GH¢10 billion package earmarked to support entrepreneurship - Finance Minister

BY: Jemima Achivors
Mr Ken Ofori-Atta - Finance Minister
Mr Ken Ofori-Atta - Finance Minister

The government is rolling out a GH¢10-billion package over three years as support for start-up businesses and youth entrepreneurship ventures in the country.

In line with this, the government, through the E-Levy, proposes to use GH¢1 billion each year to catalyse an ecosystem to create one million jobs.

In partnership with its development partners, the government will raise another GH¢2 billion to support the same cause.

Local banks have also agreed on a package that will result in increasing their small and medium enterprises (SMEs) portfolio up to GH¢5 billion over the next three years.

Interview

Speaking with the Daily Graphic on the sidelines of a post-budget engagement with the leadership and Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Volta Regional capital, Ho, last Saturday, the Finance Minister said: “The government is making the most extensive attempt in its history at kick-starting the entrepreneurial state.”

“Over the next three years, the government will commit up to GH¢1 billion annually for the YouStart initiative, while the development partners and financial institutions will complement government funding with close to GH¢2 billion and GH¢5 billion, respectively.

This is a clarion call for a ‘new deal’,” he added.

Stakeholder engagement

This week, the Finance Minister is continuing with the stakeholder engagements and will meet with the National Union of Ghana Students to discuss further details of the rollout.

The two-day workshop in Ho facilitated extensive dialogue among MPs, the Ministry of Finance and other key stakeholders on the principles and critical issues of the 2022 budget.

In his presentation, Mr Ofori-Atta said the 2022 budget “dealt with the past and delivers opportunities in the present, while investing in the future in a responsible and interconnected manner”.

In a lively presentation, he emphasised: “The time has come for Ghana to become an ‘Entrepreneurial Nation’.”

2022 Budget

The 2022 Budget, on the theme: “Building a sustainable entrepreneurial nation: fiscal consolidation and job creation”, emphasises a post-COVID-19 economic recovery agenda, centred on youth entrepreneurship.

Accordingly, the YouStart initiative was announced in the budget as the vehicle for supporting young entrepreneurs to gain access to capital, training, technical skills and mentoring to launch and operate their businesses.

The YouStart will be carried out through the Ghana Enterprises Agency (GEA), the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP) and partner financial institutions.

Domestic revenue mobilisation

According to the Finance Minister, the government’s resolve was to depend less on borrowing and more on domestic revenue mobilisation.

That, he said, would materialise if “we all support these revenue enhancing and expenditure rationalisation measures”.

Mr Ken Ofori-Atta (2nd from left), Finance Minister, interacts with an exhibitor while being conducted round the fair by Dr Archibald Yao Letsa (left), Volta Regional Minister

“We are, therefore, calling on this august House to support us to get these measures through, as you have done in the past. Mr Speaker, we are determined to reduce the debt burden and promote our debt sustainability as our path to building an entrepreneurial state and creating jobs, especially for the youth,” the minister had urged Parliament when he presented the budget last Wednesday.

Potential in Volta Region

On the potential in the Volta Region, Mr Ofori-Atta described the vibrant ecosystem of entrepreneurs in the Volta Region as a mirror image of what the government sought to harness as it put in place efforts to support private sector development through the YouStart initiative.

He said he was impressed by the level of innovation at display by especially youth entrepreneurs at the ongoing Volta Trade Fair, which commenced last week.

He commended the Volta Regional Coordinating Council and the Volta/Eastern/Oti Chapter of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), the organisers of the fair, for their proactive initiative in showcasing the capacity of ingenuity of Ghanaians.

"I have seen a lot of entrepreneurs doing things quietly from here, even with all the challenges.

But it goes to the heart of the matter of how to eliminate this youth unemployment issue which has become an intractable part of our landscape,” Mr Ofori-Atta said.

He said his visit had emboldened him, the government and his ministry about the necessity and expediency of the E-Levy.

Lessons to be learnt

Mr Ofori-Atta also described the Volta Trade Fair as a fine example for other regional ministers to rely on to properly tackle the issue of entrepreneurship building and a sustainable entrepreneurial nation in finding solutions to the youth unemployment problem.

He expressed the government’s appreciation of the fact that solutions proffered in the 1960s with a then Ghanaian youth population of 2.2 million could not be replicated today, with a current youth population of over 10 million.

It, therefore, behoved all stakeholders to find innovative avenues of tapping into the global economy, especially through digitalisation, he said.

Speaker

The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Kingsford Alban Sumana Bagbin, said he stood by his promise that he would never obstruct government business.

“But that doesn't mean if government business is anti-people, I should just close my eyes and see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil and let it pass through," he added.

He said the workshop presented a fine opportunity to ask all the needed questions about the medium-term programmes, and more particularly the 2022 budget, and to engage stakeholders from various sectors of the economy in seeking expert guidance on the salient issues in the budget.

He expressed the hope that the programme would provide parliamentarians with a clear road map in fulfilling their mandates and oversight responsibilities as legislators.

Mr Bagbin too visited the fair grounds at the Ho Sports Stadium, where he addressed the exhibitors and commended the Regional Minister, Dr Archibald Yao Letsa, and the people of the region for their efforts in courting the interests of various stakeholders and keeping the fair vibrant and attractive.