Finance Minister claims economy is back on track …But the ordinary Ghanaians say impact is not being felt in their pockets
There are two schools of thought about a recent statement attributed to the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta with regards to the economy which he claimed had taken shape following the injection of the first tranche of loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to revamp Ghana’s ailing economy and bring it back on track.
While the government spearheaded by the Finance Minister, who is the exchequer and economic and financial advisor to the President, aided by IMF officials believe that there are concrete signs of improvement in the economy which are beginning to show or manifest, other school of thought particularly the ordinary Ghanaians believe that the government is being evasive, insincere and hypocritical with the truth. They feel that they are being short-changed and deceived by the government and that nothing really is happening because the signs of economic growth are not being felt in their lives, let alone in their pockets. Their thinking was that all the factors that led the country to the IMF to seek economic bailout still persist and that nothing has changed, claiming that the value is still the same.
ECONOMIC WATCHERS AND THINK TANKS PROJECTIONS
The economic watchers and think tanks have projected a slowdown in the economy to 1.5% in 2023 and remain depressed in 2024 at 2.8%, but it is expected to recover to its potential growth by 2025. Some of the economic challenges facing Ghana are unemployment, corruption, inconsistent economic policies, poor human capital development, poor health system, crime and terrorism. Our biggest problem is a debt crisis, high inflation and the devaluation of the local currency, the cedi. These are the challenges that led the country to conclude an agreement with the IMF for a bailout.
The Government of Ghana recently reached a Staff Level Agreement (SLA) with the IMF for a first review of the IMF-supported Post COVID-19 Programme for Economic Growth (PC-PEG). That consensus came after five months of negotiations and paved the way for further progress toward approval of the first review by the IMF Executive Board scheduled for November 2023.
FINANCE MINISTER’S SPEECH
Speaking to the press after that meeting, the Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, expressed optimism about the economic outlook saying: “The economy is responding positively and strongly to the news of government and IMF reaching an SLA for the first review, and we are eager to leverage this momentum to the very moment when the IMF Executive Board approved the first review in November”. He said the SLA was an indicative of the strong performance in meeting end-June 2023 performance indicators – including six quantitative performance criteria and three indicative targets as well as three structural benchmarks. These achievements he said, underscored Ghana’s commitment to economic recovery and stability.
Hear the Minister further: “Year-to-date data reflect significant improvements in economic performance. The gross domestic product has rebounded strongly, averaging 3.2 per cent in the first two quarters of 2023. Inflation on the other hand has been on a relatively downward trend, dropping to 40.1 per cent in August 2023 while the cedi has remained stable with a cumulative depreciation of about 23.5 per cent year-to-date. The fiscal front shows a surplus of about GHc2billion in H1 2023, exceeding the target”.
EMPTY PAPER TALK
Indeed, on paper, these are fine development, especially for the economists since they understand the issue and the corresponding economic language better and therefore can digest and interpret it in the best manner they can. But on a more serious note, the majority of Ghanaians who assess and weigh the performance of the economy with their living conditions, will not side with the government assessment because they don’t feel the transformation of the economy in their pockets since it is not visible. It is the same old story as they find it very difficult to make ends meet. They are still buying food items and other consumables at exorbitant prices, cost of transportation is still high, fuel prices keep escalating, payment of school fees for their children and wards has become so difficult, marriages are fallen apart and on rocks due to financial misunderstandings from couples and a whole lot of economic challenges.
EXPECTATIONS FROM GHANAIANS
Just as the government assured the nation that going to the IMF for economic bailout would solve most of these economic difficulties and improved the living conditions of the people within the shortest possible time, Ghanaians were therefore of the high hopes and expectation that, it would not be long for them to see signs of improvement in their living conditions. However, six months into the programme, nothing is showing and also, they are not feeling the impact of the IMF bailout.
Those so-called economic jargons such as gross domestic product, high inflation, macro and micro economic developments among others, which are difficult to be understood and assimilated and are always foisted on the ordinary Ghanaians make them angry and agitated, because they do not make sense to them in any way. As for the IMF praising Ghana for managing the funds well, that is normal because the benefit they will derive from Ghana in the long run.
Right now, what Ghanaians are expecting from government that will let them feel comfortable with their lives is to lay bare in simple terms the true facts relating to the current situation with the IMF bailout and the corresponding benefits that will reflect their lifestyles. Ghanaians are now discerning and wide awake and, therefore they will not sit down and allow falsehood to be peddled or forced down their throats to swallow. They will rather prefer that the government keep mute on issues concerning the economy instead of throwing dust into their eyes through deceit and falsehood. Ghanaians are noted to be magicians when it comes to how they manage themselves and they will like to remain as such.
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By Charles Neequaye