Ghana to pursue economic diplomacy

Ms. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey,Minister-designate for Foreign Affairs

Ms. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey,Minister-designate for Foreign Affairs

Miss Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister-designate for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration yesterday said her ministry would lead in the drive for foreign direct investment.

She said unlike the past when Ghana’s foreign policy was based on Pan Africanism, there has been a paradigm shift with focus on continental and regional integration for economic development.

Ms. Botchwey said this when she appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament for questioning.

She said with ECOWAS population of more than 350 million, it would be prudent to strengthen the regional bloc in terms of trade liberalisation to maximise the benefit within the sub-region.

She said Ghana’s foreign policy would also be geared towards tapping the resourcefulness of Ghanaians living abroad, especially in the diaspora.

Ms. Botchwey said the department responsible for collating the names of such Ghanaians living abroad to tap into their expertise and experience would be widened to meet the current needs.

She said the ministry would also nip in the bud the practice where Ghanaians were lured to foreign destinations only to be abused for lack of transparent contracts.

Ms. Botchwey said with an inter-ministerial interface, the challenge could be addressed when those who engaged in such notorious activities were stopped in their track.

She asked Ghanaians to be wary of such unscrupulous persons since not all that glitters was gold saying “our people need to know that there are no greener pastures anywhere”.

Ms. Botchwey said as the ministry leads in the drive for foreign invest, she would ensure that there was equity in wealth distribution by ensuring that the investors’ preferred destination would be the hinterlands.

She said they would ensure that the gap between rural and urban development way reduced while creating cottage factories in the districts.

Meanwhile three more ministers-designate for various ministerial positions were yesterday also grilled yesterday by the Appointments Committee of Parliament.

They were Alan John Kodwo Kyeremanten, Minister-designate for Trade and Industry, Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister-designate for Local Government and Rural Development and Boakye Agyarko, Minister-designate for Energy.

Mr. Kyeremanten who was the first nominee to take his seat before the committee was bombared with numerous questions bordering on his ministry, lasted over four hours.

He was initially chided over whether he still nursed an ambition of leading the New Patriotic Party (NPP) as its flag-bearer.  However, before he could attempt to answer it was overruled by Joseph Osei Owusu, the Committee Chairman, who also doubles as the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament.

When the floodgate was opened for main questions to get underway, members quickly zeroed-in on the government economic transformational agenda under the NPP’s manifesto, especially, with regards to job creation.

Mr. Kyeremanten then outlined government plans to use the private sector as the engine of economic growth which hinged on six major pillars improving the competitiveness of local industries, reviewing any prohibitive tax regime for industries, the establishment of  strategic industries, improving the domestic retail trade for local products and the promotion and development of export trade.

Explaining the salient points about the pillars with special focus on “one district; one factory” campaign promise, the Minister-designate said the concept was to generate massive employment in the various districts through many agro-industries.

He said in order to accelerate, the implementation of the concept, the ministry would create a technical support secretariat which would liase activities amongst the districts, potential investors and the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) to create the necessary platform for the private sector to boost trade and industry in the country.

Mr. Kyeremanten said the concept also did not necessarily meant that for each district, new factories would be built, but explained that auditing of the performance of existing industries would be done to either retool or recapitalised them to meet current needs of the country.

Avoiding the bait to give a specific timeline to deliver the factories and the source of the fund to establish them, he meandered his way by saying there was the need to go to the ground to establish the business potential in the district luring  investors to  the districts.

He, however, indicated that the funding could come from part of the one million dollar disbursement to the constituencies while the government through equity shares could be taking a closer look at Public-Private Partnership deals.

He said the current government would also go beyond just revatilising the industries and  create the necessary environment for the local products to become potential export merchandise while ensuring that the local market was also widened.

Mr. Kyremanten said the export markets targeted both the regional and continental markets as Ghana would want to be one of the frontrunners in the export trade when the Africa Union introduces quota and duty free for export commodities for member countries this year.

He assured members of the committee that, Ghana would continue to strive to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with a unified ECOWAS front rather than going at it alone, adding that, it would be prudent to convince Nigeria to come on board.

 

By Lawrence Markwei and Julius Petetsi   

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