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IMF warns of possible full-blown financial, economic crises in Ghana

Oct. 5, 2016, 7:50 a.m.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is warning of a full-blown financial crisis for Ghana if aggressive measures are not taken to check government’s rising debts.

The Fund gave the warning in its staff report sent to its Executive Board requesting it pass Ghana’s performance under the third review of the program.

According to the IMF staff, their fears are based on some tight financing conditions facing government as a result of challenges with revenue mobilization, a development that could result in some overruns in the coming weeks, as the election season approaches.

“In the context of a much higher public debt level, a replay of the past spending splurges in election years would greatly heighten the risk of a full-blown economic and financial crisis and undermine Ghana’s development progress."

The staff in its 121-page report noted that even absent such a policy slippage, heightened risk aversion and investor uncertainty as the December 2016 election approaches could yet pose a challenge. It was therefore of the view that, it will be very important for the government to sustain fiscal transparency and be ready to tighten policies aggressively as the situation warrants.

Ghana’s debts

The staff maintained that Ghana’s risk of debt distress remains high under the updated debt sustainability analysis (DSA) with two relevant debt indicators breaching the thresholds under the baseline.

However, end-2015 debt-to-GDP ratio turned out to be smaller than envisaged in the previous DSA due to larger fiscal consolidation, higher nominal GDP, and exchange rate stabilization.

With continued fiscal efforts, prudent debt management, and careful selection of projects to be financed by non-concessional loans, the debt trajectory is now projected to show a more favourable path than before.

Discrepancies with fiscal data

The staff in its report on Ghana were of the view that the inconsistencies in fiscal reporting at the end of 2015, and first half of 2016, was more of timing issues and not indicative of worsening financial position of government

Keeping track with fiscal consolidation plan

The staff was of the view that achieving this target will require enhanced revenue collection and continued strict expenditure control, in particular of the wage bill while containing discretionary spending, and there must also be strong vigilance and efforts to achieve the revised 2016 budget objective
Banking assets continue to decline.

The IMF report continuous to paint a not so good picture of the banking sector when it comes to quality of their assets.

The fund maintained that The non-performing loan ratio increased to 18.8 percent in June 2016 from 11.2 percent a year earlier, reflecting the lagged impact of exchange rate depreciation and disruptions to energy supply, but also loan reclassification by some banks following an Asset Quality Review.

Banks increased provisions in response, from 5.1 to 7.9 percent of gross loans. The ratio of regulatory capital to risk-weighted assets was similar to a year earlier at 16.2 percent, although system profitability declined, with return on equity falling to 23 percent in June from 29 percent a year earlier.

Concerns with Amended Bank of Ghana Act

The staff described as unfortunate development in view of the sufficient credibility that inflation targeting framework has had to date, due to its failure to push ahead with some stick to some key amendments to the Bank of Ghana Act.

This includes one that would reduce central bank financing of government to zero, which did not muster sufficient parliamentary support. According to staff, the government has however promised to correct these shortcomings in 2017.