Two senior citizens have called on the government to dissolve the Foreign Exchange Development Committee (FX Committee) that was inaugurated on January 13, this year to review the country’s foreign exchange regime, identify constraints and offer workable alternatives that can reduce risks to the economy.
Mr Kwame Pianim, an economist and leading member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), and Mr Ishmael Yamson, a management consultant and former board member of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), told the Daily Graphic in separate interviews yesterday that the dissolution was necessary to ensure that Ghana did not waste time and resources to undertake an exercise that the BoG was already undertaking.
According to them, beyond the fact that the committee was needless, its terms of reference were in conflict with the constitutional mandate of the BoG, which is the statutory body in charge of currency and financial stability in the country.
Mr Pianim, an octogenarian, and Mr Yamson, a septuagenarian, were sharing their views on the FX Committee which a Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr Charles Adu Boahen, inaugurated last week.
The committee is chaired by the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, and has members drawn from key sectors of the economy.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Alan Kyerematen; the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, and the First Deputy Governor of the BoG, Dr Maxwell Opoku-Afari, are among the members of the committee.
It also has some senior staff from some ministries and representatives from the banks, advocacy groups and policy think tanks, forex bureau operators and market traders as members.
According to a document that was released to the media after the inauguration, the members were drawn from all relevant stakeholders involved in FX activities in Ghana.
“Together, they present a pool of vast insights across the real sector and a multi-disciplinary approach to exploring effective ways for the management of Ghana’s FX,” it added.
Structure of committee
Mr Pianim, a former Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), said beyond the committee being needless, the way it was constituted was questionable.
He wondered why Cabinet ministers would be members of a committee that also had chief directors and senior staff of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) as members.
“What type of committee is that?” he asked.
He further posed the question: “The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, is a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank; are you saying that whatever the committee will put together, he cannot think and put it together?”
The economist called for the depoliticisation of exchange rate developments, explaining that the sensitive nature of the issue required that it be left for the technocrats.
Actions, not ideas
Mr Pianim advised the government to “zoom into action”, instead of soliciting ideas in the fourth and final year of its mandate.
With elections due in December this year, the former Head of Research of the NPP said what was needed to win the party votes was action, not big ideas.
“My basic point is that this is the fourth and final year of the government; it is not for big ideas, it is for implementation,” he stated.
“We came into power saying that we were going to transform the economy from a Guggisberg, commodity-based economy to an industrialised, exporting nation with hubs,” he added.
Referring to the NPP’s pledge to establish industrial zones, reduce the cost of power, revamp the railway and road networks and increase food production as some of the key policies that strategic ministries should concern themselves with in the lead up to the elections, Mr Pianim said: “Let us implement them and not look for ideas again. As for the ideas, we have them.”
He also questioned the presence of IMANI Africa, a policy think tank, on the committee, explaining that its status as a civil society organisation required that it critiqued policies and not be involved in the formulation of policies.
Allow BoG function
While admitting that he was yet to read the speech that Mr Adu Boahen read at the inauguration of the committee, Mr Yamson, who is the Chairman of Scancom Ghana Limited, said the committee would not be helpful to the economy, hence the need to dissolve it.
He said he was happy that senior economists and respected people such as Mr Pianim had come out to criticise its formation.
The former Chairman of the University of Ghana Council explained that it was not within the Ministry of Finance to find solutions to monetary issues, which were the preserve of the BoG.
He added that issues to do with the exchange rate, foreign currency management and the general monetary sector of the economy were the responsibilities of the BoG and so it was only proper that any effort to develop the FX market should be championed by the central bank.
“This is a monetary policy issue and we have to be careful that the two institutions do not start fighting each other, instead of focusing on what each of them has to do and do very well,” he said.