Ken Ofori Atta, Minister of Finance
Ken Ofori Atta, Minister of Finance

Government won't shortchange pensioner bondholders - Finance Minister

The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, has calmed the nerves of pensioner bondholders, insisting that the government will not shortchange their legitimate right but will honour their coupon payments and maturing principals, like all government bondholders.

He told Parliament yesterday that the government remained committed to the well-being and dignity of the senior citizens and pensioners.

But the convener of the Pensioner Bondholders, Dr Adu Anane Antwi, in an interview with the Daily Graphic, prayed the government to walk the talk by honouring the various maturing dates of each of the bondholders, looking at the precarious financial condition of the country.

To him, the surest way for the government to remain afloat and honour its pledge was to cut down on the size of government to rake in more cash.

The Finance Minister was in Parliament to brief the House on the Domestic Debt Exchange Programme (DDEP) for the first time following the recent picketing at the ministry by protestors who want issuer exemption and not self-exemption.

The pensioners were also in the Public Gallery of Parliament in their numbers but many of them said they were not satisfied with the clarity on the policy.
Some of them said the minister's address appeared more of the presentation of the annual budget and government's fiscal policy.


Appearing in his signature all-white apparel with extensive quotes from the Holy Bible, the Finance Minister said: "Indeed, it has personally caused me great distress as a number of them have picketed the premises of the Ministry of Finance since Monday, 6th February, 2023."

Mr Ofori-Atta said the DDEP would also build momentum for the external restructuring programme, which had also commenced.

"As part of this process, Ghana has officially asked its bilateral creditors for a Debt Treatment initiative under the G-20 Common framework.

"Consequently, Ghana co-hosted a meeting with the Paris Club, including both Paris Club and Non-Paris Club creditors on January 10, 2023. We reiterated the request for expedited treatment under the Common Framework and presented our economic and fiscal outlook as well as the steps undertaken so far with the DDEP," the Finance Minister said.


Breaking down the terms and the categories of the DDEP, the minister said it was well crafted to address the specific concerns of the different categories of holders under three groups.

Category ‘A’ is made up of Collective Investment Schemes and Natural Persons below the age of 59; Category ‘B’ - Natural persons 59 years old or older; and ‘C’ made up of General Category Holders, representing all other holders except those exempted.

According to Mr Ofori-Atta, the details of the results of the participation rate included Category ‘A’ holders issued 4,109 instructions and tendered an amount of GH¢5.93 billion.

That, he said, represented 6.06 per cent of the eligible bonds.

The minister said Category ‘B’ holders issued 1,340 instructions and tendered an amount of GH¢423.01 million, representing 0.43 per cent of the eligible bonds; while the General Category holders issued 4,489 instructions and tendered an amount of GH¢76.65 billion, representing 78.41 per cent of the eligible bonds.


Mr Ofori-Atta said the government was mindful of the exchange's ramifications on the country's financial health.

Mr Ofori-Atta indicated that as a result, the government was developing several prudential measures to mitigate the potential impact on domestic creditors, considering the need to preserve financial stability.

"Billions of taxpayer's monies were used between 2017 and 2019 to rescue the financial sector. We have no intention to imperil that work and we are determined to protect banks operating in Ghana and strengthen their capacity to finance the economic recovery and growth we see before us," the minister added.


The minister said the respective regulators had assessed the potential impact of the exchange on the financial sector.

"Working together, Bank of Ghana, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Insurance Commission, and the National Pensions Regulatory Authority are recalibrating their regulatory tools to accommodate the necessary forbearances for the respective sectors.

He said in addition, a Financial Stability Fund (FSF) was being established by the government, with the help of development partners to provide liquidity and solvency support to banks, pension funds, insurance companies, fund managers, and collective investment schemes to ensure that they were able to meet their obligations to their clients as they fell due.


Prior to the Speaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, allowing members to make contributions to the presentation by the Finance Minister, there were arguments between the Majority and the Minority side on the duration to be given each member to speak.

Insisting on going strictly according to Order 72, the Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo Markin, said the Order insists on "brief comments" not exceeding one hour.

But the Minority Leader, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, argued that since it was a monumental national assignment, each member should be given 10 minutes to speak, while the leaders were given 20 minutes.

However, in his ruling, the Speaker varied the rules to give six members from each side of the divide the opportunity to comment for eight minutes each, while the leaders speak for 15 minutes.

From the Majority side, the Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu; the Deputy Ministers of Finance, Abena Osei Asare and Dr John Kumah, as well as the Deputy Minister designate for Trade and Industry, Dr Stephen Amoah; the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Kweku Kwarteng, and a Deputy Minister of Energy, Andrew Egyapa Mercer, were allowed to comment.

Those who spoke on behalf of the Minority side were the Minority Leader, Dr Forson; MP for Bolgatanga Central, Isaac Adongo; MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa; MP for Yapei-Kusawgu, John Abu Jinapor; the MP for Asunafo South, Eric Opoku, and the MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga.
Setting the ball rolling from the Minority side, Mr Adongo said he felt very sad for the situation the pensioners were being taken through.

"These are senior citizens who have served our country faithfully to accumulate their pension. And when we are in crisis, the vulnerable are the ones that we prioritise. They are not the ones whose monies we should take," Mr Adongo said.

The Bolgatanga Central MP said unfortunately, the pensioners were the ones the country was taking money from.

"Mr Speaker, are we no longer a proud nation? Are we suddenly no longer a proud nation that we are all over the place begging people we borrowed money from and telling them we can't pay?” he asked.

Contributing to the debate, the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Kwaku Kwarteng, said the DDEP deployed by the government was good but was not enough to salvage the economy.

In the view of Mr Kwarteng, the state of the economy now would require more than a debt treatment, saying that “not only should we support the government to cut interest commitment that had burdened our economy, we must pursue an aggressive programme to rein in expenditure and we must do that not just for today but we must do that going forward,” he stated.

In cutting expenditure, he said, charity must begin from home and the Executive and MPs must lead by example.

Reinstate Fiscal Responsibility Regulation

The MP for Yapei Kusawgu, John Jinapor, said the Bank of Ghana, as of 2021, had advanced over GH¢40 billion to the government, a development the central bank issued a statement to claim that the advancement was an overdraft, a short-term debt instrument.

“Immediately the Finance Minister got GH¢40 billion, he announced that he had converted it into bonds,” he said, saying the move by the minister raised concerns about his credibility, Mr Jinapor said.

“That is the women and men who are old do not trust the minister because the President told us that there would be no haircut but it turned out to be false and Mr Ofori-Atta himself promised that individuals would not be part of the domestic debt instrument but on the eve of Christmas he issued a statement that he would exempt pensioners and he is now bringing individuals into the whole fray, which is a serious matter,” he said.

Urging Parliament to pass a resolution to compel the Finance Minister to exempt all pensioners from the DDEP, Mr Jinapor also appealed to the Speaker to reinstate the Fiscal Responsibility Regulation that was suspended to help avoid such economic crisis in future.

Unsustainable debt

Deputy Finance Minister, Abena Osei-Asare said the impression that the government was bent on taking people’s money was wrong.
“Mr Speaker, the government is saying that I cannot continue to disburse or redeem the bonds that I have taken from you because of where we are now as our debt has become unsustainable,” she said.

She said the country’s debt became a national debt from the first day Ghana borrowed till date.

“Last year, we were servicing our debt until things started getting difficult, not as a result of domestic issues but also external issues, making Ghana use 70 per cent of our tax revenue to service interest payments alone,” she said.

Economic catastrophe

The MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, said today Ghana, once a shining star in Africa, was the brink of “economic catastrophe, Armageddon and disaster” because of a Finance Minister who had betrayed the trust of the Ghanaian people.

He said at a time senior citizens, the aged and the vulnerable were bearing the brunt of economic mismanagement, the Finance Minister was urging the people to “rejoice in the Lord.”

“People who have served this country with distinction and they did not join their colleagues who left for greener pastures but stayed here to sacrifice and toil and reconstruct this nation but their pension are being taken away from them,” Mr Ablakwa said.

“They have to picket for days and the President has not even invited them to listen to them,” the MP said.

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