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A matter of a ‘quadruple whammy’, a carpenter and burden sharing

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

SPARE a thought for the officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)! They must all be worn out by now, having to design bailouts for so many countries as, reportedly, more than 80 countries are receiving emergency support.

Moreover, those applications were “approved at record speed”, the Fund says;
doubtless because they were the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-
Ukraine war.

In Ghana, evidently to some people heads must roll because the ruling New
Patriotic Party too has had to seek assistance from the IMF, for similar reasons,
despite previously having vilified the National Democratic Congress administration
under then President John Mahama, for having sought an IMF bailout.

Furthermore, NPP leaders had even stressed that they would not be seeking help
from the Fund because they would manage the economy better.
Thus, the NDC and critics are adamant: Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta should
resign; Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, Chairman of the Economic
Management Team, should apologise.

However, Mr Ofori-Atta has declared that he has no intention of resigning and I,
for one, was glad to hear that.

He told JoyNews: “You know there are times that decisions have to be made for the
survival of the country and therefore if circumstances such as Covid or Ukraine war
occur, which are not typical, it does change the environment.”

Similarly, I found it reassuring to have Dr Bawumia indicating that he is not
apologising. At a forum at the Accra Business School on July 14, Dr Bawumia
justified the NPP’s decision to seek help from the IMF.

A “quadruple whammy”, he said, had necessitated the U-turn: namely the Covid-19
pandemic; the Russia-Ukraine war; the banking sector clean up; and the excess
energy capacity payments.

Dr Bawumia explained further: “Of the four factors, two (COVID-19 and the
Russia Ukraine war) were external and the other two (the banking sector clean up
and the excess capacity payments) were the result of policies of the previous
government.”

Evidently, to the critics, returning the country to the IMF means that the NPP has
failed to deliver the sound economy they promised Ghanaians, therefore no
explanations are acceptable.

Strangely, they seem to have forgotten that before the pandemic, the NPP’s
economic management had been showing good results; and that there had been high
international praise for the NPP’s economic measures.

In 2019, the IMF gave this glowing assessment of Ghana:
“Just three decades ago, Ghana was in crisis; impoverished and suffering famine,
it was on the verge of economic collapse. Fast-forward to the present day, the West
African nation has staged a remarkable comeback and is predicted to be the world’s
fastest growing economy in 2019.”

When Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah’s announcement on July 1, that
on the instruction of President Nana Akufo-Addo, Ghana was seeking IMF help, it
was clearly a bombshell.
Notably, as recent as February, Mr Ofori-Atta had given firm assurance that “the
country is not going to the International Monetary Fund, for a bailout,”

(Pulse.com.gh, Pulse.com.gh; February 11, 2022). Addressing a town hall meeting in
Tamale to explain the Electronic Transaction Levy (E-Levy), Mr Ofori-Atta had
stated unequivocally:

“We are not going to the IMF. Whatever we do, we are not. Consequences are dire
… we have the resources … and we have the capacity to do whatever we want to
do if we speak one language and ensure that we share the burden in the issues
ahead (emphasis added).”

Dr Bawumia’s now much cited, witty ‘carpenter analogy’ at the July 14 forum
seems to have been seen in some quarters as adding insult to injury!

In his usual humorous way, he gave the following down-to-earth illustration of why
the NPP seeking IMF intervention is vastly different from the NDC’s: “Let me give
you an analogy to make my point. If you ask a carpenter to roof your house and
suddenly the roof collapses without any wind or rainfall, will you not blame the
carpenter who did the roofing?

“But if a carpenter roofs your house and the roof collapses because of a tornado and
a storm which has also blown away the roofs, windows and walls of many houses,
will you blame the carpenter?”

The critics don’t accept the past debts whammy effect, but how does one advance
without a reference to history?

Most surprisingly, those criticising the U-turn include NPP stalwarts like Kwadwo
Mpiani, former Chief of Staff during President Kufuor’s administration, and Assin
Central MP, Ken Agyapong – though Mr Agyapong admits that given the current
global situation, “it is not the fault of the NPP”. Mr Mpiani has been reported as
saying that if he were Mr Ofori-Atta he would have resigned.
What I have been wondering is: Should Mr Ofori-Atta resign; and should Dr
Bawumia apologise because:

(a) Ghana has not suffered any negative impact from the pandemic? (b) Ghana is
not being affected negatively by the Russia-Ukraine war? (c) the two NPP office-
bearers were not able to predict the pandemic and the war? (d) the two should have
been able to predict those developments and therefore should not have spoken so
emphatically against IMF support?
Or, all of the above?

Also, if Mr Ofori-Atta is to blame for the U-turn, why should he resign and burden
someone else with the evidently formidable task of correcting his supposed mistakes?
Interestingly, as pointed out by Interior Minister Mr Ambrose Dery in an interview,
those insisting that Mr Ofori-Atta should resign, have conveniently forgotten the
second part of his Tamale statement: “we have the capacity to do whatever we
want to do if we speak one language and ensure that we share the burden
ahead.”

Ironically, some of those who campaigned against the creative E-Levy initiative
meant to share the economic burden, are the very people mocking the NPP for taking
the country back to the IMF. Understandably, for some it’s payback time.

Nonetheless, how else is the Government to raise extra revenue and avoid seeking
outside financial aid if not by ingenious measures such as the E-Levy to widen the tax
net?

Why the refusal to acknowledge that Ghana’s alarming escalating cost of living is
more the result of known outside factors, and which is a global problem – as daily
news reports testify?

Still, maybe some people envisage another Ghana ‘first’, a unique status, as the
only country neither affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, nor the Russia-Ukraine war.

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