Business News of Monday, 9 March 2015
Ghana wants to use a financial assistance deal struck last week with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to fuel a deep transformation of its economy rather than simply to restore fiscal balance, Finance Minister Seth Terkper told Reuters.
The government embarked on its shake-up of the economy even before the $940 million agreement with the IMF and its aid will help the programme to endure beyond elections in 2016, when President John Mahama will likely run for a second term.
The vision includes enhancing a ‘local content’ law passed last year to ensure Ghanaian participation in the oil and gas sector, more petroleum deals for the national oil company and a more rigorous approach to debt management, Terkper said in an interview.
“What can we (the Finance Ministry) do to complement that transformation? We are actually following the president’s lead, calling for transformation in a deep way of the economy,” Terkper said.
In other measures, the government has set up a ‘sinking’ fund to manage debt redemption which uses revenue from the country’s growing petroleum resources.
In addition to Bank of Ghana monetary tightening, the government will also use its Oil Stabilization Fund as well as petroleum hedging to manage foreign exchange volatility in support of the local cedi currency, which has depreciated 8 percent this year, Terkper said.
Government overspending on public sector wages is the immediate cause of the West African state’s fiscal problems that have blotted its reputation as a star African economy and forced it to turn to the Fund.
The IMF aid will not deter Ghana form seeking external financing and Ghana plans to issue a Eurobond worth around $1 billion this year mainly to refinance debts maturing in 2017, Terkper said.
“That’s our plan. We have to refinance 2017, considering that $550 (million) is for the retirement of 2017,” he said, referring to debts associated with a 10-year Eurobond launched in 2007. Ghana also issued Eurobonds in 2013 and 2014.
The government says a power crisis and a fall in global commodity prices are partly responsible for the slowdown in gross domestic product growth from 14 percent in 2011 to a forecast 3.5 percent this year.
But the root of the problem is something Ghana shares with many emerging markets: an overreliance on the export of raw materials for revenue coupled with a dependence on the import of consumer products to satisfy domestic demand.
Ghana’s total public debt rose to 67 percent of GDP at the end of 2014 and its currency fell 31 percent in that period.
The country will also benefit from increased revenues from oil and gas production in the next three years as well as budget support estimated at $1.2-$1.5 billion from developing partners including the World Bank, Terkper said.