‘Troubled’ GMA tells govt to exempt pension, other related funds from Debt Exchange

The Ghana Medical Association has said it is troubled and alarmed by the negative impact that the Debt Exchange Programme announced by the Finance Minister will have on workers’ pensions in particular and health care delivery in the country.

The association said it is instructive to note that Tier 2 and Tier 3 pensions contributions held and managed by the various pensions schemes, especially public sector pension schemes are very heavily exposed (over 90 /0) to government bonds including ESLA and Daakye bonds.

The cuts in bond interests, no coupon payments for 2023 and the spread of principal repayment as announced will result in significant loss in value of our pensions in real terms over the next 5-15 years and beyond, the GMA said.

It added that with a maximum bond interest of 10% starting from the 3rd year, our investments in government bonds will return a negative real return for every time that inflation goes above 10%. .Though the government aims for a single digit inflation in the medium to long term, historically that has been very difficult to achieve in Ghana even in the best of economic years.

“All these, we believe, will further worsen the already dire situation workers and pensioners will face especially when their meagre pensions have lost significant value owing to the depreciation of the cedi, high inflation amongst others,” a statmeent issued by the GMA on Tuesday December 6 said.

In addition to the afore stated, the GMA  said it is also concerned about the negative effect of the debt exchange programme on Private Health facilities, Private Health Insurance, and Mutual schemes who have invested heavily with Government of Ghana bonds . This we believe will impact negatively on patient care, medication supply and claims management.

READ ALSO:  Twenty-Five robbery suspects arrested - Police

“The GMA, having considered these, rejects the Debt Exchange Programme as announced by the Minister of Finance. We therefore demand as a matter of urgency that government takes immediate steps to completely exempt pension and other related funds (including the GMA Fund who have investments in GOG instruments) and that no ‘haircuts’ should affect the principal and interests of such investments.

“Failure of exempting workers pension funds from ‘haircuts’ or debt restructuring may result in actions that will disrupt the industrial harmony in the country.”

Regarding this programme, Director of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana, Professor Peter Quartey has said that the people have to agree to the terms and conditions of the proposals in the Debt Exchange programme before their funds can be touched.

Professor Quartey said the need should have done roader stakeholder consultation on the Debt Exchange programme prior to its announcement.

Speaking on the Ghana Tonight show with Alfred Ocansey on TV3 Monday December 5, he said “I think in all of these there is the need for consultation or consensus building. It is very critical because you are going to touch people’s funds and certainly, they have to agree to the terms or whatever you want to propose.

“I know that there has been some initial consultations but I don’t think that has been wide enough, that has been deepened enough and therefore, going forward, I think government should consult labour, consult pension fund holders, etc so that there is some consensus building in this because we are in this together, I believe without consultations you cannot move forward.

READ ALSO:  Gov't assures refugees of safety

“We cannot also signed onto an IMF programme if we do not agree to a debt restructuring exercise.”

The Finance Minister explained during the launch of the programme that the objective is to alleviate the debt burden in a most transparent, efficient, and expedited manner.

In this context, by means of an Exchange offer, he said the Government of Ghana has been working hard to minimize the impact of the domestic debt exchange on investors holding government bonds.

“In particular, it does not embed any principal haircut on Eligible Bonds, as we promised. Let me repeat this fact as plainly as I can, in this debt exchange individual holders of domestic bonds are not affected and will not lose the face value of their investments. So let us remove any doubt and discard any speculation that the Government is about to cut your retirement savings or the notional value of your investments.

“That is not the case. As already announced, Treasury Bills are completely exempted, and all holders will be paid the full value of their investments on maturity. There will be NO haircut on the principal of bonds. Individuals who hold bonds will also not be affected at all.

“Our domestic debt operation involves an exchange for new Ghana bonds with a coupon that steps up to 10% as soon as 2025 (with a first interest payment in 2024) and longer average maturity. Existing domestic bonds as of 1st December 2022 will be exchanged for a set of four new bonds maturing in 2027, 2029, 2032 and 2037.”

READ ALSO:  No more Covid-19 burials by us - Environmental officers lay down tools

He further stated that “Predetermined allocation ratio are as follows: 17% for the short bonds, 17% for the intermediate bond, 25% for the medium-term bond and 41% for the long-term bond. The annual coupon on all of these new bonds will be set at 0% in 2023, 5% in 2024 and 10% from 2025 until maturity. Coupon payments will be semi-annual. For emphasis, this domestic debt exchange programme will not affect individual bondholders.

“This domestic debt exchange is part of a more comprehensive agenda to restore debt and financial sustainability. We are also working towards a restructuring of our external indebtedness, which we will announce in due course. This is a key requirement to allow Ghana’s economy to recover as fast as possible from this crisis. This is also a key requirement to secure an IMF support.”

By Laud Nartey|3news.com|Ghana