Every year, members of the banking fraternity meet at the Annual Bankers’ Dinner, where they fraternise, dance off the stress of a fading year and aim to chart a new course for the ensuing year.
The speech to watch is always the one from the Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG).
This is so for obvious reasons.
Although the head of the industry’s regulatory body and a professional banker, the governor of the central bank hardly finds time to socialise with captains of the sector under one roof.
Therefore, having almost all executives of the banks under BoG’s watch in one room provides a golden opportunity to clarify or hint of new policies, explain the basis for decisions that were contentious and generally assert the authority of the central bank as the chief police of the banking business in Ghana.
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This year’s bankers’ dinner , which took place on December 1, was the second time Dr Ernest Addison had graced it, after he had taken office in April 2017 as Governor of the BoG.
In a 17-page speech, the governor, as was expected, justified the bank’s decision to revoke the licences of five banks in the course of the year, explained the reasons behind the revocations and stressed the reforms initiated to help prevent a repeat.
We applaud Dr Addison for that gesture and, in particular, his proactiveness in dealing with the challenges that had engulfed the banking sector.
What we find disturbing and perhaps a bit out of the norm for the head of a sensitive and independent body such as a central bank, is the resort to blame game, finger-pointing at “predecessors” and chastising of “detractors” in a speech that should have aimed to galvanise.
We find his speech quite antagonistic and unusual, especially, for a governor in office to take on publicly his predecessors for their deeds and misdeeds while they were in office.
One of the most respectable offices in this land is the Governor of the BoG because of its unique role and immeasurable impact on the lives of all Ghanaians. That is why every Ghanaian is justified to also expect so much from the holder of the post.
As a nation, we are trying hard to discourage our politicians from the habit of describing their opponents using bad and offensive language, therefore it will be most appalling if Dr Addison wants us to put him in that same box.
The point also needs to be made that the actions or inactions of his predecessors are on behalf of the BoG.
They act as its officers or agents and as such, the institution bears ultimate collective responsibility unless they have been proved to be criminal by the court of competent jurisdiction.
For the avoidance of doubt, we remind Dr Addison that his appointment was heralded by the controversial resignation of his predecessor, Dr Abdul-Nashiru Issahaku, who had served one year of his four-year contract.
The timing and circumstances around the resignation and the subsequent replacement had the risk of tarring the BoG with the country’s political brush.
Therefore, it is important that Dr Addison uses his enormous experience to douse those perceptions and rather reinforce the fact that the central bank is independent, unblemished and focused on discharging its constitutional role of supervising banks and specialised deposit-taking institutions, as well as being a check on the government’s fiscal operations.
This will not only boost public confidence in the bank but will make the occupant of the enviable position of governor deeply respected by all.