THIS COMMUNIQUÉ WAS ISSUED AT A ONE-DAY NATIONAL FORUM ORGANIZED BY THE CIVIL SOCIETY PLATFORM ON THE IMF PROGRAMME WITH SUPPORT FROM OXFAM, ATTENDED BY STAKEHOLDERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY
This Year’s Forum was Chaired by Dr. Joe Abbey, Executive Director of the Centre For Policy Analysis and Ms. Natalia Koliadina, IMF Resident Representative as Guest Speaker. Prof. Godfred Bokpin, Head of Finance Department-University of Ghana Business School and Mr. George Osei-Bimpeh, Country Director of SEND Ghana presented the IMF Programme Monitoring Results and the State of the Social Interventions under the IMF programme, respectively.
ON THE THEME:
“Three Years into the IMF-Supported Extended Credit Facility Arrangement:
Is the Ghanaian Economy on the Right Path?”
Having participated fully in the Fourth National Civil Society Platform on the IMF Programme held at the Mensvic Hotel in Accra: on the theme, ‘’Three Years into the IMF-Supported Extended Credit Facility Arrangement: Is the Ghanaian Economy on the Right Path?” Hereby adopt and approve as a “Civil Society Position,” the following Communiqué on the IMF Programme Roll-out.
- The importance and relevance of civil society input and contribution into the discourse of development dialogue;
- The commitment of the Government and the IMF to provide space and opportunity for the involvement and participation of civil society through focused dialogue and discussions;
- The need for stronger ties, cooperation and relationship between citizens, Government and IMF should be forged towards quality assurances for efficient and effective quality decisions on behalf of the people of the country.
Hereby agree to
- Promote the continuous convening of the Civil Society Platform throughout the duration of IMF programme to ensure implementation success.
- Continue to bridge the governance gap by providing spaces for dialogue between our Government, CSOs and the IMF on the Fund programme and broader public financial management issues.
The following overarching themes, as “Citizens’ Positions” to be considered and adopted by the Government of Ghana and the IMF to enhance effective programme roll-out in the best interest of the country.
Findings on Programme Performance
- The programme, on the whole, has not made the desired impact particularly in 2016, where the gains made in 2015 were markedly reversed.
- The pace of the structural reforms has remained very slow from the outset. Most of the timelines have also been missed and either partially or often implemented with delays.
- Weak surveillance of the IMF, given that the Fund predicted a favourable outlook for the economy at the end of the third programme review in September 2016. Most programme targets for 2016 were however missed under the Fund’s watch; huge budget overruns, the new Government’s reported outstanding payment arrears or unpaid claims of GHS 7billion which clearly went against the benchmark of non-accumulation of arrears under the programme.
- Although Government and the IMF have requested for an audit of the claims to determine the stock or magnitude of the claims and how the arrears happened during the Fund programme to forestall a recurrence. There is little information on the timeline for the audit and outcome.
- The outcome of the audit has serious implications for the Fund programme particularly the timeframe for the arrears accumulation. Whether or not, all of the yet to be verified claims were accumulated in the last half of 2016 or earlier is crucial for the programme.
- Frequency of publication of fiscal data with a lag of six weeks not being complied with under the IMF programme.
The IMF Programme Duration
- The current programme has as a matter of fact achieved limited effectiveness with respect to broad programme objectives, hence the call for an extension in order to guarantee successful completion of the programme unless Government presents alternative policies/programmes that comprehensively addresses the structural issues identified and demonstrate how these will get the necessary stakeholder support.
- There was considerable consensus surrounding this Fund-supported programme; the programme targets and structural reforms were judged to be essential to the transformation of the economy. Therefore, more time may be needed to safeguard the programme.
- The fiscal slippages regular with every national election in Ghana makes a compelling case for an extension of the programme, as almost all the programme targets were missed in 2016. The remaining period (July 2017-April 2018) is insufficient to address the shortfalls and therefore an extension is needed.
- Left to itself, Ghana as a country has been less successful in maintaining fiscal discipline and promoting far-reaching structural and productivity enhancing reforms. Ghana lacks its own credible institution of fiscal restraint. The IMF has played a role of a credible institution of fiscal restraint in the absence of the country’s own. Therefore there is a genuine concern as to whether Ghana, without the IMF and other Donor Partners, can sustain a stable macroeconomic environment to foster a return to growth and job creation.
- It is imperative for the IMF and Government to conclude the fourth programme review and agree on new timelines for the programme going forward, as the initial schedule appears to have been suspended. The country currently is unaware about the current state of the programme.
Strengthening the Legal Framework to Exact Compliance
- Ghana has a chequered history with stabilisation policies. It is a history of relatively stable macroeconomic environment informed by prudent fiscal policy backed by sound monetary policy in between elections, and fiscal indiscipline combined with loose monetary policy during election periods. This political business cycle is very costly economically, socially and politically: fiscal consolidation measures come with painful adjustment burdens that are – all too often – unevenly shared among the population.
- To halt this cycle, it is important to use the current process to institute legislative measures such as the enactment of a Fiscal Responsibility Law, to curb out-of-control spending, especially during elections years. The Law must not be observed more in breach than in compliance as is the norm with our country’s many other laws.
- The new Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) should be reviewed to deal with the operational challenges with its implementation. There should be clear time lines for the review process and dialogue spaces to engage non-state actors such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants-Ghana, civil society, academia, on the subject.
- Participants noted that as a country we need to stop the sloganeering and appreciate the fact that if we continue to live beyond our means to the point that the country borrows at unsustainable levels, then austerity becomes inevitable.
- Participants urged the Government to put the interest of the country first (rather than partisan interest) and remain fiscally disciplined throughout its tenure as this is the path to debt sustainability.
- The terms of securing finance to finance the deficits are as important as borrowing to finance fiscal deficits.
- The country’s current debt to GDP ratio and high servicing costs limit borrowing space and in fact, constrain further debt build up. Hence, the Government should ensure that the limited borrowing space is judiciously utilised by channelling new debt to projects which are viable and able to generate cash flow to retire the debt. Capital budgeting decisions should precede financing decisions.
- The Government needs to devise fiscally responsible funding alternatives to bridge the huge infrastructural deficit.
- In a private sector led market-based economy, macroeconomic stability is necessary though not a sufficient requirement. Markets do not like uncertainties or do not function well in uncertain environments.
- The Government’s efforts should gear towards ensuring inclusive broad-based growth than just focusing on traditional economic growth measured by GDP.
- A Clear strategy is needed to ensure that cost of GDP growth is managed to embrace environmental sustainability, green economy, climate change/illegal mining.
Deepen Transparency & Accountability
- The frequency of publication of fiscal data with a lag of six weeks should be complied with to deepen transparency and accountability.
- Participants urged Government to engage with civil society on issues pertaining to the IMF programme and broader public financial management issues in the best interest of the country. Regular engagements with CSOs (quarterly meetings to exchange ideas) would provide useful feedback to Government and better the lot of the citizenry.
- Right to Information (RTI) Bill
Participants noted the Ghanaian Parliament takes too much time in passing important bills to law. The passage of the Right to Information Bill has unduly delayed and there is need to fast track its passage to law before end of year in order for citizens to have this critical legislation to demand accountability from public officials for the use of public resources.
4. The RTI bill should have provisions which mandate Government to provide fiscal data it offers to donors and lenders such as the IMF and World Bank, to citizens as well.
Social Interventions (Education & Health Sector Interventions)
- A robust system of targeting beneficiaries of social interventions should be taken seriously by Government devoid of political expediency so that needy communities, individuals and institutions are clearly mapped out and reached. The LEAP targeting approach is a module worth emulating, in order that these social interventions will reach their intended end and alleviate poverty.
- Timely disbursement of budgetary allocations to social interventions is critical to the interventions being impactful.
- In order to make our social interventions efficient and impactful, there is the need to use improved data management systems to track the interventions to minimise the human elements of data manipulation that are often exploited to misappropriate funds meant for beneficiaries.
- The inconsistencies in transfer releases (differences in budgetary allocations and actual releases) are hampering transparency and accountability in the execution of these interventions, as well as the realization of intended beneficiary outcomes. (See findings of SEND-Ghana’s field work on pro-poor interventions in selected districts across the country in the Education and Health sectors).
- There is the need to give meaning to the country’s decentralisation processes by allowing stakeholders at the district level to be part of the design of social interventions, contracts, etc. since they are on the ground and better placed to determine the needs of the people and hold service providers accountable.
- There is the urgent need for national ownership of important national agreements such as the current IMF-Supported Extended Credit Facility arrangement and Government must in future take such agreements to Parliament for deliberations and consensus before signing onto it.
- Sadly, this current Fund programme is the sixteenth arrangement the country has had with the IMF and there is the need for Ghana to graduate just as our peers have and civil society believes it is possible going forward, provided the Government and citizens will commit to doing the right things in the best interest of the country.
- Participants bemoaned the continued absence of representatives from Government at such important public fora which seek to objectively look at the trade-offs and the ups and downs of the Fund programme and hope Government would be more involved going forward.
ADOPTED THIS 13TH DAY OF JULY 2017, MENSVIC HOTEL, ACCRA