President announces measures to curb economic downturn

President Akufo-Addo

The government Sunday announced sweeping measures to curb the rising cost of living, especially fuel and food, to boost the country’s faltering economic growth.

In a televised address to bring the country up to speed on the economy, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo outlined with optimism a raft of new measures, which he said would break the pace of the current economic downturn.

The actions include improvement in revenue collection from the current tax-revenue to GDP ratio of 13 percent to between 18 to 20 percent, review of the reforms in the energy sector, capping of statutory funds, implementation of the exemptions Act and a new property rate regime.

He said the Government would also continue with the policy of 30 percent cut in the salaries of political office holders, including the President, Vice President, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives, and State-owned Enterprises appointees in 2023, as well 30 percent cut in discretionary expenditures of Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

The plan also targets a reduction of total public debt to GDP ratio to some 55 percent by 2028, with the servicing of external debt pegged at not more than 18 per cent of the country’s annual revenue also by 2028.

It would also prioritise imports, and review the management of foreign exchange reserves in relation to imports of products such as rice, poultry, vegetable oil, toothpicks, pasta, fruit juice, bottled water and ceramic tiles, and others.

The President said with intensified government support and that of the banking sector, the above could be manufactured and produced in sufficient quantities in the country.

The measures also seek to sanitise the foreign exchange market to ensure that banks and forex bureaus operate along international best practices, to make the market more resilient against external vulnerabilities.

Those measures were adopted after a cabinet retreat that was necessitated by soaring food prices, steep depreciation of the cedi, and the rising cost of fuel, sparking public outcry for an improved economy.

Following the economic shocks, the government applied for three-billion-dollar support programme from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to enable the country deal with balance of payment, stem the depreciation of the Cedi and generally help stabilise the economy and put it back on a firm trajectory of growth.

President Akufo-Addo in the address stated that the government was working to secure reliable and regular sources of affordable petroleum products for the Ghanaian market.

He said the arrangement, when successful, coupled with a stable currency would halt the escalation of fuel prices and “bring relief to us all.”

The President also called on Ghanaians to patronise goods and produce made in the country to reduce imports, which would subsequently bring down the pressure on the cedi.

“We must work to ensure that the majority of goods in our shops and market places are those we produce and grow here in Ghana. That is why we have to support our farmers and domestic industries, including those created under the 1-District-1-Factory initiative, to help reduce our dependence on imports, and allow us the opportunity to export more and more of our products, and guarantee a stable currency that will present a high level of predictability for citizens and the business community.

“We must, as a matter of urgent national security, reduce our dependence on imported goods, and enhance our self-reliance, as demanded by our overarching goal of creating a Ghana Beyond Aid,” he stressed.

President Akufo-Addo made a passionate appealed to market women and traders to stop the arbitrary increase of prices of foodstuffs and goods for fear of future higher cost.

“I hear from the market queens also that another factor fueling the high prices is the high margins that some traders are slapping on goods for fear of future higher costs. I say to our traders, we are all in this together. Please let us be measured in the margins we seek.

“I have great respect and admiration for the ingenuity and hard work of our traders, especially those that take on the distribution of foodstuffs around the country, and I would hesitate to join in calling them names. I do make a heartfelt appeal that we all keep an eye out for the greater good, and not try to make the utmost profits out of the current difficulties,” he pleaded.

The President also warned that the organs of State would rein in speculators, whose false narratives on social media, predicting a reduction in the interest to be gained on their investments in government bonds and treasury bills,  had led to the further deprecation of the cedi.

“All of us can play a part in helping to strengthen the cedi by having confidence in the currency and avoiding speculation. Let us keep our cedi as the good store of value it is.

“To those who make it a habit of publishing falsehoods, which result in panic in the system, I say to them that the relevant State agencies will act against such persons. ”

“I also want to assure all Ghanaians that no individual or institutional investor, including pension funds, in government treasury bills or instruments will lose their money, as a result of our ongoing IMF negotiations.

“There will be no ‘haircuts’, so I urge all of you to ignore the false rumours, just as, in the banking sector clean-up, government ensured that the 4.6 million depositors affected by the exercise did not lose their deposits,” he assured.

The President urged all to lend support to the reforms that the government would be implementing on the long to short term to put the nation’s economic health on an even keel.

“It is obvious, fellow Ghanaians, that you have a government that cares. We are determined to restore stability to the economy and provide relief. We are all in this together, and I am asking for your support to rescue Ghana from the throes of this economic crisis.

“I believe we can, and we will find the means to achieve these goals, even if the immediate measures we have to take are painful.

“I have total confidence in our ability to work our way out of our current difficulties. We are not afraid of hard work.  We will triumph, as we have triumphed many times before.

“Let us unite, and rally around our Republic, its institutions and its democratic values, and insist that, under God, we will emerge victorious from our current difficulties. For this too shall pass, as the Battle is the Lord’s,” he said.

Source: GNA

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