Ghana’s economic environment became very unstable in 2014, with a fast depreciating currency, high debt burden and rising inflation that hit ordinary household pockets the hardest. Government coffers became dried up such that disbursements to earmarked funds were either never released, under-delivered or suffered severe delays. This situation was further complicated by a power crisis that further worsened the health of the economy.
In August 2014, government ultimately requested an arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and on April 3, 2015, the IMF Board approved a three-year (2015-2017) Extended Credit Facility (ECF) of about US$918 million or 180 percent of Ghana’s quota at the IMF, which is the country’s sixteenth stabilization programme with the IMF since independence.
Generally, the current arrangement with the Fund does not appear to have made the desired impact, particularly in 2016, where the gains made in 2015 were markedly reversed. Consequently, civil society advocated for and supported the call for an extension of the IMF programme to February 2019 (from the initial April 2018) in 2017 to afford the new government more time to work towards attaining the overall programme objectives of restoring debt sustainability and macroeconomic stability through an ambitious and sustained fiscal consolidation programme, a prudent debt management strategy with improved fiscal transparency and an effective monetary policy framework to foster a return to growth and job creation, while safeguarding social and other priority spending.
2.0 The Civil Society Platform on the IMF Programme
In past programmes with the IMF, there was very little citizens’ buy-in due mainly to the lack of space for citizens to share their views and thoughts on such important fiscal agreements even though citizens were ultimate bearers of the impact of agreements reached between Government and the IMF. Hence, the Civil Society Platform on the IMF Programme was formed in November 2014 with support from STAR-Ghana and Oxfam, to advocate for civil society inclusiveness in major public financial management issues and in particular the IMF programme design, implementation and monitoring in Ghana by creating dialogue spaces between CSOs, Government, the IMF as well as other development partners.
Thus, the Civil Society Platform seek to objectively look at the trade-offs, the ups and downs of the Fund-supported programme and provide useful feedback in promoting the national good. Civil Society is committed to working with our government to ensure that this sixteenth stabilization programme with the IMF hopefully becomes the last going forward.
3.0 Current Membership
The Platform’s current membership include: Financial Accountability & Transparency-Africa, IMANI Center for Policy & Education, Africa Centre for Energy Policy, Penplusbytes, Ghana Integrity Initiative, Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, Ghana Center for Democratic Development, SEND Ghana, Oxfam in Ghana, ISODEC/Institute for Fiscal Policy, Occupy Ghana, African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs, Centre for Policy Analysis, and Institute for Fiscal Studies, among others.
4.0 Main Activities
From the outset, the civil society platform has identified fiscal indiscipline in the management of public resources as responsible for the country’s economic woes. The platform holds the conviction that effective implementation of the current arrangement with the IMF will strengthen the country’s own institutions of fiscal restraint, regain policy credibility as well as chart new sustainable pathways so that Ghana, hopefully, will no longer revert to the IMF for another Fund-supported stabilization programme.
The Platform has been at the forefront of civil society engagements with the IMF and Government on the Fund supported-programme. To this end, four national civil society fora have been organized so far. The first one was held on November 18, 2014 for citizens’ inputs into the programme design and a review of the eventual programme on June 16, 2015. This was followed by two yearly assessments to strengthen programme implementation and performance on March 29, 2016 and July 13, 2017. In addition to the Platform’s regular interactions with the IMF mission team during programme reviews.
5.0 Key Successes
- Most of the CS Platform’s asks were granted in the final agreement with key provisions on enhancing fiscal discipline, deepening accountability and transparency as well as safe-guarding strategic pro-poor and pro-development spending under the current Extended Credit Facility Arrangement with the IMF.
- The platform’s continued advocacy since November 2014 has contributed to the safeguarding of social protection spending, passage of key structural and legal reforms such as the Public Financial Management Act, 2016, the Amended Bank of Ghana Act, 2016 among others.
- The Managing Director of the IMF, Ms. Christine Lagarde recognized the useful feedback from the CSO Platform on the IMF programme in Ghana and our Ukrainian counterparts during the CSOs town-hall meeting at the October 2017 Annual meetings of the World Bank & IMF in Washington DC. Adding that this citizens’ initiative to bridge the governance loop was commendable and will serve as a model for the Fund’s citizens’ engagement across the globe.
6.0 The New “Economic Governance Platform”
The Civil Society Platform on the IMF Programme will transition to the “Economic Governance Platform” in mid- 2018 with less than a year remaining on the current Fund-supported programme. The new structure would give broader focus to civil society beyond the IMF programme and build on the advocacy gains over the past four years.