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The list of excuses offered by this government for the economic mess keeps growing by the day. When it has been convenient, COVID-19 has been made the scapegoat and has been blamed for our woes. The Russian-Ukraine war has also featured prominently on the excuses list as have the so-called financial sector clean-up and supposed excess capacity payments in the energy sector.

My brothers and sisters, none of these claims are acceptable.

THE COVID-19 EXCUSE

The facts reveal that while no one can run away from its impact on the global economy, the COVID-19 pandemic paved way for the Government of Ghana to receive an unprecedented windfall that previous governments could only dream off.

Over GHS 30 billion, sufficient to plug the revenue shortfall of GHS 12 billion anticipated for 2020, was made available to this Government from various sources. The funding sources ranged from our development partners to internal buffers like the Stabilization Fund which was set up by an NDC administration, and other generous donors. Namely:

  • 1 billion USD facility from the IMF,
  • 200 million USD from the Stabilization Fund,
  • 430 million USD from the World Bank,
  • 400 million USD out of the 1 billion USD SDR provided to BOG,
  • Over 100 million from AfDB and bilateral partners,
  • 20 billion Ghana Cedis from the BOG

Being a pandemic, COVID-19 affected almost every country on earth including our West African neighbours with who we share similar economic characteristics.

Yet, these neighboring countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Benin, Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, have emerged from this pandemic comparatively unscathed and with relatively stronger fundamentals as compared to ours.

Ghana has incurred and recorded astronomical double-digit budget deficits and huge public debts than our West African peers.

Long before COVID-19, it was evident that the economy was being mismanaged. I cautioned against the mismanagement. By 2019, our deficit and debt figures had already reached distress levels. This is a fact which was recently corroborated by the World Bank through its country representative in Ghana.

Unprofessionally, the real figures were always grossly understated under the guise of “appendices, memorandum and below the line items” in our budgets. It is this creative accounting and cooking the books deliberately done in a bid to conceal the true extent of our economic problems that has eventually caught up with this government.

Instead of making judicious use of the resources obtained because of COVID to cushion Ghanaians against the disease and spending strategically to stimulate people-centred economic recovery, the Akufo-Addo administration saw this windfall as an avenue for wasteful expenditure and a conduit for unmerited electoral success.

THE RUSSIAN UKRAINIAN CONFLICT EXCUSE

The Russian-Ukrainian conflict cannot possibly be responsible for the suffering Ghanaians are going through. The suffering predates the war. Before this conflict, our currency had been depreciating and was impacting negatively on fuel and commodity prices in our markets. Fuel prices had gone up on more than forty different occasions since 2017 before the Russian-Ukrainian conflict started.

THE FINANCIAL SECTOR BAILOUT EXCUSE

The about GHS 25 billion which the government claims to have spent on the financial sector clean-up was a conscious policy decision made without due regard to superior alternatives like bailing out those banks with far less money, recovering assets and holding the people responsible for the mismanagement of the banks to rigorous account, through due process.

It was the NDC government that conducted the Asset Quality Review which determined that the banks in question were in distress. We then proceeded to pass appropriate enabling legislation to give the force of law to the actions that were deemed necessary to address the situation.

The laws included the Banks and Specialized Deposit Taking Institutions Act (Act 930) and the Ghana Deposit Protection Act (Act 931). Our objectives had always been to: avoid the collapse of these banks; to preserve and strengthen Ghanaian presence and participation in the Financial Sector which we viewed as a strategic economic objective; protect depositors’ investments; and protect the jobs of tens of thousands of employees of the banks.

The total cost of our bail-out plan was estimated at a maximum of GHS 9 billion. This was going to be recovered in due course when the Banks had been returned to sound management and profitability. But the outcome of the 2016 elections hampered our ability to fully implement this plan.

The logical expectation was that this government would continue from where we left off. But they chose to go for the nuclear option. They collapsed indigenous Ghanaian banks, some of which had been built from the hard work of our citizens and from scratch and had existed for decades and opted to pay depositors to the tune of GH¢25 billion.

Doubts however remain about the accuracy of this figure given that the Bank of Ghana reports only GH¢ 16 billion in its Summary of Economic and Financial Data.

A government that decides to spend a colossal GH¢25 billion on a GH¢ 9 billion problem and actively seeks political plaudits for same, cannot turn around and pass it off as reason for the current economic crisis.

THE EXCESS CAPACITY PAYMENTS EXCUSE

The claim that GH¢17 billion has been spent on excess capacity payments in the energy sector and that it has contributed to the economic crisis is clearly untrue.

To mislead Ghanaians into accepting this dubious narrative, this government has deliberately peddled untruths about our power generation capacity and its evolution.

They have claimed that the NDC government added power generation capacity that we did not need and that due to ‘Take or Pay’ clauses in the power contracts, they have been forced to pay US$1 billion to Independent Power Producers (IPP) every year, since 2017.

The truth is that, in the NDC’s 2012 Manifesto which formed the basis for our election and mandate to govern between 2013 and 2017, we made a clear promise to ramp up our power generation capacity which at the time hovered around 2500MW, to 5000MW by 2016.

We were determined to meet demand which was growing exponentially and to resolve the recurring power deficit that led to crippling power rationing under all governments since the fourth republic began in 1993.

We followed through with this promise and expanded generation capacity with the completion of the Karpower and Ameri Plants. We also commenced work on the Cenpower, AKSA, Amandi and Early Power plants. By 2020, these plants had taken our generation capacity above 5000 MW in line with our objectives.

As we speak, available data shows that total installed power generation capacity is 5,367MW. Out of this, only a little above 3,861MW is actually available and can be relied on.

Countrymen and women, as an illustration, on March 18, 2022, our peak demand climbed to 3,469 MW which means that only about 392 MW excess capacity existed to be relied upon if any of the plants had broken down that day.

This 392MW falls far short of the 18% excess margin (about 695 MW) which the energy commission recommends Ghana should have to keep the system running safely.

In plain terms, this means that now, we do not have sufficient power to meet peak demand and have adequate reserve margin to meet any emergency. This, in turn, means that we stand the real risk of suffering crippling power rationing if any of the available plants should develop major faults.

What, therefore, is the basis for the often-repeated claims of excess capacity for which we are told US$1 billion is paid to IPPs annually? Exactly where is that excess capacity considering the facts, I have shared with you?

Put to strict proof under Parliamentary scrutiny, the Finance Minister disclosed only last year, that US$937 million had been paid in total for excess capacity from 2017 to 2020.

It is inconceivable that any leader in these times of crisis and hardships would seek to shirk responsibility, absolve himself of blame and fail woefully to show leadership.

It is the duty of leaders to acknowledge problems, take responsibility and move swiftly to address them as I did when confronted with the power challenges in my time.

I could have conveniently blamed the age-old underinvestment in the energy sector, but I was acutely aware that Ghanaians did not elect me to complain and blame others for problems, so I moved to fix it. And I fixed it.

President Akufo-Addo and his Head of the Economic Management Team must imbibe this key leadership attribute of taking responsibility especially in circumstances where the overwhelming evidence shows that our present dire economic straits is the direct outcome of their poor economic policy choices and wasteful expenditure.

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