Oil Goes From Saviour To Curse - As Ghana Loses Control Over Destiny Under Mahama

"Ghana is losing control over its destiny and the nation must wake up”, the opposition New Patriotic Party has warned, with Bloomberg Intelligence adding that the “sinking economy” shows the country has already been hit by the oil curse.

According to the NPP Minority in Parliament, the country risks being plunged into an economic downturn worse than what Greece is currently facing if the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress government does not change its poor economic management characterized mainly by excessive borrowing, unprecedented in the country’s history.

Reacting to the 2015 mid-year budget review presented by Finance Seth Terkper, the Minority Spokesperson on Finance said the opposition party was very worried about the fact the national economy was shrinking in spite of the excessive borrowing by the government.

"Overall GDP in today's oil economy is projected to grow at a slow 3.5 per cent. Without oil, we are expected to grow at 2.3 per cent, which will be the worst in more than 20 years. This backward trajectory is not surprising. Over the past few years, on the back of the oil find, economic growth has been unsatisfactory," Dr Anthony Akoto Osei lamented.

Under the previous Kufuor-led New Patriotic Party government, between 2001 and 2008, economic growth increased from 3.7 per cent to 8.4 per cent, without oil. The situation now is a complete reverse under the Mahama-led NDC government.

Bloomberg Intelligence believes Ghana’s oil discovery/production has already moved away from being “a savior to a curse” for the people.

“When the West African nation shipped its first barrels of crude oil in 2010, then-president John Atta Mills pledged to build new roads and a deep-sea port, expand the power grid and create an aluminum industry,” it recalls in a report authored by Pauline Bax.

“Five years later and Ghana’s economy is sinking. The government was forced to seek an emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund of almost $1 billion, the currency was the worst performer in Africa against the dollar in the first half of the year and power cuts of 24 hours at a time are crippling businesses,” it observes.

It adds: “The promise of an oil windfall led Ghana on a borrowing spree. Feted by donors for its stable democracy in a region known for coups and civil conflict, the West African nation attracted investors hunting for high yields. Spending controls weakened at the same time as gold and cocoa prices fell. Soon Ghana went from being almost debt-free to being downgraded by credit-rating companies.”

The report quotes Philippe de Pontet, Africa director at Eurasia Group, as saying from Washington: “It’s clear that Ghana did fall prey to the oil curse in the sense of the expectation that oil money was going to solve all its problems.”

“Public debt has almost doubled since 2007 to reach 68 percent of gross domestic product. The country may be headed for default in the next few years, Bloomberg Intelligence’s Mark Bohlund has observed.

With this situation, the Minority in Parliament has cautioned the government against plunging the country further into debt, after saddling it with a shrinking economy, with lack of jobs, rising cost of living, total lack of confidence in the economy and a fast depreciating currency.

Dr Akoto Osei Wednesday said the mid-year budget review brought to the fore that economic performance in 2014 was worse than the nation had been led to believe previously.

"Provisional GDP growth was four per cent, as against a target of 7.1 per cent. The agricultural sector grew by 4.6 per cent, against a target of 5.2 per cent; the industrial sector grew by an abysmal 0.8 per cent, against a target of 6.8 per cent, with the services sector growing by only 5.6 per cent, against a target of 7.2 per cent.

“Inflation ended the year at 17 per cent, against a target of 13 per cent, making mockery of the government’s single digit inflation propaganda. Worse still, the current account balance had a deficit of 9.2 per cent of GDP in 2014, not to talk about the budget deficit of 10.2 per cent of GDP, against a target of 8.8 per cent. Last but not least, the cumulative depreciation of the cedi for 2014 was 31. 2 per cent, compared with 14.5 per cent in 2013," he explained.

In short, he said, the macroeconomic targets set in 2014 were all missed, leading to a decline in the economic circumstances of Ghanaians and wondered how that could drive a transformational agenda to build a better Ghana for all.

Dr Akoto Osei charged the Mahama government to get the macroeconomic fundamentals back on track by reducing the budget deficit and lowering inflation.

"The government has to abandon the propaganda and fix the ever-rising lending rates and ever-increasing cost of living. Moreover, the BoG's monetary policy actions should be transparent," he added.

He observed that with the low growth targets set by the government, it would be impossible to create avenues for employment, even though job creation should be a top priority for all governments.

"Ghana's debt stock as of the end of May 2015 stood at GHc90 billion, representing 67.53 per cent of GDP. For a government that inherited a debt of GHc9.5 billion in January 2009, that is 850 per cent of what the NDC inherited from the NPP administration. It is on course to increase the debt it inherited by 10-fold by the end of August,” he stated.

According to Dr Akoto Osei, at Ghana's current debt, each of the 25 million Ghanaians owes GHc3,600. This excludes the $1.5 billion Eurobond transaction recently approved by Parliament.

“This government keeps on competing with the private sector for money domestically. The effect of the crowding out of the private sector is the high interest rates that businesses have to pay for accessing credit. How can businesses expand to create jobs for our unemployed youth?" he asked.

Dr Osei charged the Mahama government to redesign its policies to support stronger economic growth and reduce the chronic high unemployment, while urging the Bank of Ghana to be "up and doing", by employing sound monetary policies to maintain a strong economy.