Thursday, 27 March 2008

Presidential Jets for Ghana?

Ghana parliament last Wednesday approved a presidential jet motion. According to a GNA reporter, Adolphus, it took more than four Falcon-900hours of debate to approve by a majority of 118 to 63 for a loan agreement to purchase the jets. The worse of it, "the aeroplanes (Chinese-made) would be financed with a soft loan from the Chinese Government to be paid over a period of 25 years, while the other two (French-made) would also be financed with a loan from Societe Generale" - GNA report. Societe Generale and Government of Ghana will finance US$43.15millions and US$62millions respectively. However, the report failed to mention how much the Chinese government would be contributing. There was also a final amendment to a discrepancy in the motion and committee report and final settlement on US$31.15million in respect of the value for the US$43.15million.Read at http://tinyurl.com/2ugyb3.

This has generated more questions than answers and sometimes anger to the developing people of Ghana. Most of them feel they had been left out of the debate for which they would be using their taxes to repay. Even in the house of parliament, the "minority raised concerns that papers on the agreement had not been laid for members to make comprehensive contributions to the debate and called for the rejection of the motion" - GNA report. This comes as a surprise to some social entrepreneurs who are using their hard earned income to finance the development need of the country.

There are others who were concerned about the terms of the loan agreement which they feel had benefited the Chinese and the French. http://tinyurl.com/38l2wt

There is an issue of trust when the government was forced to say through it spokesman, Andrew Awuni that it has NOT ordered any Presidential Jet for itself Read at http://tinyurl.com/2jlvuo. This extends Mike's question just posted in the last few minutes. "What has become of "political power" in Ghana? Can any body enlighten us on this story? Are the electorates, and for that matter Ghanaian citizens safe in the hands of power?"

The debate continues

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Time to get hands-on putting a value on carbon

The current spate of declaration by financial institutions looking forward to a world with a value on carbon (and their decisions to set a value for carbon in their own calculations on project viability or to stick to broad principles on carbon which may control the future shape of their portfolios) are the latest confirmation of a world preparing itself for some kind of public policy context to emerge from international negotiations. But perhaps of equal importance is proof that the risks and opportunities from managing exposure to carbon are seen as real and present, not possible and far-away.

To find out performance and ahead of speech-making, a number of challenges face financial institutions. A carbon value helps one understand risk in a future where carbon carries a value, but how do you decide where to invest in carbon intensive projects and where not?

The carbon footprint of the average US resident is multiples that of a Ghanaian, for example. So, in a carbon controlled world, and also a world where the energy access needs of the poor are essential, what other mechanisms will global financial institutions, public and private need to make necessary carbon intensive investments?

How do you know the carbon intensity in your portfolio today? Portfolio measurements of carbon exposure on an agreed methodology are partly complete if at all for most financial institutions. Without that basic knowledge again, how do you know which carbon to add to your portfolio or how much?

After Bali there is a lot of enthusiasm and expectation around possible new sources of funding to come alongside investments to drive down the cost of fixing a cleaner technology project than would have not been considered feasible under usual conditions. This is welcome to be able to help the developing world install energy access, with cleaner, more efficient technology, sooner. But will this be sufficient.

How the analysis taking place at major financial institutions, discussing the use of sovereign funds, the large bilateral development banks in emerging markets and the banks in emerging markets, where most green house gases emitting projects are going to be installed in the next few years? These are the sources of funding in the main.

At the IFC they are chewing over these issues and many more as part of climate change strategy development. They have got some exciting stuff going on - but always looking for other good ideas.

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Geotourism Challenge

Supporters of "geotourism" think that it benefits home residents in many ways, including economically, since travel businesses struggle to use local workforce, products, and services.

A new National Geographic competition aims to bring awareness to ways geotourism may be helpful to the local communities. Winners will be innovators in geotourism and applications are now open through April 9.

If you are part of a devoted organization or government you can also sign the "Geotourism Charter" (absolutely non-binding and unenforceable).

Tags: Development, Economics Environment NGOs+Charity

Friday, 21 March 2008

Waste Plastics Turned into Fashion Accessory in Ghana

Used plastic bags may be part of the dirt in Accra but not any more in the near future. A social entrepreneur is collecting the discarded plastic bags and stitching them together to make new reusable bags. Read full story at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/ghanaian-fashion-accessory-is-plastic-fantastic-797147.html?r=RSS

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Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Cell Phones for Development

The significance of cell phones for isolated communities and different applications of mobile technology have been the subjects of much debate both for users and developers. We already know that cell phone technology has enabled lots of people in remote areas to access bank accounts and government services. But here is a new one: a recent paper creates a model that predicts that cell phones in Niger will lead to a reduction in price dispersion. This would be true since cell phones enable grain traders to perform searches for better prices in areas where it would otherwise be too costly to search. Software developers on the other hand are using Google platform to develop open software for the next generation of mobile phone operating environment.

Taking that further, a new paper suggests that an increase in competition policy in sub-Saharan Africa, to at least the identical level as that of the best-performing countries in the region, could almost double overall cell phone coverage. However, the authors highlight that more targeted work would need to be done to reduce the digital divided between rural and relatively dense areas.

"Eventually there will be more cell phone users than people who read and write," says Eric Schmidt, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Google in a recent article by the Washington Post. The piece has some interesting facts about how cell phone technology grew so fast since its creation that no one could foresee the magnitude of this growth.

From growing cassava to funding a university

Beatrice Ayuru introduces herself as a teacher and businesswoman. She is from northern Uganda, a war-ravaged area with much poverty and few schools.

A few years ago, with no business training and no money, Beatrice decided that she would build her own school. "No girl should endure what I had to go through myself," says Beatrice. "Education is the best way to help reduce poverty in my region […] and giving girl children education empowers them. In my village, women are over-dependent on men."

Beatrice started with a small garden of cassava. That earned her a little money which she used to buy wheelbarrows that she subsequently rented out. With that income, she managed to open a canteen. Soon, she had enough savings to start a school. Getting the land was a struggle.

Traditionally, land is only owned by men in Uganda and it took her a lot of persuasion to finally obtain four hectares from her family. On that land, she built three blocks. Registering the school was another hurdle. She could not do it as a woman and had to ask her husband to do it on her behalf. The school was built and many students came to the school but the facilities were still inadequate.

One day, Beatrice got the visit from an official from DFCU, a Ugandan bank and an IFC client. The bank was impressed with Beatrice’s achievements and offered its support. Bank officials explained to her how a loan works, and she received management and banking training.

Beatrice's school, the Lira Integrated School, today has 1500 students, a school bus and an income-generating brass band. With the savings from the school, Beatrice has built a small-scale yoghurt factory and employs in total 104 people. Beatrice is far from being done. She is planning to open a university. She has a clear message for financial institutions: "We need lower interest rates and we need more flexibility in collaterals." And for fellow businesswomen: "Learn from me that this is possible!"

Source: PSD Blog

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Eskom to Learn from Energy Crisis

South Africa has gained from an abundant and inexpensive delivery of electricity since the founding of the monopoly public utility, the Electricity Supply Commission, or Eskom, in 1928. The law establishing the monopoly mandated that electricity be sold at cost. Artificially lower labour costs under apartheid, together with South Africa’s large reserves of coal, enabled Eskom to subsidise industrial development and to become a surplus producer, ultimately exporting electricity to neighbouring countries. The lower cost of South Africa’s electricity has discouraged foreign power companies from entering the market. As a result, Eskom supplies 95% of the country’s power. The African National Congress governments since 1994 have scaled service to rural areas and townships and successfully followed policies to increase GDP growth. There were forewarning signs a decade ago that demand would exceed supply at about the time that this in fact happened.

With demand levels high compared with the supply capacity, and a reserve margin of 4% well below the internationally recommended minimum of 15%, the state-owned utility Eskom has resorted to adopting a rationing policy: Eskom’s customers have to accept that they currently get 10 to 20% less electricity than before the crisis. Hotels, large offices, and commercial customers will carry the biggest burden. (Source: Doing Business Blog)

Lessons can be learnt from other countries that have been in similar situations. Short-term strategies that can be adopted include:

Prices

A seemingly clear solution would be to raise power prices as this would directly impact the customer. With tall prices “hurting” the consumers, they would be led to preserve more. But, increasing “electricity prices” in a country where these prices are highly subsidized like in South Africa would not be a policy of option for most politicians.

Ration

Another technique is to ration electricity, like Ghana and Brazil. In Ghana, the electricity sector depends heavily on hydropower. Majority of the country’s electricity originates from a net of hydroelectric reservoirs. Water levels in the reservoirs constantly decreased. In the following a period of drought, the water levels in the reservoirs had reached such dangerously low records. The government, like in South Africa, had to establish a rationing policy. Customers were required to cut their energy consumption.

Energy-efficient equipments

Countries can also choose to embrace more energy-efficient equipment as a way to solve the issue. This is one approach California resorted to during its 2000/2001 power crisis. The Golden State opted to replace millions of existing light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights in a very short time.

No matter what approach is taken, communication seems to be key in any effort to save energy in a hurry;Ghana, Brazil and California had to resort to advertisement campaigns. Ghanaian utilities kept their customers updated on the levels of water in the reservoirs and on the demand decrease in the different regions of the country. In California a website was created that displayed graphs showing the changing levels of supply and demand. Both approaches not only proved useful in alerting the population to the seriousness of the situation but also allowed consumers to monitor the direct impact of their efforts in saving electricity.

In the longer-term the current calamity will result in new power plants being built and diversification of energy sources from coal to solar, wind and biofuels, all of which will be good for the economy, the environment and the country as a whole. In the meantime there will be pain and sacrifices. The question is how much and for how long and who will take the responsibility politically?

The World Bank is currently initiating a new indicator on the importance of electricity for businesses in countries across the world. Once the new indicator is out, countries like South Africa will be able to find out from more than 100 other countries’ practices.

Tags: Africa, Development, Economics, Ghana, Government

Regulation and the Businessman

Dealing with regulation is component of managing a company. And this is where in many countries the trouble starts; you often simply don’t know how lengthy it will take before you can get on with doing business. A comment by a lawyer during a recent trip to Zambia describes: “After you deposit your documents at the land registry, it goes into a black box. Nobody knows when it will come out. It can take weeks, but also years.”

How do you plan for that? How do you act in response to clients, let alone execute their expectations and compete both locally and globally?

Many countries had start reforming after realising this is a problem. Unfortunately, many also think that legal time limits are the answer. Research had established that time limits don’t work unless they are tied with a silence is consent rule.

“In countries with time limits without such a rule, company registration took on average 19 days longer than the global average. Silence-is-consent rules also guarantee something that investors and entrepreneurs highly value: predictability. No response in 5 days means approval.” Source: Doing Business Blog

This works for administrative registrations, but what of court procedures or customs controls? At the end, institutions have to perform more efficiently. Predictability and speed will have to come with simplified internal processes and explicit rules. And that’s where any reform should begin – not with legal time limits.

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Increase In Prime Rate By Bank of Ghana

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of Ghana has pegged the prime rate, the benchmark rate used by lenders as a reference to establish the rate to be charged to borrowers, at 14.25 per cent, a rise from the previous figure of 13.5 per cent.

Source: GNA

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Monday, 17 March 2008

Four Years Early or Four Decades Late?

One of EU goals is to cut administrative hurdles for businesses by 25% in 2012. You can hear the business community cheer. Reducing red tape is not easy anywhere, but having bureaucrats on the private sector side gives hope to the skeptics. The European Commission created a Fast Track approach to modify and simplify many regulations and procedures for entrepreneurs. Here, Fast Track means that those procedures that can be reduced or eliminated the fastest will be tackled first.

One of the sectors that will see an early impact of this goal is the transportation sector. Recently, the European Parliament took on the European Commission’s proposal to reduce the paper work that transport companies have to deal with.

So, what is being slash? No longer will transport companies fill out double forms or provide unnecessary information. The EU information policy states that freight carriers will no longer have to hold separate transport documents detailing, for example, frontier crossing points, routes to be taken or distance travelled. Also the reporting requirements on intra-community transport flows (i.e. name and address of the consignor, nature and weight of the goods an destination of the goods) are no longer required. The latter was a rule dating from the 1960s when EU transportation was heavily regulated.

Now who precisely is impacted by this reduction? Over 300,000 companies in the European transport sector profit from this action, and the majority of these companies are small and medium enterprises. Of these 300,000 companies, 100 are rail operators, 7000 inland waterway operators and the other 292,900 companies are road transportation companies.

And what is the cost-benefit of all this? The savings that this simple reduction in regulations involves is an annual €160 million. Do we celebrate this decline because it is implemented 4 years before the EU’s target date, or do we work out the drain on the transportation sector over the last four decades?

Source: Doing Business Blog

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The Two Famous Bills

Bill Easterly, formerly of World Bank prominence, always manages to ruffle the establishment. This time the establishment is Bill Gates, the philanthropist extra special. Gates in recent times told the Wall Street Journal that he hated Easterly's latest book. Easterly was keen to respond. The general idea of Easterly's argument is that the profit motive of capitalism is stronger - and more effective in reducing poverty - than the philanthropy motive of donors.

Even if philanthropists are well-intentioned, how can they choose just which product is going to reduce poverty? Much research suggests that "picking winners" through government industrial policy hasn't worked for increasing growth; and that picking developing countries with "upward potential" doesn't work either. Recent research in fact shows that foreign aid may result in the same rent seeking behaviour as documented in the “curse of natural resources” literature. Commentators argue that Bill Gates should know better.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

AOL Buys Bebo

AOL, the online division of Time Warner, is buying fast-growing social network Bebo for close to $850 million in cash, the company announced today. AOL is talking some gobbledygook about marrying AIM, ICQ with a real social network. Whatever!

Source: Gigaom

UK 2008 Budget Highlight

Gross domestic product growth on target at 2.5 per cent in the last quarter. Economic growth forecast unchanged at 2 to 2.5 per cent this year and 2.75 to 3.25 per cent in 2007 and 2008. Exports to rise by 5 to 5.5 per cent this year.
Public finances
Current account deficit to fall from £11bn this year to £7bn next, followed by surpluses of £1bn, £7bn, £10bn and £12bn in following years. Public investment to be £26bn this year and rising in the years ahead to £29bn, £31bn, £32bn, £34bn and £36bn.
Inflation
UK inflation at 2 per cent and on target.
Public debt
New remit for Debt Management Office published today. Long-dated bonds to account for nearly two-thirds of total issue this year, up from less than half.
Government statistics
Proposals to be published for the independent statistics board.
Asset sales
Plans for total public asset sales of £30bn by 2010. Government confirms it will sell Westinghouse this year and expects to raise £3bn. It will also sell the Tote and part of its stake in British Energy and related assets.
RESEARCH
Medical research
Budgets to be combined for Medical Research Council and National Health Service research, totalling at least £1bn per year. Proposals to simplify research funding that goes direct to universities, to be refocused on business needs.
EMPLOYMENT
Unemployed and low paid
Unemployment claimant count at 920,000. Review of national insurance and income tax system for lower paid workers. The number of low skilled jobs will fall from 2.1m to 600,000.
Women
New help for working women to close the pay gap with men. Doubled funding for training for low-skilled women as part of measures to bring more than 30,000 lone parents into work.
INCOME TAX
Allowances
Personal income tax allowance rises from £4,895 to £5,035. Child element of child tax credit to rise 14 per cent over three years - worth up to £88 a week by 2009 for two-child family. Children to get an additional £250, or £500 for those in low paid families, in their Child Trust Funds at age seven. Tax-free child care voucher to rise from £50 to £55 a week.
INHERITANCE TAX
Thresholds
Inheritance tax threshold to rise from £275,000 to £325,000 over four years.
PROPERTY
Stamp duty
Stamp duty exemption on property transfers to rise by £5,000 to £125,000. Details published on real estate investment trusts. Measures worth £970m for shared equity to help new homeowners on to housing ladder.
OTHER TAXES
Value added tax
Continued VAT refunds for renovations to churches and monuments.
ALCOHOL
Beer and wine up
Beer duty up by 1p a pint and wine by 4p a bottle from Sunday. Duty on spirits frozen for ninth year in a row. Duty on champagne and sparkling wine to be frozen.
TOBACCO
Rise of 9p a packet
Excise duty on packet of cigarettes to go up by 9p from tomorrow.
MOTORISTS
Emissions
Vehicle excise duty - zero rate for lowest emission cars, £40 (reduced from £75) for new cars with low emissions, up to new £210 band for the highest polluting new cars. Fuel duty to be frozen until September 1. Help worth 35p a litre for vehicles powered by biofuels.
EDUCATION
Science learning
Programme to recruit 3,000 more science teachers. New entitlement to study full range of science subjects at GCSE.
Access and spending
Education to A Level standard to be free for those up to the age of 25. Extra capital investment of £500m to close funding gap between private and public sector education. Public investment in state schools to rise to £8bn a year in the next five years from £5.6bn.
PENSIONERS
Travel
Free off-peak bus travel for pensioners and the disabled anywhere in the country.
DEFENCE
Terror fund
A £1m endowment for fund of families that have been affected by terrorist acts at home and abroad.
BUSINESS
Overview
Business investment will be £113bn this year, expected to grow 4.5 per cent to 5.25 per cent a year in 2007 and 2008. Productivity growth averaging 2.3 per cent in current economic cycle, against 2 per cent in the previous cycle.
Taxation
The size of companies that can claim higher tax credits for research and development to be doubled. Tax credit for creative industries will be expanded. Tax incentives for venture capital to be reduced to 30 per cent relief for investments in venture capital trusts. Corporate tax to remain competitive with international rates. Small companies to get £100m of new money. Scholarships to US business schools.
Trade
UK trade and investment procedures to be overhauled with targets to expand trade with China, India and emerging economies.
POLICING
Community
Extra £100m to more than double the number of community support officers.
ENVIRONMENT
Climate change
Climate change levy to be inflation indexed. Proposals to strengthen and extend the European Union emissions trading scheme will be introduced. Industry consultation on carbon capture technology.
Energy
Energy companies to create energy and environmental research institute, with £1bn finance raised from public and private sector.
CIVIL SERVICE
Spending review
Four key departments have agreed 5 per cent yearly reduction in real terms below 2007-08 baseline.
SPORT & CULTURE
Olympics
About £200m for training facilities for athletes, matched by £100m sponsorship and £300m of Lottery money. Olympic trust fund launched. Initial funding of £34m for new national sports foundation.

Source: Economy Watch

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Ghana-Nigeria Oil Business

"Ghana and Nigeria on Wednesday pledged to strengthen and deepen economic co-operation particularly in the energy sector for their mutual benefit." - Abuja, March 12, GNA.

Nigeria have benefited from the oil business for years only to have the proceeds stolen by politicians. Ghana is about to start oil exports and one wonders if they would fall victim to their Nigerian friends or would learn to invests the proceeds in Sovereign Wealth Funds.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Corporate Wi-Fi Usage Grows Overseas

Corporate Wi-Fi usage in the U.S. hasn’t grown much but has seen a sharp spike in Europe and Latin America, according to new data released by iPass. While Latin America represents a fairly small number of users, Rick Bilodeau, VP of corporate and channel marketing at iPass, believes the high price of roaming on cellular data networks in Europe makes Wi-Fi a more economical option for business travelers and other corporate users. IPass provides Wi-Fi and cellular data access through agreements with network operators for corporate customers.

Most of those accessing Wi-Fi are still doing so in airports and hotels, but as places such as McDonald’s rolling out networks, restaurants are also growing in popularity. In addition to restaurants, network growth will likely also come from service rollouts in train stations and European hotels, said Bilodeau.

And for those wondering which cities and airports sport the greatest numbers of corporate Wi-Fi users, London is the top metro and Chicago O’Hare is the top airport.

CaptureGigaom

Source: Gigaom

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Sovereign Wealth Funds

The finance ministers from the EU discuss this controversial investment funds with billions to spend controlled by governments such as China, Russia, Kuwait Saudi Arabia and Singapore. Often they are set to invest surplus oil and gas profits. One of such funds Dubai world 3/4 own by the Dubai government is forced to sell it investments in the US and are threatening moving its fund if they are regulated by the EU.

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Tax Havens

In an increasingly global world and diverse new technologies it is much easier and quicker to move money around the world to avoid taxes. Though there are a number of tax havens the so-called 'rich countries club' OECD has compiled a list of unco-operative tax havens who do not apply its standards aim at fair taxation. However, matters become much more complex when the tax haven is your neighbor, and you need their unforthcoming cooperation to seal the tax evasion loopholes.

A case in point is the recent tax evasion scandal that has rocked Germany, involving its neighbor, Liechtenstein. It is widely reported that Germany paid an informer about €4m for details in a mammoth tax evasion investigation of funds held by German nationals in a Liechtenstein bank. The information obtained led to arrests of luminaries, with more heads expected to roll in due course.

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Tuesday, 11 March 2008

ECO To Be Introduced In December 2009

The West African Monetary Institute (WAMI) last Wednesday expressed optimism that the ECO, a common currency for Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Guinea, would be introduced in December 2009.

Mr Odiaka Chris Okolie, Director of Operations of WAMI, told the Ghana News Agency in an interview in Accra that a lot of successes had been chalked in the area of payment system harmonisation in the sub-region, despite a few challenges being faced by some of member countries.

+ACI-With regard to the qualitative criteria, a lot of successes have been chalked in the area of policy harmonization of cheque standards, payment systems laws, financial sector integrations and currency convertibility, +ACI- he said.

Mr Okolie said these efforts would facilitate cross-border payment of transferring funds when the ECO becomes functional, which would also put in place the single payment system.

The launch of ECO has been postponed two times in the past. He said at present, only two out of the five-member countries - Nigeria and Gambia - had met the four convergence criteria for the introduction of the ECO.

The primary convergence criteria are: Budget deficit (excluding grants) as a ratio of the GDP should not exceed four per cent+ADs- Central bank financing of budget deficit as a ratio of the previous year's tax revenue should not exceed 10 per cent in 2000/2005+ADs- Consumer price inflation (end-period) should be single digit and a floor on gross external reserves should be at least three months of current imports.

The secondary convergence criteria are: No accumulation of new domestic payment arrears and liquidation of all old arrears+ADs- Tax revenue as a ratio of the GDP should be less than 20 per cent+ADs-

The wage bill as a ratio of tax revenue should not exceed 35 per cent+ADs- Domestically financed public investment as a ratio of tax revenue should be at least 20 per cent+ADs- The central parity of nominal exchange rate determined on December 31, 2003 should be maintained with 15 per cent fluctuation band as defined by WAMZ Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM-II).

Ghana, Guinea and Sierra Leone were yet to meet all the four.

According to the rules governing the issuing of the ECO, if two out of the five member states are able to meet all the primary criteria before 2009, it could still be introduced.

Mr Okolie noted that WAMI had made headway in instituting an Electronic Automated Cheque Processing System to facilitate transfer of cheques from one bank to another through the clearing system of the various banks.

He said this would help eliminate manual cheque processing, which had a long clearance period, and promote a sound regional payment system to further economic integration within the Zone.

Mr Okolie said the Convergence Council had approved the establishment of a Single Payment System Law that would facilitate easy disputes resolution and increase the confidence of the system operators.

He said a common Real Time Gross Systems (RIGS), which would handle large volumes of inter-banks transfer payment, had also been adopted by all the five-member countries.

Ghana and Nigeria already have the RIGS but plans were being made to make both systems compatible to a WAMZ RIGS system.

Mr Okolie said a study was being conducted on harmonising stock exchanges of Ghana and Nigeria to promote cross-border trade and listing of shares.

+ACI-The ultimate goal of the integrated regional capital market is to enhance investment and output by removing constraints in capital account convertibility in the WAMZI.+ACI- .He said despite some countries being behind, heads of state of member countries had supported the process and were committed to introducing the new currency come 2009.

Source: GNA

Ghana And Netherlands Sign Treaty On Double Taxation

Ghana and the Netherlands yesterday signed a treaty on the avoidance of double taxation and fiscal evasion that would facilitate cross-border trade and investment through the elimination of tax impediment to cross-border flows.

The treaty, which is the eighth to be signed by Ghana and its development partners, is expected to take effect from January 2009 after approval from the Dutch Parliament. The Ghanaian Parliament has already ratified it.

Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, signed for Ghana while Mr Jan Kees de Jager, State Secretary of Finance, Netherlands initialled for his country after which they exchanged the power of attorney.

Dr Osei explained that negotiations on the treaty started in December 2006 in The Hague while the concluding rounds were held in Accra in February 2007.

He said the treaty would enable the two countries to achieve the elimination of double taxation, prevention of fiscal evasion, elimination of discrimination against foreign nationals and non-residents in trading activities.

"The treaty is therefore meant to create an enabling environment for foreign direct investment inflows into Ghana and Netherlands. It is also expected to increase trade between the two countries for our mutual benefit and also broaden and deepen bilateral relations between the two," he said.

The Minister said Netherlands had been playing a pioneering role in donor harmonisation activities and was a major contributor to the Multi-Donor Budget Support (MDBS) facility.

Mr de Jager commended Ghana, a "relatively young country" for being able to conclude numerous double taxation treaties with countries all over the world.

"In my view, it forms a great example of how a developing and a developed country are able to come to a solid agreement that does justice to the characteristics of both countries."

He said such a treaty was an important prerequisite for the promotion of mutual investments and trade between two countries.

The Minister said a tax treaty not only helped to prevent double taxation and double non-taxation but also provided certainty to companies, organisations and individuals on the fiscal treatment of their income and capital gains from the countries involved.

Mr de Jager said Ghana and the Netherlands would benefit greatly from the treaty which they had signed, explaining that it would significantly reduce the administrative burden relating to the taxation of income and capital gains, both for taxpayers and respective tax administrations.

On the other hand, it contributed to creating the conditions for sound public finance which is vital for the economic growth of a developing country, he said. He invited a delegation of the Ghanaian tax administration to visit the Netherlands to learn more about their day-to-day practice in the administration and customs departments.

Source: GNA

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US Mission To Explore Investment Opportunities In West/Central Africa

Representatives of 16 agro-processing companies from America have begun a meeting in Accra to explore trade and investment opportunities in West and Central Africa as well as meet with more than 100 African agribusiness representatives from the region.

The US Agribusiness and Trade and Investment Mission, the first of its kind to the region, would also allow participants to engage in one-to-one discussions in the areas of horticultural products, sea food, bio-fuel, poultry and meat products among others.

Speaking at the forum, Ms Pamela Bridgewater, the US Ambassador, said West and Central Africa offered excellent market opportunities for American trade and investment while the US provided excellent market for African products.

She said the private sector was the engine for economic growth, especially trade and investment, and the US government was ready to facilitate and support these initiatives in collaboration with West and Central African partners.

Ms Constance Jackson, Associate Administrator, Foreign Agricultural Service, said West and Central Africa had great potential for agribusiness growth and increased agricultural trade and investment partnerships.

Trade between the United States and West and Central African countries increased in 2007 by nearly 25 per cent to more than 1.22 billion dollars. "Over the next few days, US and West and Central African companies will learn about each country's trade opportunities, impediments, business practices, and government programmes," she said.

Ms Jackson encouraged the US and African company representatives to take advantage of the unique opportunity to expand trade and investment partnerships. "Our goal is to encourage food and agribusiness growth and private sector linkages."

Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, President of the ECOWAS Commission, said there was the urgent need to create a platform for the total growth of the agricultural sector because of its strategic importance to the economy of most countries.

"As a region, we must endeavour to produce more to feed ourselves, provide new materials for our local industries and engage in value-added processing for export," he said. He stressed the need to remove barriers to trade among the countries in the region to step up intra-regional trade.

There is also the need to work with the partners such as the US to remove supply-side constraints to expand agricultural exports, address low production capacity, poor infrastructure, meeting standards and adopting modern techniques among others.

Mr J.H. Mensah, Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission, said the agricultural sector in Africa needed drastic technological transformation to stimulate increased production. However, he said, this did not call for wholesale importation of agricultural technology.

Source: GNA

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Links for 4 Mar 2008

  • blog.pmarca.com: An hour and a half with Barack Obama

    Marc Andreessen on Obama: "He's got my vote."

    (tags: marc andreessen barack obama)

  • TED 2008: Humans Are Just Machines for Propagating Memes, Susan Blackmore Says

    We are just a petri dish for the "memesphere"

    (tags: susan blackmore memesphere meme propagation device)

  • theory.isthereason » Facebook Beacon: Now TWICE AS INSIDIOUS than before!

    Beacon is back, and no indiaction of ads being ads?

    (tags: kevin lim facebook beacon)

  • Feministing -- Washington Post Reaches New Low

    "I am perfectly willing to admit that I myself am a classic case of female mental deficiencies. I can't add 2 and 2 (well, I can, but then what?). I don't even know how many pairs of shoes I own." - Charlotte Allen. Sheesh.

    (tags: charlotte allen washington post anti-womanism)

  • About Barack Obama

    Lincoln Steffe in his blog writes about meeting Barack Obama for one and a half hours in early 2007. The blog talks about the four distinct impressions he gathered from the man contesting to be America's next president. This he describe as Obama as the normal guy, the smart guy, the non-radical and a credible presidential candidate.

    Read full blog at >>>>>>> and some comments >>>>>>