Ms. Hannah Tetteh, Minister of Trade and Industry, on Tuesday said government was impressed with the performance of Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund which had contributed immensely to growth in the economic sectors of the country.
She said there had been clear evidence in growth and development in the private business sector, more especially among Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) over the past few years due to the immense financial and technical assistance from the BUSAC Fund.
Ms. Tetteh made the observation at the closing session of the first phase of the project in Accra.
The project which is jointly funded by DANIDA, DFID and USAID was to facilitate the development and growth of a competitive and vibrant private sector had within the first phase( 2004-2009) approved 362 grants for business associations in all 10 regions, totalling 8.2 million dollars.
She commended management of the fund for the implementation of the support system to improve the performance of public and private sector businesses in the country.
Ms. Tetteh said government appreciated the immense contributions offered especially to SME’s in the country through empowerment to advocacy for changes in unfavourable government policies that hindered their progress to expand and operate effectively and efficiently.
She explained that the fund, which was a grant mechanism for the Ghanaian private sector, provided them with adequate empowerment to advocate to the local, regional and national authorities for change to various legal and regulatory frameworks that hindered their activities and reduced revenue generation and economic growth.
Ms. Tetteh said the fund had performed a very useful task by way of empowering SMEs to sensitize government on the various constraints and challenges that confronted the sector leading to various changes and amendments of policies and programmes to address their demands.
She said currently, the private sector seemed to be driving government policies and programmes and hoped that there would be enough funding to support a second phase of the project.
“This would help bring on board new players and also extend the facility to others as well to ensure total development of the private sector,” she said.
Dr. Dale Rachmeler, Fund Manager, said the fund had created an application system to receive, screen, evaluate, select, approve and verify grant proposals, as well as professional technical assistance team of long-term and short-term consultant, saying such measures were to ensure the long term sustainability of the projects.
Dr. Rachmeler said beneficiaries were from all sectors of the economy; small, medium and large scale businesses, road construction companies, textile industries, small scale farming associations, mining, petty traders and the media.
He explained that funding for the first phase ended in early 2010, however, request for proposals for the management unit was on-going with a selection and contract estimates for 2010, therefore BUSAC Fund II should begin as early as March 2010 to maximize the gap between phase one and the next five years.
Dr. Rachmeler called for multilateral support, saying advocacy was not something that was built and left alone, but needed to be nurtured over time.
Reverend Dr. Joyce Aryee, Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Chamber of Mines, attested to the immense contribution of the BUSAC Fund in relation to the improvement in the mining sector saying, the fund had been extremely useful to the Chamber in its quest to reduce various constraints in the sector.
She said as a beneficiary of the fund, the Chamber was advocating a clear and standardized compensation mechanism that would reduce litigation among stakeholders while ensuring that the project affected communities were not made worse off as result of mining operations.
Mr. Stig Berlyng, Danish Ambassador to Ghana urged all enterprises to approach and operate their businesses in a more ethical and accountable manner, respecting human rights and taking into account issues of gender and equality as well as fulfilling all their tax obligations to help ensure total development in the country.
He acknowledged the immense contribution of managers of the fund and commended them for their selfless commitment to their duties and called on government to ensure an enabling environment to sustain the project.
Dr. Mrs. Esther Ofei-Aboagye, Director, Institute of Local Government Studies, called for stronger public-private partnership to promote real change and development, saying the BUSAC Fund had provided several initiatives and beginnings that could lead to real change in public and private sector responsiveness.
She cited changes that had taken place in respect to the culture of public sector consultation with the private sector in the development of national policies and programmes.
Dr. Ofei-Aboagye noted that beyond collaboration in investments, the BUSAC Fund’s interventions had fostered partnerships between business and private sector groupings by helping to break down walls of suspicion and fostering cooperation and familiarization.