The National Economic Dialogue: It Is A Sham!

The Government of President John Mahama on the 14th of April this year-2014, formally submitted to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington D.C. an economic policy document titled “Economic and Financial Policies for the Medium Term”. (2014-2017)

This is the document that has been described variously by some Government officials as the “Ghana Home Grown Program” to address the current challenges of the national economy. In that document the Government has already taken some key policy decisions including the retrenchment of public sector workers starting from 2015 under what it calls “rationalization of Government employees”.

On page 86 of the Government’s medium term policy Document presented to the IMF last month, the

Government states that: “Consistent with the Single Spine Pay Policy (SSPP) objective of enhancing productivity of the public service, Government will undertake an exercise to rationalise public sector staff to ensure right-sizing of the public sector. This exercise may involve an option for voluntary retirement…”

It would be recalled that Johnson Aseidu Nketia, General Secretary of the ruling NDC warned workers on the eve of May Day that Government may have to lay off workers if salaries were increased. What is clear is that the NDC Government had already taken a decision to lay off workers even before wage negotiations were concluded.

But the Finance Minister, Mr. Seth Terkper in his presentation of the outlines of the Government’s Home-grown Programme to Parliament just before the IMF Spring Meeting conveniently failed to mention the Government’s decision to lay off workers.

The question is why is the Government comfortable with sharing its detailed plans for the economy with the IMF while at the same time hiding such plans from the Ghanaian public?

Indeed information reaching the SCANDAL indicates that the Ghana Government has refused to give its consent for the IMF to publish the Fund’s own assessment of the Ghanaian economy following the Article Four Consultations with the IMF this year.

In the midst of all these gymnastics, the Government has called for a National Economic Dialogue “aimed at achieving consensus on policies, strategies and measures to accelerate Ghana’s transition from a lower middle income national to an upper middle income economy.”

According to a release from the Ministry of Information and Media Relations the four-day ‘non-partisan’ event is themed “Changing the Narrative: Building a National Consensus for Economic and Social Transition” and is expected “to draw out ideas for a sustainable path of development that guarantees improvements in the quality of life for all Ghanaians.”

The irony is that the Government has already submitted her Medium Term Economic Policy Programme to the IMF and stated in it clearly what they will be doing with the economy between now and 2017.

Indeed the Government in its policy document communicated to the IMF has indicated that it has already adopted a medium term framework of policies and structural reforms to transform the economy (2014-2017) as stated in paragraph one of the document.

That paragraph states: “The Government of Ghana has adopted a comprehensive stabilization and reform programme to correct the imbalances that have occurred in recent years and lay the foundation for transforming the structure of the economy and safeguard its positive medium term prospects.”

If the Government has already “adopted” a set of policies and reforms to implement between 2014 and 2017 (including the retrenchment of workers) then what is the purpose of convening a National Economic Forum.

Also it appears the Government is bent on keeping Ghanaians in the dark about the real state of the economy as well as it plans to address the on-going economic crisis. The Government has for the first time in the country’s history refused to grant the routine consent for the publication of the IMF’s assessment of the Ghanaian Economy. The question is why? What does the government have to hide?

The IMF notes that ‘under Article Four of its Articles of Agreement, the IMF has a mandate to exercise surveillance over the economic, financial and exchange rate policies of its members in order to ensure the effective operation of the international monetary system. The IMF’s appraisal of such policies involves a comprehensive analysis of the general economic situation and policy strategy of each member country.

IMF economists visit the member country at least once a year to collect and analyze data and hold discussions with government and central bank officials. Upon its return, the staff submits a report to the IMF’s Executive Board for discussion. The Boards’ view are subsequently summarized and transmitted to the country authorities. The Executive Board sat on Ghana’s case on Wednesday May 7, 2014 but the Ghana Government has refused to allow the IMF to publish their views on the Ghanaian economy.

This refusal has sparked some furore in the international community and our sources say the Britain, America and France have all expressed concern about the behaviour of the Ghana Government and are insisting that the assessment be published without any further delay.

It is clear that the forum is a Public Relations Gimmick. It appears the intention is to create the impression of a national consensus on decisions that have already been taken including the retrenchment of public sector workers.

The idea is to spread the blame for a mess that was created by the reckless over expenditure of about US$billion in the run-up to the 2012 general elections.

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