation." he added. At the time, Mr Kufuor said the volume of cassava production in Ghana was over eight million metric tonnes annually and it could be easily doubled, however, the major constraint in expanding the production base is the absence of guaranteed markets. "The key to address this constraint is to add value by processing it into industrial starch," he added.
Critics, however, said the two initiatives failed.
Defending the PSIs before the Appointments Committee on Monday, 23 January, Mr Kyerematen said: "The presidential special initiatives were one of the major interventions that the government introduced during our term of office. There were four initiatives – that producing industrial starch from cassava; palm oil industry; then supporting garment and textiles production; and also industrial salt."
"As far as my understanding goes, beyond the efforts that our first president made in industrialisation development by establishing state enterprises, probably the president special initiative is one of the most successful industrial interventions that have been introduced in this country and I say this for one reason because the evidence now shows clearly that those were moves in the right direction," he argued.