Ghana’s Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta has reiterated the Government’s commitment to work and make policies in the interest of the state despite some economic challenges the country has been facing in the recent past.
Presenting the 2022 Budget statement to Parliament on Wednesday, the minister hinted expenditure went high in the 2020 financial year, stressing there was the need to put in measures to turn the economy around.
He said the country recorded a total budget deficit of 15 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, a situation he claims is given President Akufo-Addo sleepless nights.
“Mr. Speaker, we are under no illusions as to the economic challenges facing our country today,” he stated in his address.
“How to ease the sufferings of Ghanaians, transform the economy to create jobs and share the expected wealth across all households, such as providing security and education are what keep the President awake at night,” disclosed Ofori-Atta.
He continued, “How to broaden the revenue base, keep a grip on expenditure, protect the public purse and at the same time build with urgency the needed infrastructure, collecting revenue, managing our debt and expenditure commitments, and paying the bills to stimulate economic activity are the orders he has given to us, his Ministers and other appointees, to carry out over the next three years.”
He said they could get the job done, stressing that “prior to the [COVID-19] pandemic, we had stabilised and turned around the economy between January 2017 and March 2020. ”
He recalled how the government had reversed the worrying economic trend the NPP government inherited and placed the country on a “path of fiscal sustainability and growth.”
“We brought down the fiscal deficit below the 5 per cent threshold; We improved our gross international reserves from US$4.9 billion (2.8 months of imports) to US$9.9 billion (4.7 months of imports),” he noted.
The government, he said, provided free SHS for 1.2 million Ghanaian students, provided free hot meals for 3.4 million pupils in basic school and supported 1.9 million farmers with improved seedlings and fertilizers through
the Planting for Food and Jobs programme.
He also mentioned the provision of temporary employment to 100,000 young people through the NABCO programme as a way of creating wealth for Ghanaians.
Presenting the budget, Ofori-Atta went on to enumerate measures the Akufo-Addo government is putting in place to create more jobs and support entrepreneurs in a more innovative way, beginning from next year.
“We are turning around the economic crisis the pandemic brought in 2020. The challenge is on and we
are determined to prevail and with the people behind us and the Almighty on our side we know we shall prevail,” Ofori-Atta pledged while assuring that the budget statement was intentional about building a sustainable entrepreneurial nation through fiscal consolidation and Job Creation.
“This may be an uncomfortable transition but we are a people who think deeply and we must progress and become a people who also make things for ourselves and the World. We must embrace this challenge of
becoming a vibrant entrepreneurial nation,” he said.
The government, he announced, has put together a framework to provide direct support for young entrepreneurs to enable them to create new businesses and expand existing ones.
The programme known as YouthStart, will direct financial and technical support towards young entrepreneurs in the country to develop commercially viable businesses and create jobs for the youth.
“Mr. Speaker, this understanding of the youth employment challenge, as well as extensive consultations with stakeholders including youth associations and educational institutions across the country, have led to the development of the YouStart initiative which proposes to use GH¢1 billion to create 1 million jobs and in partnership with the Finance Institutions and Development Partners.”
Ofori-Atta further emphasized that local banks had agreed to a package that will result in increasing their SME portfolio up to about GHC 5 billion over the next 3 years to offer the support to the young Ghanaians under the programme.
YouStart is a vehicle for supporting young entrepreneurs to gain access to capital, training, technical skills and mentoring to enable them launch and operate their own businesses.
The sector minister notes the Ghana Enterprises Agency (GEA), the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP), and partner financial institutions, will serve as the implementing arms of YouStart.
Entrepreneurs will be able to apply for support through a dedicated YouStart online portal. NEIP will also engage Ghana’s Faith-Based Organizations as partners for the delivery of essential artisanal skills for the progress of the programme.
By Henryson Okrah|Myxyzonline.com|Ghana