Ghana’s finance minister said on Friday that he was “truly sorry” for the country’s economic difficulties, but defended himself against allegations that he is unqualified for the job.
Kenneth Ofori-Atta faced a parliamentary inquiry into his financial management as the government came under increasing strain and President Nana Akufo-Addo faced mounting criticism for what has become Ghana’s greatest economic crisis.
The government is seeking up to $3 billion in financing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to assist shore up public finances.
It, like the rest of the continent, has been heavily struck by the fallout from the global pandemic and the Ukraine crisis. Despite being a top cocoa and gold producer, Ghana also has oil and gas reserves, but its debt service obligations are significant.
The Ghanaian cedi has fallen by more than 40% this year, putting a pressure on importers of both raw and processed products. In October, consumer inflation reached a 21-year high of 40.4% due to rising import costs.
In this context, Ofori-Atta has faced criticism, with lawmakers from both main political parties demanding for his resignation. Last Monday, parliament established a committee to investigate opposition allegations that he profited off Ghana’s economic troubles through unlawful payments and unethical contracts, among other things.
The minister, however, stated that he was worried about the West African country’s problems and that the claims were unfounded.
“I understand that our economy is struggling and that the people of Ghana are suffering,” he remarked.
“I feel the anguish personally, professionally, and in my soul as the person President Akufo-Addo has put in charge of our economy.”
He also refuted allegations that he misreported economic data to parliament and that his policies were to cause for the cedi’s precipitous collapse. “The available evidence do not support the premise that the cedi’s depreciation is the result of financial risk and recklessness,” Ofori-Atta stated.
The parliamentary committee will investigate the claims against the minister before determining whether to bring a vote of censure before the parliament, which is evenly divided between the ruling NPP and the opposition NDC. The president has the last say on whether or not to fire the minister.
Akufo-Addo removed the government’s junior finance minister, Charles Adu Boahen, earlier this week, on corruption allegations after he appeared in an expose. Protesters also asked for the president’s resignation earlier this month, citing rising food and fuel prices.