As Ghanaians continue to endure hardship triggered by the stringent economic policies of the Finance Minister, Mr Seth Terkper, some vocal members of the nation’s legislature have joined in the chorus, openly calling for the removal of the minister in order to save the national economy from its current ruins.
The MPs are incensed by what they see as the finance minister’s incompetence in the management of the national economy which has been challenged for over one year now.
Again, they described the minister as very disrespectful and arrogant to the members of the august House calling on the President to either sack him now or be ready to accept the blame in future as the economy continues to falter.
According to a Daily Guide report of last Saturday, the “first Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Ebo Barton Odro, was compelled to adjourn parliamentary proceedings on Friday when the Minority members walked out of the chamber and called for adjournment as there was no quorum.
“The move, which was secretly backed by some Majority members according to the report, was to protest against the Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, who was scheduled to meet the lawmakers earlier to discuss some ‘important matters affecting the work of Members of Parliament,’ but failed to do so.”
Even before the Daily Guide report, this paper last week in an article with the headline; “Anger over ‘Edidigya’, MPs Stop Mahama…from delivering sessional address” reported…
“contrary to officialdom’s reason for rescheduling the State of the Nation’s Address to Tuesday, February 25 this year, The Al-Hajj can confirm that President John Dramani Mahama would have been an unwelcome visitor to the August House if he had dared gone there today (Tuesday feb. 18) to carry out his constitutionally mandated duty under article 67 of the 1992 constitution.”
The report said, “although both sides of the House, majority and minority are on the same wave length in so far as what they described as the ‘shabby’ treatment of the legislator by the executive, the minority in the House, The Al-Hajj has uncovered had prepared a hostile reception for the President, which among other things was to embarrass him in the eyes of the international community had he stepped his foot in the chamber of Parliament as initially planned.”
The Al-Hajj has also learnt that just as some colleague ministers of Mr. Terkper, the Majority and the Minority sides in Parliament are angling for the removal of the finance minister because of what they say is “his economic management style and bad human relations especially with them.
Some Minority members who spoke to the Daily Guide described the Finance Minister as an “arrogant minister” who had proved to be the “most incompetent” Finance Minister in the history of the country.
“This Finance Minister treats parliament with disdain and thinks that parliament is a department under the executive,” the DAILY GUIDE report quoted the Deputy Minority Leader, Dominic Nitiwul after last Friday’s adjournment.
“We are an arm of government and must be treated with respect,” he added.
He said under the direction of the minister, the country is facing “serious economic” challenges.
“Look, this Finance Minister is going to make the work of the President very difficult, if he is not removed from office,” he said, adding that he (Minister) had crippled the work of the MPs by deliberately refusing to release statutory funds for development purposes.
According to the Deputy Minority Leader, some statutory funds were in arrears of eight months – even though those monies had already been released to the finance ministry.
He said out of the 80 per cent funds released to the ministry for the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), only 20 per cent had been paid, while out of the 80 percent funds released for the National Health Insurance Scheme, he had paid 60 per cent.
“This minister promised to meet us yesterday (Thursday) after President John Mahama himself had last Wednesday ordered the payment of these monies but the minister has refused again to meet us,” he said.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Atwima Mponua, Isaac Asiamah underscored, “The people of Ghana deserve a better Finance minister and not this minister who has proved beyond every reasonable doubt that he cannot prudently manage the economy of the country.”
He noted that the current state of the cedi, the rising cost of living, arbitrary fuel price increases and the sharp increases in utility tariffs were clear indication that Mr. Terkper could not deliver.
Meanwhile, The Al-Hajj has over the last couple of weeks carried series of stories on Mr Terkper’s management of the finance ministry, wondering whether it would be enough to secure another term for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government and President Mahama going into 2016.
In the First Article with the headline “Goodluck, JDM’s Sinking Economies & Sleaze…CAN TERKPER SAVE MAHAMA…In 2016, as Nigeria’s President faces defeat,”
The Al-Hajj argued that the “embattled Presidents Mahama and Goodluck Jonathan may have to change gear towards the management of their various countries’ economies, deal with the issue of dogged youth unemployment and intensify the fight against graft, sleaze and corruption or honorably give way to fresh leaders to head the West-Africa’s most influential nations.”
According to the report, the two Presidents need to “urgently address the creeping arrogance of power that is fast gaining root in their various governments if they should remain politically relevant between now and beyond 2016.”
In the case of Ghana, the report stated “Massive over-spending in the 2012 fiscal year as a result of the election has disturbed the nation’s fiscal arithmetic.
“President Mahama and his economic management team led by finance minister, Mr Seth Terkper, according to opposition elements have little or no clues in reigning in the yawning budget deficit which stood at almost 12 per cent of GDP by the end of 2012.
“Inflation has been galloping, moving from a single digit in 2012 to about 13.5 per cent currently and there seem to be no end in sight as fuel and utility prices continue to go up.
“Cedi, the local currency has been depreciating since the beginning of last year and it looks as if there is no clear-cut remedial measure to stem this tide.
“Available statistics indicate that the currency has depreciated by about 17 per cent last year and about 3 per cent this year so far.
“But, Finance minister Seth Terkper has promised to strengthen existing foreign exchange laws to help halt the free fall in the value of the Ghanaian currency.
“He told Joy Business news “The Governor of Bank of Ghana and his team are already preparing some legislation that would go to Parliament to strengthen their regulatory control of the currency.”
“Another worrying economic trend is that, Ghana is entering into a dangerous cycle of debt with public debt now hovering around USD23bn or 52 per cent of GDP, and the opposition New Patriotic Party members are expressing fears the nation may slip back to HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Country).
“Currently, interest rates on government instruments are above 20 per cent, forcing government to transfer a chunk of its resources towards payment of interest on government debts, a dangerous cycle that could threaten debt sustainability.
“Again, the Mahama government although would not admit, it is forcing people to swallow the bitter pills of austerity with cut in spending and massive imposition of punishing taxes on the general population it says will in the long term put the Ghanaian economy on a firm and sound footing.
“Subsidies on both fuel and utilities were removed immediately the government was sworn in last year.
“Whiles government says these so-called fiscal rescue measures are necessary and inevitable to save the economy for future prosperity, the general Ghanaian population say it has brought untold hardship on them leading to calls from many quarters including within the ruling NDC for the dismissal of the finance minister, Mr Seth Terkper.
“Many in the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) party have in several conversations with The Al-Hajj bitterly complained about the finance minister’s management of the national economy and his unrepentant desire to force dangerous economic prescriptions on the people of Ghana without thinking about the political ramifications.
“But, President Mahama not only agreed with his finance minister; he indeed reposed absolute confidence in Terkper’s austerity measures. He rebuffed all charges against him, insisting the finance minister is on the right course and therefore would not be dismissed.
“The President recently told the new managing director of Barclays Bank that there is mounting pressure on him from within his own government and party to sack his finance Minister.
“I mean several times they’ve interceded with me to sack Seth because he’s hurting the politics. He doesn’t understand the politics. ‘If there’s no money he should go and borrow’, as if it were that easy…It’s a vicious cycle we need to break and that is why a lot of the reforms that Seth is carrying out in the Finance Ministry with regards to the GIFMIS and making sure we budget properly and MDAs follow budget discipline and all that are issues that we’re trying to introduce,” he stated.
Another article recently in The Al-Hajj headlined “Fixing Ghana’s ailing economy, INSCRUTABLE TERKPER-Would he be vindicated in 2016?” made prognosis on the direction the finance minister is taking the country.
“Reeling under continuous deterioration in the macro-economic fundamentals with fast-depreciating currency, the Finance Minister, Mr Seth Terkper has remained obdurate with string of nail-biting fiscal and monetary measures to the failing Ghanaian economy,” our story pointed out.
“Faced with 2012 election-related twin deficits of fiscal and current account early last year when he assumed office as the finance minister, Seth Terkper quickly and with advice from Washington, pushed for upward tariff adjustments and increases in the prices of petrol.
“These biting decisions were to bridge the fiscal gap and correct the slippages that resulted from election-related overspending of 2012.
“Terkper, an accountant with a bias in taxation and fiscal issues went off tangent and imposed several punitive taxes and astronomical increases in the government fees and charges in an attempt to correct the deteriorating fundamentals.
“As part of the so-called fiscal adjustments, the minister also cut spending in several sectors of the national economy with many Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) denied their allocations for infrastructural and other purposes.
“However, one year after these draconian measures, the economy has failed to respond, with the situation even worse than before.
“First, the current account deficit, which was about 12.1 per cent of GDP in 2012, has deteriorated to 12.3 per cent of GDP in 2013.
“The stock of public debt stood at USD19bn as at December, 2012 (49.3 percent of GDP) compared with USD23.4bn (53.5 per cent of GDP) as at September 2013.
“An expert who spoke to The Al-Hajj on condition of anonymity said “the burden of this ballooned public debt put pressure on interest payment by government and further pushed the cost of borrowing high, exacerbating the plight of private business owners.”
“Fiscal Deficit which was at 11.8 per cent of GDP as at the end of 2012 is now at 10.2 per cent of GDP, missing target of 9 per cent of GDP.
“Inflation rate, which was below 10 percent at the end of 2012 has now moved to almost 14 per cent and is forecast to go higher despite government’s 9.5 per cent end year target.
“While expenditure was high in 2013, revenue performed poorly putting more pressure on the fiscal environment.
“All the international rating agencies namely Standard and Poor (S&P), Fitch and Moody’s downgraded the nation’s credit worthiness, further reducing international and national confidence in the national economy.
“Fitch in its decision in the last quarter of 2013 to downgrade Ghana said “the nation continued to overrun on wages, interest costs and arrears, leading Fitch to expect that the government will fail to meet the 9% of GDP fiscal deficit target for this year (2013)”.
“Cedi, the local currency has seen its worst performance since the middle of 1994. The local currency has depreciated by 17 per cent last year and less than two months into this year the currency has gone down by about 5 per cent.
The BoG has responded with a raft of measures to bring sanity to the monetary sector specifically the exchange rate market.
“The main aim is to end or even minimize to the lowest level, the problem of dollarization of the national economy, which government’s economic management team believes is the cause of the current slide in the value of the currency.
“However, many analysts who spoke to The Al-Hajj have described the measures as panicky and counterproductive.
“Parrying criticism of recent measures by BoG, Seth Terkper said government has no interest in imposing hardships on business with the “temporary fiscal measures that the central bank has been implementing,”
The Third article on the above subject matter is headlined “Anger over ‘Edidigya’, MPs Stop Mahama…from delivering sessional address”
“…Overly pregnant with venom, Members of Parliament of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), who are yet to come to terms with Mr Mahama’s presidency after boycotting almost all his major activities, had planned to humiliate the President with an unending and thunderous chanting of ‘tweaa’ throughout his address.
“Information picked by this paper has it that because the NPP members could not participate in the last sessional address due to their own intransigence, they had wanted to use today’s address to ‘squeeze’ the President before joining their colleagues on the majority side to ‘punish’ him for been insensitive to their plight.
“Notwithstanding the dangers inherent in ‘manhandling’ their own party leader, the NDC MPs according to a deep-throat source were to join ranks with their counterparts on the minority side to demand what has been denied them especially, under Mahama’s presidency.
The MPs are of the view that whiles the “Executive was engaged in profligate spending by releasing monies for the refurbishment of the Peduase Lodge, Osu Castle and Flag Staff House and other miscellaneous works, the President and his Finance Minister have failed to release funds to furnish the almost completed Job 600 office complex which is to serve as offices for the MPs.
“Again, both sides of the House argued that whiles the President and the Finance Minister have constantly complained of the non-availability of funds as a result of which part of their salaries and other statutory funds are in several months’ arrears, the Presidency readily makes money available for the president’s expensive travels whenever the occasions demand.
“The legislators said their pennilessness has constrained them from carrying out their duties as required of them by the laws of the land. The MPs say they cannot carry out their committee works because there is no money to run their activities.
“To prevent the embarrassment and shame that would have greeted the President, leadership of the House swiftly rescheduled the date for the sessional address to Tuesday, February 25, hoping to deal with the concerns before the said date,” The Al-Hajj report said.