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Prudent management of pre-mix fuel saved the nation GH₵36m – Minister

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The Government has saved GH₵36 million within two years for the prudent management of the pre-mix fuel and halting the diversion of the commodity.

Additionally, the 286 Landing Beach Committees have accumulated over GH₵7 million in their Community Development Fund accounts from the sale of pre-mix fuel allocated to the community.

Consequently, the National Pre-mix Fuel Secretariat had installed tracking devices at the Secretariat to monitor the movement of the trucks that cart the commodity from the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) to the intended destination to check diversion and other corrupt practices.

Madam Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, announced this at the Meet-the-Press Series in Accra on Tuesday, to update the public on the Ministry’s activities and achievements and solicit ideas to enhance its policies.

She said, the accumulated amount in the Community Development Fund of the LBCs were being used to fund various developmental projects including market centres, drainage systems, toilet facilities, community-based health planning systems (CHIPS) compounds and hostels, which were at the various stages of completion.

Madam Afoley Quaye said hitherto, the 53 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of pre-mix fuel meant for community development ended up in individual pockets, for funding the construction of political party offices and party activities at the expense of the people.

Explaining how those successes were chalked, the Minister said upon assumption of office by the ruling NPP Government, it constituted an Inter-Ministerial Committee comprising the Energy, the Finance, Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, National Petroleum Authority and the National Premix Fuel Secretariat and outlined strategic measures to halt the corruption in the pre-mix fuel sale and management.

The measures implemented by the Inter-Ministerial Committee resulted in the reduction of the number of Landing Beach Committees from 475 to 286, while daily and monthly returns book were introduced for proper record keeping and accountability of the sale of the commodity.

The Minister gave a rundown of the various projects being implemented by her outfit to boost fish stock production, including Aquaculture for Food and Jobs, which would create 80,000 direct and indirect jobs, rehabilitation of fish hatchery centres, construction of more cold stores and ice-making plants for fish preservation, supply of inputs to fishermen at subsidized rate, plans to construct Jamestown Fishing Harbour Complex and vaccination of Volta Lake to avert mass death of tilapia.

She said for the first time in the history of the country, the inshore and artisanal fishers would observe the closed fishing season from May 15 to June 15, while the industrial trawlers would observe theirs from August 2 to September 30, 2019, to allow the mother fish stock to spawn and enable the fingerlings to grow.

Source: GNA

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Cabinet approves proposals for academic user fees

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Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh, the Minister of Education, has announced that cabinet has approved proposals for a review of academic user fees of students.

He said this was done last month and have been forwarded to Parliament for ratification.

Dr Prempeh said this in a speech read on his behalf at the 11th Congregation of the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), Tarkwa.

“I am aware of concerns within the university community on the matter of academic user fees, which have not been increased for three years. I wish to state that, this has primarily been due to the new procedure for approval of these fees by Parliament” he explained.

On the issue of clearance for some universities to replace staff, he said the Ministry of Finance was working on its backlog with urgency and that would be fully resolved before the end of August 2019.

The Government appreciates and understands the need for some staff beyond the age of 65 to be retained, especially for the depth of their experience and ability to continue to enrich faculty, Dr Prempeh explained.

He said there were constitutional implications of maintaining such staff on government payroll and rather, they should be paid from Internally Generated Fund.

“Government accepts the position that there should have being a constitutional amendment to increase the age of retirement to bring such faculty members within the constitutional framework, and Parliament is in the process of considering same” he said.

The Minister pointed out that the government was aware that one of the implications of its Free Senior High School policy was an increase in the number of students seeking university admission come 2020/21 academic year when the first cohort of students under the programme complete their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

He stated that under a $500 million infrastructure upgrade through the GETFund securitisation, universities like UMaT would receive favourable consideration.

This, he said, was primarily because UMaT had remained focused on its core mandate in respect of the nature of programmes it run and the  government believes this was important in developing and nurturing talents in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

He congratulated the Vice Chancellor, Professor Jerry Kuma for his passion in ensuring the UMaT continued to employ the best standards in the training of their students.

Mr Kwabena Okyere Darko Mensah, Western Regional Minister, promised to get in touch with the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Mr Asomah Cheremeh to ensure that all legacy projects in UMaT were completed as soon as possible to improve academic work.

Source: GNA

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Ghana government to train to 12,000 entrepreneurs in three years – Minister

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Ibrahim Awal Mohammed

Dr Ibrahim Mohammed Awal, Minister for Business Development, has said private sector remains the engine of growth which could move the country to its desired level.

In this regard, he said it is the goal of government to train and mentor 12,000 entrepreneurs nation-wide to enhance their businesses within three years adding that beneficiaries of the training would also have access to a GH¢100 million loan with 10 percent interest rate.

Dr Awal, who made this known during the fourth breakfast meeting for Chief Executive Officers in the Western Region, said so far a total of 300 entrepreneurs have been trained in the region.

The meeting, organized by the Ghana Employers Association (GEA), was to enable the CEOs interact and discuss pertinent issues that would enhance the growth and development of their businesses.

He said the government has put in place five driving force pillars, made up of modernization of agriculture, infrastructural development, human resource development, entreprenurship and industrialization to help develop the private sector.

He said under the modernization of agriculture ‘the Planting for Food and Jobs’ and the ‘One District one Factory Programmes’ would be implemented, adding that in the past two years about a million people have been engaged in the PFJP.

For infrastructure development, the Minister said, government has made available about $2 billion to address the short falls in the sector adding that the road sector would be the major beneficiary.

He said everything was being done to address the human resource shortfall in the country, hence the introduction of the free senior high school programme and the TVET programme.

Dr Awal said a lot of avenues are being created for the private sector to strive adding that the skills development centre and community mining programmes being executed in the Western Region are some of the interventions being put in place by the government.

He said government would continue to give the private sector the needed space to operate since they are the major employers in the country- “over 13,000 people are being employed by the private sector”.

Mr Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah, the Western Regional Minister, also underscored the important role the private sector play in the growth of the economy and urged them to continue to play their roles effectively by paying their taxes.

He said a free zone enclave will be sited in the Western Region and that five private community mines would be established in the Amenfi area.

He said the business world is changing to a technology driven one and tasked them to brace themselves up and adapt the current technological world.

Mr Alex Frimpong Chief Executive Officer of GEA, said the lack of affordable capital, ready market, technology and human resources were the major challenges facing many businesses in the country.

He called on the government to assist them by getting them affordable loans and ready market to enable them stay in business.

Many of the participants expressed concern about the numbers of taxes being introduced by the government, infrastructure shortfalls and the difficulties in assessing loans from the bank.

Source: GNA

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Violent extremism on the rise in West Africa – Chambas

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Dr, Mohammed ibn Chambas

West Africa, last year, saw a “significant rise in violent attacks directly related to violent extremism,” the Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Dr Mohamed ibn Chambas, has said in his latest report to the UN Security Council in New York.

“The security situation remains volatile in the entire Sahel, where escalating violence and insecurity have sparked an unprecedented humanitarian crisis leaving a total of 5.1 million Burkinabe, Nigeriens and Malians in need,” he said in his briefing on the activities of UNOWAS.

Dr Chambas singled out Burkina Faso where in the past six months the security situation had deteriorated.

He said 226 security incidents contributed to a rise in the number of internally displaced people from 47,000 in December 2018 to 220,000 and more than 25,000 refugees in June this year.

“The north and east of the country remain the most affected by recurrent attacks of terrorist and armed groups as well as an increase in inter-communal violence with the involvement of seemingly uncontrolled self-defence groups,” Dr Chambas said

“Terrorist groups are furthermore directly targeting schools and forcing health centres to close.

“Today, a total of 2,024 schools and 37 health centres remain closed in Burkina Faso as a direct effect of this crisis.

“Amid this rapid escalation, Secretary-General [Antonio] Guterres has requested a significant scaling up of the United Nations’ response and put in place an Emergency Task Force on Burkina Faso,” he added.

The Task Force will meet immediate needs and tackle the structural causes of the insecurity.
Dr Chambas announced the launch of a $100 million Humanitarian Response Plan, which he said was already being revised because of rising costs.

The Lake Chad Basin, too, has seen an increase in violence from attacks launched by the Boko Haram offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province, despite heightened counter-terrorism efforts, the report said.

He noted that the rise in violence in West Africa had been compounded by the growing links between terrorism, organised crime and inter-community clashes.

The situation was so serious that ECOWAS leaders decided at their June 29 meeting in Abuja to hold an extraordinary summit on terrorism in Ouagadougou on September 14.

“It aims at discussing a concerted security approach for West Africa and the Sahel and represents a unique window of opportunity to harmonise the fragmented security arrangements,” Dr Chambas told the Council.

On the political front, hr said: “Pre-electoral and post-electoral periods…continue to be characterised by tensions, antagonistic contests and disputes, including around non-consensual constitutional amendments.

“Addressing such potential sources of conflict remains a major priority ahead of the upcoming cycle of high-stake presidential elections in West Africa scheduled for next year in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Niger and Togo.

“Furthermore, tensions around electoral periods derail the necessary attention to the pressing need to address questions of development and inequality,” he added.

Dr Chambas stated that “the journey of democratic consolidation in this region has not been easy and cannot be taken for granted.

“Several countries in the region continue to struggle with human rights challenges.

“I am particularly concerned about the instrumentalization of the judiciary for political objectives in some cases as well as a predominant sentiment of impunity for violent crimes, undermining respect for the rule of law.

“In this sense, I commend the exemplary path chosen by The Gambia, where the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission as well as the National Human Rights Commission have embarked on their challenging tasks in a credible manner that has contributed to transitional justice and social cohesion.”

There is going to be a Strategic Review of UNOWAS, which Dr Chambas hoped would “contribute immensely to respond to our quest for adequate resources to enable us to sharpen our tools for preventing conflicts and sustaining peace”.

Source: GNA

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