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Business News of Friday, 21 July 1995

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The President at the CBI

The date was Friday 14 July 1995, the scheduled time was 10 am and the place was the CBI Headquarters at Centre Point in the West End of London in the City of Westminster.

The Standard Chartered Bank had benevolently sponsored a high level gathering of British businessmen/women and their Ghanaian counterparts to a full day's programme of events under the title "Ghana: Vision 2020 - The Expanding Opportunities for Business".

The roll call of the participants is too long to fit the pages of Ghana Review but from the British side, participants included the outgoing Director General of the CBI, Howard Davis who had previously served as Controller of the Audit Commission and was the Chairman for the session, David Brougham an Executive Director of Standard Chartered Bank Plc; Alistair Boyd CMG, who until last year was the Deputy Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Development Corporation. And the Rt Hon the Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Ghanaian delegation included Mr Kwesi Ahwoi, Chief Executive of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, Mr Ishmael Yamson, Chairman of Unilever Ghana Ltd; Mr Yeboa Amoah, Director of the Ghana Stock Exchange; The Hon Mr P V Obeng, Adviser to the President on Govt Affairs, the Hon Mrs Emma Mitchell, Minister of Trade and Mr Tsatu Tsikata, Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Company/Corporation(?).

But the top guests at the gathering were His Excellency the President of Ghana, Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings and Her Excellency Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, the First Lady of Ghana.

Participants paid 215 - 315 p/stlg to attend the conference. Ghana Review was admitted as part of the press which also included Reuters, the BBC, The People's Daily Graphic and the Ghanaian Times and some other newspapers.

Ghana Review characteristically arrived well before the appointed time to secure a few chats here and there. But indeed other groups had also arrived far earlier, including the Adzido Dance Troupe clad in NDC flags, a group of NDC demonstrators with NDC umbrellas and another group of non- NDC demonstrators. The Metropolitan Police was present in their strength and located the three groups apart. A full report of the activities of the demonstrators are given in Newsreel - GR 1:27C. In this section we give higlights of the President's speech.

The full text and commentaries will be published in the hard copy version of Ghana Review.

Right on cue, the meeting was called to order at 10 am with the Chairman's opening remarks which referred humorously to the "...unfortunate Scottish background ..." of the President, followed by a rather illuminating address by Lady Chalker which traced the relationship between Ghana and Britain, but more importantly her Ministerial relationship with the PNDC and NDC govts.

The President's address which was scheduled for 25 minutes - from 10.25 am to 10.50 am - indeed went on till some fair minutes past 11 am.

Speaking from a 14 page prepared speech, the President interspersed his speech with several jokes, especially when he remarked "... I know my colleagues have insisted stick to the text ...". And indeed he deviated from the text a few many times but we were able to record every word he uttered with our Aiwa voice zoom recording system which we purchased that morning for over 100 p/stlg!

The higlights of his speech included:

1 Appreciation to CBI, Standard Chartered and the Tropical Africa Advisory Group.

2 The substantial progress made by Ghana's economic reforms including the 5 per cent GDP growth, the elimination of budget deficits and the liberalisation of the exchange rate regime.

3 However, he lamented that "Despite such achievements, we are the first to recognise that much more remains to be done". And referred to the almost worn out World Bank study about poverty in Ghana and why the average Ghanaian will still be poor by the year 2050, albeit sadly enough Professor James Ahiakpor, Ph.D. Professor of Economics thinks Ghana Review is practising "gutter press" by saying that the ERP has not eliminated poverty in Ghana (refer GR 1:26F).

4 On politics, the President said, from both the text and off the text

".. our economic reforms have been reinforced by a smooth constitutional evolution to multi-party democracy, granted that it comes with its thorny problems. Our new constitutional order is being tested every day and proving resilient thanks to the determination of our govt and our people to establish a truly democratic society in which are our aspirations for freedom and justice can be better realised.

But when you read the tabloids you find the most atrocious and preposterous allegations against us. But we have tolerated them because we want to demonstrate to the business community that stability is what we want".

He went on

".. of course in every democracy we sometimes hear of a few shrill voices that sound as if they would roll back the clock of progress. They often capitalise on the hardships that our people have to endure; they pretend to have instant solutions to the difficult tasks of nation building. I am confident that ... the stability we have achieved is owed to the commitment and hard work of the people of Ghana".

"We've been through our socialist systems, our multi party systems, our one single party systems and all of them ended up in the revolt of 1979".

5 On VAT, he said "we have withdrawn VAT in order to do our homework better; we need to educate the public comprehensively, we need to give them an appreciation of how the new tax is going to affect their day to day lives ...".

And trying to assign a blame for the failure of VAT, the President said that "... when you have people in the same position for as long as 10, 12, 13 years, they begin to lose sight of reality ... ", a remark which the Chairman, Howard Davis, picked on later to say " ... unfortunately we (in Britain) don't have people remaining in the same position for as long as 12 years ... " to a butt of laughter.

6 On the recent floods in Ghana, the President confirmed that more than 20 people lost their lives but because of the determination of Ghanians, their spirits are not broken.

7 The President expressed the Ghana govt's appreciation to Prime Minister John Major for their speedy response to the appeal for international assistance to cope with the havoc caused by the flood. The British package of assistance arrived in Ghana last Friday.

8 The President referred to steps already taken to enhance investment in Ghana, especially the establishment of the Investment Promotion Centre following the enactment of the Investment Promotion Act 1995. He said that while Ghana has been successful in attracting investments in the gold mining sector, it has not been so successful in attracting investors into the manufacturing sector.

9 On conducive environment for investment, the President said

"I have sometimes heard it said that some investors hesitate about Ghana because of perception about me.

I am seen by some as being against private enterprise.

Let me say categorically that these perceptions are totally without foundation".

"... I have never (the word was underlined) been against private enterprise ... domestic or foreign; on the contrary I encourage them and the policies of the Governments (PNDC & NDC) I have headed are testimony to that.

What I have not encouraged is the misuse of our commitment to private sector participation by some individuals who, in search for short-cuts, infringe laws and regulations including laws protecting the environment in our country".

10 The President concluded by confirming that "Ghana is at a critical crossroads in her development efforts". And he said "Our vision for the next century is ambitious and challenging; we cannot achieve it without the contribution of all of you gathered here today. I am here to seal a pact with you to be part of our golden future".

The President then introduced some of the members of his delegation, very similar to the exercise undertaken at he Commonwealth Institute (refer GR 1:26C).

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