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MPs code of conduct to be reviewed …..in a bid to stem allegations of corruption

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The Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, (MOPA) Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has disclosed that the leadership  of  Parliament is expected to review the code of conduct of Members of Parliament and also ensure that committee sittings are held in Accra in a bid to address corruption issues facing the legislature.

The first session of the seventh Parliament was riddled with allegations of bribery and corruption among some Committee Members of Parliament was affected the image of the legislature.

The infamous one being, the Member of Parliament for Bawku Central,Mahama Ayariga accusing the Minority Chief Whip Muntaka Mubarak of collecting bribe money from the Chairman of the Appointment Committee of Parliament Joe Osei Owusu out of which he distributed ?3,000 each to Minority members on the committee.

He said they collected the monies initially thinking it was a sitting allowance but returned it after they learnt it was a bribe money paid on behalf of Boakye Agyarko to bribe them to approve the Energy Minister nominee at the time.

Subsequently, the Speaker of Parliament, set up committee, led by Joe Ghartey to rule on it, with the accuser made to apologise.

Speaking at a media soiree for members of the Parliamentary press corps, Mr Mensah-Bonsu was asked what his ministry would do to redeem the image of Parliament as far as allegations of corruption was concern in the last Parliament.

He explained that; “Parliament is presently reviewing all code of conduct and also all committee sittings to be held in Accra. These will help us to address corruption issues facing Parliament.”

According to the Minister, the rebirth of MOPA, will help demystify governance and send it to the doorstep of the people.

He also added that the Ministry’s is central to the evolution of the country’s democracy and that their mandate will enhance, hasten and entrench democracy.

“We are encouraging more participation and we will also serve as an interface between the Executive and Parliament.”

Furthermore, MOPA will also coordinate the executive of government business on the floor of the Parliament and also expected to collaborate with the media to inform and serve as a feedback conduit.

Source: Eugene Davis/thebftonline.com/Ghana

September 15, 2017

URL: http://thebftonline.com/politics/26347/mps-code-of-conduct-to-be-reviewed-in-a-bid-to-stem-allegations-of-corruption.html

Domestic air travel shoots up by 26%

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Deputy Finance Minister, Kwaku Kwarteng has disclosed that there has been a 26 percent increase in patronage of domestic airlines since the abolition of the VAT on domestic air fares.

The 2017 budget heralded the abolition and review of some 12 key taxes.

They included the 17.5% VAT on domestic air fares, the 17.5% VAT on financial services as well as the 5% on real estate.

According to the government, the move is aimed at providing a friendly environment for businesses in the country.

The motion to remove the 17.5% VAT on domestic airfares was moved in Parliament in April 2017.

Speaking on the floor of parliament, Kwaku Kwarteng also stated that government will soon report on the outcome of all reforms so far undertaken by the government.

“In fact we are going to come to this House as Ministry of Finance to present the 2018 budget statement and there would be some reports on the outcomes of the policies we have implemented so far; at least with what we have seen so far is that the outcomes are favorable.”

The Deputy Aviation Minister, Kwabena Okyere Darko in August 2017 disclosed that the removal of the 17.5% VAT on domestic air travel had increased Ghana’s domestic air passenger volume by 24 percent as at May 2017.

The passenger volume at the time witnessed an increase from 163,322 to 201, 851 between May 2016 and the same period in 2017.

According to him, the other expansion works at the various airports are expected to increase domestic travels by the end of year.

“The Ministry remains committed to government’s pledge to encourage and support local airlines and entrepreneurs to set up strong private airlines that can fully utilize the nation’s route rights. In line with this, the Ministry has obtained approval from the Nigerian Ministry of Aviation for Africa World Airlines to commence operations to Abuja in addition to its Lagos route.”

Source: citibusinessnews.com

HFC Bank to raise GH¢50m & rebrand as Republic Bank Ghana

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Shareholders of HFC Bank have voted for the Board of Directors to raise 50 million cedis on the Ghana Stock Exchange as well as rebrand as Republic Bank Ghana.

The funds are meant to help the bank meet the 120 million cedis capital requirement announced by the Bank of Ghana in 2013.

Speaking to shareholders at an Extra Ordinary General Meeting, the Chairman of  the board of HFC Bank, Charles Zwenes explained that  the decision was long taken before the Bank of Ghana announced the new capital requirement.

He explained that  HFC Bank with support from its parent company, Republic Bank with a financial strength of over 10 billion dollars is in a position to meet the current 400 million cedis capital requirement announced by the Bank of Ghana.

“What we are doing is we are first of all complying with a current threshold requirement, later on, we would look at compliant with a subsequent threshold requirement which is not yet in force. We have until December 2018 to comply with the subsequent requirement, but the current requirement is what we are doing now.  Since it has to do with deeping money in our respective pockets, we are adopting a softly approach,” he said.

Assuring the shareholders, Mr. Zwenes stated that the bank has strong financial strength to meet the capital requirement without trouble.

“This bank in which you own shares is not in the same category or classification as UT Bank. I am happy to assure you that, and secondly when the time comes as you say, I can assure that we can get the current 400 million cedis capital requirement announced by the Bank of Ghana”.

The shareholders also voted to change the name of the bank to Republic Bank Ghana.

Source: citibusinessnews.com/Ghana

Govt reviews policy on tax exemptions

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Government has decided to discontinue the requirement for exemption holders to provisionally pay the import duty and taxes upfront and apply for a refund later.

In March this year during the presentation of the national budget, government announced the revocation of import duty and some taxes at the ports deemed nuisance.

Importers were directed to pay upfront but made to come for refund later.

Speaking to journalists in Accra, a Deputy Finance Minister Kwaku Kwarteng stated that importers will now benefit from exemptions from October 1, 2017 once they meet all the requirements.

He maintained that the old system that required importers to pay upfront and later come for refund created some financial challenges for the business owners.

“In our recent consultations with stakeholders, we have better understood the weaknesses in our exemptions regime. We are in a better position to deal with the shortcomings in ways that pose less cost to genuine businesses and exemption holders,” he said.

Mr. Kwarteng stated that government has been able to indentify abuses in the exemption regime since April, 2017 when the policy was instituted.

“For instance in the first eight months of 2016, total import duty  was GHS5.9 billion and total exemptions granted was GHS1.7 billion. As such tax exemptions represented 30 percent of total import duty and taxes”

However, Mr. Kwarteng stated that in the first eight months of 2017, total import duty collected increased to GHS7.2 billion, while exemption total exemptions granted decreased to GHS1.2 billion which is 17 percent of total import duty and taxes for the same period under review.

He explained that as per the status quo, importers will be required to provide documentation that include ,the basis for the exemption , recommendation letter from relevant sector ministry or agency, Customs Classification and Valuation Report(CCVR) or customs Declaration form,  and import declaration form.

The rest include tax clearance certificate, bill of laden , commercial invoices, packing list, tax exemption assessment report and other supporting documents.

Source: citibusinessnews.com

Gazprom secures major gas deal in Ghana

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Sources within the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) have confirmed, exclusively to Citi Business News, that the company’s board has approved the awarding of a long term Liquefied Natural Gas (“LNG”) supply contract to Gazprom, the world’s largest producer of gas.

The long term supply contract is expected to significantly increase the country’s energy security, providing Ghana with 250 MMscf/d of competitively priced gas. The contract will be with Gazprom’s marketing and trading group, headquartered in London with subsidiaries in the USA, Singapore, France, UK and Switzerland.

The contract volumes are sufficient to satisfy more than 1000MW of thermal generating capacity, this coupled with Gazproms experience in large scale gas to power, will go a significant step towards permanently removing the scourge of Dumsor.

It will also position Ghana as an Energy hub facilitating the supply of gas from Ghana to neighbouring countries, creating significant opportunities for employment and enterprise.

The entry into Ghana of a super major gas company will undoubtedly transform the energy sector bringing access to gas related finance and expertise on a world class level. Our research suggests that the deal struck by GNPC and the Ministry of Energy will be underwritten by Gazprom’s large balance sheet with no capital required from government.

Gazprom is the world’s largest supplier of gas and owner of gas related infrastructure.It operates in all parts of the “gas chain” from exploration and production, petrochemicals through to transportation, power production and marketing of Liquefied Natural Gas to customers.

The company’s revenues in 2016 were $100bn, more than double Ghana’s GDP. It is the largest supplier of gas to Western Europe and controls more than 200 billion barrels of energy or 17% of the worlds total overall gas resources. Its portfolio of global assets will allow it to guarantee long term reliable supply for Ghanaians.

The company is a leader in LNG production, with access to more than 50 million metric tonnes of LNG.  Its long term supply contract with Ghana will be for 1.7 million metric tonnes (250 MMscf/d) and will be added to existing long term sales to Japan, Korea, China, India, Taiwan, the UK, the USA, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico among others.

Shipping accounts for up to 15-20% of the total LNG gas price.

Citi Business News researchers have been told the supplies to Ghana are likely to be delivered from Ghana’s neighbour Cameroon, where Gazprom has exclusive rights to the gas produced from the SanagaSud and Ebome fields. The location of the resources in close proximity to Ghana will help to guarantee low prices and increase security of supply.

Ghana’s interest in gas is also fuelled by the country’s desire to rid itself of the problems associated with Dumsor and inefficient power generation. Gazprom’s position as the world’s largest producer of gas has allowed it to develop significant expertise in power generation.

As of 2016 it was also the world largest generator of thermal energy owning more than 38,000 GW of power generating capacity. Ghana’s overall thermal generating capacity is close to 3500 MW.Gazprom’s strategy in Russia and other markets has been to utilise its low cost of gas production to deliver low priced and reliable electricity to both industrial and retail users.

In 2016 the company spent more than $2bn on increasing generating capacity in its global portfolio, its access to capital and technological expertise (the company employs 15,000 engineers) allows it to quickly deliver large scale projects.

Citi Business News understands that Gazprom’s power experts have already visited Ghana and have begun negotiations with Ghana’s state agencies regarding implementing a large power project to compliment the arrival of LNG.

Ghana’s initial foray into LNG was marked by transactions with entities with little or no track record.

The decision to partner with a global leader in gas is testament to the government’s ability to attract, to Ghana,high quality international investment and technical competence.

Gazprom’s reliable sources of supply and experience in developing gas to power allow Ghanaians to look forward to a future without Dumsor.

Source: citibusinessnews.com

GEPA identifies 11 products for export

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The Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) has identified 11 priority products to enhance Ghana’s export cash flow. The products include tubers, aquaculture, services, handicraft and a focus on the authority’s 10-year development programme on cashew.

The Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the GEPA, Mr Eric Amoako Twum, made this known at the launch of the second phase of the National Export Strategy in Kumasi.

If successful, the programme will serve to complement, as well as sustain the one-district, one-factory concept.

There are 23 programmes that are being considered under the strategy. They cover  water, energy, trade, agriculture, finance and local government.

The first phase of the National Export Strategy saw GEPA visiting five regions, namely the Eastern, Volta, Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions.

According to Mr Amoako Twum, Ghana has all it takes to be an export hub in the West African sub-region and to transform into a developed country.

Throwing more light on the programme, he said, GEPA had set an ambitious target to raise at least $10 billion in four years from the export of the targeted commodities.

He noted that the strategy sought to augment the performance of existing export products and identify additional articles with significant export potential in the districts.

“The GEPA is currently undergoing certain structural and fundamental realignment to enable it to handle new responsibilities that would be thrust upon us,” he said.

The GEPA is also seeking to establish regional offices to assist with the implementation of the one-district, one-factory concept.

The Deputy Ashanti Regional Minister, Madam Elizabeth Agyemang, was hopeful that the programme would provide the impetus for business-minded people to venture into the production of locally manufactured goods for both local and global consumption, as well as improve the country’s trade balance.

Source: Daily Graphic

New mobile money platform launched

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The Allied exchange Africa, in collaboration with Global Tech Solutions has launched a platform that allows customers to transfer money from one mobile money account to another on a different network, with or without internet access.

Dubbed ‘Alexpay’, the application seeks to integrate the already existing various mobile money platforms, the traditional banking platforms and other pay networks across the country.

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Allied Exchange Africa and Co-Founder of ALEXpay, Mr Moses Kanduri, at the launch said ALEXpay was a platform that would scale up the segmented telco-based mobile money platforms.

He said it intends to do this by providing an integrated and secure avenue that would facilitate unified, reliable, affordable and easily accessible mobile money transactions in Ghana and across Africa.
He emphasised that the initiative was not aimed at displacing or competing with the already existing mobile money networks or existing Fintechs but to complement them.

He said although one can send money directly from the platform, it was also capable of sending money from one mobile money platform to another platform of different network, an approach which has not yet been achieved by the existing mobile money platforms.

Mr Kanduri said users of ALEXpay could create a virtual mobile account that would allow inflow of deposits, transfers, credits and to pay bills at their convenience. The platform also permits the outflows of withdrawal, purchases and top-up credits.
He explained that the platform also aims at integrating utility companies such as the Ghana Water Company and the Electricity Company to enable Ghanaians make payment of bills right from the comfort of their homes.

The Chief Executive Officer of Global Tech Solutions, a leading payment solution provider in Brazil and a Co-Founder of ALEXpay, Mr Jacques Blinbaum, also assured customers of its commitment to bring more convenience in the payment systems in the country.

“ALEXpay has got two components; the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and the app component. These components can be used on any mobile phone, either being a smartphone or a “yam” phone. The app can be downloaded free for all smart phone users,” he said.

He said the application also had one unique feature which was known as ‘Alex jump’, which allows USSD users to skip steps in the transactions by using specific codes that have been provided on their website and other social media platforms.

Source: Daily Graphic

UK-Ghana Chamber of Commerce marks 1st anniversary

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The United Kingdom-Ghana Chamber of Commerce (UKGCC) has marked one-year of operations in Ghana. It also used the occasion to introduce its new High Commissioner, Mr Iain Walker.

Taking over the ambassadorial position from Jon Benjamin in August, Mr Walker is poised to continue strengthening the relationship between UK and Ghana.

Addressing guests at the cocktail event held in Accra, the new High Commissioner said: “UKGCC is proud to be a year old and more grateful for the opportunity to connect businesses and create further opportunities.”

He congratulated the UKGCC team for achieving enviable milestones within this short period.

The High Commissioner called on the business community to go into more partnerships, highlighting the huge benefits both organisations stood to gain.

In his welcome remarks, Mr. Tony Burkson, Chief Executive Officer of UKGCC thanked members of the chamber for believing in the role of the chamber and always being ready to take part in activities that promote and boost their business relationship.

Dignitaries present at the anniversary cocktail included Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia.

The cocktail provided great networking opportunities for members of the chamber who were present.

The Chamber

The UKGCC is a robust organisation made up of local experts and professionals that will be the voice for British businesses looking to access and engage with the Ghanaian market, while providing assistance to Ghanaian companies investing in the UK.

It facilitates and promotes trade and commercial relations between the UK and Ghana and provides support for its members through the sharing of knowledge and ideas whilst hosting various activities designed to build stronger networks that will connect business and create further opportunities.

Source: Daily Graphic

Pension funds, catalyst for economic transformation

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A pensions expert and Managing Director of AllStar Insurance Brokers, Mr Peter Osei-Duah, has lauded the growth trajectory in the pensions sector, explaining that if properly developed and regulated, it can be the anchor to the transformation of the economy.

With pension funds now available to private entities, thanks to the introduction of the tiered pension scheme, Mr Osei-Duah said more long term, patient and low-cost funds can now be invested in real estate, banking and finance, investment and insurance to the benefit of the economy and contributors.

Essence of breakfast meeting

Scheduled for Tuesday, September 19, this quarter’s breakfast meeting at the Labadi Beach Hotel is meant to provide policy makers and stakeholders a common platform to deliberate on happenings in the nascent industry.

The views, recommendations and conclusions are expected to set the stage for reforms in the pensions sector, which is now enjoying tremendous growth following the introduction of the three-tier scheme in 2010.

Patient capital

Unlike Ghana, Mr Osei-Duah said most of the big investments, especially real estate companies,in foreign countries were owned by pension funds.

“When you come to Ghana, things are a little different; all you see is SSNIT investing in banks and a few buildings here and there,” he said .
Should the country get its acts right through robust regulations and better incentives for the institutions, Mr Osei-Duah said it could set the stage for strong economic growth and prosperity for retirees.

“As it is now, pensions are the only place where you will get long-term funds. Most of these banks will not give you any loan beyond a year or something and that is why we have issues with mortgages and the rest,” he said, explaining that the decision to invest pension funds on real estate should be guided by prudent guidelines.

“If you go to places such as the USA, Prudential Towers are owned by pension funds. We can have the same here,” he said.

He said these forms of investments could be done through a partnership between estate developers and pension fund managers or fund managers taking up the challenge to invest directly in the sector.
“This is where the guidelines become necessary. Whatever form that these companies choose to use, they ought to be guidelines to determine whether or not to invest in a particular project,” he said.

Assets under managementThe reforms introduced in 2010 opened up pension fund managements to the private sector after mandating workers and their employees to lodge their tier two and three contributions with trustees.

As of July this year, contributions made under these two tiers totalled GH¢8.3 billion, of which GH¢2.7 billion was still lodged at the temporary pensions account at the Bank of Ghana.

The GH¢8.3 billion comprises funds accrued in the Temporary Pension Fund Act (TPFA) (contributions and returns on investments, mostly government securities) and total assets under management (AUM) by licensed trustees.

Currently, the industry has 131 service providers, including trustees, pension fund managers and custodians. Additionally, 243 institutions have registered and are operating as pension schemes.

Tax reliefs

While the growth of the sector has been commendable, Mr Osei-Duah said there was still room for improvement, given the potential of the sector.

For that to happen, he said some regulations needed to be changed to increase pension contributions while protecting workers’ disposal incomes.

“I believe that if the regulations are changed to allow more money to be put aside for pensions and the sector is well regulated, then the economy will improve tremendously,” he said.

He mentioned the voluntary contributions as one sector that should be properly developed through proper sensitisation on the need for workers to set aside an appreciable amount of their earnings in pensions.

He also observed that businesses within the pension space now needed more tax incentives as boosters to mop up excess funds from the general public for investments.

The extra funds should help increase their investment portfolios while enhancing the lives of contributors after they have retired.