“The Ghana Beyond Aid for foreign investors should be seen as a strategy to create irreversibility and new policies because it’s going to be a narrative that is shared by the country, and therefore investors are assured of the principles on which we are going to develop, what we call, a ‘WISE’ society.”
Speaking from the Africa Investment Rising Roadshow in New York City, Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, Finance Minister for Ghana, discusses his vision for a new Ghana – Ghana Beyond Aid, which goes hand-in-hand with achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in conversation with Sherah Beckley, Editor of Thomson Reuters Sustainability.
Sherah: Just to kick us off, what is your vision for a new Ghana?
Minister Ken Ofori-Atta: I think it is what’s encapsulated in President Nana Akufo-Addo’s vision of a Ghana Beyond Aid and an Africa Beyond Aid. Essentially, it’s creating a self-confident and prosperous society with opportunities for all. And what we have done with the Ministry of Finance was to come up with the “WISE” society, representing Ghana Beyond Aid.
This means taking into account the entire wealth of society, taking advantage of all our resources and rights so that we bring wealth for an inclusive society. Such that in the construct of the economic development we’ve seen, we’re not going to leave anyone behind. That includes senior housing and education and ensures that the gini coefficient doesn’t get pear-shaped and that there’s a sense of access for everyone. When creating a sustainable society, we cannot continue to develop and ignore environmental issues.
Recently, the President went against galamsey, and that was well-received by the country, which demonstrates that we are not prepared to sacrifice our development for a few pieces of gold, and that’s important.
And finally, a more empowered society. I think without self-confident people, a sense of dignity, or a sense of pride from where they come from, you cannot really develop in a way in which the pride of the country will emerge.
And this really is the vision the President has articulated, which all of us are working to see how best we can use our portfolios to support his agenda.
Sherah: This sets out a robust framework to achieve your goals. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is another framework the world is looking towards achieving collaboratively. We’ve seen that Ghana has done some mapping, could please you tell us a bit more about the SDGs and their importance to the nation’s goals?
Minister Ofori-Atta: Yes, when we look at the SDGs, they do completely overlap with our vision of what a noble government brings to society.
And central to what the SDGs are talking about is people. People who have a partnership in a peaceful society, and who are prosperous, and in the end have a healthy planet that we can work in.
When we begun to map these SDGs on the Ghana Beyond Aid “WISE” principles, we saw how they overlapped.
Simultaneously, the President was also made the co-chair of the imminent Citizens for the SDGs by the UN with the Norwegian Prime Minister, therefore it was important that we looked at the SDGs, and looked at how our budget has been mapped to the 17 goals with each ministry, and see what cascades into supporting the advancement of the SDGs.
So that’s what we’ve done for the first time because it highlights the shortfalls and impacts. We are hoping that this becomes part of the DNA and culture of our budget so we can then have more measurable targets going forward.
So it’s a first little step, I think. And then raising the consciousness and seeing how we can inculcate this in the very fabric of how government does things.
We are really excited about it, and I think if we truly integrate it well, it will ensure that our Ghana Beyond Aid sees that all people and citizens are participating to enhance the human capital, which is really the true wealth of the country, and that at the end of the day, we also contribute to the global partnership and sustainability.
Sherah: And the final question, speaking from the Africa Investment Rising Roadshow, what is your message to the investor community?
Minister Ofori-Atta: Ghana became a member of the G20 – Compact with Africa, which was influenced by Germany as a presidency of the G20 a couple of years ago. It indicates that the world’s resources of savings were almost about 40 trillion, and it’s getting either very low returns, or negative returns, or barely sovereign returns, which are not much.
How do you then strengthen your macro and fiscal consultation such that you create the environment to filter it into the private sector resources, which are more than aid or support to come into your society’s infrastructure buildup?
In the past year, we have been able to create some stability to the macroeconomics of the county and fiscal consultation. We reduced our deficit from 9.3 percent to 5.9 percent. We increased our growth from an anemic 3.7 percent to 8.5 percent. Inflation has come down from 15.4 percent to 10.4 percent. Our primary balance is now at a surplus for the first time in 15 years, which means we are not borrowing to support our borrowing. And our debt to GDP has come down from 73 percent to 69.8 percent and we’re beginning to see a country that has decidedly committed to stability.
The country is now the pillar of stability in terms of peace and democracy and now adding stable macroeconomics to it, it gives a regional platform. Therefore, Ghana should become the entryway to the region, and we should also be able to radiate this type of commitment to good governance, to our neighboring countries.
So I say to foreign investors, this is a country is taking care of the politics to enhance the economics. The Ghana Beyond Aid for foreign investors should be seen as a strategy to create irreversibility and new policies because it’s going to be a narrative that is shared by the country, and therefore investors are assured of the principles on which we are going to develop, what we call, a “WISE” society.