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Speaking about haircut: SEC, is ours a close shave?

BY: Vicky Wireko
Speaking about haircut: SEC, is ours a close shave?

In an era of International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout, conditionalities, debt restructuring and discussions locally about individual bond savings and haircut, what has crossed my mind is the saying that if one does not speak about one’s haircut, one ends up with an undesirable cut.

I am looking into the barber’s mirror and asking myself if the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has not given some of us who already have monies locked up in botched investments a close shave. This is looking back at our hard-earned savings which got messed up in the financial sector restructuring some five or six years back.

Sometimes, one wakes up in the middle of the night with countless questions and cursing one’s self for going in the direction of saving for the future vis-à-vis buying stocks. Because the future has caught up with us, yet no sign of one’s money.

The good thing is some of us have had forward-looking hopes all these years. The hope that all is not lost because our money is tucked away somewhere, breathing calmly and waiting to be dispensed one day, if it means losing the otherwise expected interest. That is the hope; after all, positive thinking boosts morale and makes one feel good no matter the situation.

Mangled investments

One tends to wonder whether those of us whose life investments got mangled up in the financial sector restructuring, in which SEC in 2000 took giant steps to help beneficiaries claim their locked-up investments, have actually suffered the proverbial disastrous haircut because one failed to talk about it then.

But no one could have done so at the time because there were signs of progression towards payments. Indeed, early in 2020, SEC announced their readiness to start the process of validating and paying those who invested with some investment companies which went down with the financial sector restructuring. It was great news to see some semblance of light in the dark tunnel.

Assurances

The news, the promises and assurances, despite the agony of long queues and a complicated validation process, gave hope that something was coming our way. What one needed was to have patience for the system and believe in the solid assurances from the powers that be that no one was going to lose a pesewa of their locked-up investment.

And well and truly, some droplets of the promises began to fall. SEC sooner came out with bailout measures via text messages accepting the validation of one’s documents. With allocated special claim identities (IDs), one was on the way to joining the payment schemes that were announced.

Those investors with GH¢50,000 or less were paid in full. There was some sigh of relief and rejoicing in households. What was panning out to be a disastrous haircut was good for those who received full recovery of their investment.

Then came the promise that those with amounts over GH¢50,000 would receive payment soon. It has been over two years now, there has been dead silence from SEC’s quarters. Is the promise that no one will lose a pesewa of their investment becoming a mirage, perhaps a close shave?
Is one speaking too late about a haircut of two years plus which at the time was looking good, glancing in the barber’s mirror?

Haircut

While still pondering on SEC’s full validation of claims, one hears there is now talk of a real haircut in town, this time with a multilateral push. This real haircut in town has something to do with the IMF debt reconstruction programme by the government to individual bondholders.

Last week, there was a stir in the hornet’s nest when a group, anticipating a class action against the government, said the act to extend its debt restructuring to include the hard-earned bond savings of some individual citizens was “unconscionable”.

According to them, the action by the government would impoverish those who had invested in the bond as a means of investment against their future. The cries of many who have invested in government bonds have since taken a higher pitch. Is haircut a reality now?

As one goes through sleepless nights about losing one’s investments, a critical look must be taken at those investment companies still around. These were not touched in any way by the financial sector restructuring of five years ago and they used it mightily, pitching themselves out there as better than others and continued to mobilise investors’ monies.

Today, these same companies are refusing to pay back their customers' monies that they had invested. Customers are seen lined up each day in their offices, wanting to claim their investments. All they get told is that there is no money to pay them. Where did the people’s investments go?

It is beginning to feel that investing for one’s future is becoming a huge challenge with limited options for individuals. Even banking advisers are now not too sure which direction to advise when one asks. How safe are we?


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