The government is confident the country will conclude negotiations and seal a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by December to help stabilise the economy and relieve citizens of the current economic challenges.
The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, said in Accra last Tuesday that the December deadline was President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s expectation and his outfit was working towards realising it.
Addressing some bank executives and the media at an event to sign an agreement between selected financial institutions and the government for the YouStart programme, Mr Ofori-Atta said the President wanted the negotiations to be concluded and a deal secured before the 2023 Budget was laid before Parliament.
He said the timeline was to enable the government to incorporate the expected IMF programmes into the 2023 Budget for onward implementation from next year.
Next year’s budget is due to be presented by November 15.
Speaking about the government’s commitment to revive the economy, Mr Ofori-Atta said now was a crunch time for the government as it raced against time to secure a deal from the IMF.
“As you know, the President wants this thing to be done before the budget and the budget should be done by November 15. So, it is really a crunch time now,” the Finance Minister.
He said a team from the fund was expected in the country from September 26 to 27 for the second round of negotiations after which the discussions will continue in Washington D.C. during this year’s Annual General Meeting of the World Bank and the IMF from October 10 to 16.
The minister said although Zambia took three years to conclude negotiations for its programme, which was announced this September, Ghana was optimistic that it could seal a deal by December.
Ghana opened discussions with the IMF for a programme in July.
Mr Ofori-Atta said, “I think we are determined to do that (secure a deal by December) and we need, as a nation, to move beyond the murmurings and to understand that we can do that.
“It is quite encouraging but also shameful when you hear the IMF Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, saying after meeting the President that we are determined to reach an agreement by the end of the year yet when you listen to our radio, you wonder whether we are friends or enemies of our own country,” he said.
He, however, said that enthusiasm was needed to pull the country out of the current challenges to build a stronger economy that can meet the growing needs of individuals and businesses.
Turning his attention to the YouStart, the Finance Minister said the initiative was the outcome of lessons learned from the covid-19 pandemic.
“Fundamentally, we had to adopt this approach because the pandemic taught us we must re-orient our approach towards structural transformation and react with a clear plan to ‘reap the benefits of our population dividend by building an entrepreneurial state,” he said
“This focus on building our young people’s skills and entrepreneurial ‘instincts’ is an informed one,” Mr Ofori-Atta said.
Mr Ofori-Atta said data showed that about 50 per cent of local employers reported misalignment of or inadequacy of skills in the market, with Mckinsey also reporting that at least 50 per cent of new tertiary institution entrants enrolled in programmes in sectors with little or no growth in the labour market.
He said the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) also suggested that the unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 35 was 19.7 per cent.
“Even for those who are perceived to be working, 50 per cent of them are classified as under-employed.
“These statistics underscore the dire need to resolve this spectre of youth unemployment across our communities.
“Inevitably, this leads us to today’s event, where the Government of Ghana, represented by the Ministry of Finance, will sign an agreement with the Ghana Association of Bankers (GAB) and 13 leading banks for the YouStart Commercial Programme.
“Never in our history has there been a commitment of this size and scale,” he said.
Mr Ofori-Atta was optimistic that the programme would help to strengthen the links between education and job market stakeholders, provide access to finance, skills and markets for young entrepreneurs and grow the capacity of the private sector to create jobs.
“Undoubtedly, we all are responsible for ensuring that YouStart becomes the primary vehicle for creating a million jobs over the next three years,” the minister said.
The Chief Executive Officer of the GAB, Mr John Awuah, said the signing ceremony marked a turning point for the YouStart financing model.
He said the banks and the government had worked tirelessly to put the programme together and expressed the hope that the implementation would be smooth.