There was a kenkey party at the inner court of the Ministry of Finance on Friday, March 22, 2019. The participants were the staff of the ministry and all the people who claimed to have worked tirelessly to ensure an end to Ghana’s ties with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It was supposed to be the end of a relationship and the beginning of a strongly-advocated “Ghana Beyond Aid”, but that was not to be.
In the build-up to the 2016 elections, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) continuously highlighted and condemned what they said was the incompetence of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), especially when the NDC government at the time turned to the IMF for an economic bailout. It was a $918million loan and conditionalities that were expected to help stabilise the economy.
The conditions attached made it impossible for the government to recruit, thereby increasing the country’s unemployment situation. The government could not increase salaries, and, subsidies on utility and petroleum products were scrapped.
The then flagbearer of the NPP and current president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, promised Ghanaians a bailout that would not be an IMF bailout but one of improved production, cost cutting and a prudent management of the economy.
Ghanaians expected Mr Akufo-Addo to turn the economy around when he was finally given the nod in 2016. However, the promise, like the many campaign promises made, remained a promise.
In 2017, Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta denied reports circulating that the government was going to the IMF for a programme support to address the country’s rising debt stock and economic pressure.
Despite a survey by Bloomberg about the rising debt, which was at the time at $335billion, and had become a thorn in the country’s economic flesh, the NPP continued to assure Ghanaians that an IMF bailout was never an option.
At the Encounter with the Media on 19th December 2018, President Akufo-Addo highlighted the lessons drawn from the IMF experience. He said, “We are about to exit at the end of the year from our 17th IMF programme since we joined the institution. We are doing so on a good note. The most important lesson we must derive from our IMF experience is that we cannot afford any longer any disarray in our public finances”.
Many leading figures of the NPP had criticised the IMF bailout, especially in 2019.
A leading member of the NPP, Gabby Otchere-Darko in a Twitter post in March 2019 said, former President John Mahama took oil-rich Ghana back to the IMF after mismanaging the economy and subtly advised Ghanaians not to vote for him in the 2020 elections.
The quote said, “Just a small reminder: It was President John Dramani Mahama who took oil-rich Ghana back to IMF. He did that because he had run the economy down and needed to be rescued. He’s asking for your vote again in 2020.”
In that same March 2019, Ken Ofori Atta said Ghana had ruled out any engagement with the IMF because sufficient macroeconomic gains had been made to prevent its return to the IMF.
President Akufo-Addo introduced Ghana’s Beyond Aid programme in 2019 and it was supposed to be Ghana’s survival without international aid such as the IMF.
He later boasted about how he would lead the country from poverty to prosperity.
“Ghana Beyond Aid is setting our nation on an irreversible path of prosperity. With the blessing of the almighty and our collective efforts, we will march boldly from poverty to prosperity so that we can create the Ghana our forefathers envisaged,” he said on May Day, 2019.
Barely two weeks to the 2020 elections, Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia mocked the NDC for being clueless about an economy they had mismanaged and ran to the IMF for support.
“You remember that the NDC government had to go to the IMF to rescue the economy? That was indeed a rescue mission!” Dr Bawumia said amidst laughter in the auditorium.
“It was clear that the Mahama-led NDC Government had lost its way, failed Ghanaians, and did not have any idea how to get us out of the ditch it had driven us into,” he said.
During the 2016 campaign, Dr Bawumia mounted a platform and announced the Economic Management Team of the NPP made up of Professor Gyan Baffuor, Dr Akoto Osei, Dr Afriyie Akoto, Alan Kyeremanten, Boakye Agyarko, Ken Ofori Atta, Yaw Osafo Maafo; a team to be led by himself. He said the NPP had a strong team to manage the economy, the reason they were assured of a stable economy that would not require an IMF bailout.
Early 2022, Ken Ofori Atta said at the town hall meeting in Tamale that Ghana was not going to return to the IMF due to the restrictions involved. He boasted that the country’s resources were capable of catapulting the country to the level it so desires.
While rallying Ghanaians to support the passage of the E-levy, he talked about the devastating consequences of going to the IMF if the E-levy was not passed.
“In a way, we have forgotten how difficult and tenacious that master from Washington was…So, we can deal with them for them to give us advice, but we need not ever get into an IMF programme. If we don’t do this E-levy, we’re just pushing ourselves in a way that would potentially end up in such a disaster,” Mr Ofori-Atta said.
At the same town event, the finance minister said, “ We are not going to the IMF. Whatever we do, we are not going to the IMF. The consequences are dire. We are a proud nation. We have the resources, we have the capacity
The Deputy Finance Minister, Dr. John Ampotuah Kumah, said in April 2022 that the government would not return to the IMF so far as the NPP remained in power. John Kumah may have to bite back on his words, today.
Former President John Dramani Mahama had chastised the NPP for misapplying the largest ever IMF bailout in the country’s history, a $1billion concessional facility from the IMF, $1billion in Special Drawing Rights(SDR) allocation, $430million from the World Bank, $250million from the Stabilisation fund, GHc10 billion from the Central Bank amounting to ₵33billion.
He encouraged the NPP government to set up a policy dialogue before the failing economy got out of hand. Gabby Otchere-Darko responded to Mr Mahama, saying, “His homegrown policies to his home-grown problems led us to the IMF for IMF solutions.”
On Friday, July 1, 2022, an anniversary of Ghana’s attainment of a republican status, the Ministry of Information released a statement announcing a directive from President Akufo-Addo to the Finance Minister to commence formal engagements to support an economic programme put up by the government.
The statement, signed by the information minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, indicated that the support had become necessary at a time like this due to the effects of the covid-19 pandemic and the Russia Ukraine war. There had already been communication between President Akufo-Addo and the Director of IMF, Miss Kristaline Georgivea, the statement said.
Some Ghanaians have also condemned the actions by the NPP in apportioning the collapsed economy to the covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war. Some are of the view that the country’s economy started collapsing before Covid-19. Others think that, it is the deep-seated corruption that is crumbling the economy.
The Russian embassy had earlier said it wasn’t responsible for the increasing food prices in Africa. In a series of twitter posts, the Russian embassy accused the media of ignoring the policies from the West that had triggered the harsh economic conditions since 2020, two years before the war began.