Ghana’s economy is a market-based one which faces a stiffer competition among its regional and global peers in the middle income economy. This means the country has to make every effort to smoothen some of the policy barriers to trade and investment. It should also be able to create a good enabling environment for businesses to thrive. In every market economy, private sector ultimately becomes the engine that drives growth and contributes significantly to economic prosperity. However, a defective business climate laced with corruption and bureaucratic bottlenecks is very likely to dampen investor confidence, bring about disinvestments and eventually slowdown economic growth and job creation. This is the main reason why the Government of Ghana has to be sensitive to investor sentiments so as to minimize our vulnerabilities.
As the country exits the IMF Extended Credit Facility (ECF) program, the critical concerns has to do with how to proceed and to continue to maintain the path of sustainable growth with well tamed macroeconomic fundamentals. The achievements made under the program are demonstrated in terms of fiscal consolidation, debt sustainability and a macroeconomic stability. Though the economy is still heavily challenged in several fronts, it is my view that stronger emphasis should be laid on job creation, poverty alleviation and inequality.
Life under the post IMF experience comes at a time that there is a strong determination to put the destiny of the country in our own hands. Much emphasis is then placed on the government’s policy of “Ghana beyond Aid”. The president of the republic, H.E. President Nana Akoffo Addo made a pledge to lead a government that will efficiently manage the resources of the country to achieve self-sufficiency without seeking external assistance. At least it was about time Ghana bid a goodbye to the IMF and its policy prescriptions. To demonstrate the commitment of the government to push ahead with this agenda, the 2019 budget statement and the economic policy of the Government of Ghana put this at its apex. It laid out an elaborate program of implementation within the context of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In fact a six Strategic Pillars of the program implementation was captured in the budget. Subsequently, on May Day this year the President launched a program charter to guide the implementation of the agenda
All these efforts of the government notwithstanding, the Netherlands’ Ambassador to Ghana, Ron Strikker suggests that we should rather pursue a policy of “Ghana beyond Corruption”. Even though on an official Facebook page of the Netherlands Embassy in Ghana, he denied that he did not mean Ghana should replace the policy of “Ghana Beyond Aid” with that of “Ghana beyond Corruption”. But it appears that his denial comes after the information minister criticized him for not reading through the document before making the comment. Honestly the comments of this diplomat is just one of the numerous calls from the civil society groups, anti-corruption campaigners, political opponents and religious leaders all trying so hard to prevail on the President to get serious with the fight against corruption. His weakness in dealing with alleged corrupt appointees won him a title, “Clearing Agent”, implying that he is predispose to always clear allegations of corruption against his own appointees. In response to this, the President recently berated those calling for action against his own people and described them as his detractors. He then went ahead to announce that 21 former appointees of the previous Mahama led administration are standing trial for corruption related cases.
There are many critical issues we can raise about this development. Should we blame the Ambassador for making suck comments? I don’t think so, it is important to realize that such a comment is an indication that the international community is getting worried about the rising levels of corruption in the country. And everybody is getting to understand how incompetent our government has been in dealing with the menace. After all fighting corruption goes beyond the appointment of a Special Prosecutor. It is also the case that his comment represents the opinion of not just the international community but the investor community as well. It is true that the recent uptick in high profile reported cases of corruption especially among high rated government functionaries seem to pose a downside risk to the investor community. As the Deputy MD and Acting Chair of IMF, Tao Zhang put it, “reliance on foreign investors has increased Ghana’s exposure to market sentiments and exchange rate risk”. As of May this year, it was estimated that about 60% of GHS 200 billion of Ghana’s public debt are held by nonresident investors. This is the reason why our government has to move beyond the lofty rhetoric about the fight against corruption and demonstrate a practical reality.
The deputy Commissioner of CHRAJ, Mr. Richard Quayson, is reported to have said that the country loses about GHC 13.5 billion yearly through corruption. The CDD also reported that about GHC 9.5 billion has been lost to corruption under the watch of H.E. Nana Akuffo Addo. Looking at the 2019 budgetary projections on government revenue envelope, a total of about ghc1.9 billion, comes from the National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL), same amount of revenue is expected from Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) Levy i.e ghc1.9 billion, and Communication Service Tax(CST) gives us about ghc423 million. If you add all these three revenue items in the budget, you are getting a total sum of ghc4.2 billion. This is far less than half of GHC9.5 which is wasted through corruption. According to the 2019 budget, total government revenue projections for the year stood at ghc58.9 billion, if you compare this to the ghc13.5 wasted on corruption, it shows that about 23% of our entire revenue for the year is wasted through corruption. Also, if we are using the ghc9.5billion of CDD figure, it shows that about 16% of government’s annual revenue is being wasted through corruption.
If the Government decides to prosecute the former ministers, it is expected that even if all the cases are won in court, they will retrieve about ghc772 million. Compare this to the current functionaries who are milking the nation to the tune of ghc9.5 billion. And if the Government decides not to tolerate any forms of corruption in the country, it means that this nation will be saved some ghc10.2 billion. In conclusion therefore, I agree with the assertion that corruption is a threat to this country and must be fought frontally before we can make progress with the concept of “Ghana Beyond Aid”.
Cheno Malik, Economic Policy Analyst | Email: email@example.com | 0249321516