Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African country to gain its independence from colonial rule. On 6th March, 1957 Kwame Nkrumah declared to the people of Ghana that, “the African People are capable of managing their own affairs and Ghana our beloved country is free forever.” Accordingly, Nkrumah’s speech at the moment of liberation set a tone of pride in Ghana’s accomplishment along with hope for freedom and to generate a new form of belonging, outside the conditions that were the remnants of political and economic colonialism.
Nkrumah’s midnight speech reflected his vision of colonial freedom which was encapsulated in his statement “That a new Africa is ready to fight her own battles and show that after all the black man is capable of managing his own affairs.” This year marks 65years after Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah made his historic independence speech, and this month (July 2022) government has announced that Ghana is going back to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help restore the health of the country’s finances. It is the second time in the past three years and 17th since independence in 1957 that Ghana has turned to the IMF for help.
The nation’s visit 17th visit to the IMF depicts a recurrent failure of successive governments to properly shift from the Guggisberg economy to help it withstand internal and external shocks. Our lack of fiscal discipline and dependence on foreign financing also leaves the economy vulnerable. The latest visit has come as a shock, since managers of the economy in 2019 assured us that Ghana will not be returning to the Breton Wood Organisation for monetary assistance, just after weaning itself from the fund.
Finance Minister Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta said at the time that sufficient microeconomic gains have been made to prevent the country from returning to the fund. This has, however, turned out to be false, as the country has returned to the fund after only three years. Aside the shock, a lot of Ghanaians are worried about the outcome of government’s negotiation with the IMF, because of what the country went through the last time we sought help from the fund.
In 2015 when Ghana went to the fund, there was a freeze on employment in government departments except for those under the education and the health sector. The agreement also made the country limit the nominal increase in total wage bill to not more than 10% as well as the elimination of subsidies on utilities and petroleum products. Ghanaians are worried that these conditional negotiations will be imposed on a country that is faced with a lot of economic difficulties.
On employment, many have expressed worry about the existing huge levels of unemployment and an announcement of freeze on employment is the last thing that jobless youth will want to hear. Others have expressed worry about the additional hardship citizens will go through if the country is asked to remove subsidies on utilities and petroleum products, considering the fact that recent hikes in fuel prices have impacted heavily on cost of living in the country and has pushed some labor organizations to ask for increment in their Cost of Living Allowance (COLA). Parents have also expressed worry about the possible cancellation of pro-poor programs like the Free Senior High School Policy and School Feeding program. Statistics from the Ghana Education Service indicate that so far 1.6 million youth have benefitted from the policy.
Government must go to the negotiation table bearing in mind all the concerns expressed by Ghanaians. The Chronicle can only advise government to ensure that the country gets the beast deal and that our national interest will not be compromised as they negotiate with the IMF. Going to the fund is not something Ghanaians wished for, but if it has come to the economic crunch, then our leaders must get us a good deal out of the negotiations.