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Regional News Fri, 21 Oct 2005

Assemblies, credit unions urged to spread resources

Tamale, Oct.21, GNA - Alhaji Abubakar Saddique Boniface, Northern Regional Minister has called on Metropolitan, Municipal, District assemblies, credit unions and other finance credit institutions to spread their resources to cover businesses that had been denied essential credit.

"This is the way to economic growth, poverty reduction, national integration, cohesion and stability," He added.

Alhaji Boniface was speaking at a forum organised as part of Ghana's celebration of the United Nations "International Year of Micro-credit" for the Northern, Upper East and West Regions at Tamale on Thursday.

The one-day forum, on the theme: "Micro-finance, a tool for job and wealth creation," was to create public awareness and understanding of micro-credit and micro-finance, to help define the role of the public in poverty reduction to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Alhaji Boniface said poverty reduction had been one of the cardinal points of the Government's development programme as envisaged in the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) and the HIPC initiative. He said: "Efforts to address poverty must of necessity address the issue of putting money into the pocket of the poor. Poverty reduction means nothing more to the poor than increasing his or her ability to acquire the basic necessities of life."

Alhaji Boniface therefore, called on micro finance institutions to help empower the poor by providing them opportunities for wealth creation to enable them meet challenges in the future. He noted that about 70 per cent of the country's population lived in the rural areas and depended on agriculture but they had been starved of micro credit and called for adequate financial support to enhance rural economies.

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The Regional Minister said: "Efforts at job and wealth creation will continue to elude Ghanaians unless something drastic and innovative is done to transform these slowly but dying rural businesses." He said the Government had therefore, evolved strategies to address the constraints to encourage enterprises whose contributions to national economic growth was pivotal.

"The Government had started implementing a programme of training to build the capacity of the informal financial sector to prepare them to handle financial credit and manage their businesses more profitably to reduce poverty," He added.

Mr. Boniface Gambilla, Upper East Regional Minister noted that the absence of credible monitoring and evaluation mechanism for most of the pro-poor interventions had engendered poor delivery of the much-needed inputs to fight poverty.

He said: "The three Northern Regions cannot afford to play politics with the issue of poverty, as has been the case in the past." "Partisan selection of beneficiaries for pro-poor interventions, diversion of resources from the vulnerable to satisfy the few but politically active will not make any political sense in the long run," He added.

The Regional Minister said it was therefore, important for the implementers of the several Government programmes on micro credit and poverty reduction to keep faith with the Government and ensured that the target groups indeed benefited from such interventions. He said time had come for majority of the pro-poor to realise that fighting poverty was much more a serious business than a matter of charity.

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Mr Gambilla said civil society organisations had the responsibility to make the people less complacent and less comfortable with the situation of deprivation.

"Wasteful and ostentatious living are incompatible with wealth creation and should be discouraged. This should be done as an integral part of building capacities of vulnerable groups."

"In our attempts to use micro finance as a tool for job and wealth creation, we must endeavour to intensify and broaden consultations with the jobless and the poor for they are their own experts," Mr Gambilla said.

Mr. George Hikah Benson, Deputy Upper West Regional Minister urged people in Northern Ghana to stop glorifying poverty and work hard towards wealth creation.

He said for poverty to be reduced, the Government must put premium on technical and vocational education and the empowerment of women whose contributions to the national economy could not be quantified.

Source: GNA