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Ghana President Launches Fund to Help Small Business

Ghana's President, J.A. Kufuor, has launched a debt relief project that aimed at benefiting small businesses in the poverty-stricken country. Efam Dovi reports for VOA from Accra the deal is part of a $200 million multi-lateral debt relief program from the International Monetary Fund.

Several businesses in Ghana are unable to expand because of a lack of credit available to them. One of the biggest impediments is the high interest rate on commercial loans, which is more than 25 percent.

Under the proposed program, small businesses will have access to loans at a 10 percent interest rate, the lowest in the country.

The $50 million fund is part of Ghana's poverty reduction program that grew out of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.

President Kufuor says, although the latest data from the Human Poverty Index indicates poverty in Ghana has declined, from 51 percent to 41 percent in the past five years, the reality is that many Ghanaians still live below the poverty line.

"The most difficult problem that continues to undermine various anti-poverty program is the lack of accessible and sustainable financial services within the reach of the people who need the service most," he said.

President Kufuor stressed his government's need to speed up Ghana's economic growth and improve socio-economic standards.

Ghana has implemented several poverty reduction programs since independence from Britain in 1957, many of which have failed.

Finance Minister Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu says Ghana has the opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past and step out of poverty.

"The message must go out, these monies must be repaid. Wherever the money came from, it was some taxpayer's money, so we need to make sure they get paid back . Whatever be the mistakes of the past, our responsibility now is to fix the future so that we don't repeat the same things," he said.

Ghana is one of the selected developing countries benefiting from various multi-lateral debt relief programs from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank.