Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Commodity index kicks off

A new commodity index that tracks prices of selected agricultural products and allows the public to access market information over their mobile phones has been launched in Accra.

With up to-date information from markets across the country, businesses and individuals can access prices, browse offers to buy or sell, or advertise their own products and services. Traders can also procure product more quickly and at a better prices for everyone.

Owned and published by Esoko Ghana Limited, the index will track prices at two levels; the Esoko Ghana Commodity Index-Retail (EGCI-R) and the Esoko Ghana Commodity Index-Wholesale (EGCI-W).

Mr. Bernard Otabil, Managing Director, Esoko Ghana, launching the index explained that the commodity index which is mainly cash market price is based on physical commodities.

“Results demonstrate that farmers who receive real-time price data are able to improve revenues by negotiating better prices or selecting more favourable markets for their produce.

Currently covering 20 agricultural products in 30 local markets across the country, the index were developed to serve as benchmarks for selected commodity prices in selected markets as a measure of commodity prices performance over time.”

The index has been developed to assist analysts and policy makers as well as the media keep track of prices, which have been so volatile over the last few months. It will also provide transparency to farmers and traders and help with production planning in the country.

“The aggregation methodology chosen for the EGCI uses a weighted average calculation based on prices across selected markets which has been designed to capture different price movements at both the retail and wholesale market levels,” Mr. Otabil said.

Esoko’s goal is to improve market efficiencies throughout the value chain hence reducing poverty and contributing to the role of agriculture in the country’s national development.

Active in eight African countries, Esoko was designed and built exclusively in Ghana.
It was recently recognised by the United Nations as a ‘World Summit Awards 2009 Winner’ for its work in creating unique content.

Samsung unveils latest innovation

Samsung Electronics has pledged to invest more than US$6 billion in research and development as it has officially unveiled its latest innovation, the Samsung LED TV series, the world’s slimmest television in Accra.

The new LED TV, which has been added to Samsung range of products measures up to 55 inches of screen size and has a stunning pix quality making it one of the most sought after television set in the world.

Head of Samsung Middle East and Africa, Mr. Justin Shaw in a media interaction observed that the landscape of the electronics market in Ghana is set to experience a revolution which consumers, dealers and the media will embrace with the latest designs and the most advanced technology available today.

Samsung is leading the way with the introduction of a complete line of LED TVs that are not only striking visually, but are high performance, and low energy usage, about 40 per cent less power. With a slim design (less than 2 inches thick), excellent picture quality and performance, this TV is for the most discerning client.

This milestone achievement will further put the fast selling brand as a top performance, high quality, innovative and vision oriented company in the minds of consumers around the world.”

He explained that a new era of maximum entertainment has arrived for consumers looking for a sleek, modern design, premium TV that is practical as well as stylish with benefits of the latest LED technology that has a craftsmanship of an artist.

“With beautiful, crystal-clear design inspired by nature and image quality that extends beyond reality, the Samsung LED TV has taken a completely new dimension.

This unique approach has resulted in a beautifully designed TV frame that comes fully equipped with everything, including a built -in- tuner and power supply,” he said.

“Enjoy the convenience of using your TV to access online content such as Yahoo! Flicker and even You Tube- all with the push of a button. Utilize the convenient USB 2.0 movie port and share photos as well as HD videos from your vacation with family and friends,” Mr. Shaw remarked.

The President of Samsung Nigeria with oversight responsibility in West, Middle and East Africa, Jinuk Shin said the development of LED TV sets was inspired by the need to develop a product that is friendly to the environment.

“The LED TV does not use lead or mercury in production making it toxic free for the environment as reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere,” he said.

Samsung Electronics, founded about 40 years ago, is currently the world’s leading manufacturer of home appliances with a market share of about 20 per cent.

National Food and Agric Show opens

The National Food and Agric Show (FAGRO) aimed at showcasing and selling agricultural products, farm produce, equipment and machinery opens on Sunday, November 29, 2009, at the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park in Accra.

The five day show will also display Ghanaian traditional foods from all the 10 regions on a daily basis to be sampled by people who visit the fair. This free food sampling aims to promote indigenous Ghanaian foods as highly nutritious and healthy.

Over 150 exhibitors from diverse agricultural disciplines, manufacturers, and equipment dealers would be in attendance. Resource persons from the Ghana Standards Board, YARA, Myroc and Millenium Development Authority (MIDA) will hold seminars on topics such as Food Safety, Farmers Financial Freedom, Agro Trade, Modern Methods of Farming, Rabbit and Grasscutter Rearing.

The Project Coordinator of the event, Ms. Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa noted that, “the main purpose for the fair is to add value to agriculture and move it from it peasant stage to a commercial stage. Agriculture is a highly ignored discipline and this is not good for the growth of the economy.

A lot of corporate institutions do not place high priority on agriculture and we at FAGRO aim to bring a new revolution in the Agriculture sector.

This revolution will increase Private Partnership Approach; where Agriculture will not be politically but privately driven; a revolution where most of our young ones will come out of school and yearn to go into Agriculture” she noted.

“It is the only way we can free ourselves from the high import rate of all consumables”, She added”.

The side attraction of this fair is the “Dancing on the Farm Bash” on the 3rd of December 2009, which will usher in the Farmers’ Day and say ‘Ayeekoo’ to our farmers for their contribution to National Development.

FAGRO 2009 is expected to attract scores of individuals, students, investors, industry players, students and families. On sale would be fresh farm produce and other consumables at subsidized rates.

Golden Star pays US$3.1m royalty to gov’t

Golden Star Resources Limited, a private gold production company, has paid US$3.13million to government as royalties for the third quarter of this year out of productions from its Bogoso/Prestea and Wassa mines.

This was made known by the Vice-President (operations) of GSR, Mr. Dan Owiredu, during an interaction with the media.

The third quarter’s payments were made up of US$1.6million from the company’s Wassa Mine and US$1.6 million from the Bogoso/Prestea Mine.

Total royalty payments from the Wassa and Bogoso/Prestea amounted to about US$8million for the three quarters of this year; US$4.47 million from Wassa, and US$4 million from Bogoso/Prestea.

Commenting on these payments, Mr. Owiredu, said it was by daint of hard-work, skill and commitment of Golden Star’s dedicated employees, the support of the local communities and support of the Government of Ghana. The recent increase in gold prices has also been a factor.

“As the second mining company listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange, we are delighted to be able to share the fruits of our endeavours, firstly with the Ghana government and then inhabitants of our communities as key partners, and our creditors and shareholders both here in Ghana and abroad,” he added.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hopes of economic expansion in 2010

The economy next year promises to witness more economic activity than this year, accompanied by easing inflation and generally stable currency, B&FT’s assessment shows.

This will be driven by the relatively flexible fiscal policy of government captured in the 2010 budget, working through to complement the gains that can be made from the disinflation journey that the economy embarked on from the beginning of the third quarter this year.

The latest assessment by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) shows that the path of disinflation began this year and will continue into the larger parts of next year - barring risks of inflation associated with the recovery of global demand and the extent to which crude oil prices might rebound.

Based on the positive signs of the Bank’s assessment, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank last Friday cut the BoG prime rate by 0.5 percentage points down to 18.0 percent, with the view to providing the needed monetary policy support to consolidate the expected gains for economic growth.

A total government spending of GHË10.8 billion is earmarked in 2010, which is 23 percent higher than the projected outturn for 2009 and 11.3 percent higher than the target made in 2009.

While this amount is earmarked for investment in five main high growth inducing areas of oil and gas industry, agriculture modernisation, private sector development, provision of key infrastructure, and information and communication technology, it is based on a flexible budget deficit target of 7.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Even though the 2010 deficit target stands lower compared to the 10.2 percent of GDP projected by the end of 2009, it represents a slower decline of 2.7 percentage points over 2009 compared to the steep decline of 12.2 percentage points from 2008 to 2009.

Consequently, far more government spending is expected in 2010 compared to this year - and this will be well complemented by BoG’s flexible monetary policy as further cuts in the prime rate are expected next year.

Briefing the media last week at the fifth bi-monthly review of the MPC in the year, Chairman of the MPC and Governor of the BoG, Mr. Kwasi Amissah-Arthur, stated that there are signs of stabilisation in prices and in the foreign exchange market with inflation trending downwards including consumer price inflation.

“Indications are that inflation will continue to ease and fall within the upper part of the target range of 14.5 – 17.5 percent by the end of-December 2009. Looking ahead, inflation is likely to return to the target range of 7-11 percent by the end of December 2010,” the Governor said, hinting about the future path of monetary policy.

Given this outlook, the prime rate is expected to ease further while bringing down bank lending rates as well, thus making credit more affordable to the private sector for increased economic activity.

Real annual growth of banks’ credit to the private sector was 6.1 percent in September 2009, down from 32.7 percent recorded in September 2008; but this is expected to improve with the expected falling interest rates. Average lending rates remained unchanged at the second quarter level of 32.75 in October in the range of 25.75 – 40.0 percent, but lending rates are expected to ease in the coming months following the cut in BoG’s prime rate.

The high inflation and huge currency depreciations experienced last year up to the first half of this year hiked up banks’ non-performing loans from 7.6 percent in September last year to 13.2 percent in September this year. However, this trend is expected to change once interest rates begin taking nose-dives.

Economy grew 5.7% in 2009
The BoG’s assessments of economic activity, based on the first three quarters of the year have put provisional economic growth rate in 2009 at 5.7 percent, down from 7.3 percent in 2008 and overruling earlier estimates made based on first quarter data by the Ghana Statistical Service that the economy grew by 4.7 percent this year. This also indicates that an assessment based on the four quarters could see the economy notching up the 5.9 percent growth target that was set by government for the year.

The Bank of Ghana’s Composite Index of Economic Activity (CIEA), used in estimating the growth rate, showed that the first three quarters of the year recorded significant slowdowns in economic activity. In the first three quarters of the year, the index recorded declines of 4.32 percent, 0.91 percent and 0.94 percent respectively. In year-on-year terms, the index as at September 2009 had declined by 6.2 percent compared with a growth of 14.7 percent for the corresponding period of 2008.

Presenting the 2010 budget to Parliament last week, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, disclosed a growth target of 6.0 percent.

From a growth rate of 3.7 percent in 2000, GDP shot up to 4.2 percent in 2001, 4.5 percent in 2002, and 5.2 percent in 2003.

The country’s economy further grew by 5.6 percent and 5.9 percent respectively in 2004 and 2005. The years of sustained growth peaked at 6.4 percent in 2006, after which an energy crisis slowed the country’s growth rate to 6.3 percent in 2007.

Ghana's Revenue agencies to be integrated

Government of Ghana is to integrate the three revenue collecting agencies under the umbrella of a single Ghana Revenue Authority in 2010, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning has announced.

“Drawing on international experience, legislation to establish the Ghana Revenue Authority has been drafted and approved by Cabinet and will form part of the e-Ghana project,” the Minister said.
The three revenue agencies are Value Added Tax (VAT), Customs Excise and Preventive Services (CEPS) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The integration of revenue functions will address the problem of duplication and streamline operational policies and procedures.

It is also to minimise administrative cost, reduce compliance cost for taxpayers, and generally improve efficiency - which will boost the national revenue target.

Dr. Duffuor, presenting the 2010 budget statement in Parliament, announced that government will introduce new taxes and levies to establish the right prices for natural and environmental capital, hence generating more government revenue while providing the right incentives for reducing environmental degradation.

Royalties paid by mining companies are to be increased from three percent to six percent.

Certain duties on food items that were phased out by past administrations are to be brought back in line with the customs and excise duties Act 2000 (Act 578). Among them are levies on rice and poultry.

Similarly tariffs will be introduced on textiles to check dumping in the economy while studies are already underway to assess the impact of re-imposing taxes on petroleum products.

Government’s total revenue and grants for the 2010 fiscal year is estimated at GH¢9.6bn, equivalent to 37.1 percent of the projected Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the year. This amount reflects an increase of 33.4 percent over the projected outturn for 2009.

Again, domestic revenue is expected to increase by 37.8 percent over the outturn for 2009, and grants by 12percent. This will bring total domestic revenue to GH¢8.3bn, equivalent to 31.9 percent of the projected GDP for the year. Grants will amount to GH¢1.4 bn, equivalent to 5.3 percent of the projected GDP for the year.

The tax revenue is also anticipated to increase by 20.2 percent over the outturn in 2009, to GH¢6.1bn. This figure represents 23.4 percent of the projected GDP. Non-tax revenue will amount to GH¢1.9 bn, representing 7.4 percent of the projected GDP and an increase of 157.6 percent over the 2009 outturn.

Measures will also be introduced to modernise the Ghana tax system and enhance revenue administration reform, among others, to plug loopholes - reducing tax evasion, and tax rents from natural resources fairly to make the tax system more efficient and less dependent on indirect taxes.

UN delegation meets Parliament

The United Nations (UN) has pledged to collaborate with the country’s 230-member legislature to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by their 2015 stipulated date.

This was made known when a delegation from the UN and its agencies working in the country met with the leadership of Parliament to map out areas of future collaboration towards the achievement of the MDGs.

The meeting, which centred on possible ways of reinforcing national efforts to eradicate poverty, was also aimed at facing the new challenge of accelerating growth in an inclusive and equitable manner.

Mrs. Joyce Bamford-Addo, Speaker of Parliament, receiving the delegation in Accra observed that the country over the years has attained success in the fields of health, education and infrastructural development, but a lot more still needs to be done to meet the requirements of the MDGs.

She said the passage of bills such as the National Health Insurance, Whistle-Blowers, Financial Accountability, and Disability were all positive measures towards the achievement of MDGs.

Mr. Daouda Toure, Resident Coordinator of UN, noted that reflecting the country’s strong commitment to attain the MDGs, Parliament has been very instrumental in institutionalising legal and financial measures that promote the well-being of the citizenry.

Among some of these are included: The Capitation Grants, the School Feeding Programme, the National Health Insurance Scheme, the National Youth Employment Scheme and the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty programme.

“With approximately five years to the target date of 2015, not only does Parliament need to continue its oversight roles to ensure that resource allocation of the country fully reflects basic needs as expressed in MDGs, but it also has the critical role of reaching out to all corners of the country to mobilise communities to identify development priorities and to realise fully inclusive and locally adapted economic development.

“Periodic meetings between the two houses will enhance the smooth implementation of development programmes that could move the country from its current position in terms of development.”

Mr. Alban Bagbin, the Majority Leader said: “we need to collaborate as Parliamentarians to effectively play the role of communicators between the communities and government.

“Lack of office accommodation for Members of Parliament and inadequate budgetary allocation are some of the major challenges that face the house.”

Among some of the agencies that attended the programme were: the World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CEPA wants interest rates cut

The Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) says the Bank of Ghana (BoG) should consider cutting interest rates, given the downward trend in inflation and the projected steep declines in real economic activity.

Consistent with a strategy of growth with macroeconomic stability, CEPA has suggested that the BoG’s prime rate should be cut by 0.25 percentage points.

The BoG prime rate was maintained at 18.5 percent in September, the third consecutive time in the year after it gained one percentage point in February to a five-year high.

However, the stabilisation effect of government’s new Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank became quite significant after September, working through channels such as deceleration in the rate of inflation and currency depreciation.

Inflation has been stubbornly high since the beginning of the year, registering its highest rate of 20.7 percent in June. Inflation since then has been on the downward trend, reaching 18.37 percent in September.

CEPA believes that with the current broad macroeconomic framework, the monetary policy committee’s projections in May 2009 that inflation will fall to the range of 12.6 to 16.6 percent at the end of the year and then to a range of 6.7 to 12.7 percent by the end of June 2010 is attainable.

“It now looks likely that the target rate of 14.5 percent at the end December 2009 is achievable,” Mr. Samuel Ashong, a Research Fellow at CEPA, noted at the launch of the Ghana Economic Review and Outlook 2009 in Accra.

In spite of the decreasing trend in inflation in the last quarter, lending rates in the economy remained unchanged or rather went up in some respects.

The average lending rate of the 26 banks in the country rose in September to 37.3 percent, and was held in the range 21.0 percent - 50.8 percent. Finance houses charged between 61 and 95 percent, leasing companies between 33.5 and 66 percent, while savings and loans companies charged between 50.3 and 83.3 percent.

Analysts attribute the downward rigidity in the lending rates to the rigidity in the BoG’s prime rate, because the banks respond to the prime rate and not necessarily inflation rate.
A tightening of the macro-economy was signalled with the approval of the 2009 Budget in March, but a conclusion of the 3-year PRGF arrangement with the Bretton Wood Institutions in June converted government’s economic policy programme into a comprehensive stabilisation programme.

Based on CEPA’s projection, government’s total expenditures by the end of the year will be GH¢9,846.8 million (including repayment of external debt, outstanding commitments and clearance of arrears).

This translates to the equivalent of 45.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), lower than the budget estimate of 46.4 percent of GDP and the 2008 provisional outcome of 49.3 percent of GDP.

On the revenue side of the budget, domestic revenue has been projected at GH¢5,732.6 million, equivalent to 26.5 percent of GDP. It comprises GH¢5,047.0 million of tax revenue and GH¢685.6 million non-tax revenue - of which GH¢332.0 million is expected to be lodged into government accounts by the collecting ministries departments and agencies (MDAs).
The remaining GH¢353.7 million will be retained by the MDAs for their use.

The forecast shows domestic revenue ending the year 7.1 percent below its budgetary target of GH¢6,172.1 million or 28.5 percent of GDP.

CEPA’s assessments show that disbursement rates for project grants and programme grants are not encouraging, representing only 55.8 percent and 63.9 percent of the yearly commitments respectively.

HIPC and multilateral debt-relief initiative (MDRI) assistance were equally behind schedule, and accounted for 56.9 percent and 50.6 percent of the annual estimate respectively.

Based on the above projections of revenues and expenditures, a broad fiscal deficit of GH¢2,274.2 million, equivalent to 10.5 percent of GDP, has been projected for end-year 2009. This is 11.8 percent higher than the official estimate of GH¢2,033.4 million, or 9.4 percent of GDP, contained in the revised 2009 budget and the IMF-PRGF arrangement.

Based on these developments, CEPA has estimated 2009 economic growth to be 3.8 percent - down from the high 7.3 percent growth rate recorded in 2008.

The official growth rate projection by the government at the onset of the year was however 5.9 percent.

The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr. Kwabena Duffuor, is expected to officially present the 2010 budget statement to Parliament on Wednesday - when he will also announce the official position on estimated growth rate for the year.

GCB ready to partner local banks for oil exploration

Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) Limited says it is ready to partner with any of the 26 local banks to raise syndicated financing for oil exploration and other related businesses.

Such joint venture will help reduce transactional risk, create employment and retain revenue for the country’s developmental project.

Mr. Francis Chilly Agbeibor, General Manager, Planning and Research Division of the bank who disclosed this to B&FT said: “GCB’s leadership in loan syndications stems from ability to forge strong relationships not only with borrowers but also with bank investors.

Our syndication capabilities are complemented by our own capital strength and by industry teams who bring specialized knowledge to the structure of a transaction.”

Mr. Agbeibor said the bank’s long term international pedigree positions it to understand its syndicate partners’ asset criteria, and help meet substantial financing needs by enabling them to reach the banks most interested in lending to their particular industry.

Mr. Cedric McAddy, Marketing Director of GCB, making a presentation at the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce (GNCCI) monthly meeting in Accra said, the bank has being supporting the operations of Small and Medium Enterprises sector in the country with loans, financial and business advisory service for business growth.

He explained that it has repositioned itself to assuage the hyper-competition in the banking industry, adding that it was committed to ensuring the highest quality banking services for customers in the SME sector which constitute over 70 percent of the country’s businesses.

“The bank has established a SME Service Centre, to enable the bank develop a tailored made products for its operations to improve, especially on the SME service.

Ghana Commercial Bank Limited, since its birth in 1953, has provided banking products and services for corporate, small and medium scale enterprises and retail customers in the country.

Its latest financial reports showed a net profit of GHC 37.59 million for 2008, as against 2007 figure of GHC 32.87 million. Profit after tax for 2008 stood at GHC 47.71 million.

Pre-tax profits was at GHC 49.7 million as against the 2007 figure of GHC 46.96 million.

The Bank achieved an appreciable growth in shareholder equity. Earnings per share for 2008 was GHC 0.142 compared to GHC 0.124 in the previous year with a recommended a dividend of GHC 0.06 per share representing a pay-out ratio of 42% to shareholders.

Ghana Commercial Bank (GBC) has inaugurated its Nima outlet, a suburb of Accra as its 153rd branch in the country.

Nana Appiagyei Dankawoso, Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the GNCCI urged the members to take advantage of the GCB’s rich banking experience and transact business with them to grow their businesses.

October inflation eases to 18.04%

Year on year inflation has eased for the fourth consecutive time in the year, to the October rate of 18.04 percent.

The further drop represents a decline of 0.33 percentage points from the September rate of 18.37 percent.

The decrease was mainly driven by the non-food group which constitutes 55.09 percent of the consumer price index (CPI).

Official figures released by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) named hotels, cafes, restaurants, recreation and culture as the main movers of the decrease in the non-food component.

Fish, bread and cereals were the major contributors to the decrease within the food and alcoholic beverage component of the national basket.

Consequently, contributions to the October rate shows that inflation for the non-food group was 21.15 percent, far higher than the 13.53 percent inflation recorded by the food group.

Briefing the media in Accra on the latest developments in the CPI, Mr. Ebow Duncan, Head of Economic Statistics at the Ghana Statistical Service explained that the latest declines follow the trend of the full cycle of the harvest season, usually starting from August and ending in October.

Though he was not certain what the outcome would be in the coming months, Mr. Duncan was sure that government’s end-year inflation target of 14.5 percent cannot be attained.

“It will be difficult to achieve the government’s end of year target for the year, considering the trend. The pass-through effects from the revised fuel prices, the upcoming festive season and imported inflation are the other major determining factors,” he pointed out.

Government is however optimistic inflation will continue to fall to the end of the year, and possibly reach an end-year record that is close to its target.

This is based on the tight fiscal stance of the budget and the relative stability of the cedi since the latter part of the third quarter.

The Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) programme that government locked into with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in June gave government some US$600 million balance of payment support and another US$400 million special drawing rights disbursements, aside from budgetary supports.

These monies helped in shoring-up foreign reserves, which were valued US$2.27 billion in September - enough to cover 2.2 months of imports of goods and services - from US$1.77 billion in August 2009.

Between January and August 2009, the cedi depreciated cumulatively - by 16.7 percent against the dollar, 24.7 percent against the pound sterling, and 17.5 percent against the euro. In year-on-year terms, the comparative depreciations were 12.9, 5.4 and 12.5 percent respectively.

The depreciation however slowed down after the first half of the year, and the cedi actually appreciated by 1.7 and 0.5 percent against the US dollar and the pound sterling respectively in August.

The broad macroeconomic agenda thus played a leading role when inflation began easing after the first half. It fell from the peak of 20.74 percent in June to 20.50 percent in July and further to 19.65 percent in August.

It was a major positive indication for the President Mills administration when year-on-year inflation dropped more drastically in September to 18.37 percent, even though some economic research organisations such as the Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) are not over-excited because of the socio-political costs of the government’s economic stabilisation agenda.

End period inflation to miss target

Government’s end-year inflation target of 14.5 percent cannot be achieved considering the pass through effects from revised fuel prises, festive season and imported inflation, Mr. Michael Cobblah, Country Representative of Ecobank Development Corporation (EDC) has said.

It rather expects an end of year inflation rate of 20 percent, which is far away from government target.

EDC’s forecast stands rather contrary to assessments by Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA), an economic think-tank that government is likely to meet the revised end-year inflation target.

CEPA said inflation will fall further from the 18.37 percent recorded in September to 14.5 percent by the end of the year, in line with the inflation targeting objective of the central bank.

Inflation has remained stubbornly high despite sharp falls in oil prices. Long-term depreciation of the cedi has accelerated the pace of inflation, pushing up prices for imported goods.

Analyst are unhappy with the trend of inflation because of the socio-political costs in terms of output and real income levels, heighten the poverty burden.

Mr. Cobblah making a presentation in Accra advised government to continue to pursue fiscal discipline, which ensured the economy’s stability within the first three quarters of the year.

He said government must be courageous but balance the deregulation of fuel prices for a prudent utility tariffs regime.

Investing in efficient agriculture must also be taken seriously, whereas empowering the private sector as the main driver of growth.

He said available evidence pointed to a slowdown in the tempo of economic activity and the continued increase in poverty indicators.

He thus called for efficient and prudent project management to ensure that the Government gets value for money.

“One major challenge that analysts have cited as a major cause of the country's development woes is the lack of monitoring and evaluation of government's projects,” he noted.

“This has resulted in huge moneys being paid out to contractors who have nothing to show for the work they were supposed to have done,” he added.

Mr. Cobblah advocated the implementation of public-private partnership implementation of projects like schools and hospitals as well as their monitoring and evaluation.

Access Bank Ghana holds forum on trade finance

Access Bank Ghana has held a trade forum for local entrepreneurs to provide trade finance solutions that will ensure strong and vibrant business growth.

The forum attended by over 60 customers of the bank was to deepen the bank’s customer-relations strategy with its entrepreneurs who received financial and advisory support for their businesses.

It was also to share with them opportunities available within the banking sector for business operators to enhance regional trade facilitation.

Jamie Simmonds, Managing Director, Access Bank United Kingdom at the opening of the ceremony in Accra said: “the Bank focuses on relationship with its customers because of the keen interest in ensuring that businesses mature in Africa.

“Access Bank’s geographic coverage, which cuts across nine African countries in sub-Saharan African’s three Monetary Zone and the United Kingdom, gives it the preferred platform to serve as the partner for trade in Africa, Europe and the rest of the world.”

Mr. Daniel Kwasi Akaba, the Country Managing Director said Access Bank, was pleased to provide strategic entrepreneurial development information to entrepreneurs who are the drivers of economic development to facilitate tremendous growth in the country’s economy.

“One of the immediate steps that Access Bank is embarking on is to provide entrepreneurs with the necessary support and credible partnership to make their businesses successful,” he said.

Mr. Akaba stated that the forum demonstrates the bank’s commitment and expertise in providing trade finance solutions for local businesses in the country.

“Access Bank is committed to becoming the catalyst for socio-economic growth in Ghana and ECOWAS region by facilitating regional trade and collaboration among countries within and outside the region.

The bank, through its intelligent expansion across the African continent, hopes to strengthen the trade relationships among African countries,” he emphasised.

Monday, November 9, 2009

EDC states position on divestiture

The Ecobank Development Corporation (EDC) has asked government to consider diversifying future State-Owned-Enterprises (SOEs) through the stock market to help deepen activities on the bourse.

“Divestiture of state firms through stock exchange activity will deepen our stock exchange activities and encourage market participation.”

Government, through the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC), is privatising firms which include Subri Industrial Plantation Limited, GIHOC Glass Company Limited (GGCL), Bonsa Trye Company Ltd, and GIHOC Footwear Company Limited.

Mr Michael Cobblah, Country Representative of EDC who made this observation in Accra, emphasised that activities on the stock market are shallow and efforts must be to correct it.

“The market has been under downward pressure, recording overheating of market in 2008, inducing a markets correction due to unattractive multiples and jittery retail sell-offs due to speculative buying of hard currency and overdose of news on the financial crisis.”

Market Capitalisation at the end of June 2009 was GH¢15,279.49million (US$10,465.40m), compared with GH¢15,587.76million (US$15,133.74m) at the end of June 2008.

Turnover was however significantly lower than that for the same period in 2008. The half year to June, 2009 recorded a total volume of 41.47million shares valued at GH¢37.69million compared with a volume and value of 189.08 million shares valued at GH¢196.53m for the same period in 2008.

Mr. Cobblah, making a presentation at the EDC’s second iForum series aimed at sensitising its client on the state of the economy, predicted that the capital market will indeed have some busy activities with the lined-up issues - which is encouraging for prospects of the market's viability in terms of capitalisation, liquidity and volume of trading.

He noted that the current state of the economy in general recorded a higher premium by banks on risk rates from government. Interest rates are relatively high, with mortgage loans attracting rates in excess of approximately 70 percent.

Bank base rates remain above 30 percent.

He again indicated that government revenue collection is robust, representing 78.6 percent of projection for the period ending September 2009.

Total revenue and grants was 17.1 percent of Gross Domestic Products (GDP) compared to 18.5 percent in 2008.

Budget deficit reduced to 4.17 percent of GDP as at August 2009, compared to 8.8 percent in August 2008.

Friday, November 6, 2009

CHIC Liquid Vinyl System deepens operations

CHIC Ghana Limited says it is prepared to partner with local building experts to deepen the housing industry.

CHIC Ghana is the authorised dealer and distributor of liquid Vinyl System in the country and the Africa market.

CHIC Liquid Vinyl is a co-polymer coating system that provides a beautiful and easy to clean surface that weatherproofs and protects exterior walls. This enables the walls to last longer than when painted.

Mr. Kofi Boateng, President of CHIC Ghana Limited, made this known at a media briefing after an interaction with the members of the Architectural Engineering Services Limited (AESL) in Accra as part of its first-anniversary celebration in Ghana.

He confirmed the company’s favorable performance in terms of customer satisfaction and the interest generated by the product in the past year.

“Many customers had expressed satisfaction with the quality of the application, especially its good-looking colours, breathability and extreme protection against weather conditions.”

He explained that the product is a highly breathable one that prevents moisture from becoming trapped in walls, which is the leading cause of coating failure from blistering and peeling.

“The extreme thickness of the product consistently fills the cracks, which seals the rain and moisture out, while at the same time sealing the cooling and heating energy system in the home.

CHIC remains flexible over the years, allowing the walls to expand and contract without the cracks returning,” he said.

Mr. Boateng explained that as the sole authorised CHIC dealer and distributor in Africa, the company is pleased with their performance in terms of customer satisfaction and the interest generated by the product in the past year.

“Far better than paint, CHIC Liquid Vinyl is a complete vinyl coating system that beautifies and protects the exterior walls of home and commercial buildings, lasting far longer than conventional paint applications.

“While exterior paint has a limited lifespan, the CHIC Liquid Vinyl application comes with a written lifetime warranty.”

Introduced into North America in 1984 by Stan Bender, the CHIC Liquid Vinnyl System has been used to coat and protect thousands of homes and commercial buildings.

CHIC System will outlast conventional paint because while paint is only meant to last a few years, the system is engineered to last as long as modern technology will allow. There is just no better solution to beautify and weatherproof your exterior walls.

Western Union supports six underprivileged schools

Western Union’s ‘Back to School Promotion’ has donated 600 desks and chairs to support six underprivileged schools in the country’s educational sector.

The presentation is aimed at deepening its corporate social activities and also improving the learning environment of the needy students.

The schools are located in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, Central and Western Regions and have been selected based on their immediate need for essential equipment required to make the school environment more conducive to learning.

Anthony Kemavor, Head of Western Union, Agricultural Development Bank at the presentation ceremony said: “Can we make our school a more conducive learning environment? Western Union is saying YES! Through the simple provision of equipment, which some may take for granted, this makes a notable difference in their daily school-life.”

Having existed for more than 150 years with 400,000 agent locations in more than 200 countries worldwide, Western Union has not only provided quick, reliable and convenient money transfer services, but has also strongly supported education in Ghana through an annual ‘Back to School’ promotion.

The ‘Back to School’ promotion, which usually runs from August – September each year, has in the past given students the chance to win educational support materials and cash scholarships.

In 2007 and 2008, Western Union gave away US$80,000 worth of educational support materials and cash scholarships to lucky customers and their families.

Chiropractic and wellness programme inaugurated

Health Minister, Benjamin Kumbour, has inaugurated the Chiropractic and Wellness Centre’s Corporate Wellness programme in Accra.

The initiative is targetted at improving the health status of the working-class population. It is also aimed at reducing medical claims, improving morale and enhancing efficiency at work.

Mr. Kumbour at the ceremony observed that most working populations in the country are experiencing an increase in lifestyle-related health conditions.

“Much of the work of the middle and upper-class falls under the category which is described as inactive; this situation is coupled with opportunities for overindulgence while doing less manual work, putting the working-class population at risk of cardio-vascular and other lifestyle-related diseases,” he said.

The Minister congratulated the Chiropractic Centre for spearheading the workplace wellness initiative in the country, adding that complications resulting from unmanaged stress, inactive lifestyles and poor nutrition lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, and are responsible for more than 60 percent of all deaths globally.

He further indicated that the problem is growing faster in low and middle-income countries, and almost half of those who die from chronic disease are in their productive years.

“A key component of every successful nation is a healthy and vibrant workforce. The workplace is therefore the perfect place to start a health and wellness revolution,” he emphasised.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Centre, Dr. Marcus Manns observed that without Chiropractic, complete wellness is impossible.

“In Ghana, and indeed globally, employees and employers alike are grappling with the ever-growing challenge of maintaining a healthy balance between being productive and effective at work, while maintaining a quality life at home.

“It is because of this that the Chiropractic and Wellness Centre felt it was necessary to introduce a programme that specifically targets the workplace.

“The health choices your employees make today create a healthy or sick bottom-line for your company tomorrow,” he said.

Dr. Manns indicated that preventable diseases make up 70 percent of the entire burden of illness and associated cost to corporations.

He also highlighted some of the features of the workplace programme as quarterly corporate wellness workshops, advanced strategies to adapt to stress, workstation exercises, and corporate wellness consultancy.

Dr. Manns said that for Ghana as a whole, the implications are greater. With one member of the family - usually the breadwinner - as part of a workplace wellness programme, “the benefits will not only reach them, but their families too.

“Employee wellness will translate to better health for the entire family as they also have access to information on nutrition, exercises and preventive health care,” he remarked.