Ghana: Pressure on Akufo-Addo to sack Finance Minister Ofori-Atta over hardships

By Kent Mensah
Posted on Wednesday, 26 October 2022 18:40

Kenneth Ofori-Atta, Finance Minister of Ghana at IMF Headquarters in Washington, DC, April 19, 2018. (AFP)

Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo is under immense pressure by his own parliamentarians to sack Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta for poor management of the economy.

The signs have been on the wall for long, but no one anticipated that on Tuesday 25 October, about 80 lawmakers out of 137 of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) in parliament, would dare the president to let his longest-serving head of treasury take an early leave else they will boycott government business.

“We are by this medium communicating our strong desire that the president change the Minister of Finance… without further delay in order to restore hope in the financial sector, and reverse the downward trend in our economy,” the spokesperson of the majority caucus in parliament, Andy Appiah-Kubi, told the media.

Traders in Ghana closed their businesses last week to protest spiraling inflation, which currently stands at 37.2% in September, amidst reports that Ghana’s currency is the worst performing in the world.

Government finances are also at their weakest in years. The cost of living is unbearable, coupled with fears that transport fares will be increased anytime soon in the West African country.

Market confidence low

Market confidence is very low as Ghana initiates talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $3bn deal to help restructure the economy.

Popular Ghanaian satirist Kwaku Sintim-Misa tweeted recently to back calls for Ofori-Atta’s resignation or dismissal, stressing that it is Ghana’s safest bet to restore market confidence.

“…It is obvious the president cannot and will not fire you,” he tweeted. “Please do him and Ghana a favour and respectfully resign for a competent financial manager to take charge. I am sure the financial markets will react positively to the news.”

Ofori-Atta has taken the lead in managing Ghana’s economy since his appointment in 2017, posting a strong macroeconomic performance with all the indicators such as growth, deficit, and inflation among others moving in the right direction.

However, Ghanaians have become frustrated because they have lost confidence in the government to revive the economy, which has been severely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war in the second term of the Akufo-Addo government.

“Ofori-Atta made certain policy mistakes that adversely affected the livelihoods of most Ghanaians. He should have resigned months ago because he has never been in support of Ghana going to the IMF. So, why is he the one leading the negotiations? Another is the introduction of the E-Levy,” Theo Acheampong, political risk analyst and economist, tells The Africa Report.

“People have lost confidence in him when it comes to the financial ecosystem. That is problematic. He should just do the needful,” he adds.

Impeachment process

Meanwhile, the minority in parliament has filed a motion for the impeachment of the softly-spoken minister of finance. As per Ghana’s constitution, the motion requires two-thirds of majority of 183 MPs to force Ofori-Atta out.

“We are faced with a life and death situation as our economy takes a nosedive. For how long are we going to watch on for Ofori-Atta and this government mismanage the economy. Ghanaians are suffering. Enough is enough,” Haruna Iddrisu, the minority leader in parliament, tells The Africa Report.

People have lost confidence in him when it comes to the financial ecosystem. That is problematic. He should just do the needful.”

Iddrisu, who is also the MP for Tamale South, says: “This is long overdue. I pray that our colleagues on the other side will support this impeachment process to get the finance minister out. We shouldn’t fail Ghanaians.”

#KenMustGo campaign

Ghanaians have launched a social media campaign dubbed #KenMustGo to cajole the president to bench his embattled minister, who happens to be his cousin and bankroller prior to assuming power.

Leading the charge is vociferous TV personality Nana Aba Anamoah, who even organised Twitter Spaces on Monday to whip up support for the minister’s dismissal.

“Ken must go. He cannot manage the economy. The cedi has lost its value and we cannot continue to pretend. The president must act now. The market has lost confidence in the finance minister and his team,” Anamoah tells The Africa Report.

In a statement on Tuesday, the national chairman of the governing NPP Stephen Ntim called for calm as the party seeks an “amicable resolution to the impasse” in Parliament.

“The leadership of the party is currently engaging government as well as the parliamentary group, and urges all stakeholders to remain calm as it seeks an amicable resolution. The leadership of the party, herein, reiterates its commitment to engage government on issues of utmost interest and concern to the party, government, and the citizenry,” the statement read in part.

President Akufo-Addo is due to meet with his aggrieved MPs to find solution to their demands, weeks before the 2023 budget will be presented in parliament for approval.

Ken must go. He cannot manage the economy. The cedi has lost its value and we cannot continue to pretend. The president must act now.

It will require a lot of skills to win them back if the president keeps to his recent submission in a radio interview that Ofori-Atta is going nowhere.

But Appiah-Kubi says: “We want the president to act. We can’t watch on unconcerned. If our request is not responded to positively, we’ll not be present for the budget hearing neither will we participate in the debate.”

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