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28.11.2019 Article

The Shylocks In The Financial Services Sector of Ghana: We Need A Portia Of Belmont To Intervene

By Philip Afeti Korto & Adelaide Setordji
Philip Afeti KortoPhilip Afeti Korto

In the Shakespearean play named as The Merchant of Venice, we are told of how the wicked moneylender called Shylock lends money to Antonio. Antonio borrows the money from Shylock under strict conditionality to help his friend Bassanio marry Portia of Belmont. Unfortunately, Antonio can’t make good his indebtedness to Shylock. As a result, Shylock demands a pound of flesh from Antonio and the pound of flesh must be cut close to Antonio’s heart. In a coup de theatre move, Portia (the wife of Bassanio whose marriage leads to the money lending) shows up as a judge in the case and declares that the anti-Semitic Shylock is entitled to the pound of flesh from Antonio. However, Portia cautions that Shylock must cut the one pound of flesh such that blood will not ooze. It is this judgement that saves Antonio’s life and deprives Shylock of some of his assets under the laws of Venice.

In this article, we will examine the incessant happenings in the banking or financial services sector of Ghana, how Government of Ghana is not intervening as the Solomonic Portia in favour of the Antonios (investors in this case), how the financial institutions are amassing unjust wealth and eventually depriving people of their life time investments. The entire article will sound as lamentations of two citizens and not spectators.

Most often than not, we hear financial management gurus advising laypersons or men of straw that saving is good so we should save. By happenings in the banking or financial services sector of Ghana since the MenzGold saga, which was apparently the climax, saving has by practice become a curse or a crime. One thing has led to another under the watch of the Bank of Ghana (BOG), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and central government itself. Both the seed capital and proceeds in an investment one makes in banking and non-banking financial institutions become a mirage for the investors or depositors. It is as if the investors have become the Moroccan Prince who chooses the golden casket in The Merchant of Venice and rather reaped a portrait of death instead of gold as it glitters to the observer.

The true owners of the financial institutions are just taking cynical advantage of investors or depositors. Managers of the economy and for that matter the financial services sector are virtually doing nothing to cushion these poor investors whose monies are locked up in there. Even as we speak now, MenzGold, GN Bank and Gold Coast Fund Management have not refunded a dime yet. We have equally not forgotten about the fall of UT Bank, Capital Bank as well as El Real Estates and Tikowre Capital. The shocking aspect of it is that some of the owners of these Shylock-like financial institutions are men within the clergy. Naturally, one must run for cover in the church in the face of adversity. Even the clergy are now telling us in the banking crisis in the voice of Ola Rotimi , the author of The Gods Are Not To Blame that if crocodiles eat their young ones, what wouldn’t they do to the eggs of a chicken? Church members are deprived of their investments in the church-owned enterprises. This can be best described as a religious paradox because the church is meant to rescue the perishing and care for the dying. At the same time, the poor church members are asked to emulate father Abraham and pay tithe to their Melchizedek in the same church that swallowed their investments. There is no bigger religion than humanity itself.

Where are the financial management experts in Ghana? I mean those that hold PhDs and all kinds of qualifications who demand that we address them as Professor- Doctor –Doctor. What is the worth of qualifications and titles if they do not help make meaningful impact on society and for that matter save people from losing their lifetime investments? How long must those who invested so much keep dying because of these unfortunate happenings? As if that is not enough, the political leaders are still in the blame game with these serious happenings. Propaganda upon propaganda from the two major political parties. It seems to us that if the Ghanaian electorates are not observant and move away from the prevailing political hypocrisy that has engulfed the nation presently, the politicians will soon convince us that they are the ones who manufacture the atmospheric oxygen we breathe daily.

Just few weeks ago, the SEC had revoked the licenses of some 53 fund management institutions and people who hold investments in those enterprises are in a limbo and have added to the huge number of the MenzGold, GN Bank and Gold Coast Fund Management and similar customers whose monies are locked up.

It is about time that central government acted as Portia of Belmont to prevent the Shylock-like financial institutions from killing investors or depositors who are compelled to give away a pound of their flesh. Enough of those whose pounds of flesh were already cut and they died due to shock of the unfortunate situation.

Leaders of Ghana must act with appreciable results in these trying times for depositors. After all, ensuring the welfare and happiness of the people is the duty of the leader and such a duty must incessantly question the inner conscience of the leader so long as he leads.

In every sector of the economy, there are regulatory bodies that are legally established and authorized to regulate both professionals and professional practices in the stipulated sector. The SEC is one of such regulatory bodies that operates in the financial services sector of Ghana. Established by Act 929 of 2016, SEC is legally mandated to regulate and promote the growth and development of an efficient, fair and transparent securities market in which investors and the integrity of the market are protected. As such, it is required of SEC to act fairly and transparently in the performance of its duties. In the current unjust happenings, where lies the protective power of the SEC in favour of investors or depositors? We think that SEC must move beyond the ongoing validation exercise to ensure that the depositors recover their monies.

It appears that SEC is not acting proactively, fairly and transparently in handling the unfortunate developments with their attendant financial loss to the investors. If indeed the private sector is the engine of economic growth as we often hear, then SEC, Bank of Ghana and Central Government must not take lightly, matters of this nature, which have negative cascading effects on economic growth. We need a Portia of Belmont to save Antonio (depositors) from Shylock’s demand for a pound of flesh. Perhaps SEC must start publishing a weekly league table of a sort to forewarn potential or actual depositors of financial institutions that are not doing well and whose licenses are likely to be revoked.

Investments by depositors are expected to bring blessings or proceeds and not curses or unpleasant results. Even if government intervenes for the depositors to retrieve their seed capital without proceeds, it will serve as a significant relief. Collectively, we must be active citizens under the circumstance and not mere spectators. It looks certain that if the current trajectory of affairs is not handled with care, it may lead to some civil unrest or something unpleasant. This is our foreboding as time grinds without people getting their monies back.

~ Akpe ~

  1. Ms. Adelaide Setordji ([email protected])
  2. Philip Afeti Korto ([email protected]’ )

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."