The government is working assiduously to reduce poverty and restore dignity to the citizenry through the 2017 budget and subsequent ones, the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, has said.
He said the key to achieving this agenda is to ensure exclusive growth by addressing the challenges of the sectors which host the poor (in this case, crop farmers) and sharing the dividends of the economic growth poles across the other sectors of the economy.
Mr Ofori-Atta said this in a speech read on his behalf at the end of a five-day Workshop for Strategy, Planning and Project Implementation.
He said although government has over the years implemented a range of pro-poor programmes such as the Ghana School Feeding Programme, Capitation Grant, Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty and the National Health Insurance Scheme, the country still faces persisting economic and social inequalities.
Mr Ofori-Atta said this calls for an intensification of efforts rather than abolition; stating that “it is against this backdrop that government seeks to implement critical interventions to address these shortcomings and continue the implementation of existing programmes”.
He said government’s flagship Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme, seeks to consolidate the gains of these interventions.
The workshop, which was organised by the Institute of Applied Science and Technology, University of Ghana is part of the Ghana Economic Well-Being Project.
The project is designed to engage academia, investors and the public in the general economic development of Ghana through the adoption of practical solutions and innovative technologies.
It is a co-operation between Bulaiza PLC and the Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology, University of Ghana.
The Ghana Economic Well-Being Project is an “open source” project allowing any interested party to join as a development partner.
It is, therefore, geared towards participatory engagements with the public and consequently, able to deliver programmes within the framework of the Ghana Economic Well-Being Project.
The workshop outcome would be a very useful resource and aid to policy-makers and the general government agenda for poverty reduction (in Ghana’s, case, eradication).
Mr Ofori-Atta said the Zongo Development Fund (ZDF) intends to improve infrastructure and the lives of people in the Zongo communities, where poverty was endemic.
He said the ZDF would support the provision of critical infrastructure in education and training, health and sanitation, local businesses and centres of culture, as well as improve security in the Zongo communities.
Mr Ofori-Atta said the ZDF was expected to leverage its seed fund to attract additional funding from development partners, private sector institutions and civil society organisations.
He said the free senior high school policy set to begin in September this year, would improve access to education at all levels; declaring that “this will among other things relieve parents who cannot afford to send their wards to senior high school”.
“Government through the 2017 budget, has demonstrated it’s readiness to relieve the ordinary person of hardship by abolishing a number of ‘nuisance taxes’.
“We have also targeted the poorest group (crop farmers) with policies to improve their lot,” he said.
“The social contract government has signed with Ghanaians will be honoured through addressing the causes of their hardship and ensuring economic inclusiveness,” he added.
Mr Ofori-Atta said plans are far advanced for the implementation of the ‘One Village, One Dam’ programme to boost farming.
“The ‘One Village, One Dam’ policy is to help Ghana become self-sufficient in food production and even become an exporter of food to the sub-region,” the Minister stated.
He said the “Planting for Food and Jobs”, which was launched by the government, was expected to provide about 750,000 direct and indirect jobs in the agriculture sector.
On the “One District, One Factory” policy of government, he said an amount of GHC 456.3 million had been budgeted for its implementation.
He said the policy was aimed at creating youth empowerment, especially in rural areas and add value to the natural resources of each district, enhance the production of local substitutes for imported goods and promote exports and increase foreign exchange earnings.
He said it was estimated to create over 350,000 direct and indirect jobs from all parts of the country.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu in a speech read on his behalf, said the success of the workshop would be measured in how they strengthen the partnership between academia, public sector, private sector, finance and cooperatives representing non-included to systematically eradicate poverty.
He said the recommendations and strategic plans would be building blocks in their efforts to make life less of a burden for all Ghanaians.
“Today’s ceremony is only a symbol to tell the world that we are moving from the thinking-through-stage into the implementing stage,” Prof Owusu said.
“We are thus openly pledging that we are in this together. We are a team seeking to help build a more equitable society. We are all monitors, evaluators, critics of the project which we have agreed on together.”
Prof George Nkansah, the Director,Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology, University of Ghana, remarked that: “I am quite convinced that in these five days, we have been able to share useful skills and knowledge and explored the various technological approaches to agriculture and other social fields that will assist in the systematic eradication of poverty in Ghana”.
“I hope that we have found the modest facilities offered by Gratis, Mchammah, Interplast and other stakeholders as adequate tools for successful implementation of the project,” the Director said.
He announced that in September, the project would start in full force and they were hopeful that all participants, policymakers, government and the public would buy into this idea of practical solutions and innovative technological approach to a poverty-free country.