Minority foils attempt to amend $3bn BoG foreign reserves figure days after $750m loan approval

The Minority in Parliament has foiled an attempt by the Majority to amend portions of the Finance Committee’s report that led to the approval of the $750 million loan on Wednesday.

According to the report, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta had told the Committee that Parliament had to approve the loan agreement urgently.

At the time, his justification was that the country was on the verge of bankruptcy.

To convince the legislators, the Ministry added that the Bank of Ghana was already reeling from the brunt of the financial downturn.

Per the Committee’s report, the Central Bank’s foreign reserves had dwindled from $9 billion to about $3 billion by the close of June 2022.

According to the report of the Finance Committee on the Loan Facility Agreement between government of Ghana and the AfreximBank, “with a monthly demand of over US$600 million, the reserves of the central bank may be exhausted in a few months if urgent steps are not taken to shore up the country’s reserves.”

The loan was subsequently approved as the Minority softened its stance against it on July 20.

The revelation of the remaining foreign reserves triggered a barrage of reactions about the deteriorating state of the country’s finances, which analysts say could even be worse than imagined.

But on Friday, the Chairman of the Committee, Kwaku Kwarteng sought to correct this as an “unfortunate mistake”.

He told Parliament that Ghana’s Gross International Reserves rather declined from $9.70 billion at the close of December 2021 to $7.68 billion at the close of June 2022.

He prayed that the Speaker acknowledges the amendment.

But this was met with a fierce response from the Minority side.

Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak rebutted that the original information was provided by the Finance Minister himself to the Committee.

For this reason, he claims that the Minister lied to the Committee to sway the House into approving the loan agreement.

He was emphatic that “if the Finance Minister comes to the Committee and says things that are inaccurate, the Bank of Ghana has every right to respond and say that ‘no, I have heard that Parliament has been given this informational this is not accurate’.”

“But to come back to this House and tell us will mean that we have to withdraw the approval, because we approved it based on the facts,” he explained.

Ranking Member on the Finance Committee, Cassiel Ato Forson also insisted that “a statement cannot amend the Committee’s report.”

Deputy Minority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin held brief for the Finance Committee Chairman, saying the correction should be admitted in the meantime while efforts are made to verify same.

“Let us look at the substance of his contention before us. And the substance is, these are facts that override and overreach the earlier submissions that he made and he has stated that it is regrettable,” he told the House.

The Minority further argued that the Bank of Ghana is the body responsible for determining the veracity of the figures and not the Finance Ministry.

The House, in conclusion, agreed to shelve the argument until the Finance Minister comes to the House on Monday, July 25 to substantiate the new figures.

Source: myjoyonline.com