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GNPC, GOIL, OTHERS RECEIVE AGI INDUSTRY AWARDS

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson

The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and the Ghana Oil Company Limited (GOIL) were among the award winners last Saturday at the first ever Ghana Industry Awards (GIA) organized by the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI). The two won separate awards in the Oil and Gas Company of the year and Energy Company of the year respectively.

The award was instituted this year by the AGI to reward and companies that have achieved outstanding success in various areas of industry and innovation. This follows the realization that despite the existence of a number of awards in the country awarding and rewarding the various sectors of the society, there is no specific award scheme targeted at the industry.

“Over the years, there have been several awards in the country to reward various sectors and activities but never has there been an award and a time like this to celebrate industry in Ghana in the manner we are seeing today. Meanwhile, we all appreciate the contributions of industry to the growth and development of this industry; indeed our SMEs in particular have been the seedbeds of industry and many of them are doing so much , yet go unnoticed,” stated Nana Owusu-Afari, President of AGI.

The award which has a national scope would be celebrated annually in November as a climax of the Industrial Week celebrations. 

“AGI believes that as a country, we have not been able to harness our industrial potential to the full over the years. This celebration should encourage us to reflect on our industrial development strategies so far, and what measures to take to improve our competitiveness” Owusu-Afari added.

He pleaded to the government, policy makers and the private sector to support the AGI and the Ministry of Trade and Industry to develop the award scheme into a big national event.

In all there were 26 awards for the night including six key award categories, 18 sectors and two honorary. Tullow Oil Ghana Limited and Ecobank Ghana Limited received honorary awards for their support to industry over the years.

Fan milk Ghana Limited emerged the overall best industrial company in Ghana. The company also took the best company in the large scale Foods and Beverage sector. The fastest growing Ghanaian company went to went to Duraplast limited with the Best Employer of the year award going to the Accra Brewery Limited. Guinness Ghana limited took home two awards for best practice in sustainable manufacturing, and best socially responsible project. Alexiboam Company Limited emerged the Best Enterprise Company of the year.

Other award winners for the night were Norplant for best in the Agricultural sector, mechanical Loyyd Company Limited for best in the Automobile sector, Azaar Chemical Industries Limited, and Tropical Cables and Conductor Limited for being the best in the Electricals and Electronics sector.

Best industrial company in small scale Food and Beverage sector went to Processed Fods and Spices Limited, Garments and Textile (large scale) went to Textiles Ghana Limited while that of small scale sector went to Nalem Clothing. Hospitality and Tourism sector went to Alisa Hotel. IPMC took the Technology company of the year, Asadtek limited took that of the Metals Building and Construction, while Danadams Pharmaceuticals was adjudged the bes industrial company in pharmaceuticals.

WORK COMMENCES ON ULTRA-MODERN TOURISM FACILITY FOR THE OIL CITY                                             …As Princess Town gets 5 Star Hotel

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson, back from Princess Town-WR

Work has begun on the construction of a five star ultra-modern tourism and conferencing facility in Ghana’s Oil Region-the Western Region. The US$40 million state of the art facility is an investment by Soroma Capital Limited, an integrated real estate investment and development group.

To be known as the Princess Town Hotel it is a 150 room internationally branded 5-star hotel, and will be about the only 5-star hotel situated outside of Accra. It will have a business conference center with state of the art audiovisual technology and extensive leisure amenities including restaurants, a spa and gym, beach club, tennis courts, an adventure playground for children and an 18-hole golf course. It also includes a private airstrip to improve accessibility to the site. 

According to the promoters, the hotel forms the first phase of development, following which the Princess Town Resort Residences will be launched to provide luxury water front homes and gold course homes that will benefit from the hotel’s many amenities. The hotel is the first phase of a wider Princess Town Resort.

The construction phase as well as the operations phase of the hotel is expected to provide training and employment, especially to those living in Ahanta West District. It will help reduce local poverty particularly female poverty that often blights rural areas.

The construction phase is being undertaken by a consortium of Italian contractors with a lot of experience in upscale hotel construction. It is estimated that about 1000 locals will be employed in the construction stages of the project and even more would be employed upon completion- including direct and indirect jobs. 

The Chief Executive Officer of Coroma Capital, Ayowa Afrifa-Taylor said the decision to set up the facility dates back as far as 2006 when tourism in Ghana was growing faster than the rate of growth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and there was knew about offshore oil and gas discoveries.

She said “As our words and our actions will prove, Soroma is not an oil and gas motivated land speculator. Our interest in this area pre-ceded the discovery of oil and gas. We are here for the long haul and in partnership with the community in every sense of the word.”

The design of the hotel, according to Afrifa-Taylor is one that will integrate the Princess Town community into its activities so as to make them feel a sense of belonging. “Social sustainability motivated us to go for a hotel design promotes connectivity to the nearby towns Princess Town and Akatakyie. The hotel is not a walled enclave but an integrated part of the local community with walking routes across the beach and to and from the lagoon open to the community.”

She pleaded with the government to work on the 18 kilometer road linking Princess Town to the major surrounding towns which is in a very deplorable state-highly impassable especially during the rainy season.

In a speech read on his behalf, the Western Regional Minister, Paul Evans Aidoo said the project is of high strategic importance at local, regional, national and even continental levels. “In 2011, for the first time in Ghana’s history, over 0ne million tourist arrivals were recorded. Nearly double the number achieved just five years ago. This growth trend is set to continue. Yet, the pace of growth of hotel rooms and hotel beds has not kept up with the growth in visitor numbers. The Princess Town resort hotel will add 150 much needed up-market rooms and 30 budget hotel rooms to Ghana’s hotel stock.”

He said “The Business conferencing facility will be a vital piece of infrastructure supporting industries here in the Western Region. I often wonder why Accra hosts most of the mining, oil and gas related conferences when these industries are based right here. Hopefully, an international quality conference center in the Western Region will encourage more of such conferences to take place here.”

He commended the current and previous governments for the investment policies they have put in place and the peace and stability that Ghana enjoys, adding that these factors have created the enabling environment for capital-incentive projects like this to be conceived and implemented.

The chiefs and people of the Princess Town community who graced the occasion in their numbers demonstrated high elaciti at the development and promised to contribute their quota to make the project a success.

The first phase of the project is expected to be completed in three years.

PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS ADOPTION OF SHIPPERS AUTHORITY REGULATIONS

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson

The Parliamentary Committee on Subsidiary Legislation has recommended to the House the adoption of the Ghana Shippers’ Authority Regulations, 2012 to bring into force L.I 2190. This is in accordance with Article 11(7) of the 1992 constitution.

The new Legislative Instrument when adopted will among others provide guidelines for negotiation of freight charges; provide platform for consultation between the stakeholders in the maritime industry; introduce the advance shipment information system to deliver timely information to shippers, as well as provide avenues for the resolution of disputes among stakeholders in the maritime industry; it will also revoke the Ghana Shippers’ Council (Cargo Sharing) Regulations, 1987 (L.I 1347).

In its recommendation report to Parliament, signed by its chairman, Kwame Osei-Prempeh, the Committee noted with satisfaction the provision made in the Instrument which allows the Ghana Shippers Authority and service providers to determine mutually acceptable freight charges.

The law mandates the GSA to negotiate with shipowners, shipping lines and agents, terminal and shore handlers, freight consolidators, custom house gents on their charges for services rendered.  Service providers or their associations will be required to submit their level and structure of charges to the GSA before the commencement of the ensuing year.

“The negotiated charges are to be published in the Shippers’ Bulletin and newspapers for the information of the shipping public. It will be an offence for service providers to administer non0negotiated charges or impose charges above the negotiated rates.” The report stated.

The Committee noted that the regulations place responsibility on the Authority to ensure quality service delivery by service providers to shippers. The Authority is also to protect shippers from unfair treatment by service providers by negotiating with service providers on minimum standards and quality of service rendered to shippers in line with international best practice.  

“Any service provider that delivers services below the agreed standard or introduces new procedures without the concurrence of the Authority will be sanctioned.” The Committee noted. This is to address the numerous difficulties encountered by shippers in their dealings with service providers or their agents.

The coming into force of the Instrument will enable the GSA to provide timely information to shippers, as it makes it obligatory for all shipping lines and airline carriers to file their advanced shipment information with the GSA by indicating particulars of their cargoes before shipment to or from the country. To facilitate speedy clearance of cargo from the ports and reduce cost of shipment, the law makes the advanced shipment information a requirement for cargo clearance through customs so as to avert delays in the clearing of goods from the ports.

The Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA) was established through the passage of the GSA Act, 1974 (NRCD 254) and it has been playing an integral role in the country’s maritime industry for over 38 years. The Authority is mandated by the Act provide facilities for mutual consultations with shippers, shipowners, the railway and ports Authority on matters of interest to shippers.

The Authority I also charged to represent the views of Shippers on the structure of freight rates, availability, and adequacy of shipping space, frequency of sailings, port charges, port facilities and other related matters.

Despite significant developments in the sector, the GSA continues to undertake its activities within the frame work of old laws and this has not been helpful in addressing new challenges facing the maritime industry. The absence of a legislative instrument to address the new challenges in the maritime industry has hampered the operations of GSA especially in the negotiations of freight charges on behalf of shippers.

AGI INDUSTRIAL AWARDS SET FOR NOV 24

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson

The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Ghana’s leading business association will on November 24, 2012 hold the first ever Ghana Industrial Awards to essentially award and reward deserving companies in different areas of business performance. The ceremony has been scheduled as the climax to this year’s National Industry Week celebration.

The award which was first launched in 2011 was re-launched last week at a brief press briefing in Accra.

“This industrial Award is to honor companies that have achieved outstanding success in various areas of industry and innovation in the year under review. We believe the awards will signal companies that their performance is valued and their achievements recognized” Stated Nana Owusu-Afari, the AGI President.

According to him the awards were instituted with the main objective of rewarding the successes of industry players and also serve as a motivation launch pad.

“Many outstanding industries we see in Ghana today have had chequered histories. Some have had to cross many milestones, as well survive turbulent times to get to where they are today. Indeed, we owe it to industry not to turn a blind eye to the many achievements of businesses that have distinguished themselves. It is our duty and an honor for us as the Association of Industries to give credit, to such distinguished companies while motivating other SMEs to climb up to the ladder to excellence.”  

About six different categories of awards will be presented on the day and this includes Overall Best Industrial Company of the year, Best Corporate Socially Responsible Company of the year and Environmental Project Company of the year.

The rest are Best Company Employer of the year, Young Enterprise Award to reward innovation and entrepreneurship, Fastest Growing Company of the year, and Best practices in Sustainable Manufacturing Company.

In addition to this, about 20 of the association’s sectors will also be awarded. This are the agri-business company of the year, automotive and transport company of the year, Chemicals Company of the year, electrical and electronics, Energy, food and beverages, financial services; garments textiles and leather company of the year.

The rest are hospitality and tourism; information, communication and technology; metals, building and construction, oil and gas services, pharmaceuticals; printing, stationery and packaging; rubber and plastics; and toiletries and cosmetics. It also include wood processing; business promotion and consultancy company of the year, timber miller of the year, and advertising company of the year.

Nana Owusu-Afari said the awards will be national in character. An independent body will be responsible for the review and evaluation of nominations which will lead to the final selection of winners for the various categories. 

WAGP TO RESUME IN DECEMBER

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson

Barring any last minute hitches, the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) will resume operations of transporting natural gas from Nigeria through to Benin, Togo and Ghana by the end of this year. This is an assurance given by the West African Gas Pipeline Company (WAPCo) operators of the project.

Togolese Navy on August 28 reported that the pipeline had broken into two at a location close to Lome
lateral, it was as a result of some skirmishes between the Navy and a yet to be identified third party vessel.

As a result, pressure drop was observed in the control room, and occurring in all the stations with significant drop at Lome. The pipeline system was then shut to prevent further loss and impact to the marine environment.

Further investigations by the company revealed observable concrete cracking at about 10 nautical miles west of the Lome T-junction. It came to light that the 20” pipe had been severed into 2 parts. The east severed end had been moved 10 meters off the original position and the west end dragged to 15 meters.

This has resulted in the interruption of the flow of natural gas to Ghana, reason for which the country is currently witnessing power supply challenges.

At a media encounter last Friday, the Managing Director of the West African Gas Pipeline Company, Charles Adeniji, said work has started on the repair of the damaged pipeline. He was confident that with the progress of work nothing will stop them from completing in December. According to him, the damaged pipe joints have been removed and so far construction barge has been hired and equipped with crane, welders, pipe and machines. “A construction barge has been hired to fabricate the replacement 6-pipe joint spools. Concurrently, action plans are being developed for removing water and drying the main and the lateral lines after which gas will be introduced.”

Scope of work includes “removing water and debris in the pipeline, as well as sea water which entered the line when it was broken. Pipeline Inspection Gauges, called “pigs” will be launched at the Nigeria end of the pipeline to remove water which will be received at the Takoradi end. “Pigs” will be run several times to ensure that the line is clean.” Adeniji stated

After drying, the operating valves will be opened and gas introduced into the line, to commence gas transportation operations.

Adeniji said there were plans in place to ensure that such a disaster does not re-occur anytime soon. “The pipeline damage prevention strategies include collaboration with relevant agencies and organizations, intensifying stakeholder engagements, among others.”

17 NEW FOR PARLIAMENT

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson

A total of seventeen new Bills have been scheduled by the table office of parliament for presentation to the House for consideration during its current meeting. The House is scheduled to break for recess in August after which it would come back for its final lap in October.

The current meeting which commenced last May already has a quite a number of outstanding bills most of which are at the committee level.  Many people, in-particular Civil Society Organizations which has interest in one bill or the other are hoping that the House would be able to complete all of its businesses before its life span end on January 6, next year.

The expected Bills are the Rent Bill, Gold Fund Bill, National Sports Bill, Enforcement of Foreign Judgment Bill, Minerals Development Fund Bill, Integrated Aluminum Authority Bill, Non-Tax Revenue Bill and the Chartered Institute of Taxation Bill.

The rest are the Public Officers (Code of Conduct) Bill, Offshore Petroleum (Health and Safety) Bill, National Youth Bill, National Youth Employment Bill, and the Survey Council Bill. The list also include the Immigration (Amendment) Bill, Public Holidays (Amendment) Bill, and the Ghana Civil Aviation (Amendment) Bill,  

Currently, the Intestate Succession Bill, the Public Health Bill-which includes the Tobacco Control Measures, and the University of Professional Studies Bill are the consideration stages of the House, while the Ghana Aids Commission (Amendment) Bill and the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Bill are in the second reading stages.

The Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, the Property Rights of Spouses Bill, the Right to Information Bill, the Health Coordinating Council Bill, the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Bill, and the General Health Services Bill as well as the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Bill and the Health Professions Regulatory Bodes Bill are among the numerous bills that are currently with the various joint committees of the House.

It also includes the National Health Insurance Bill, the Internal Revenue (Amendment) Bill, Development and Classification of Films Bill, Internal Revenue (Tax Amnesty) Bill, the Marine Pollution Bill, the Extradition Bill, the 2011 Supplementary Appropriation Bill, and the Labour (Amendment) Bill.

Several questions and answers have also been slated in the agenda for the meeting to enable the Members of Parliament sought answers from Ministers of state.  

FOUR MINISTRIES TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson

Four ministries are collaborating to tackle the effect of climate change on the country due to the activities in of famers. The ministries include Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST), Ministry of Health, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA).

 Minister for Environment Science and Technology, Sherry Ayittey who announced this in Parliament last week said her ministry has resulted to an inter-ministerial approach to tackling climate change due to its negative impact on all aspect of the country’s economy including energy, agriculture and water among others.

As part of the collaboration MoFA is fully represented in the National Climate Change Committee which is the National Coordinating body for climate change issues in the country. Under this committee a technical working group committee is suppose to share decisions, policies and strategic initiatives in climate change with relevant stakeholders in the agricultural sector which farmers are key.

The collaboration also involves the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct climate change impacts and vulnerability studies for ecological zones in the country. A study which has aided targeted climate change adaptation interventions especially in the farming community areas in the country.

MEST, through the EPA has also collaborated with MoFA in the preparation of Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy Two (FASDEP II) which addresses food security and sustainable agriculture comprehensively. MoFA has also a unit on Environment which has been working closely with MEST in the area of climate change data generation, management and information dissemination to farmers and other stakeholders.

Also as part of the collaboration MEST is implementing the Ghana Sustainable Land and Water Management Project (GSLWMP) which is being funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Grant which aims at supporting government to improve land management of selected micro-watersheds in Northern Ghana, and also improve spatial planning through integration of water-shed management plans.

MEST through the EPA is also collaborating with other relevant institutions to implement the Ghana Environmental Management Project (GEMP) which is a five year project funded by the Canadian government to support the Ghana in addressing desertification in Northern Ghana.

According to the Minister, MEST is also working closely with the agric ministry to provide early warning systems for farmers. These include early warning information on pests’ infestations, disease outbreak, rainfall patterns among others.

MEST through the Africa Adaptation Programme (AAP) is currently assisting farmers in five districts on various projects which will help them adapt to the impacts of climate change.

In the area of research and technology application, the ministry through the Center for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed early maturity crop varieties. The Center has also come out with drought resistant crop varieties. “These and other interventions are efforts to assist farmers adapt to the impacts of climate change and climate variability” the Minister stated.

  

HP INTRODUCES TWO NEW PRODUCTS ONTO THE GHANAIAN MARKET

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson

One of the world’s leading computer firms, Hewlett Packard Computers has introduced two new products into the Ghanaian market with the objective of expanding its customer base and satisfying the demands of the computer users.

The company says its new range of thin and light Ultrabooks and Sleekbooks as well as the stylish HP Pavilion notebook PC are meant to provide ultimate consumer entertainment, combined with striking design and beats audio sound experience.

“Offering both style and substance, the HP ENVY Sleekbooks and HP ENVY Ultrabooks systems provide the ultimate in entertainment experience in a small package combined with high performance whether you create music, videos and multimedia content or are a fan of consuming” Burak Borhan, HP’s  Channels Sales Manager for Africa stated last week at the launch of the new products.

The new HP ENVY collection combines great entertainment and powerful performance in an ultra slim and an ultra light form factor. It has dual speakers and a subwoofer that boosts the sound experience for total entertainment experience. A major unique aspect about the new products is the thickness-unlike other HP products the new ones are as thin as 19.8mm and weighs less than 1.79 kilogrammes. The new HP Envy notebooks feature a tactile, soft-touch, slip-resistant base in red, making them easy to grab and go.

The HP ENVY  Ultrabooks and The HP ENVY Sllekbooks is also are available in 35.6 centimetres or 14 inches and 39.6 centimetres or 15.6 inches display sizes, and includes the latest Intel Core Processors and offers a minimum of ten hours battery life. With optional discrete graphics from intel and discrete-class graphics for AMD, users can create and edit videos quickly and experience incredible gaming and multimedia.

According to the Ghana Office of Hewlett Packard the new products will be in the Ghanaian market from mid-June. They promised it would be very affordable.

HP is the world’s largest technology company. It brings together a portfolio that spans printing, personal computing, software, services and Information Technology structure focused on solving customer problems.

PARLIAMENT FAILS TO PASS OIL COMMISSION BILL                   …House Split over Location of Headquarters

 By Jeorge Wilson Kingson

Parliament has once again failed to pass a bill to regulate activities of the oil and gas industry in the country. The House has gone on an eight week break commencing last Thursday and will be on recess until May 17, 2011. This means it will still take a while before a regulatory body is established for the oil industry.

The Petroleum Commission bill which has been with the House for close to ten month now is seeking to establish a Petroleum Commission that will oversee the regulation and management of petroleum resources and other related matters. Article 269 of the 1992 Constitution provides for the establishment of a commission for the regulation and management of the utilization of natural resources.

It is unclear what is causing the delay in the passage of the Bill but close sources told Businessweek the Bill will be among the first agenda to be considered should the House resumes sitting in May.

It is imperative to note that Parliament has been able to pass only one legislation so far as Ghana’s emerging oil industry is concerned. The Petroleum Revenue Management Bill was passed early on in the year to provide for the effective management of revenue to be accrued from the oil find.

Businessweek gathered that Parliament has been able to effect almost all the proposed amendments to the Petroleum Commission Bill except for the one that deals with where the headquarters of the Commission should be sited. Two major amendments have been tabled to this effect with the proponents taking entrenched positions.

The Member of Parliament for Takoradi, Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah, barked by majority of his colleagues from the Western Region has proposed that “The Commission be headquartered in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan area of the Western Region.” 

However, the Member of Parliament for Wa Central, and the Deputy Majority Leader, Abdul Rashid Pelpuo, with the strong support of the Chairman of the Committee on Mines and Energy and Member of Parliament for Nabdam, Moses Asaga and other members from the majority side think otherwise. They have also tabled a counter amendment that “The Commission shall have an operational office in the Western Region and in all other regions where petroleum is discovered in commercial quantities”

Just before the house went on recess last week a fresh amendment was proposed by the Member of Parliament for Amenfi East, and a former Western Regional Minister, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, which states that “The Headquarters of the Commission shall be in Sekondi-Takoradi”

It is appearing that the two main political parties represented in the House, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) have taken entrenched positions on the matter with the leadership of each failing in vain to convince the other to rescind their decision.

Moving the motion to support his amendnt Darko-Mensah said the Western Region have for a long time now been deprived of its share of the national development cake despite the fact that the region contributes more natural resources than any other region in the country.

On his part, Asaga said Accra is the national capital and as such should be made to host such major business organizations. He said the suggestion that situating the headquarters of the Commission in the Western Region will spearhead the development of the region is too much simplifying the issue. He argued that all the major oil companies in the country are headquartered in Accra but with operational offices in the Western Region and suggested that it will not be bad for such to be done for the a national Authority that seeks to regulate the industry.

The Member for Sekondi, Papa Owusu-Ankomah in joining the argument said the view that everything must be located in Accra because it is the national capital must not be encouraged. He said the directives principles of state policy encourage government to establish headquarters of various agencies in regions where resources are located. “But over the years no government has felt the need to do that that is why we are arguing that in the case of oil we should have the headquarters located in the Western Region. “

 

AFRICANS IN CHINA EXIBITION UNDERWAY IN ACCRA

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson

A photo exhibition dubbed “Africans in China” is currently on going at the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Ghana in Legon, in Accra. It is being organized by the Xinhua News Agency in Accra in collaboration with the Chinese Embassy.

The exhibition which is showcasing a wide range of photographs of Africans working in the various sectors of China’s economy is meant to strengthen diplomatic and business relations between China and Ghana in particular and Africa as a whole.  It is offering an opportunity for the general public to see through pictures the contributions of Africans to China’s economy.

Visitors to the exhibition will see very active and entertaining pictures of indigenes of different Africans nationalities working in deferent sectors including trade, business, Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), Medicine, Education, Sports, Arts, among many others.  

Most of the pictures on display are the products of the professional photographers of the Xinhua News Agency during their coverage of various programmes and events in China. According to Bai Jain Shang, the Bureau Chief of the Agency “The project is not only about Ghanaians but also Africans in the Diaspora. It is to project and strengthen ties between China and African Countries.”

He said “Some Africans are masters of Chinese Kunfu, many speak very fluent Chinese, and we want to display all these for the public to see.”

Dr. Cosmos Badasu, head of department at the department of modern languages the department has started teaching basic Chinese and the response have been very good. About 165 students are currently in level 100 and are majoring the Chinese language. This according to him is an indication that many more Ghanaians are showing interest in the language, adding that it the exhibition will further enhance the knowledge of the students.

The Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, Gong Jianzhong who jointly opened the exhibition with Ghana’s deputy Minister for information, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, noted that last year alone his outfit issued over 17,000 visas to Ghanaians while about 7,000 Chinese were also issued visas to come to visit Ghana.

“China and Africa have a long history dating back to independence when Kwame Nkrumah paid his first visit. We have every reason to promote bilateral relations in all sectors of the economy, be it politics or religion. It is important that we bring our cultures together so that we share. “He stated while expressing the optimism that the exhibition will help change Africans perceptions of China.

Okudzeto Ablakwa, was full of praise for the organizers for the initiative which he described as a very important one in the history of Ghana-China business relations. “It is definitely the way to go to understand our culture” He stated.  According to him what the world need now is a society where we can all appreciate each other’s culture, which is what the exhibition sought to do.  

MORE FUNDS SECURED FOR JOB 600

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson

Parliament has approved a credit facility agreement between the Ghana government and its Belgium counterpart through the KBC Bank NV of Belgium for an amount of €8,435,186.51 for the completion of the Parliamentary tower popularly referred to as Job 600.

The House’ approval of the agreement was based on the report of the Finance Committee of Parliament which scrutinized the conditions guarding the facility and concluded that in is in the interest of the country and conforms with Article 181 of the 1992 constitution and Section three and seven of the Loans Act, 1970 (Act 335). 

The purpose of the facility is to obtain funds to finance the supply and installation of Electronics, Information and Technology (ICT) Systems in the tower block for the effective use of the country’s legislators.

The facility has a two year grace period, a maturity period of eleven and half years, a nine and half years repayment period, and a liquidity fee of 0.30 percent per annum. It also has a 0.15 percent flat arrangement fee, a facility fee of 0.35 percent per annum, a commitment fee of 0.25 percent per annum and a grant element of 36.03 percent.

The objective of the project is to facilitate and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of stakeholders within Parliament including Leadership, Members and Staff of Parliament in the discharge of the business of Parliament through the use of electronics, information and communication technology. 

The project entails the supply, installation and commissioning of a Fiber Optic Backbone and Data Cabling, a public address system, conference, conference and simultaneous interpretation systems, parliamentary recording systems and Closed Circuit Television Systems (CCTV).

It also includes Access Control System and Intrusion Detection System, Metal detection, X-Ray Scanners, internet connectivity, video conferencing system, video distributing systems and telephone system (PABX) among others.

In accordance with article seven of the agreement the interest rate applicable to the credit is the relieved interest rate granted by the Belgian authorities which is fixed at zero percent per annum during the whole term of the credit. The Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Seth Terkper told the Parliamentary committee on finance that the arrangement is part of measures that the Belgian government is using to subsidize the loan for the people of Ghana.

The project is to be implemented by Mrssrs Soulco rojects NV of Belgium as part of the conditions of the loan, under the supervision of Parliament and the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing with technical assistance from the National Information Technology Authority (NITA).

During its deliberations some members of the committee expressed concerns about the current electronic and ICT systems being operated by the House. They were particularly not happy about the intermittent interruptions and other challenges that often characterize the system especially during proceedings in the Chamber.

The technical officers from parliament however assured the committee that the administration has acquired new equipment that will ensure stable power supply to the Chamber of Parliament even when the national grid or in-house generator falters. 

According to the Clerk-to-Parliament Emmanuel Anyimadu the Leadership and all Members of Parliament will be provided with offices in the Job 600 Block once it is completed. He explained that Leadership is currently being housed in the new administration block because the tower block is not completed.

As to when the on-going renovation work Job 600 will be completed it was revealed that the project is scheduled for completion by December 31, 2011 and that even in the worst case scenario I will be completed before the end of March 2012. It is therefore expected that Members of Parliament will be able to use the block before the dissolution of the House on January 6, 2013.

The project is conceived to provide stakeholders within Parliament with modern means of communication, information capture, processing and retrieval, in a secure physical and virtual work environment to expedite the work of Parliament.

TOURISM BILL AT CONSIDERATION STAGE IN PARLIAMENT

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson

The National Tourism Bill which was presented to Parliament in November last year is now at the consideration stage in the House. This follows the presentation of the report of the Committee on Trade, Industry and Tourism which was tasked to deliberate on the Bill.

During a consideration stage of a bill in Parliament proposed amendments are effected on the floor of the House by Members of Parliament. The process usually follows the presentation of the report of a committee tasked to deliberate on the content of the bill leading to a debate after which the bill is deemed to have been read a second time.

The purpose of the Tourism Bill is to establish a National Tourism Authority to regulate the tourism industry in Ghana. This is expected to replace the Ghana Tourist Board (GTB) which is currently the leally mandated institution regulating tourism in Ghana.

Moving the motion in the House last week for the second reading of the bill the sector Minister Akua Sena Dansua observed that the industry now plays a significant role in the development agenda of countries due to its potential for creating jobs as well the conservation of natural resources.

According to her if Ghana is to benefit from the huge opportunities that tourism holds with respect to development of the country, then there is a need to restructure the existing legal and regulatory framework to make it compatible with modern tourism requirements and ensure that it is consistent with international best practice.

“In order to establish the framework, Government considered it expedient to establish an authority to regulate and sustain the development of the tourism industry.” The Minister stated.

During its deliberations on the bill the Committee was informed that the success of the activities and programmes of the Tourism Ministry for this year largely on the passage of the. This is based on the fact that a large portion the Ministry’s Internally Generated Funds (IGF) is to be derived from the fees and levies to be charged under the bill.

The bill has two main parts advocating the establishment of the Authority, and the regulation of tourism enterprises in the country. When passed the new law will dissolve the GTB and vest its assets and liabilities in the Authority. The staff of the board will also be transferred to the Authority.

Among others the bill provides that the holder of a tourist accommodation license should keep a register on the premises and ensure that details of guests are recorded in it. Failure to do so would mean the holder having committed a crime thus is liable on summary conviction to a fine of one hundred penalty units or six month imprisonment or both. This requirement is part of international standards in the industry.

The bill establishes a tourism development fund to provide the needed funding for the Authority to undertake tourism and tourism-related activities. Sources for the fund will include seed capital from government, a one percent accommodation levy paid by the patron of an accommodation enterprise.

This provision however generated some level of debate in the House last week as some Members clearly declared their dissatisfaction with the provision, saying it will escalate the already expensive hotel and lodging rates in the country.

The bill also provides for sex tourism as an illegal venture. The idea is to lay emphasis on sex tourism as a criminal offence so as to prevent Ghana from becoming a sex haven.

PARLIAMENT APPROVES $215M IDA LOAN FOR PRSC-7

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson

Parliament has approved a development financing agreement between Ghana and the International Development Association (IDA) for a US$215 million for the Seventh Poverty Reduction Support Credit (PRSC-7).

The purpose of the facility is to support government’s efforts to enhance budgetary discipline and tackle long-standing public sector and energy issues, protect the poor and prepare for the oil era.

The loan has a commitment charge of 0.5% on unwithdrawn balance, a 0.75 service charge on withdrawn amount, 10 years grace period, 25 tears repayment period, and a 35 years maturity period.In its report to the House last week the Finance Committee of Parliament observed that the facility will be highly beneficial to the country’s developmental agenda. “The Committee critically examined the Agreement and found that the credit would be immensely beneficial to the country’s quest to enhance macroeconomic stability, accelerate poverty reduction and endanger growth. The Agreement was also found to be of standard IDA concessional terms” the report stated.

The committee observed that the entire credit would be withdrawn in a single tranche and that all tranche release conditions have been met by the government of Ghana.

Among the conditions is to establish a basic process at the Bank of Ghana for an efficient cash management system for the government’s consolidated, establish a basic process of compiling claims outstanding payments systems for all ministries.

It also includes preparing a harmonized chart accounts for budgeting, accounting and reporting for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), commencement of the implementation of the recommendations of the Electricity Final Recovery Plan for the Volta River Authority (VRA), The Northern Electricity Department of the VRA, Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the Ghana Grod Company (GRIDco).

They must also agree on assignment of institutional responsibilities, allocation of adequate budget, detailed objectives, action plan and timeline for the adoption and use of a common targeting mechanism for the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and School Uniform Programme.

Government must also submit for the decision of parliament a Petroleum Revenue Management Bill based on broad consultations with stakeholders; and prepare and submit to Parliament a revised Extractive Industries transparency Initiative (EITI) institutional framework including the oil and gas sectors.

The committee noted that the PRSC-7 facility will contribute to increased productivity, increased food security, accelerated economic growth and reduction in poverty.

Government adopted and commenced the implementation of a multi-year fiscal stabilization plan in te 2009 financial year. The plan was aimed at stabilizing the microeconomic environment and protecting the gains made from the implementation of the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy II (GPRS).

It was designed to bring the fiscal deficit and debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratios to sustainable levels by 2011. The IDA supported the implementation of the plans with an Economic Governance and Poverty Reduction Credit (EGPRC) amounting to $300 million in 2009.

Since July 2009, the exchange rate of the cedi has relatively stabilized. Consumer price inflation has steadily dropped, reaching 9.08% in November 2010 from the peak of 20.7% recorded in June 2009. By October, 182-days Treasury Bills were subscribed at 12.8%, down from 28.8% a year earlier. Over the same period, sovereign bonds average maturities increased, suggesting greater investor confidence in Ghana’s medium term prospects.

This year, the pursuit of stabilization will require additional efforts. While it is envisaged that structural reforms in energy, public sector and public financial management will help prevent expenditure slippages, bold fiscal measures will be needed to consolidate the macroeconomic stabilization achievements made so far.

The Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA) and the Ghana Aid Policy and Strategy for the period 2011-2015 reiterate the need for continued Official Development Assistance (ODA) and budget support in particular.

In the face of the reality that flow of oil revenue could prompt Development Partners to reduce their ODA to Ghana, government is of the view that continued support would be needed in the first few years of oil production to provide additional funds to supplement the oil and other revenues.

It is against this backdrop that government has requested the PRSC-7 facility.           

 

 

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