For Ghana to move from stabilization to growth there must be the political will and discipline to drive that agenda. These were the underlining themes at a forum organized by the American Chamber of Commerce, Ghana (AmCham) and Ghana Association of Restructuring and Insolvency Advisory (GARIA) to discuss Ghana’s Economy – “Moving from Stabilization to Growth.”
Dr. Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Ghana in his remarks said “while Ghana has been standing still, others were moving on,” and this has caused the nation to fall in most global rankings related to doing business. Dr. Kerali further stated that even though latest statistics have indicates some positive changes in the economy; corruption, delays at the ports and the prolong period of filing and seeking justice at the Courts still makes it unattractive for investors to come into the country.
According to Dr. Kerali, food inflation continues to rise due to the high import of food into the country. This backs fellow panelist, Mr. Ishmael Yamson’s point that government needs to invest more in the agriculture and manufacturing sector to drive real growth of the economy. Even though the economy is projected to grow at 6.8% this year, Mr. Yamson is of the opinion that “the growth that has been projected is going to come from oil and gas and not from agriculture, manufacturing and the areas that create avenues for job.”
He went on to say many governments have talked about moving the economy from stabilization to growth, but that is yet to be achieved because of the lack of political will and discipline to drive that agenda. Mr. Yamson also reiterated that government need to prioritize and clearly define what they want to do and what the private sector can take up.
According to him, it was not prudent for the government to keep financing SOEs that were not making any returns. “It does not make sense to see these SOEs only accumulate debt when there is a sector that can run them effectively and make money for the state through the payment of taxes,” he stated while calling on the government to allow the private sector to take charge of some ailing SOEs.
“Capital sits with the private sector and not the government, hence the need for directions that will enable the private sector to play its role to create jobs and pay more taxes to accelerate the national development agenda,” said Mr. Yamson. He also believes it is not a bad thing for the government to provide the private sector with incentives, since this will only drive them to invest more into the country.
Ms. Ayesha Bedwei, a tax partner at PwC Ghana and co-panelist said the high level of lawlessness and indiscipline has been an impediment on the growth path of the nation. She said for things to change “we must apply the law equally, that’s the only way to ensure discipline in our country.” Ms. Bedwei also said we must apply ourselves better and enforce tax laws which will compel defiant companies to pay their taxes. She also called for the widening of the tax net to increase government’s revenue.
The four year Presidential tenure does not help issues according to Dr. Henry Kerali. He said this system forces ruling government to formulate and implement policies with the primary aim of being re-elected. This he said has to change if the nation wants to drive a growth lead agenda.
Mr. Yamson also expressed concern about how multinationals were accused and seen as companies that only came in to milk the economy at the expense of the country. He said, “When they come, it is our people who sit with them to negotiate the deals and, therefore, when something goes amiss, we need to hold those Ghanaians who lead the negotiations and not the multinationals because they are not charity organisation; they are in to make profit but can’t act until they have an agreement.”
The event which was held at the Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra ended with a Q&A and a feedback session with some members in the audience suggesting that, the public sector need to be made more effective to compliment the works of the private sector.