Dear Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, I have the pleasure to write you this beautiful letter. When I was young, I heard that former president Jerry Rawlings used to receive letters from a category of people called ‘penpals’ and I came to believe presidents are not busy all the time and that they can even have time to write to their penpals. I pray you will find time to read this little love piece.
I followed your progress as a candidate of the NPP from 2008 when you had the most beautiful contest with Alan Kyerematen all the way to 2012 when you lost under very interesting circumstances to then-candidate John Mahama, the court action and your speech on the day of the judgment. I came to love you so much and for a period of aeon. I have been an advocate and a strong believer in the Akufo-Addo vision for Ghana. I knew a vote for you was the safest thing to do at the time.
Today I am writing to let you know that your administration has produced a very large number of criminals in society and their crime is novel. These criminals are investors, people who have trusted the government as a credible borrower and lent it money, and bondholders, who have saved over the years and invested in government security. Their only crime is that they trusted that government would be credible. These criminals are ordinary workers some of whom are on retirement and others are approaching retirement. Some of the new waves of criminals are people who have paid taxes at 30% plus on their earnings and saved for future use.
Mr. President your government in 2018 sought to clean a banking sector that had problems with credibility and spent GH¢28 billion of the taxpayer’s money to embark on an exercise that caused job losses and created many problems with the assurance that investors in the sector could receive their funds in a spate of three years. It has been five years and counting and investors are yet to be fully paid and yet the entire 28 billion has been spent.
Many of the current group of people for whom I write this piece felt we could trust your government with money, and so we invested in GOG bonds and many debt instruments your government issued.
Investment options in our country are very limited and so the GOG instruments became a significant medium for most middle-income earners and workers who had good enough salaries to be able to save.
Today, as part of a debt exchange program, you seek to disrupt the lives of these investors for the second time in the course of your administration. You are promising to pay them their investments within a period of ten to fifteen years without recourse to the purpose for which these groups had invested the money. If you cared to know, many of us who bought the bonds have liabilities to settle within the maturity periods of the bonds and so this proposal renders such plans very out of sync.
For some of us who lost our jobs and invested our severance pay in the bonds with the hope to live on the coupons while we look for jobs, what do you expect us to do in 2023 when you do not intend to pay any coupons at all?
You have always insisted you mean well for this country and that is why even in the face of growing evidence of an unsustainable FSHS, you have paid deaf ears to the calls for review and so you may continue to say you seek to restore macroeconomic stability with this singular IMF deal but have you really considered the full-blown implications of this debt exchange on individual investors? Have you considered the rampaging implications of the 2023 budget on household incomes and what it would mean for a section of the population that will earn nothing even though they hold instruments issued by your government that promised them interest?
You have made us criminals and our crime was a simple trust in your government that it could borrow and pay back its debts. I do believe that aside from the Cathedral that you seek to impose on the taxpayers’ budget you can equally reduce the size of your government and cut down on expenditure, so you do not have to cause the state to use its power to transfer the wealth of its own citizens to itself. The State must be a protector of private investment and not an armed robber who takes away forcefully.
The Debt exchange is in itself not the only way to get debt sustainability and if you have to embark on such a course, at least you can consult and reach a consensus from willing parties. What your government is seeking to do is authoritarian and has no semblance of a democratic trait, a breach of the fundamental human rights of investors, bondholders, and human beings whom your political career has sought to fight for and defend.
Till we connect on the hills to the Royal Village of Kyebi for the weekend, I remain your friend.
Agya Yaw Brefo
Writing from behind the Fiapre Toll Booth, Sunyani