Ghana Goes Borrowing, Close to Getting IMF Financial Assistance

Ghana is close to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a fiscal assistance programme and is optimistic that its 2015 budget can take that deal into account, Deputy Finance Minister, Cassiel Ato Forson told Reuters on Thursday.
Forson spoke after a second round of talks with the fund in
Washington. He said a third and decisive round would start in Ghana in the first week of November.
Any deal would help the West African country restore its fiscal
balance amid problems such as quickening inflation, a stubborn budget deficit and a currency that has fallen sharply this year.
President John Mahama says the country also wants an IMF programme to facilitate a deeper transformation of an economy prone to fiscal imbalances because it is driven by the export of raw commodities and widespread imports.
Those fiscal challenges have taken some of the shine off Ghana; a country lauded by investors for its political stability and sustained rapid growth based on exports of gold, oil and cocoa.
“We had a very fruitful engagement with the fund and we are more or less at a convergent point. From this, I can say that we are close to reaching an agreement,” Forson said, adding that the aim was for a three-year programme starting in January.
The IMF, meanwhile, said in a statement it had a “productive dialogue” with Ghana and made progress on identifying economic and policy reforms that could form the basis of a fund-supported programme.
Forson said the programme would include balance of payments support but said it was too early to give a figure.
There was no word on what economists say is the most contentious issue in a putative deal, namely how and to what extent the government will reduce spending on public sector wages.
Ballooning wages were the main cause of a sharp increase in spending in the 2012 election year, which sent the fiscal deficit soaring to 11.8 percent of GDP and contributed to a downgrade of Ghana’s sovereign rating.
Morgan Stanley said in a research note this week that some investors are concerned about the government’s ability to maintain fiscal discipline in the run-up to the next election in 2016.
Ghana’s statistics service on Wednesday trimmed its economic growth forecast for 2014 to 6.9 percent after a slowdown in second-quarter growth and said growth in 2013 stood at 7.6 per cent.
Economists said the projection for 2014 showed that the country’s macroeconomic instability was starting to impact the economy.
The 2014 forecast still puts Ghana well above the IMF forecast for sub-Saharan African growth of 5.1 per cent this year.

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