The cheque is in the post: president John Kufuor is a happy man because his citizens living abroad are sending home more money than ever. George F. Asmah reports from Accra.

Author:Asmah, George F.
Position:Around Africa: Ghana
 
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Ghanaians living abroad sent home over $1.3 billion last year to enrich the national economy, President John Agyekum Kufuor revealed in his recent annual "State of the Nation Address" (his third since coming into office in January 2000). Quoting from Bank of Ghana figures, the president said the $1.3 billion amounted to over 200% increase over the previous years.

This, in fact, is only a fraction of the inward investment by Ghanaians abroad as most of the transfers go through small informal forex bureaux whose figures ate not reflected in the official Bank of Ghana statistics.

Even then the president is still grateful. "This development is a massive vote of confidence in the economic policies being pursued by my government," he told parliament, adding that "it is only when Ghanaians themselves demonstrate confidence in the economy and are willing to invest in the country that foreigners will be convinced to come as corporate citizens

The president touched, once again, on Ghana's unhealthy dependence on donors for most of its development needs (see NA, Feb), saying "we must try to wean our country from its over-dependence on external finance and increase internal revenue mobilisation to give us the freedom to move and develop faster".

This year, for instance, Ghana is scheduled to invest $250m in road construction. Out of this amount, only 22% will be raised internally, the rest will come from donors.

Kufuor sees the danger that this state of affairs poses to Ghana's sovereignty and its ability to act independently of the demands and dictates of its "foreign partners". But for the moment, he has little choice but to go along with the stream.

On the export sector, the president revealed that "export proceeds tend not to be repatriated to Ghana and are not channelled through the banking system". As such, legislation will soon be introduced to ensure that export proceeds come back home and, more importantly, channelled through the banking system.

He disclosed that a "Garment Village is on the way at the Tema Export Processing Zone for 112 factories to operate under the Textile and Garment Initiative." Fifty factories are expected to be completed by the end of this year.

On the crucial issue of health, Kufuor said a lot of work had gone into devising a national health insurance system that would be accessible to, and affordable by, most people and still be sustainable. Already 42 of the country's 110 districts are running pilot projects of the...

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