Ghana President on good governance and economy

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As Ghanaians prepare to elect a new president by the end of the year, outgoing President John Kufuor has said he will be leaving behind a country rated high in good governance and a stabilised economy.

”When you talk about governance, Ghana has been accorded the status of one of the best countries in terms of good governance everywhere in all the five continents of the world,” the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted him as saying in an interview conducted in Accra, the Ghanaian capital.

“As I am on my way out, I believe the track record of my government has been quite impressive and very positive,” said the two-term Ghanaian leader, who assumed office in January 2001 and was re-elected in December 2004.

Kufuor said Ghanaians were happy, in part because of his government’s respect for the rule of law and human rights, and also because of the massive remittance from their compatriots living outside the country.

From US$200 million in 2001, the remittance has hit US$5 billion annually, he said.

Elaborating on his country’s economy, President Kufuor said the government ability to stabilise the economy had begun to yield expected dividends.

He described as ‘absolutely challenging’ Ghana’s decision to take the IMF initiative for Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) which, according to him, was ”truly harrowing, distasteful and demeaning for Ghana formerly called the Gold Coast”.

Kufuor, however, said from the fact of the economy, that was the only way available to the country to restore the dignity it deserved.

“The happy occasion came when, within two years, because of the performance of government in the management of the economy, the IMF declared Ghana as having completed the initiative,” he explained.

The Ghanaian President said this meant the country was out of the woods as far as debt sustainability was concerned.

”Ghana had become solvent. On the basis of that, the Paris Club of creditors started cancelling the debts that virtually bogged the country down in economic performance,” he said.

Kufuor said the declaration by IMF was an important event, pointing out that US$2 billion was written off and another US$2 billion dollars was spread out over a period of 10 to 20 years.

”So, that too, was a landmark achievement for the government. I was very happy. So after that, my party won the election that launched me into the second term.

”So, in the eight-year period, I will say that my government has been able to stabilise Ghana’s economy to the effect that the foremost creditors around the world rated Ghana B+ putting us in the same bracket as Brazil,” the Ghanaian leader added.

Meanwhile, President Kufuor has said Ghanaian and Nigerian authorities are discussing ways to ease trade barriers between them.

But he described as a ”legal issue” the complaints by Nigerian traders in Ghana that they were being made to obtain licenses.

Ghanaian authorities recently introduced legislation requiring foreign investors to comply with certain conditions to qualify for legitimate business transactions.

These include obtaining work permits and licences, as well as a minimum level of investment commitment of several thousands of dollars.

“If we take the Nigerian traders here complaining that they are being made to take licences or something, it is the law that has been applied here.

“That law provides that foreigners trading must come in with a level of investment to be able to trade. If they fall below that level, then the law says `No’ to them.”

“Yes, I acknowledge that we are into the era of ECOWAS and, ideally West Africans should be able to go anywhere, settle and trade without any requirements. Unfortunately ECOWAS has not yet come up enough to the degree that will permit this,” he said.

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