Ghana’s finance minister, Kenneth Ofori-Atta, issued an apology on Friday for the country’s economic hardship, but he defended himself against accusations that he is unfit for the job.
“I am truly sorry for the condition of our economy today and the hardship that many of our people are facing,” Ofori-Atta said. “I take full responsibility for the current state of affairs and I am committed to working tirelessly to turn things around.”
Ofori-Atta has come under fire from critics who say that he has mismanaged the economy and failed to deliver on his promises. However, he insisted that he is up to the task of fixing the problems.
The Ghanaian government came under increasing pressure and President Nana Akufo-Addo faced growing criticism for what has become Ghana’s worst economic crisis in a generation. In the midst of this, Minister of Finance Kenneth Ofori-Atta was called before lawmakers to explain his financial management.
The economic crisis in Ghana has been characterised by high inflation, rising living costs, and declining economic growth. This has put immense strain on the Ghanaian people, and many have lost their jobs or seen their incomes decline. The Akufo-Addo government has come under fire for its handling of the crisis, with critics accusing it of being too slow to respond and of not doing enough to help the most vulnerable.
In the middle of the inquiry and crisis, the government has also been negotiating up to $3bn in credit from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help shore up public finances. The IMF has said it is ready to provide Egypt with a loan of up to $12bn, but only if the government implements tough economic reforms. The government has been reluctant to do this, fearing it will lead to more social unrest. However, with the country’s economy in a precarious state, the government may have little choice but to accept the loan and the conditions that come with it.
Ghana is one of the top cocoa and gold producers in the world, and also has oil and gas reserves. However, its debt service payments are high, and like the rest of Africa, it has been hit hard by the fallout from the global pandemic and the Ukraine war. Ghana’s economy has been struggling in recent years, and the pandemic and war have only made things worse. The country is in need of financial assistance to help get back on its feet.
The Ghanaian cedi has been in decline for much of the year, and has now lost more than 40 percent of its value. This has caused severe problems for businesses who import raw materials and processed goods, as the costs of these products have soared. Consumer inflation has also hit a 21-year high, as people are forced to pay more for imported goods and services. The situation is unlikely to improve in the short-term, and the Ghanaian economy is facing a very difficult period.
Against this backdrop, Ofori-Atta has faced censure with lawmakers from both major political parties calling for his removal from office. Last week, parliament set up a committee to investigate opposition allegations that he has been benefiting from Ghana’s economic woes through illegal payments and unethical contracts, among other charges.
In his first public comments on the matter, the embattled minister said he was concerned about the West African country’s woes, but added that the accusations were unfounded.
“I acknowledge our economy is facing difficulties and the people of Ghana are enduring hardships,” he said.
“As the person President Akufo-Addo has put in charge of this economy, I feel the pain personally, professionally, and in my soul.”
He said that by the end of the hearing, the “unfounded doubts about my motives, my competence and my character would have been dispelled”.
He also denied claims that he had misreported economic data to parliament and that his policies were to blame for the cedi’s steep decline. “The idea that the depreciation of the cedi is a result of fiscal risk and recklessness is not supported by the available facts,” said Ofori-Atta.
The parliamentary committee will probe the allegations against the minister before deciding to present a motion of censure to the parliament, which is equally split between the governing NPP and the opposition NDC party. The president has the final word on whether to dismiss the minister.
Earlier this week, Akufo-Addo fired the government’s junior finance minister, Charles Adu Boahen, over corruption allegations after he appeared in an expose. Earlier this month, protesters also called for the president’s resignation amid spiralling food and fuel costs.