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Government’s payroll is full, venture into entrepreneurship – Finance Minister

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The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, has informed the 2021 graduating class of the University of Professional Studies-Accra (UPSA) that government’s payroll is full – making it unsustainable to keep adding to employment figures in the public sector, hence the need to create their own jobs.

According to him, government’s role is to create the needed enabling environment, establish micro-stability and ensure that citizens have the right skillset – and that is what government is going to do: focus on the youth and budget for their demands.

“The future for you in regard to jobs is the most important thing for you at this stage, and we have gone through a period when most people look for a job from government or state institutions; but that payroll is full.

“I can tell you that because we are spending about 60 percent of our revenue on renumerating some 650,000 people, and that is not sustainable,” he said.

The finance minister further indicated that entrepreneurship, skillset and credit are the important things needed in the mix to ensure sustainability for the youth and offer them an opportunity to create their own path to wealth.

According to the minister, education is a ladder to social mobility as well as economic and social prosperity, offering beneficiaries the opportunity to help society – adding that it is important for the graduates to acknowledge the privilege of accessing four years of tertiary education and do their best to impact society through the transformation and renewal of their minds.

Chief Executive-Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Dr. K.K. Sarpong, in his address at the graduation ceremony emphasised that it is important for the graduates to acquire 21st-century skills and core competencies which will enhance their employability and advancement in career.

He emphasised that, currently, industries search for graduates who have more than a university degree, as they consider life-skills such as creativity, innovation, critical-thinking, collaboration, teamwork, communication, empathy and digital literacy, among others, as essential skills for effective individual performance.

“These life-skills underpin the abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that aids in dealing effectively with the challenges of everyday life, particularly work. It is therefore important that graduates acquire life-skills as mentioned,” he said.

Dr. K.K. Sarpong further singled-out digital literacy and indicated that this is an era of digitisation wherein automation, artificial intelligence and the use of software has dominated the delivery of accounting and financial services, hence the need for them to equip themselves with these skills to stay relevant on the job market.

He further stated that outsourcing of functions such as procurement, payroll, taxation, pensions and benefits, recruitment and training has become a new normal under COVID-19, hence the need for them to respond swiftly to that trend.

“I encourage you to set up your own firms to tap into the growing outsourced financial and business services. Be entrepreneurial, for your training here has given you what it takes to do that,” he said.

The Vice-Chancellor of UPSA, Prof. Abednego F.O. Amartey, indicated that for the 2020/2021 cohort UPSA is graduating a total of 3,640 students – comprising 793 postgraduates, 2,054 undergraduates and 793 diploma students.

He entreated them to be worthy ambassadors of the school, exhibiting the values and tenets imbibed in them.

“As a marketer, my parting words to you are remember these four Ps – be positive, principled, proactive and productive,” he said.

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Government urged to build and protect crude palm oil industry

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Chief Commercial Officer of the Ghana Oil Palm Development Company, Gangadhar Shetty, has urged government to come up with policies that will build the local crude palm oil industry’s capacity, as doing so will make the country become self-sufficient and an exporter of refined palm oil products.

He said the industry is happy government has reversed the 50 percent benchmark policy that brought it to near-collapse. However, he said, the discussion should now be focused on policies which will make the industry robust enough to produce sufficient amounts to satisfy local demand and export the excess, as this will end imports of refined palm oil products.

“We need to understand that the benchmark policy is not good for the manufacturing industry. The same way the refineries are looking at benchmark values as a threat to them, they are also a threat to crude palm oil manufacturers.

“So I would say the attention should be given more to crude palm oil production, because at this moment Ghana has a shortage of crude palm oil but we have adequate installed capacity for refineries. The main focus should be how to build and improve capacity of local crude palm oil manufacturers to become more productive.

“If we increase crude palm oil production we will not need to import refined oil, because it is from the crude oil that we get refined oil,” he said in an interview with the B&FT.

Mr. Shetty further stated that focusing on building the crude oil palm industry’s capacity will also create massive employment opportunities and make the currency stable; adding that if such help is not given to the sector, local refineries cannot produce to their maximum – and this will encourage imports of refined vegetable oils, thereby creating unfavourable competition and weakening the local currency.

“Refineries can be put up in just six months and will be ready for production. But if you want to produce 450,000 tonnes of crude oil you need 120,000 to 150,000 hectares of plantation, and that size of plantation can create direct and indirect employment for more than 600,000 people.

“If you look at the international price of crude palm oil, there is just about a US$70 to US$80 difference between the refined oil. So if you are producing the crude, you only need to add small value and you will stop imports of refined oil. It has the advantage of import substitution, and will save us a lot of FX while creating employment – especially for the rural folk,” he said.

He added that government must emulate the example of Nigeria, where its government has put in deliberate policies to protect and grow the oil palm industry by supporting manufacturers with soft-loans and slapping high duties on imported crude palm oil.

“Let’s try to compare ourselves to Nigeria. Nigeria is trying to give single-digit interest loans to the oil palm sector. Aside from that, Nigeria regulates the crude palm oil sector. You cannot just import crude palm oil; you need approval of the central bank of Nigeria, and they will not have access to forex from the central bank. They have to get it from the open market. So this means government is trying to give some level of protection to the sector.

“And if you look at duty on imported crude palm oil in Nigeria, it is 35 percent; but here in Ghana, it is 5 percent duty. So, it is important that the benchmark be removed and duty on imported crude increased,” he said.

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Over GH¢200,000 lost daily – Toll collectors petition Parliament to reverse ban

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Several toll workers across the country on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, staged a demonstration protesting against the decision of the government to cease the collection of tolls.

The aggrieved workers stated that the decision has rendered them jobless, a situation that is affecting them and their dependents.

To them, the directive by the Minister of Roads and Highways, Kwasi Amoako-Atta was terrible.

The Minister who came under fire issued a directive instruction that the collection of road and bridge tolls at all locations nationwide should be halted effective from 12am on Thursday, November 18, 2021.

His directive came after the Minister presented the budget and disclosed that the collection of tolls would be scrapped.

But the aggrieved workers are not happy and want the government to reconsider the decision.

They marched to parliament and presented a petition to the legislative body.

“They promised to reassign us to other jobs. But we don’t trust them on that. If there were jobs available, they would have given us new jobs. The Minister is a liar and we are disappointed in him, one of the workers said.

Another alleged that they have not been paid over the past four months.

The Secretary of the Ghana toll workers group, Edward Duncan, presented a petition to Parliament on behalf of the group.

The petition was received by the Deputy Majority Chief Whip, Habib Iddrisu, and Deputy Minority Chief Whip Ahmed Ibrahim.

The two leaders said the petition had come at a time parliament was still considering the budget statement.

They assured them their concerns would be addressed.

Meanwhile, the leader of the workers, Mr. Ernest Antwi speaking on Nyankonton Mu Nsem said the work of toll workers generated a lot money for the country.

He said Ghana is losing several millions of Ghana cedis.

He said their work generates more than GH¢200,000 daily and the directive from the Minister has deprived Ghana of some revenue.

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1.75% E-levy: Government in talks with telcos – Ken Ofori-Atta

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Ken Ofori-Atta introduced 1.75% e-levy

Govt fees and charges was also increased by 15%

Ken Ofori-Atta says govt is engaging telcos on the new levy

During the presentation of the 2022 budget dubbed ‘Agyenkwa budget’, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta introduced a new 1.75% levy on all electronic transactions such as Mobile money transactions, remittances and other electronic transactions.

Fees and charges of government services have also been increased by 15%.

Ofori-Atta in his budget presentation to Parliament explained, “It is becoming clear there exists an enormous potential to increase tax revenues by bringing into the tax bracket, transactions that could be best defined as being undertaken in the informal economy.

“As such government is charging an applicable rate of 1.75% on all electronic transactions covering mobile money payments, bank transfers, merchant payments, and inward remittances, which shall be borne by the sender except inward remittances, which will be borne by the recipient.”

“To safeguard efforts being made to enhance financial inclusion and protect the vulnerable, all transactions that add up to GH¢100 or less per day, which is approximately ¢3000 per month, will be exempt from this levy,” Ofori-Atta revealed.

But speaking to Parliamentarians on Tuesday, November 30, during the approval of the budget after it was rejected by the House on Friday, November 26, the Finance Minister indicated that the government of Ghana is having discussions with the various telecommunications companies over the 1.75% proposed E-levy.

“We have considered the issues of the 1.75% e-levy in which we are in discussions with the telcos and to scale back to moderate their impact so that in the end, the impact on the citizenry will be manageable,” Ken Ofori-Atta told the MPs.

“We have 11million people who are youth and we have in this budget, introduced the largest ever youth programme of GHC10 billion to ensure that the entrepreneurial nation that we seek will be achieved and the issues of the indecency of jobs and dignity of our youth working will be things of the part,” he added.

The Finance Minister’s statement was in response to some concerns raised by the Minority caucus over the levy.

The Minority in a statement asked the government to “suspend the e-levy and properly engage stakeholders to agree on a reasonable policy.

“The policy is not progressive, not pro-poor, and does not support the much-touted digitalisation agenda and cash-lite economy that we all yearn for.”

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