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Govt must be transparent with economic data -Isaac Adongo

By: Emmanuel Bruce
Isaac Adongo

The Member of Parliament of Bolgatanga Central, Mr Isaac Adongo, has called on the government to be transparent and ethical in the presentation of the state of the economy to Ghanaians and the international community in general.

In an article that commented on the raging debate on data credibility, the MP said evidence abound that the government had been inconsistent in the presentation of the economy to Ghanaians and the IMF.

He said this does not put the country in good light in the international community and the government must, therefore, come clean on it.

He mentioned the fiscal deficit, the gross and net international reserves, the debt stock and the debt-to-GDP ratio as some of the economic indices that had two different figures; the ones presented to Ghanaians and those presented to or released by the IMF,

On the fiscal deficit, he explained that while the fund insisted that the energy sector and the financial sector costs should be added in the calculation of the deficit, the government thought otherwise, hence the reasons for the differences in deficit figures for the 2017/18/19 fiscal years.

He said the government had also been inflating the country’s gross and net international reserves by adding the petroleum funds, which are encumbered, and that is contrary to the internationally-accepted methodology.

“It is obviously clear that Ghana cannot have its own set of reporting standards on international reserves different from the IMF balance of payment manual five (BPM 5), which all countries are enjoined to comply with. A dispute should, therefore, never arise with methodology with IMF because once that happens, foreign investors will not trust that data,” he noted.

He said the disparities in the data presented to Ghanaians and those presented to or released by the IMF were not limited to only fiscal deficits and international reserves, but extended to gross public debt and debt-to-GDP ratio.

“The document released by the IMF in April 2020 contained disparity in public debt too. The IMF report quoted Ghana's nominal GDP at GH¢347 billion and a debt-to-GDP ratio of 61.1 per cent. This gives a public debt of GH¢212 billion. In the government's communications locally, however, the debt stock is quoted at GH¢203 billion, representing a whopping GH¢9 billion difference,” he stated.

Two sets of data on one economy

Mr Adongo, said this was an indication that the government currently had two different sets of data which it choses from depending on the situation and purpose.

He said the government since its assumption of power in 2017, had never compiled and presented full year data on the management of the economy to Parliament as required by law.

“Since 2017, the Finance Minister has been presenting interim data to Parliament. Thus, how our government used three months after the end of 2019 to get full year data for the performance of the economy in that fiscal year for the IMF but never had end of year data for 2018 for Ghanaians – 11 months after 2018 in the 2020 budget – and have still not reported 2017 final year figures to Parliament – after two full years of budget implementation – baffles me.

“It is obvious that but for the need to apply for the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF), Ghanaians would never have known the economic mess we are in,” he stated.

IMF doesn't produce data

Mr Adongo also noted that globally, the IMF works with countries to obtain data on the status of their economies, therefore, the Fund cannot have data on Ghana's economy that does not originate from the government.

“However, since the government sort to suppress its overall balance by excluding the costs of energy sector and financial sector payments and payments to contractors it made through Fidelity Bank, which are contrary to internationally-accepted way of calculating deficits, and reported same to Ghanaians, it could not do same when reporting to the IMF.

“At this moment, it is obvious that the international community will evaluate Ghana not by the data cooked for Ghanaians but by the data that was agreed with and presented to and/or generated by the IMF,” he stated.