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Business News of Saturday, 20 March 2010

Source: GNA

MASLOC to create opportunities to link producers with buyers

Accra, March 20, GNA - Ms Bertha Ansah-Djan, Chief Executive Officer of Micro Finance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC), says the corporate entity is creating business opportunities to link producers with buyers to sustain the support given to entrepreneurs. "We are linking producers with buyers so that a farmer looking for chop bar or restaurant operators can easily access the opportunity to market the produce," she said.

Ms Ansah-Djan announced this when 20 selected parliamentarians from 15 African countries paid a courtesy call on her outfit to acquaint themselves with the operations of MASLOC in Accra. The visit organised in conjunction with the Parliamentary Centre (PC), afforded the parliamentarians the opportunity to interact with policy makers and implementers and to assess government's policy on microfinance and small loans scheme in the context of poverty reduction. The PC is a Canadian not-for-profit; non-partisan organisation devoted to improving the effectiveness of representative assemblies around the world.

It is now a global leader in parliamentary development with projects that support parliaments in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The Centre, which has served parliaments and legislatures for more than three decades, was founded in 1968 to strengthen the capacity of Canada's Parliament.

It is now proposing to bring parliamentarians and parliamentary staff from five sister African countries, including Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda to learn the best practices of Ghana to replicate it.

Ms Ansah-Djan said MASLOC would soon enter into a public-private partnership to facilitate its operations to meet its mandate of reducing poverty and empowering the productive poor in the society. She conceded that the centre was challenged with the issue of low loan recovery rate but blamed the cause of the challenge on 'over politicisation of MASLOC' and low level of education concerning the purpose of the funds disbursed.

Ms Ansah-Djan said the quick manner in which monies were disbursed to some party functionaries under the scheme and the impression that beneficiaries who had the monies were 'free government money' smacks off the purpose for which the centre was designed. She called on parliamentarians to desist from making hard to fulfil promises and be mindful of their utterances on political platforms, because they could have negative impact on the socio-economic development of the country.

Ms Ansah-Djan said management of the centre had implemented measures to recover the loans, and to address the challenges caused by the previous administration that had beleaguered the centre. One of the measures is to train prospective beneficiaries before they access the loans to build their capacity to repay. She said her administration had adopted a human-face approach towards loan recovery, but stressed that deliberate unrepentant defaulters would be legally forced to pay the money to ensure the sustainability of the scheme.

Ms Ansah-Djan said the 20 per cent interest rate the centre charged on the loans disbursed was not too high compared with the higher interest rates charged by other micro finance institutions. Mr. Issifu Lampo, Budget and Governance Advisor of PC, said his outfit assisted parliaments to establish networks to promote mutual learning and parliamentary exchange on policy issues crucial to democratic governance.

He said the Centre conducted research on a range of topics related to parliamentary performance, practices, and publishes briefing notes, handbooks and other practical tools on important issues relevant to parliaments such as fighting corruption, reducing poverty, promoting gender equality and managing conflict. MASLOC was established to serve as the agency of government for the prudent and judicious management of government and development partners' funds for micro and small-scale-credit programmes. The objective of the scheme is to support government's programme of a sustainable reduction in poverty as indicated under the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy, by providing micro credit and small loans to the productive poor.

MASLOC's facilities are principally targeted at people who fall mostly within the micro, small and medium enterprises sector, including women, the physically challenged and the youth. The most common tenure of the loan facilities is 12 months, applicable mainly to commerce, with a one to three months moratorium depending on the nature of the project. The maximum period is up to 24 months which is normally applicable to new projects such as tractor purchase and operation, pineapple cultivation, piggery, as well as institutional lending for the purpose of on-lending or retailing to end-users. Disbursement of MASLOC loans is done through participating financial institutions and there are currently nine banking groups in partnership with the centre to disbursed and recover loans from clients. 20 March 10