Ghana has hit hard times. There is no denying that fact.
It is sad that the authoritative Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) has not launched a macroeconomic outlook paper since 2003.
This extract from the last CEPA review available to us will strike an eerie chord with many a current observer:
"…Ghana had suffered a severe terms of trade shock in 1999 [this year's balance of payment deficit is ~$780 million], after the original three-year ESAF Arrangement had been agreed. This had been wholly unanticipated by the BWI [Bretton Woods Institutions] Institutions. Moreover, and to compound the balance of payments implications further, there was an intensification of the shock in year 2000. It was characterized by a tripling of crude oil prices to over US$30 per barrel.."
The recent near-doubling of inflation from ~13% to ~21%, between March and August of this year, coming in the wake of the Monetary Policy Committee's decision to raise the prime rate in an apparent bid to manage the "build-up of inflation expectations" throws into perspective the somewhat tongue in the cheek medium-term horizon assessment by the Economist Intelligence Unit that Ghana's Central Bank's policy aims are "competing and partly contradictory', in that the Governor and his
team appear to want to eat their cake and have it. On the one hand, the Bank of Ghana wants to restrain liquidity growth as part of the overriding ambition to confine inflation to the single digit column,
while on the other hand, and at the same time, it seeks to use monetary policy to stimulate growth.
Something may have to give.
Which is why, from our humble perch, we feel obligated to offer this simple tip to Government on saving a bit of money. Every little counts.
We make our suggestion motivated by the feeling that Ghana is beginning to settle into a habit of consistently biting more than her adolescent jaws can handle.
Having three major technology and logistic-driven national projects ongoing at the same time is, in our view, ambitious in good times, but plain overreaching in moments of downturn.
The Government ought to seriously consider merging the National Identification System, the Ghana Interbank Payment System (EZwich) and the evolving National Voter Identification platform (how much are these projects costing anyway?).
With the new KYC (Know Your Customer) directive from the Bank of Ghana having rendered the EZwich virtually compulsory for wide swathes of the population, and the constant protests by its proponents that the EZwich process is independent of the bank account system, relying on the platform's much-touted, biometric security credentials to deliver foolproof national identity management should follow as a matter of course.
Furthermore, EZwich has a well-developed nationwide distribution system through its association with self-interested banks both in the urban and rural settings.
These and many other reasons strongly weaken the justification for running the near-discredited national identity and voter identification exercises alongside the EZwich promotion effort, at least in coming dispensations.
Sure, legal and statutory considerations must be taken into account, and these are likely to differ in all the three contexts being discussed, but we need not be pedantic about these things. The cards themselves may be treated as the property of the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Limited (GhIPPS), but the data platforms can be shared amongst a number of statutory authorities on the basis of nationally legislated protocol.
We ought to be innovative in the way we manage scarce resources, is all we are saying.
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