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The financial sector reforms and the return of NAM1: A Citi Business News Review of 2019

This year has witnessed a number of interesting events and happenings that have in one way or the other shaped the local economy. These happenings have largely had an impact on the economies of individuals both positive and negative in some cases.

The year started on quite a sour note for Heritage and Premium banks.

The central bank announced that the two were the latest casualties in the ongoing banking reforms.

Heritage Bank’s majority shareholder Seidu Agongo was adjudged by the BoG as not being fit to promote a bank.

Premium Bank, on the other hand, had fallen foul of a number of regulatory measures forcing the central bank to crack its whip making the two banks the last set of banks to have their licenses revoked.

Following that, the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of Ghana took a decision to slash the policy rate by 100 basis points to 16 percent – a decision which came about as a surprise considering the fact that other indicators pointed to a rate stay.

Following the central bank’s shock decision, portfolio investors started to react by selling off their investment in government securities. This led the local currency to experience a free fall against the US dollar.

In the period that followed the MPC decision of January 28, the cedi within days lost more than 3 percent of its value  — prompting calls for the central bank to intervene by auctioning more dollars to stem the fall. The cedi crossed the 5 cedi mark eventually and has since stayed above that mark.

February

The central bank as part of efforts to arrest the situation announced a raft of measures for the trading of forex. It termed the measures market conduct rules which among other things were geared towards providing the Bank with proper documentation on dollar trading.

While the cedi took a beating from the dollar, the consumer price index or inflation, recorded for the month of January, declined to 9 percent. This was the lowest in the past six years, according to data from the Ghana Statistical Service.

And the big one for the month was the official takeover of ECG by the Power Distribution Services (PDS). The company secured its business operating license that gave it the legal mandate to directly run operations of ECG.

March

Ghana formally completed the 3-year IMF extended credit facility programme whose due date had been extended to make up for some of the missed targets experienced under the previous NDC administration.

Also, the country successfully issued a three-tranch US$3 billion Eurobond with multiple maturity periods.

The three tranches come at a maturity period of seven years with a 7.875 percent coupon rate, 12 years with 8.125 percent coupon rate, and 31 years with an 8.95 percent coupon rate.

And the local currency which had sharply deteriorated by more than 4.3 percent against the US dollar in just the first two months of the year began to see some resurgence in March. The cedi gained some 1.8 percent against the greenback in the process.

April

The Monetary Policy Committee of the central bank met for the second time in 2019, and decided to maintain its rate at 16 percent.

Its initial decision to reduce the rate had caused a fright in foreign portfolio investors; who began to sell off their investment triggering a mass capital flight that led to the sharp depreciation of the cedi.

And Patricia Obo-Nai took over as Chief Executive Officer of Vodafone Ghana from Yolanda Cuba who had served her term as boss of the company.

Patricia Obo-Nai

Another key event in April was government decision to slash the benchmark import values by as much 50 percent in some cases to fulfill the clamor from importers over high import duties. The implementation of the new import values commenced in April.

May

Inflation recorded for April rose marginally to 9.5 percent year-on-year. April’s inflation is an increase over the March figure of 9.3 percent. Despite the slight increase, the year-on-year comparison indicates a drop in the inflation rate from the 9.6 percent recorded in April 2018, to 9.5 percent in April 2019.

The Bank of Ghana announced the license revocation of 347 microfinance companies as well as 39 microcredit institutions.

The revocation of the licences of these institutions, the BoG said, was to get rid of insolvent and dormant institutions that have no reasonable prospects of rehabilitation and have denied depositors access to their deposits, thereby constituting a threat to the stability of the financial system.

June

Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire held a historic meeting in Accra with buyers, processors of cocoa beans from all over the world to discuss proposals of setting a minimum price for the cocoa bean produced by the two countries.

Although a floor price was originally mooted, the two countries eventually settled on a living income differential of US$200 per tonne of cocoa.

Then there was the bizarre story of a man who jumped overboard the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah at the Jubilee Fields operated by Tullow Ghana Limited.

Also, the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission approved a more than 11 percent increment in the electricity tariffs to take effect on July 1, 2019.

ECOWAS Heads of State and Government meeting in Abuja adopted the ECO as the name of the common currency to be used in the sub-region.

The West African leaders endorsed the currency at their 55th Ordinary Session and approved a road map towards the currency’s issuance in January 2020.

There was a roadmap to ensure that all member countries meet three primary criteria for the adoption of the currency.

July

African leaders that attended the 12th African Union Extraordinary Summit in Niamey, Niger, selected Ghana as the host country for the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Ghana beat off competition from Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar and Senegal. The core mandate of the Secretariat will be to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, which has since been ratified by 25-member states.

The Chief Executive Officer of defunct gold dealership company, Menzgold, Nana Appiah Mensah, popularly known as NAM 1, was arrested at the Kotoka International Aiport upon his arrival from the UAE where he had spent six months in police custody due to a criminal case brought against him by a private company in that country.

Another major event was the presentation of the 2019 mid-year budget by the Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta. Some of the highlights include the withdrawal of the controversial luxury vehicle tax and also the 50 percent increase in the Communication Service Tax.

Another story that came out of the blue was the Government’s suspension of its agreement with the Power Distribution Services, reinstating the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) as the power distributor.

According to a release, the decision followed the detection of fundamental and material breaches of PDS’ obligation in the provision of Payment Securities (Demand Guarantees) for the transaction which has been discovered upon further due diligence.

August

The Bank of Ghana revoked the licenses of 23 savings and loans companies and finance houses after they were declared insolvent.

These actions, the central bank said, were taken pursuant to the Banks and Specialised Deposit-Taking Institutions Act, 2016 (Act 930), which requires the Bank of Ghana to revoke the license of a Bank or Specialised Deposit-Taking Institution (SDI) where the Bank of Ghana determines that the institution is insolvent.

Other events of this month saw South African drug manufacturer Adcock Ingram dispose of its shares in local drug company Ayrton Drugs Manufacturing Company after describing the company’s performance as not meeting their expectations.

September

The Institute of Chartered Accountants, Ghana sanctioned three local auditing firms and a foreign one for non-compliance with auditing standards in the collapse of seven banks.

The four auditing firms were fined a total of over GH¢2.2 million. The firms are Deloitte & Touche, PKF Chartered Accountants, J. Mills Lamptey & Co. and Morrison & Associates.

Later in the month, the inflation rate for August came through and stood at 7.8 percent, the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) announced. The figure was recorded after the GSS rebased the reference period to 2018 from 2012. This means that the Ghana Statistical Service has changed the reference period for calculating the inflation rate to 2018 from the previous 2012.

Also, captains of industry, policymakers and other key stakeholders converged on the Kempinski Gold Coast City Hotel in Accra for the much talked about Citi TV/FM Ghana Rising Conference.

The goal of the one-day conference was to fashion out deliberate policies that would allow Ghanaian indigenous businesses to be able to boost their capacities and go beyond the borders of the country.

The Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority Kofi Nti’s retirement was announced to take effect on October 1. In his place, Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah, Commissioner for Domestic Tax Revenue Division (DTRD), became the acting Commissioner-General also responsible for DTRD.

October

The Minister of State in-charge of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Gyiele Nurah disclosed that the cocoa producer price for a ton has been increased to GH¢8,249 while a 64-kilo bag would now be sold at GH¢515 The increment represents an 8 percent for the next crop season.

The first tranche of the US$1.3 billion cocoa syndicated loan signed between Cocobod and some international financial institutions has hit the accounts of the central bank. An amount of US$600 million hit the Bank of Ghana’s accounts with the rest of the funds expected in the coming months.

The state charged William Ato Essien, founder of defunct Capital Bank, together with three others with 26 offenses leading to the collapse of Capital Bank in 2017.

The charge sheet presented to an Accra High Court also included three others: Rev. Fitzgerald Odonkor (former CEO of the Bank), Tetteh Nettey and Kate Quartey-Papafio (CEO, Reroy Cables) who played various roles at the Bank during its operational period.

In another showdown, Communications Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful accused the mobile telecommunications companies of milking consumers over the implementation of the recently increased Communication Service Tax (CST).

Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister of Communications

In a letter written to the National Communication Authority (NCA), the Minister said before the increment in the CST from 6 to 9 percent, telcos were absorbing the tax.

Also, the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the United States of America truncated Ghana’s Power Compact following the decision by the Ghanaian government to terminate the contract of the Power Distribution Services (PDS) over certain fundamental breaches.

A statement issued by the US Embassy said the “United States of America notes this decision [termination of the PDS contract] with regret.

November

The much anticipated clean up of the fund management sector happened when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)  revoked the licences of 53 Fund Management Companies.

The revocation of the licenses of the specified companies became necessary as they have largely failed to return client funds which remain locked up and in a number of cases, they have even folded up their operations.

The Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta later went to Parliament to present the 2020 budget — seeking permission to spend nearly GH¢86 billion on various planned programmes and initiatives.

The amount being sought by Mr. Ofori-Atta represents more than 21 percent of what the government is likely to spend for this year.

Citi FM and Citi TV’s Managing Director Samuel Attah-Mensah, declared himself an Ambassador of Ghana rice in his efforts to boost the fortunes of local farmers. The campaign caught on led to a number of public policy directions including a plan by Government to ban rice importation by 2022.

The Nigeria Union of Traders Association, Ghana, made an appeal to the government of Ghana to intervene in the closure of shops belonging to their members.

Members of Ghana’s main traders’ union, GUTA, have repeatedly locked up shops belonging to foreigners in Kumasi and Accra citing existing laws on retail trade-in Ghana which bars foreigners from operating in that space.

And fresh from the oven were the GH¢100 and GH¢200 notes introduced by the BoG to the country’s currency denomination mix. The Bank also introduced a GH¢2 coin.

Explaining the rationale for these new denominations, the Governor said the face value of the cedi compared to the US dollar over the past 12 years had eroded due to sustained periods of high inflation and depreciation.

December

One of the busiest offices of the Ghana Revenue Authority, GRA, around the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Interchange caught fire.

The early Sunday morning fire, which started in a part of the high-rise building is gradually ravaged through the entire edifice.

Ghana’s largest mobile network operator, MTN Ghana, run into challenges trying to implement the increased CST, which attracted sanctions from the National Communications Authority, NCA.

The company posted on its social media channels, “MTN has experienced some challenges on some of our channels post-implementation of the adjustment of prices and our new data bundles.”

After suspending emergency services for a while in protest against huge debts owed the company, members of the Senior Staff Union of the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo),  staged a demonstration in Accra against the Ministry of Finance and the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) over the company’s huge debts.

The protesters, who massed up at the Black Star Square said the indebtedness of ECG and the Volta Aluminum Company (VALCO) was crippling its operations.

The maiden edition of the two-day Christmas Made In Ghana Fair, hosted by Citi FM and Citi TV, ended on a high note on Sunday, December 15, with both vendors and patrons expressing gratitude to organizers for creating such a rare opportunity ahead of the festive season.

The event, which came off at the Aviation Social Centre in Accra, is part of Citi FM and Citi TV’s drive to promote the consumption of locally manufactured products through a project dubbed, Operation Feed Yourself.

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