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We Have Given EC GH 50 million For Biometric Voters Register - Gov't
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The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Dr. Kwabena Duffour has disclosed that government has released funds to enable the Electoral Commission implement the new biometric voting register as the country looks to advance the cause of democracy through transparent, free and fair elections.

The minister made this revelation on the floor of parliament when he presented a supplementary budget to the House worth GH1,463,123,559.

In his address to push for the acceptance of the motion, Dr. Duffour said "based on the budget submitted by the Electoral Commission, over GH80 million will be needed for the biometric exercise, of which GH50.8 million will be required in 2011. Government has therefore released GH50 million to the electoral commission to implement activities preceding the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections."

He said government is committed to ensuring that the EC replaces the voters register for the conduct and supervision of the 2012 elections.

Dr. Duffour touched on a number of projects that the government intends to finance with part of the supplementary budget.

He said government has also earmarked an amount of GH5 million to the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) to continue with the government's quest to bridge the gap between the north and south in the country.

Public sector Ghost names

The Finance Minister, Dr. Kwabena Duffour announced the new strategy that has been adopted by the government in dealing with 'ghost names' in the pay roll of the public sector.

Dr Duffour said the public sector wage bill has been rising sharply over the past years in relation to GDP and expenditures, but this was not attributable to wage or salary increases.

He pointed out that one major contributing factor to the failure of past initiatives to remove 'ghost names' has been the inadequate mechanisms to effectively identify, delete them and prevent their reappearance.

He said government will use the electronic approach which entails the capturing of biometric data of employees in the payroll system to shed fraud and impersonation.

Dr. Duffuor expressed confidence in this new approach in dealing with ghost names, mentioning that this method has been proven to be successful in most countries that have been experiencing payroll fraud

Economic outlook

On the general outlook of the economy, Dr. Duffour indicated that as a result of prudent fiscal and monetary management, government has been able to bring down and maintain inflation at a single unit for the longest period in the nation's history.

He said the agricultural sector has also seen tremendous growth and that crop yields have increased because of government's dedication to the sector.

He said government has effectively harnessed available resources and used it efficiently to develop and maintain the economy to drive growth and improve living standards.

Dr. Duffour added that the country recorded one of its highest growth rates in history in 2010 with a 7.7% increase in GDP and in the process stimulating business activities, financial intermediates as well as wholesale and retail trade.

According to him, Gross International Reserves increased by $1.6 billion to $4.7 billion at the end of December 2010 translating on the average into 3.8 months of import cover for goods and services.

Domestic revenue as per the 2011 budget outlook was lower than expected as it dropped to 7.6% - lower than the expected target.

Despite all the positives, Dr. Duffour said the total revenue and grants also fell bellow the budget target by 9.4%.

He said the fiscal deficit on cash terms for the 2010 fiscal year was GH 2,999.9 million equivalent to 6.5% of GDP against the target of GH 1,945.1 million which is equivalent to 4.4% of GDP.

Government is however cautious of the fiscal target.

He said "government is mindful of fiscal and debt sustainability, hence the revised fiscal target indicates further reduction from 6.5% of GDP in 2010 to 5.1% in 2011."

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