The nominee for Vice-President of Ghana, Paa Kwesi Bokoe Amissah-Arthur, has concluded his almost three hours encounter with the Appointments Committee of Parliament, with a promise to bring his experience as an economist to bear on his new job, if given approval.
In the main, he anwered questions on the economy, particularly the depreciation of the cedi against the major currencies and interest rates, graduate unemployment, corruption, what he brings to the presidency and his sexuality.
The atmosphere in the august House during the vetting, was cordial and relaxed. In the House to lend Paa Amissah-Arthur support, were his wife Matida and other family members.
Answering a question on what accounted for the high value of the dollar against the cedi, the Governor of the Bank of Ghana blamed the phenomenon largely on the withdrawal of large sums of dollars over the counter.
To stem the tide, he said the Bank of Ghana issued a directive to all banks to place a limit on the amount of money that was withdrawn from the banks.
“People went to banks to withdraw half a million dollars over the counter which should not be encouraged,” he said.
He cited South Africa as an example of a country that had legislation on how much foreign currency could be withdrawn, underlining that for the purposes of guarding against money laundering, it was important for Ghana to take a cue from the South Africa example.
A member of the Appointments Committee, Mrs Akosua Frema Osei-Opare, who is also the MP for Ayawaso West-Wuogon, asked the nominee what accounted for the depreciation of the cedi, to which Paa Amissah-Arthur explained that the cedi's depreciation in 2004 and 2008 were also because they were election years.
“Every election year and this year in particular, have recorded substantial exchange rate depreciation. Also there has been greater danger of fiscal excess and people take pre-emptive measures in such cases,” the nominee said.
Explaining further, what has accounted for the situation, he said there had been a huge increase in imports, thus bringing pressure to bear on the exchange rate.
“When I took office as governor, there were wide variations in interest rates amongst banks. We tried to inform people of this so they would shop for loans but this didn't change the situation so we started a formula we think will result in the reduction of interest rates,” he added.
Touching on the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) which is a programme designed to introduce a single currency in the West Africa Sub-region, Paa Amissah-Arthur identified a problem with the system saying that a monetary union without a fiscal union can create problems.
He said consultants had been engaged to look at designs of the WAMZ policy in order not to create problems for the sub-region.
He said Ghana had done well in especially the last two years, achieving two out of the three main points in attaining the convergence criteria of the WAMZ but cautioned that ECOWAS has to be careful in designing the common currency.
He cited the monetary crisis that had hit members of the euro zone who are grappling with their common currency “so we have to be careful that we don't allow a small nation to create problems for all of us”.
On the payment of judgement debt to Woyome, he denied that the Bank of Ghana received instructions from the late President Atta Mills not to pay. He explained that the Bank of Ghana paid out monies upon the directive of an account holder and once a genuine instruction was issued for the bank to make payment, it did not lie in the bank to question why the money should be paid.
On corruption, Paa Amissah-Arthur was told it had become a major challenge to good governance in the country.
For instance, Mr Joe Osei-Owusu noted that the mode of procurement in the last three years has been sole-sourcing and wanted to know the nominee's take on that.
The nominee said, he was not sure if the assertion was correct. He said, however that it is not good to rely on sole-sourcing as the main mode of purchasing, except in cases of security and others.
Asked, how poised he was to handle security in Ghana since he would automatically chair the Armed Forces and the Police Councils should he receive the nod, Paa Amissah-Arthur explained that the armed forces had competent people who had sworn an
oath to work and believed therefore that his responsibility would not be to interfere in their work.
On publications about his sexuality, Paa Amissah-Arthur said, it is absolutely untrue.
He said there are people who thought that as Governor of the Bank of Ghana, he had access to the vault and therefore, expected him to dole out money.
'I have this former schoolmate who came to me for money and I refused so he decided to go out there and fabricate these false stories about me, ' Paa Amissah-Arthur said.
He said he had never lived in a house with a garage so to claim that I had an affair in a garage was not true, adding that he had refused to pay money to the originator of story and believed that the issue would pass over.