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Monday, November 03, 2014
STATEMENT : PRESS LAUNCH OF THE GHANA CIVIL SOCIETY PLATFORM ON THE IMF BAILOUT
STATEMENT READ BY MR JOE WINFUL AT THE PRESS LAUNCH OF THE GHANA CIVIL SOCIETY PLATFORM ON THE IMF BAILOUT AT THE PRESS CENTRE IN ACCRA
Distinguished Members of the Media, Colleague Members of the Platform Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I must thank all of you Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press and our Distinguished Guests for responding to our invitation. My name is Joe Winful. I am the Executive Chairman of the Financial Accountability & Transparency-Africa and the Chairman of the Platform that we are launching today.
In August 2014 the government of Ghana (GOG) requested IMF's support to deal with the country's financial crisis which will culminate in a three year IMF package. Ghana will be going for a full blown three year IMF programme and a GOG Team led by the former Minister of Finance, Dr. Kwesi Botchway has commenced negotiations with the IMF to agree on the details of the IMF bailout. This is in order and appropriate.
However, while conceding that the negotiations must necessarily be between government and the IMF, we will want to stress that the ultimate Agreement will be for the citizens of Ghana and hence the need for broad consultation with citizens during the course of the negotiations.
In the past, when such programmes have been worked out with the IMF, there have been virtually no discussions with Civil Society and therefore no input from Civil Society and other non-state actors. We take the view that this lack of transparency must be avoided this time round.
Although the programme is negotiated by Government, it is essentially a programme between the IMF and the people of Ghana. The success of the programme will be influenced by the extent to which the citizens of Ghana buy into the programme. A transparent process and the ability for Civil Society and Non- State Actors to contribute to the negotiations will facilitate the process to sell the programme to Ghanaians.
This is important because, in the past, Ghanaians have been most apprehensive about and suspicious of IMF programmes. This apparent distrust stems from inadequate information dissemination resulting from a general lack of participation. Citizens must be active participants in such Public Financial Management issues. Transparency and a perceived sense of inclusiveness in such an important programme will benefit both the Government and IMF.
It must be a matter of grave concern to all Ghanaians that the current negotiations are going on without any prior conversation with the people of Ghana represented by civil society and other non-state actors. Not even our representatives in Parliament have been consulted prior to the negotiations to share with the government and the negotiators their views on the key issues to be negotiated. And yet there would be no chance for Parliament to debate and make any changes to the agreement once it is agreed between GOG and the Fund. Clearly the inclusion of 2 or 4 members of the Finance Committee from both sides of the divide on the negotiating team would have been useful.
The Platform has been formed to advocate for the views of citizens to be taken into account in this important agreement with the Fund so that the citizens of Ghana will buy into the Agreement and work towards a successful execution of whatever conditionalities the Agreement imposes on us. In our opinion, it is the only way to make this bailout the last bailout that we will seek as a country.
A National Forum on the IMF
We recognize that on the major issues that will constitute the Agreement with the Fund, Civil Society and other non-state actors have divergent views. For this reason we are negotiating to hire a renowned economist to prepare a Discussion Paper to be discussed by Civil Society and other non-state actors at a National Forum in Accra to agree on common positions to be adopted by Civil Society. This Forum which we have dubbed the National Conversation will take place at the Best Western Hotel in Accra on November 18th.
We further believe that Civil Society should help to monitor the implementation of the Agreement that will be signed by the government. The Platform will therefore put in place a monitoring mechanism to oversight the implementation.
Ladies and Gentlemen the Platform will be known as the Civil Society Platform on the IMF Bailout. The initiative to advocate for civil society inclusiveness in major public financial management issues and in particular the IMF negotiation was mooted by the Financial Accountability & Transparency-Africa, IMANI Center for Policy & Education and Africa Centre for Energy Policy.
We have now been joined by several institutions to form the Platform. These institutions include, Penplusbytes, Ghana Integrity Initiative, Ghana Anti Corruption Coalition, CDD, SEND Ghana, Ghana Institute for Public Policy, OccupyGhana, African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs, Institute of Chartered Accountants, African Centre of Parliamentary Affairs among others.
Expanded Expected Outcomes and Benefits
Our expectations are that through our efforts, we will be able to:
· Increase public interest and discourse on a major issue in the country's public financial management, namely, the IMF bailout.
· Promote public awareness and inclusiveness in the bailout discussions and the fiscal programme. Engage the media, academia, faith based organisations to embark on a sustained campaign to educate Ghanaians on the bailout · Give needed guidance and advice to Government's negotiating team, and
· Obtain a Programme the details of which meet the best interests of the people of Ghana.
Use of ICT Tools and Interventions
To reach as many citizens as possible we intend to deploy relevant ICT tools and interventions: 1. Bulk SMS: -All the necessary information about the IMF bailout will be reduced to easy to comprehend messages that will seek to inform citizens about the conditions of the bail out and how that will shape the country's financial future. This SMS will be interactive such that citizens, based on the information received, can send back their views and opinions with regards to the bailout.
2. Social Media: - We shall also engage citizens particularly on Facebook and Twitter where vibrant discussions will be undertaken and relevant citizens' comments will be collated to inform the final recommendations that will be sent to the Ministry of Finance. The forum will also be carried on line through Google+ hangout where as many citizens can participate in an online forum to raise their awareness about the pertinent issues surrounding the IMF bailout and their views collated. 3. On-line Platform: -There will be an online platform to serve as a one-stop-shop knowledge and resource centre where all information about the bailout will be made available. It will also serve as a citizen based advocacy platform where citizens can send all information pertaining to the bailout via web-forms. It will be incorporated with emailing alerts systems that will enable easy sharing of contents among citizens and CSOs for a collective effort in getting citizens voices heard on the bailout and for a greater impact of the recommendations made by these identified groups and also for citizens and CSOs to make informed contributions to moderated discussions via email.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press at this juncture I would like to share with you our key public message which is premised on increasing the likelihood that this current IMF bailout under negotiations becomes "the bailout that ends all future bailouts," by focusing on three key principles:
1. Make broad consultation with Ghanaian citizens an integral part of the process. A 3-year package under discussion in the context of elections coming up in 2016 should compel GOG and IMF to build broad consensus on the measures being negotiated, and on how to fairly distribute their economic and social impacts. Such process should allow for inputs and discussions with citizens representatives, including: civil society organizations, trade unions, faith based groups, academia, media and parliament.
2. Set transparency and accountability measures that address underlying causes fueling undisciplined public spending. Off-budget and over-budget spending (e.g. for political patronage during election times), corruption and lack of transparency in the management of public finances are the root causes of Ghana having to go for an IMF bailout once more. Nevertheless, the bailout should be seen as an opportunity to strengthen accountability systems of both horizontal (e.g. public finance institutions such as the auditor general and parliament) as well as vertical (e.g. through media and ordinary citizens as watchdogs) institutions involved in public finance oversight.
3. Protect strategic pro-poor and pro-development spending. The burden of a fiscal adjustment should not be placed over the shoulders of the most vulnerable, and already underserved; nor should it be done at the cost of strategic investments on long term development. Measures should avoid further weakening Ghana's health sector (especially in the wake of an Ebola crisis in West Africa); avoid reducing agriculture spending that strengthens the food security and resiliency of rural populations; and avoid diminishing investments in the education of their children, as a pathway out of poverty. Independence
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, it is important to note that the CSO platform on IMF bailout is not established to bash the GOG or to criticize the IMF. Our contribution is to ensure citizens voices and key stakeholders inputs are harness constructively to improve the final IMF deal that is beneficial to Ghana and will minimize the possibility of Ghana going back to IMF in the near future.
The platform is nonpartisan, non-religious and it not a new organisation, however, it is a movement of committed Ghanaians who believe we can leverage the IMF bailout to greater benefit of the country as a whole. At the CSO platform we believe our role is not to serve as marketing department or the mouth piece for the government of Ghana nor the IMF during this negotiation and subsequent negotiation of the bailout and its subsequent implementation. We will serve as a catalyst for a sustained citizen based participatory national dialogue of each step of the IMF bailout for Ghana.
Working together these partners will co-ordinate activities and jointly harness our collective strength to ensure project success. Let me take advantage of this opportunity to call on other interested concerned citizens, CSOs, media, professional bodies to sign up and join the platform to ensure greater and deeper engagement. The platform craves for your maximum support, especially the media, to achieve its objectives and finally improve the living standard of the poor at the end of the bailout programme. I thank you for the opportunity and I thank you all for your attention.
Mr. Joseph Winful is the Executive Chairman of the Financial Accountability & Transparency-Africa and the Chairman of the CSO Platform on IMF. He is a Chartered Management Accountant by profession and recently retired as Senior Partner/CEO of the Ghana Office and an Exco Member and also Board Member of KPMG Africa. Joe was elected Senior Partner of the Ghana firm in 2000 and has oversight responsibilities for Sierra Leone and Liberia.