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Suspend frivolous expenditures to free-up the needed GH¢8bn – Ato Forson tells govt

Ranking member on the Finance Committee of Parliament Dr Cassiel Ato Forson has said he is avilable to assist the government to identify what he believes are watseful expenditures in the 2023 budget and do away with them.

He stated that if the government is able to stop the frivolous expenditures, it will be able to rake in GH¢8billion and not touch the funds of individual bondholders.

“I am available to assist the government in identifying frivolous and wasteful expenditures in the budget to free-Up the needed 8billion so that individual bondholders are exempt! You can’t continue to live large on the savings of pensioners etc,” the Member of Parliament for Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam, tweeted on Tuesday Janury 17.

Chair of the Finance Committee in the 7th Parliament, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah has also told the government to suspend financing some of its projects such as the Planting For Food and Jobs (PFJ) initiative in the midst of the challenges.

He says he does not understand why the government will continue to inject capital into this project in the midst of extreme economic difficulties.

Speaking on the Business Focus with TV3’s Paa Kwesi Asare on Monday, January 16 while commenting on the Domestic Debt Exchange, the former New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for New Juaben South said “I cannot access my principal until 2030 but you want to roll out all manner of programmes? Can’t you suspend some of the projects we are spending monies on?  Can’t we suspend the Planting of Food and Jobs? Whys should we still spend GHS660 million on Planting for food and jobs? Can’t we suspend some of the expenditures?

“So if you want me to share in the burden, the government also has to share the burden. We don’t need the IMF to tell you to cut off some of these programmes.”

He further indicated that Ghana’s economy is currently in a deep mess.

He said the struggling economy is leading to the failure of banks and the entire financial sector.

Speaking on the Business Focus with Paa Kwasi Asare on TV3 Monday, January 16, Dr Assibey-Yeboah who was the chair of the Finance Committee of the 7th Parliament said “Now, we are in a hole, you have individual bondholders going to be affected, the financial sector is going to crush. I am telling you now, where we are as a country, this is not the time to massage issues, the banks, I don’t want to mention names, some of them will collapse.

“Let us say you are a bank and you are exposed to government bonds to the tune of GHS2billion. If you have 20 per cent, that is 400 million Cedis in interest payment you forgo , do you know what that will do to your balance sheet? So banks are going to lay people off.”

Regarding the Domestic Debt Exchange, he predicted that the deadline will be pushed forward again.

In his view, the necessary steps that the government needs to take to ensure a successful programme have not been followed.

On Monday, January 16, the government yet again extended the Domestic Debt Exchange (DDE) Programme.

This makes it the third extension following agitations among individual bondholders to sign on to the Programme.

The decision is to allow the government to further engage with these bondholders.

The government had initially extended its subscription to the Programme from Friday, December 30, 2022, to Monday, January 16, picking the following day as Announcement Date.

Per that schedule, Tuesday, January 24 was slated for the settlement of invitations.

However, on Monday, January 16, the government announced yet again that the new deadline will be Tuesday, January 31.

Dr Assibey-Yeboah who was the chair of the Finance Committee in the 7th Parliament said “Initially, we were told that individual bondholders will not be part of the debt exchange. People have planned their lives around the bonds that they hold and then suddenly, in the wee hours of 31st December, you sneak this one out and say that now, individual bondholders are part.

“Because we were all celebrating Christmas we didn’t pay attention.”

He added “This is my hard-earned money and somebody is picking from it. You told me individual bondholders will not be part  Why are you including individual bondholders? Have you engaged the individual bondholders? You haven’t. That is why I say the deadline will be extended again. The consultations we need, the hard decisions we need to take we are not taking them.”

Individual bondholders had expressed dissatisfaction with the Programme, accusing the government of failure to engage them.

They had petitioned the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to exclude them from the Programme.

Under the umbrella body Ghana Individual Bondholders Forum (IBF), the bondholders accused both the Finance Minister and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of short-changing them and failing to keep their promise.

Sir, let it not be said ever that during your tenure, your policies impoverished citizens whose primary duty to country was service and love through hard work and taxes.

“Your DDE as proposed for Individual Bondholders takes away our liberty to self-sustain, mocks hard work, and robs us of legally acquired property. None of these reflects the tenets of good governance.”

They had offered to make their expertise available to help the government solve the economic quagmire the country finds itself in.

Meanwhile, the Minority in Parliament is calling on President Akufo-Addo to immediately suspend the Programme and start extensive engagement.

The caucus said the government should organised an economic dialogue as part of the engagement before any consideration of reintroduction.

By Laud Nartey||Ghana



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