Gov’t Must Fight Corruption Now!!!

Former Minister for Finance, Prof. Kwesi Botchwey has tasked government to deal with corruption swiftly if it wants to shed off the tag of being corrupt.

In a lecture delivered last Tuesday at the Distinguished Speaker Series organised by the Central University College in Accra, Prof. Botchwey said “high-profile cases of corruption must be dealt with swiftly openly rather than let them drag on”.

The consequence of inaction, he said creates “a feeling that everybody in public office is engaged in corruption and money grabbing”.

Although he refrained from mentioning specific examples of perception of corruption in the country, cases of GYEEDA, SADA, SUBAH, judgment debts have shaped the perception that government was doing little to tackle the menace. Professor Botchwey, who is Ghana’s longest serving Finance Minister, said “the surest way to relieve the perception of corruption” is quick action.

Nonetheless, he said people need to “avoid careless whispers and stop filling the air with anecdotal evidence of corruption” that taint the image of people.

He wondered if the problem with the fight against corruption is down to lack of adequate laws or an inability to implement these laws.

He also diagnosed the mood of the nation saying “I see a nation reeling with widespread disaffection; a bit of despair, a popular mood marked by frustration, arising cynisism about any explannation, assuarnces by government and technocrats”.

Touching on the state of the economy, Prof Botchwey predicted that Ghana’s economic situation could become worse because, whiles the country has projected revenue in the region of 24 billion cedis, this year, statutory spending and other expenditures will account for 102% of total revenue; leaving a negative of 200 million cedis for expenditure on infrastructure.

He was of the opinion that the country for many years has lived beyond its means and the time has come for macro-economic stability to be restored. He posited that if the evidence of history is anything to go by and the constraints on the economy, transfers from the budget for the payment of utilities would not work.

‘I’ll like to repeat without exaggeration that the Ghanaian economy is in a crisis,” he said; pointing to high inflation, double-digit budget deficit, depreciation of the cedi and the general lack of growth in the economy. GDP growth, according to him, had declined from 9.4 per cent in 2011 to just 3.4 per cent in 2013.

He stressed that whether the country opts to borrow from the international markets or the IMF, their conditions are not markedly different, adding that we need to have ‘clearly spelt out policies which would convince our partners that we are able to pay for the loans we are taking,” otherwise, it would even be ‘difficult for the creditors to give out the loans in the first place’.

‘The country can decide that we will not go to IMF for funds; we can decide that instead of medium term drawing at lower cost from IMF, we will borrow from international markets at greater costs and short tenure and with pretty much the same conditions.

It does not matter which of the choices we make, when we do not have clearly spelt out policies which would convince our partners that we are able to pay for the loans we are taking then it would even be difficult for the creditors to give out the loans in the first place,’ he said.

He admitted Ghana was ‘facing a great many challenges in economic performance, no doubt, there is widespread complaining and frustration’

He added, ‘Just about every aspect of our national life, we seems to be engaged in a race to the bottom; are we doomed, does it mean we are doom? Of course not.’

He however was optimistic and emphasized that all was not lost as he recalled the state of the economy in the 80s which was in ‘deeper crisis’ to the extent that it ‘got us close to the brink of national disintegration’.

During those periods, Ghana’s inflation ballooned to over 100 percent, he stated. Nonetheless, the nation managed to dig itself out of the crisis, he said.

He therefore charged all hands to be on deck to address the country’s economic doldrums.

‘We are a resilient and determined people. Our forebearers did not christen this glorious and well-endowed part of land on the Gulf of Guinea coast the Black Star for nothing.

“It is time to stop the moaning and the recriminations and get on to the business of our national development,’ he charged.

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