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Business News of Thursday, 5 February 2004

Source: GNA

BUDGET: Enhancing social services

Accra, Feb.5 GNA- The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Yaw Osafo Maafo on Thursday said the objective of the medium term priority area of the Enhanced Social Services (ESS) is to enhance the delivery of social services to ensure equity and quality, particularly with regard to education and health services.

The outcome attained in these two areas, go a long way to improve the human capacity of people to enhance their growth and reduce poverty. The Minister said this when he presented the 2004 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of Government in Parliament.

He said a number of initiatives and activities, were undertaken by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA's) in the social services sector to promote efficiency.

Mr Osafo Maafo said the MDAs under the Enhance Social Service sector are the Ministries of Education Youth and Sports; Health; Manpower Development and Employment and Women and Children's Affairs. He said under education, the focus is on increasing enrolment and raising quality, reducing gender disparities, improving the effectiveness of expenditures and improving on management especially teacher deployment, distribution of textbooks among other things.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MOEYS) completed the Education Strategic Plan (ESP), covering the period 2003 - 2015, which sets out the framework for the development of education and forms the basis for a sector-wide approach in the financing of education.

Mr Osafo Maafo said the major objectives of increasing access to and quality of education as specified in the GPRS were met in the past year in varying degrees.

These were, the Primary Gross Enrolment Ratios (PGER) at the national level, which improved from 79.5 per cent in 2001 to 2002 to 81.1 per cent in 2002 to 2003 academic year.

The records for the three northern regions, where the ratios have been lower than the national average, PGER increased by a range of about 3 to over 6 per cent age points in the 2002/3 academic year, even exceeding the national average PGER growth rate.

This evidence supports the emphasis being given to improving access especially in the most deprived regions.

Mr Osafo-Maafo said the enrolment of girls at the basic level was given a boost with the implementation of the incentive schemes. Material support including school uniforms, stationery and school bags were provided to 5,500 needy pupils, 80 per cent of who were girls. In addition, over 700 bicycles were provided to girls in remote and deprived districts; complemented by the food rations to girls programmes, these factors improved girls' attendance in school.

The Minister said the national average for female participation in enrolments improved by 0.2 per cent to 47.6 per cent, while the deprived regions registered higher improvements ranging from 0.4 per cent to 0.9 per cent.

He said to improve access to education, 685 three-unit classrooms each with toilet facilities, urinal, teachers' common room, store and library were built across the country exceeding the programmed number of 505 mentioned in the 2003 budget. Out of this number, 420 were built in the three northern regions.

The Minister said in addition, construction work on the 440 six-unit classroom blocks was commenced in place of the programmed rehabilitation of 2,000 six-unit blocks indicated in the 2003 budget, because of the severe state of disrepair of these buildings.

Mr Osafo-Maafo said on improving the quality of education, interventions including the procurement and supply of teaching and learning materials totalling A220.7 billion at the basic level and 65 billion cedis at the Senior Secondary School (SSS) level were provided. These arrangements brought an improvement in the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) results where for mathematics 59 per cent of pupils passed; in English, 60.3 per cent passed; Science had 59 per cent and in Social Studies, 61 per cent passed.

The non-salary component of the education sector's budget saw an improvement in the year. "We targeted an execution rage of at least 75 per cent. We exceeded this target with the services sector showing an execution rate of 84.4 per cent while that for investments had 76.25 per cent".

The Minister said to bridge the gap between rural deprived districts and well-endowed urban schools government initiated the policy of upgrading one Senior Secondary School in each district. Work on the first batch of 31 schools began and it is progressing rapidly. Mr Osafo-Maafo said work on the provision of modern equipment and plant in 20 technical institutes under the Vocational and Technical Resource Centre was commenced and 19 were completed.

The tertiary sub-sector also saw significant expansions in 2003. The GETFund provided A2224 billion to continue the modernisation and enlargement of capacity in universities and polytechnics through the on-going construction of library blocks, lecture theatres, administration blocks, storm drains, laboratories among others. An additional amount of 28 billion cedis was also allocated from the GETFund for faculty research and development and 32 billion cedis allocated to support the Students Loan Scheme.

Mr Osafo-Maafo said as a result of these projects, admissions into the universities rose from 40,673 in 2002 to 53,895 in 2003, an increase of 30.5 per cent. Intake into the polytechnics also increased from 18,459 in 2002 to 23,717 in 2003 up by 26.5 per cent

Distance education enrolments also grew from 750 in 2002 to 3,618 in 2003. The increase was supported by an allocation of 839.3 million cedis from the GETFund to facilitate the co-ordination of distance education in the two main providers of this service, the University of Cape Coast and the University of Education, Winneba.

The Minister said the increase in 2003 distance education enrolments enabled the reduction from 10,000 in 2002 to 5,000 in 2003, in the number of paid study leave places granted.