The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, has directed the Business Committee of Parliament to schedule the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to appear before the House to brief members on affairs of the domestic debt exchange programme (DDEP).
Addressing members of Parliament (MPs) at the start of the Third Session of the Eighth Parliament on Tuesday, February 7, 2023, Mr Bagbin said: “The Business Committee, kindly and urgently schedule the Finance Minister to appear before the House to give us a brief on the statement of affairs.”
He gave the directive after some Minority MPs had raised concern after the Vice-Chairman of the Business Committee, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, had presented the business statement for the week.
Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, had told the House that despite the enormous public interest in the ongoing DDEP which the government was pursuing, it has never been included in the business statement.
He recalled how the leadership of Parliament, during recess, had received a petition from the Association of Individual Bondholders and the picketing by bondholders at the Ministry of Finance.
Those developments, he said, had created enormous anxiety, with Ghanaians being concerned about their life savings and investments.
Hon. Ablakwa said although the House had received no briefing or debated the programme, the Ministry of Finance was going ahead to implement it as a conditionality of the IMF programme.
The North Tongu MP also drew the House’s attention to how the Finance Minister, while presenting the 2023 budget, had assured MPs that the details of the DDEP would be announced soon to the public and that the investor community had been engaged.
“Mr Speaker, this engagement has not taken place; MPs have not been engaged and individual bondholders are not being engaged.
“Indeed, the President had, a few days prior to the announcement, assured Ghanaians that bondholders would be exempted, but now all those who were told they would be exempted have been included,” he said.
“The Finance Minister must come and brief us for us to debate and agree on what should be the nature of this DDEP and its full ramifications on the economy and the citizenry,” he added.
Again the MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, said the duty of the Finance Minister was not to simply engage the House.
He said Article 181 (3) of the Constitution and sections 55 and 56 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 were clear that the government was borrowing on behalf of the state.
“Hence the terms and conditions of the borrowing must ordinarily be laid before the House and approved by a resolution of the House.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Finance, Abena Osei-Asare, said in the 2023 budget, the Finance Ministry “sounded and mentioned” that the government was going to come up with a domestic debt exchange policy.
She added that the finance ministry met with the Business Committee of Parliament and had decided to meet the House once it resumes.
“Our brothers on the other side should not muddy the waters and be patient”, she said.
According to the Speaker, this is a very urgent matter particularly dealing with elderly people; if pensioners are picketing at the Finance Ministry, we need to do this as quickly as possible.
The speaker added that both sides of the House had agreed that the Finance Minister be scheduled to come and brief the House on policy statement and some details of the debt arrangement since Parliament was ever prepared to assist the government to get out of that “quagmire”.