By Julius K. Satsi, GNA
Accra, July 31, GNA - A national forum on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme has ended with a call on the Government to deepen transparency and accountability through periodic publication of fiscal data with a lag of six weeks.
The participants urged the Government to engage with civil society on issues pertaining to the IMF programme and broader public financial management issues in the best interest of the country.
The forum, organised by the Civil Society Platform, was attended by stakeholders across the country, who recommended regular engagements with CSOs (quarterly meetings to exchange ideas) to provide useful feedback to Government and better the lot of the citizenry.
The forum was on the theme: “Three Years into the IMF-Supported Extended Credit Facility Arrangement: Is the Ghanaian Economy on the Right Path?”
The participants said there was the need to fast track the Passage of the Right to Information Bill (RTI) before the end of year.
The participants emphasised that the Passage of the RTI Bill had unduly delayed hence its passage to enable citizens to demand accountability from public officials for the use of public resources.
“The RTI Bill should have provisions, which mandate Government to provide fiscal data it offers to donors and lenders such as the IMF and World Bank, to citizens as well,” their communiqué said.
The forum also called for an extension of the IMF programme to guarantee its successful completion because the current programme had achieved limited effectiveness with respect to broad programme objectives.
The forum said the IMF Programme was necessary until the Government presented alternative policies or programmes that comprehensively addressed the structural issues identified.
“The fiscal slippages regular with every national election in Ghana makes a compelling case for an extension of the programme, as almost all the programme targets were missed in 2016,” the forum explained.
The forum also called for the institution of legislative measures such as the enactment of a Fiscal Responsibility Law to curb out-of-control spending, especially during elections years.
“The Law must not be observed more in breach than in compliance as is the norm with our country’s many other laws,” the participants said.
The forum also called for a review of the new Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) to manage the operational challenges with its implementation.
“There should be clear time lines for the review process and dialogue spaces to engage non-state actors such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants-Ghana, civil society, academia, on the subject,” the forum said.
The Participants urged the Government to put the interest of the country first (rather than partisan interest) and remain fiscally disciplined throughout its tenure as that was the path to debt sustainability.
They also called on Government to ensure that the limited borrowing space was judiciously utilised by channelling new debt to projects, which were viable and able to generate cash flow to retire the debt.
The communiqué said, “In a private sector-led market-based economy, macroeconomic stability is necessary though not a sufficient requirement because markets do not function well in uncertain environments.”
The participants on urged the Government to direct efforts towards ensuring inclusive broad-based growth than just focusing on traditional economic growth measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“A Clear strategy is needed to ensure that cost of GDP growth is managed to embrace environmental sustainability, green economy, climate change or illegal mining,” the communiqué said.
The participants called for a robust system of targeting beneficiaries of social interventions devoid of political expediency so that needy communities, individuals and institutions were identified and reached.
The forum noted that the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty by the government targeting approach is a module worth emulating, in order that these social interventions will reach their intended end and alleviate poverty.
The forum stated, “In order to make our social interventions efficient and impactful, there is the need to use improved data management systems to track the interventions to minimise the human elements of data manipulation that are often exploited to misappropriate funds meant for beneficiaries.”
The participants said there was the need for a national ownership of important agreements such as the current IMF-Supported Extended Credit Facility arrangement, while the Government must in future take such agreements to Parliament for deliberations and consensus before signing onto it.
They complained about the continued absence of representatives from Government at such important public for a, which sought to objectively look at the trade-offs as well as the ups and downs of the Fund programme.