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Aug 5, 2013

Government to focus on economic challenges


President John Dramani Mahama has given an assurance that the government is focused on implementing measures to address the challenges facing the country's economy.

He said the almost 12 per cent deficit the government was running was the result of several factors, including the increased wage bill and the absorption of tariffs on petroleum by the government.

''We are running a high deficit of 11.9 per cent or almost 12 per cent and it is the result of several factors. We need to ensure, going forward, in our planning that those factors do not take us back to that situation ever again,'' he said.

President Mahama gave the assurance yesterday during his maiden meeting with members of the Council of State at the Peduase Lodge.

The meeting, which was attended by the Vice-President, Mr Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur; the Chief of Staff, Mr Prosper Douglas Bani, and security chiefs, discussed issues of national interest.

The 2013 Budget Statement

In his opening remarks, President Mahama said when it presented the 2013 budget, the government put out all the figures as truthfully as it could.

''Even though the figures did not look so good, we thought that Ghanaians should know,'' he said.

He said it was important for the government to have the courage to adjust the prices of strategic products at the right time to avoid distracting the economy.

''That is why we have left the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) to do little adjustments from time to time. It is much better to do the little adjustments than to wait for them to accumulate to 20 or 30 per cent on the population,'' he said.

Tariff Increases

On tariffs, President Mahama said the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) had, from time to time, recommended tariff increases but the government had chosen to absorb those increases on behalf of the population.

For instance, he said, in 2012, the government absorbed a lot of the tariffs and petroleum increases, to the extent that the sum of both, in addition to increased wages, was threatening to completely destroy the economy.

However, he said, ''there comes a time when there is a limit as to how much you can continue to absorb if you are not to throw the budget out of filter''.

Consequently, he said, the government had, in the first half of the year, been taking measures to address the distortions in order to make the economy healthier.

''We are taking a cue from what we went through to make sure that we do not make those mistakes to bring the economy back to the state in which it was,'' he said.

Turbulence in Economy

President Mahama said the government encountered a turbulence in the first half of the year and indicated that it did not enjoy the half-year honeymoon.

“There have been issues of wage agitation, energy crisis, fire at the markets and several other things that have tended to affect and distract the attention of government,'' he said.

Improvement in Energy Situation

On energy, the President said the government had been working around the clock and noted that the energy situation continued to improve.

He said the government was putting in place measures ''to ensure that we never find ourselves in that unfortunate situation again".

Touching on the role of members of the Council of State, President Mahama said the Constitution had tasked them to advise him at his request or their own request.

He, therefore, asked the members to make recommendations on any matters being considered by the Presidency, ministers or state institutions.

''I will always value your wise counsel, guidance and suggestions,'' he assured the members.

Commendation

In her remarks, the Chairperson of the Council of State, Mrs Cecilia Johnson, conceded that the government had faced challenges, including labour agitation, energy crisis, fire outbreaks and the election petition.

She lauded the President for publicly stating that he would accept the outcome  of the election petition.

 

Source: Musah Yahaya Jafaru, Peduase Lodge (Daily Graphic)