Special Address by H.E. Benjamin Clement Eghan, Special Representative of President John Dramani Mahama, Republic of Ghana


Nov  3rd

Your Excellency the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib
Tun Abdul Razak,
Distinguished World Leaders,
The Chairman of World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation, Tun
Musa Hitam,
The Secretary General of WIEF Secretariat, Tan Sri Ahmad Fuzi
Abdul Razak,
High Commissioners and Ambassadors, etc,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to be here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to address the opening session of the World Islamic Economic Forum 2015. I deem it a great honour and I wish to thank the Chairman of the World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation, Tun Musa Hitam and the Secretary General of the WIEF Secretariat, Tan Sri Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak for inviting me to share a few thoughts on the theme for the Forum “Building Resilience for Equitable Growth”.

I also wish to extend sincere appreciation to the Right Honourable Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, and his Government, for inviting Ghana to participate in this Forum. Indeed, Malaysia is a beautiful country and has excelled in many ways, in particular, its transformation programme which has impacted positively on the lives of its people. Malaysia has a lot to offer the world and I wish the country success in its endeavours to becoming a High Income Nation by 2020. From what I have gathered, I believe this feat will be accomplished before year 2020.

The primary lesson to learn has to do with how Malaysia learned to work with its private sector so well that it can now be said that Malaysia has “commercialised the implementation of its national development”. That success, in itself, can be traced to how Malaysia learned to tap into Islamic Financing. We are therefore especially happy to be invited to this Forum and I am seizing the opportunity to make a case for a role that Ghana is willing to play to the mutual satisfaction of all and for Ghana to be more effective and efficient in tapping resources which are fair, competitive and sufficient for its development programmes such that it will continue to build economic resilience to achieve more equitable and sustainable growth.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

On this platform, I am speaking on “Building Economic Resilience: The Ghanaian Experience and the Way Forward”.

After the recent turmoil in world financial markets in 2008, developing countries became the engine of growth of the global economy with some countries in Asia and Africa registering GDP growth of between 5 and 7 percent. But presently we, in the developing world, face a more challenging economic and social environment. We are confronted with a myriad of challenges including low and declining commodity prices, stiffer financial conditions, weak currencies which continue to depreciate, and low oil prices among others. We also have to contend with the challenges presented by globalisation, natural disasters and the rise in terrorist activities just to mention a few. Furthermore, we continue to witness increased domestic and external vulnerabilities.

Among some developing countries and economies in transition, particularly in Africa, inflation rates are high, well above 10 percent. The global employment situation remains dismal with high unemployment remaining a key challenge in some developing economies. Capital inflows to a number of developing countries have shown a measurable decline together with increased volatility in financial markets.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

What are the implications of global developments on Ghana’s economy? To mention a few, Ghana has had to endure the harsh economic impact of the recent decline in commodity prices. In particular, the declining prices of gold have had adverse effects on jobs and revenues in the mining sector which contribute about 27.6 percent of government revenue. The decline in oil prices also impacted negatively on the fiscal deficit through lower revenues from oil exports whilst dampening the effect of foreign exchange pressures arising out of lower oil import bill.

In these uncertain times how do we ensure that our economies have the resilience to recover from, or adjust to the negative impacts of these adverse exogenous shocks to ensure that the interest of our people are protected at all times.

It is in this regard that Ghana is hopeful for early operation of the South South Energy Initiative (SSEI) in harnessing and utilising oil wealth in the developing world.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

To begin with, on the domestic level, we need to address the external and internal imbalances in our economies which make us vulnerable to exogenous shocks and build policy space through home grown solutions which better suit our national environment. In all this the interest and protection of our people are paramount. We also need to strengthen our institutions for better governance.

The institutional reforms are essential to attain steady economic structure and mobilization of resources for long-term investments as well as enhancement of macroeconomic management and financial stability. Institutional reforms are critical for building resilience for equitable growth.

On the global front, international policy cooperation and coordination to reform the international financial system is needed. This cooperation should ensure that adequate resources are made available to developing countries, such as this Forum is seeking to do, for sustainable development and poverty reduction.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

In Ghana, we are taking the following specific measures to mitigate potential impacts.

To sustain Ghana’s medium term growth prospects, we have developed some home grown strategic measures to reduce vulnerability to external shocks through such means as strengthening tools for risk management, diversifying and adding value to our exports and supporting local production of goods which are currently imported, but which can be produced domestically. The fiscal frameworks are being strengthened to foster medium-term planning and preserve debt sustainability as well as deepen structural transformation of the economy.

In 2009, the government that assumed power developed a mediumterm development plan which aimed at accelerating socio-economic transformation known as the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda. Its vision was to create “a stable, united, inclusive and prosperous country with opportunities for all.” We are currently implementing phase two of the development plan which should be completed in 2017.

The medium-term development plan was developed within the context in which Ghana had attained lower middle income status in 2010 and recorded significant economic growth over the period 2010 to 2013. However, the accelerated economic growth has not manifested in the expected levels of job creation, and poverty levels remain relatively high, especially in the three northern regions and among some socioeconomic groups of the country. In addition, though Ghana began the production of oil in commercial quantities, the revenues from the oil production have not been enough to support critical investments in key national priority sectors.

The situation has further been compounded by dwindling donor inflows as a result of Ghana’s attainment of middle income status, earlier than anticipated, leading to substantial fiscal and balance of payments challenges. To achieve the medium-term national development objectives under these circumstances, we are creating fiscal space for increased investment in key priority sectors whilst ensuring that the dividends of growth benefit all, irrespective of gender, location, socio-economic and physical status.

The transformation of Ghana’s economy and society is anchored in its prospects and platforms for development. The prospects include:
building or strengthening the essential elements of good governance and promoting light manufacturing that builds upon Ghana’s comparative strength in natural resource endowments and the large pool of skilled and semi-skilled labour force. The transformation platforms include such key pillars as institutional capacity and management; a growing infrastructure base; an enabling environment for business; social intervention and public safety net to ensure that Ghana’s development process is inclusive; and that it has an abundance of relatively high quality labour.

A major objective of our transformation agenda is to create a significant number of quality jobs whilst promoting decent work, especially in the informal sector. Initiatives in agriculture and agro-processing, value addition to our natural resource endowments, including salt, gold, bauxite, limestone, iron ore, and manganese, the composition of employment is projected to shift in favour of industry and services. Other job creation initiatives will arise from accelerated investments in public infrastructure, promotion of tourism, and provision of financial, technical and ICT services.

Ghana’s successful structural transformation hence rests on three strategic interventions under this plan namely:

  • strengthening and deepening the essential elements and institutions of good governance;
  • promoting export-led growth through products that build upon Ghana’s comparative strengthen in agricultural raw materials; and
  • anchoring industrial development through prudent use of natural resources based on locally processed value addition.

As a way forward we have accepted that the fore listed transformation strategies will not be possible unless Ghana’s public sector works in true symbiotic relationship with the private sector in much the same way as Malaysia has done. The symbiotic relationship must be marked by the way by which the facilitative powers of the state are applied to capacitate the private sector to deliver national development. Key to this strategy is injection of funds additional to what we have traditionally had access to.

Such flow of funds has to be innovative and yet structured. It has also to be flexible, incentive driven and rewarding and should help Government balance capital and people’s needs against a challenging external and domestic backdrop.

We find that the Islamic Financing Industry possesses the foregoing attributes and hence Ghana seeks to become part of the Industry.

The Bank of Ghana has been working towards this interest. On its part, the Ministry of Finance has been closely examining literature on Islamic Finance and Network. Indeed, as I said on a recent trip abroad Ghana should have its first Islamic Branch by the end of this year.

In further preparation for that and for participation in the Forum, the Ghana High Commission in Kuala Lumpur has sought some understanding of this industry. The High Commissioner, his Deputy and some staff have taken the opportunity to participate in the 2015 World Halal Summit, the 2015 Islamic Financial Network Seminar and are about to organise a Study of the Islamic Financial System and Network for some officials of Ghana’s Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Ghana along with Senior Executives of the Fidelity Bank Ghana Ltd and its branch in South East Asia, the Fidelity Asia Bank based here in Kuala Lumpur.

The study of the Islamic Financial System and Networking will be pursued intently with a mind to accelerating the establishment of Islamic Banks and to go on to be an influential Islamic financial centre in Africa in much the same way as Malaysia has done, and Great Britain, Germany, Luxembourg and other rather advanced countries, are doing.

As regards plans for accelerating the transformation of relevant institutions for this enterprise, Ghana recently participated, at high senior officials’ level, in the Global Transformation Forum which was dubbed Operationalising Transformation: Shifting Dialogue to Effective Action which took place from 21st to 23rd October.

Ghana’s participants came from the Office of the President, the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and the Ghana High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.

You may recall that this forum was held here, at this same venue, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, and was organised by the Performance Management & Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) of the Malaysian Prime Mnister’s office, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Hence, to Prospective Investors, I say, several investment opportunities exist in various sectors under Ghana’s medium-term development plan. Ghana is on the path to building resilience to ensure that its medium term plan is achieved for the benefit of its citizens. We are ready for your investments, including the establishment of Islamic banks; we value your friendship and will never exclude anyone because of their race, religion, colour or faith.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to conclude my address by expressing a strong commitment for Ghana to learn more about this industry and to help Ghana contribute substantially to the growth and impact of Islamic Finance across Africa. This forum presents new opportunities for us to study the industry and connect with Islamic entrepreneurs from all over the world. We plan to provide irresistible incentives for our new friends to make new investments in Ghana.

I thank you and may God bless us all.