Monday, September 29, 2014

‘Ghana Would Not Repeat Past Mistakes in Engagement With IMF’
Republic of Ghana President John Dramani Mahama.
By  Kwame Asare Boadu
Monday, 29 September 2014 12:57 
Ghana Daily Graphic

President John Dramani Mahama has said Ghana has learnt from its past mistakes in the engagement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In the past, the IMF’s assistance came with conditions. Among them was the institution of various Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) that required the government to cut public spending, eliminate subsidies on food and agriculture, cut jobs, reduce the government’s spending on medical care and education, and raise interest rates.

But delivering a lecture at the Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, USA last Friday, the President said, "The Ghana that I find myself governing today is not the same Ghana that, in 1983, approached the IMF for assistance.

"We have learned so much from our past mistakes. We are also using the lessons of the past mistakes that have been made by others to guide us."

Besides, he said, the IMF today was a totally different institution, having broadened its vision and adopted a more holistic approach to the assistance it offered.

"In the most fundamental ways, this has the potential to be an auspicious partnership," he said.

The lecture, delivered at the Kennedy School of Government at the Institute of Politics at Harvard, was part of the John F. Kennedy Jnr Forum.

His topic was, 'Economic Governance in Unchartered Waters."

Hard costs

The President mentioned the cost associated with the scrapping of subsidies to farmers and opening Ghanaian markets to international competition.

This is happening at the time developed economies such as the United States continue to subsidise their farmers, so currently, US rice imports are the staple in Ghana.

"In 2013 alone, it cost us $467.2 million to import rice; $217.2 million to import sugar; and $234.4 million to import vegetable cooking oil.

And this is a country in the tropics with a comparative advantage for producing these items,” the President said.

Economic situation

In spite of the economic challenges Ghana was going through, the President said the future looked bright.

"This is an exciting time for Ghana. We are in the midst of a transformation, a metamorphosis from a low middle-income country into a full-fledged middle-income nation," he said.

But, in his view, the path being chartered, like all changes, could at times be tough. Nevertheless, with determination, the rough edges would be shaped.

He quoted one of the famous statements of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first President,  “We face neither East nor West; we face forward,” and said although Dr Nkrumah spoke those words about Ghana as a newly liberated nation, the statement accurately described where Ghana found herself today.

Answering a question about advancing decentralisation in Ghana, President Mahama said the government believed in taking power to the people.

That was why the process to amend the Constitution to make the position of District Chief Executive elected was being given all the necessary support.

In an answer to another question as to whether Africa did not have a solution to her own problems,

Mr Mahama stated that in the real world, that was impossible, especially looking at the unfairness in the global marketplace.

The Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Institute of Politics, Professor David T. Ellwood, commended the President for the tremendous efforts to lead Ghana to economic progress.

He said the school was proud to have Mr Mahama speak at the forum, one of the most important events at the Harvard University.

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