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Chart Copyright © Africa Confidential 2018
Chart Copyright © Africa Confidential 2018

The debt overhang and over-priced projects threaten the government’s social programmes and industrial policy

As Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta rose to his feet in Parliament on 15 November to deliver his 2019 budget statement, he faced scepticism about his arithmetic from the opposition benches as well as analysts overseas. Ofori-Atta, a banker whose professional instincts clash with some party political imperatives, announced a bold plan for big spending on infrastructure, promised steps towards 'A Stronger Economy for Jobs and Prosperity' and progress towards realising President Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo's celebrated vision of a 'Ghana Beyond Aid'. Although Ghana's foreign aid receipts are declining, mainly because of its newish status as lower-middle income economy, many are unconvinced by the plan to ride a wave of international borrowing towards the firm ground on which it wants to build an industrial hub for West Africa. Not only has the government failed to persuade people that its debt strategy is sustainable, it faces growing questions about the integrity of senior officials in government and their close family members. Horror stories are circulating about slews of deliberately mispriced contracts, mimicking the pattern of the previous government and in some cases surpassing it.

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