Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government for the 2005 Financial Year, presented to Parliament on Thursday, 24th February, 2005 by our Finance Minister on behalf of His Excellency the President of the Republic.
Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Environment, Science and Technology, I will limit myself to science and technology. Mr. Speaker, our aspiration as a nation is to propel our economy into a middle-income economy. Mr. Speaker, if a nation is to reach that level or that bracket, then one of the major ingredients is science and technology.
Mr. Speaker, in the Budget Statement, the Finance Minister made mention of the development of science and technology as a tool for propelling our economy into a middle-income economy. He made mention of the national forum for harnessing research, science and technology for national development. Mr. Speaker, over the years, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) has been developing nuclear science and technology including biotechnology as a tool for developing the socio-economy of this country.
Mr. Speaker, my position as chairman of the Committee sent me to the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission and in fact I saw wonderful things over there; one important thing being tissue culture. I was told at Ghana Atomic Energy Commission that even during the Kokomba-Nanumba conflict, when all yams were destroyed, it was as a result of tissue culture that they were able to get the yam head for replanting. Surely, it is a very good thing that can help the nation.
Mr. Speaker, I also saw the development of pineapples as a result of tissue culture. But over there, the problem that we had at that time was lack of finance. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, it is also a good idea that in the Budget, the Minister made mention of the commercialization of certain departments and agencies, and that includes the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission. There are a lot of equipment over there which are obsolete and they need funds to purchase new equipment to develop a number of these crops.
For example, Mr. Speaker, as I am speaking now, we import oil palm seedlings from Malaysia and other places. If we are able to resource the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, I think it would go a long way to help develop the oil palm seedlings in Ghana also.
Mr. Speaker, another area is the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). In the Budget Statement, it was said that the CSIR will also develop cassava planting materials for farmers, to promote the President's Special Initiative on cassava. This is also welcome news. If we are able to give the science institutions in the country the needed support, I believe it can go a long way to move our economy into the middle-income bracket.
Mr. Speaker, le t me move to communication. In the communication sector, the President in his Message on the State of the Nation said that we have been able to hook 50 per cent of the towns that have senior secondary schools (SSS) onto the national communication fixed lines. Also in the Budget Statement, the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning made mention of the Ghana Investment Fund for Telecommunication Services. This is a good idea because when this is done, it will speed up telecommunication, which is an essential ingredient for economic development and poverty reduction.
Mr. Speaker, as I am speaking now, the
world has become a global village and for us also to be hooked onto globalization, we need to develop our telecom-munications so that we will be able to have access to the Internet and other services. This is a very good idea.
I also want to make a little comment about te lecommunica t ion in my constituency. It is government policy that all towns with senior secondary schools and training colleges will be hooked onto the national telecommunication line. But even though in my constituency we have three major towns, Prestea, Bogosu and Huni Valley, which are highly commercial and have senior secondary schools, they are not hooked to the telecommunications fixed lines. However, as the Government says it has hooked 50 per cent of the country to the fixed lines, I believe that in the coming years, these towns will also be hooked onto this facility.
Another area that can also propel us into the middle-income bracket, as we all know, is human resource development as stated by the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning in his Budget State- ment.
One heart-warming news is the mainstreaming of the pre-school education into the formal sector. I believe that initially this sub-sector or this area was left in the hands of unprofessional people and sometimes village com-munities. But now, with the pre-school going to be mainstreamed into the formal sector, it will help develop the human resource or the educational levels of this country.
One other welcome news is the incentive for teachers, which is also in the NPP manifesto -- the Agenda 2000 -- that the centrality of the teacher is going to be our aim and objective. One could see that a lot of incentives have also been made for teachers in this Budget Statement.
The Budget Statement made mention of accommodation for teachers, improvement in their promotions and others. I believe this is also going to help in the human resource development of our country. It is also gratifying to note that there is going to be feeding of school children in every district. This is also welcome news because it is going to serve as an incentive for parents to send their children to school and for the children also to have interest in being in school. But the problem is that it is going to be one in each district.
I am appealing or suggesting to the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning that instead of one in each district, he should make it one in each constituency so that it will not create a lot of stress on the Members of Parliament; because when it is made one in each district, the districts with two constituen- cies will have problems as to where it should go. But when it is made one in each constituency, the Members of Parliament will have an input to make as to where it should go. This will reduce the stress in areas or in constituencies that have two districts.
With regard to pr ivate sector development, it is also another area that can help us to realize our aspirations, that is trying to propel the economy into a middle-level economy. Now, without a vibrant private sector, we are not going to reach there; and for us to have a vibrant private sector, the corporate taxes should be reviewed.
When there are a lot of corporate taxes, it scares private investors. Therefore, it is also welcome news that corporate taxes, personal income taxes and withholding taxes have also been reduced. It is against the background of what I said earlier, that I join my Colleague to congratulate the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, on behalf of His Excellency and also to say that the Budget is a Budget of