Parliament is preparing for a showdown, most likely this week, with three key revenue bills required to be passed for Ghana to secure board-level approval of the US$3 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme as the Finance Minister heads to China to broker a deal.
The Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, the Excise Duty and Excise Tax Stamp (Amendment) Bills, and the Growth and Sustainability Levy Bill have all been on Parliament’s Order Paper for some time now, with little action taken.
The development comes after the NDC instructed its MPs to vote against the three bills required for the IMF programme.
The party is ransoming the support for the bill, demanding that the NPP first allows the Electoral Commission (EC) to include the guarantor system in its proposed Constitutional Instrument.
However, the bills are likely to be attended to later this week, and the outcome of the high-stakes parliamentary squabble over how, and even whether, the bills should be passed is redefining the MPs’ relationship, just as the time for the IMF deal is running out.
For weeks, opposition party MPs and pro-government lawmakers have been at odds over the passage of the bills, with the NDC planning to seize control of parliamentary business from the government to achieve its demand.
They intend to vote against the three key revenue bills in order to derail the IMF deal, which President Akufo-Addo has promised to do in order to help him turn around the economy.
Minister In China
Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta has already left Accra for Addis Ababa, and will then travel to China to meet with Chinese officials about debt restructuring.
China accounts for 34 per cent of Ghana’s total bilateral debts of $5 billion, constituting less than 10 per cent of total indebtedness.
The Minister’s visit to China will focus on continuing discussions with the Central Bank of China and China’s Eximbank on how to cross the debt restructuring line with China, ideally as part of the Paris Club framework, which also includes Russia.
The government is hoping to get China to join the Paris Club creditors’ meetings in the French capital of Paris on Tuesday, 21 March, 2023.
The Chinese who are not members of the Paris Club have been slow to respond.
The meeting will, among other things, discuss Ghana’s debt restructuring, and it is expected to establish an “Official Creditors Committee” on the country within three weeks.
The Paris Club is a group of officials from major creditor countries tasked with finding coordinated and long-term solutions to debtor countries’ payment problems.
The Paris Club creditors provide appropriate debt treatment to a debtor country like Ghana in order for it to implement reforms to stabilize and restore its macroeconomic and financial situation.
Government officials have already met with concerned creditor countries, while the country awaits the Paris Club’s timetable, which holds the majority of the country’s bilateral debts.
The member creditors include Belgium, UK, USA, Japan, Denmark and the Netherlands.
By Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House