Sat, 07 Oct 2023 Feature Article

Should Dr Ernest Addison Apologise?

Should Dr Ernest Addison Apologise?

The main opposition party, National Democratic Congress (NDC) held a demonstration at the Bank of Ghana against the Governor on Tuesday October 3, 2023. The demonstration, dubbed # OccupyBoGProstest called on the Governor and his two deputies to resign for superintending over unprecedented losses at the bank and financing the extravagant lifestyle of the government. In response to the demand for his resignation, the governor in an interview with an international business website, Central Banking, said he is not stepping down, adding that the protest by the NDC was “completely unnecessary.” “The minority in parliament have many channels to channel their grievances in civilised societies, not through demonstrations in the streets as hooligans”. This short article is the analysis of the language used by the governor.

Dr Ernest Kwamina Yedu Addison, the Governor of Bank of Ghana is by all standards a consummate Economist and a Banker and not a politician (from his educational background and career history). It was therefore shocking that in responding to the demand of the opposition party for his resignation, he descended into the political abyss and described the minority in parliament as hooligans.

Why did Dr Addison choose such flamboyant or colourful language at such an international forum and what did he think his fellow central bankers will make of his choice of words?

The response of the Dr Addisson clearly indicates that he has no respect for not only the opposition party but also parliament because he used the words, “the minority in parliament”. First, he refused to receive the petition of the demonstrators before going on air to insult the minority in parliament as hooligans. Of course, I accept that some of the leaders used unprintable language and some demonstrators did misbehave. Though unacceptable, such behaviour is not unusual at demonstrations and the fact that it was political event with the potential for “gbeshie” to possess speakers (according to Ayikoi Otoo’s theory) was not strange.

The second reason is that this is what happens when parliament is weak. There is no doubt that Ghana’s parliament is very weak and unable to hold the Executive arm accountable. In fact, there are reports that the governor has refused or failed to appear before parliament to answer questions on his stewardship. Yet, he has not been sanctioned. To use his own words, in any “civilised society”, where there is a functional democracy with accountability, Dr Addison would have resigned or forced to resign for his failure to appear before parliament but not in Ghana because parliament is weak, ineffective and therefore the governor can call their bluff and go scot free. In fact, his behaviour is nothing but utter contempt for parliament. I do not envisage the Governor of Bank of England failing or refusing to appear before the House of Commons to answer questions on his stewardship and not being sanctioned. He would be charged for contempt of parliament and resign or be sacked.

The third reason for Addison’s behaviour and insulting response is the epitome of the arrogance of the government and its appointees. They have no regards for the public as reflected in their actions and omissions. For example, the governor has violated the Bank of Ghana Act in terms of how much the bank can use to support a government in one financial year, yet he refuses to appear before parliament to explain and answer why the bank under his leadership has not only spent that much in support of the government but also run extraordinary loss.

Personally, I disagree with the demands of the opposition party, NDC for the governor and his two deputies to resign. In fact, I have sympathy for the governor and his two deputies because they do not have full independence to take decisions. The governor is under the control of a powerful finance minister and had no choice but to do as ordered by the finance minister or the president. Therefore, it is wrong for the opposition to demand his head instead of that of the finance minister who has run the economy into a ditch. The governor cannot be made a scapegoat for the economic mismanagement of the government.

What is the way forward in the short-term and long term?

In the short-term, parliament must assert its authority and hold the Executive arm of government accountable. This has not been possible because parliament is too divided not only along political lines but also personal interests first, party second and nation last. Unless all parliamentarians put the national interest first before personal and party interests, parliament will continue to be divided, weak and will be taken for contempt by the Executive. For example, when some NPP MPs demanded the resignation of the finance minister, for personal and party interests, they discontinued their demand. Parliament must eschew personal and party interests and work together in the national interests in order to be effective in holding the executive accountable.

Immediately, the Speaker must order the Governor of Bank of Ghana, Dr Ernest Addison to appear before parliament to account for his stewardship and be ordered to withdraw his disrespectful language and apologise to parliament for insulting the parliament. Both majority and minority should regard the governor’s insult as attack on parliament and not only on the minority.

In the long-term, parliament must work together in a bye-partisan approach through a private member’s bill and pass legislation to strengthen the independence of the central bank and the governor so that future governors can say no to finance ministers and presidents when they ask for bail out that is far above what is legislated.

It’s not too late and I will suggest that Dr Ernest Addison should reflect on his language, withdraw them and apologise before the Speaker hauls him before parliament. The choice of words was not only unfortunate but also his fellow central bankers will take note of his indiscretion. Yes, the demand by the opposition was political but he does not have to descend into the abyss of insulting language. Those who represent Ghana at international levels should learn to use respectful and acceptable language because what they say and how they say them, do say a lot about Ghana and how foreigner see us.

Kofi Ata.