Sunday, 22 November 2020

Ghana’s total public debt rises

By Elorm Desewu

Ghana’s  total public debt has continued to balloon further recording GHC273.8 billion or US$48.0 billion representing 71 percent of Gross Domestic Product, (GDP), during the first, nine months of 2020, compared with GHC209 billion or 39 percent of GDP during the same period last year, according to data from the Bank of Ghana, (BoG).

The external component of the debt has risen slightly to US$24.3 billion or GHC138.5 billion representing 35.9 percent of GDP compare with US$20.3 billion which was 30.8 percent of GDP during the same period last year.

The domestic debt component of the total debt has also risen to GHC135.3 billion representing 35.1 percent of GDP compared with GHC101.4billion recorded during the same period last year.

Already, the Institute of Economic Affairs, (IEA), has expressed worry over Ghana’s growing debt which is likely to hit a record high of GHC270 billion, representing 70 percent of Gross Domestic Product, (GDP) by the end of 2020.

According to Dr John Kwabena Kwakye, a Research Fellow at the IEA, the government needs to adopt a comprehensive debt management strategy, including restructuring, refinancing (or re-profiling) and debt buybacks.

The Finance Minister reported that the Ghana’s public debt stood at GH¢ 258.3 billion or 67.0% of GDP at the end of June during the midyear budget presentation to Parliament. “But going by the additional financing estimated for the second-half of the year, the debt level could reach GH¢ 270 billion or about 70% of GDP at the end of 2020.

Borrowing to fill the resource gap is inevitable since it is necessary to save lives, livelihoods and the economy. It is, indeed, a necessary evil—it has to get worse before it gets better” Dr Kwakye said.

According to the medium-term fiscal and economic growth profiles, the debt ratio could stay above the 70% level, deemed to be the sustainability threshold for countries like Ghana, until 2022. The servicing costs of the debt are also going to be substantial. In 2019, debt servicing used up as much as 46% of tax revenue and if this should escalate further, the fiscal space would be considerably narrowed.

“We are happy to note that the Minister recognized the problem of the high cost of debt and indicated that Government is trying to address it under a Medium-Term Debt Management Strategy. This strategy appropriately includes issuances/tap-ins of medium-term and long-term instruments and the refinancing of some maturing T-bills and bonds to reduce vulnerabilities in the debt portfolio. It also involves initiatives to achieve an appropriate financing mix of external and domestic borrowing so as to mitigate the costs and risks. But the bottom line is that if we also take measures to raise more revenue and streamline and rationalise expenditure, as we have been advocating, then we would be able to close the financing gap and reduce borrowing and further debt accumulation, which would ease the debt service burden’ he said.

Half of SSNIT contributors retire on salaries less than GH¢1,000

The Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) has disclosed that, about 50 percent of contributors currently contribute on salaries less than GH¢1,100 a month.


This, according to the Director–General of the Trust, Dr John Ofori-Tenkorang, has contributed to low pension benefits since the computation is done on basic salaries of workers, excluding allowances.


The Trust noted that about 35 percent of SSNIT contributors contribute on salaries of GH¢700 or less while 5 percent of contributors pay contributions on salaries of GH¢5,000 or more. It is 13.5 percent of these salaries that is paid to SSNIT out of which the Trust remits 2.5 percent to the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), leaving only 11 percent to fund pension payment when one retires. The pension workers receive on retirement is simply a reflection of the salaries on which contributions were paid.


“The solution is that employees must bargain well for their basic salaries and ensure their employers pay their contributions” Dr Ofori-Tenkorang said, adding that, “Labour and employers must start having conversations about their SSNIT contribution for a secure future.”


Dr Ofori-Tenkorang maintained that Ghanaian workers are better off under SSNIT than any other pension scheme.

5% increase in tax-to-GDP ratio could fetch Ghana additional US$7.8bn revenue

Adnan Adams Mohammed


ActionAid International has estimated that, a 5-percentage-point increase in the tax-to-GDP ratio would lead to about US$7.8 billion in additional revenue by 2023.


In the new report launched by the international NGO, it indicated that, if government allocates 20 percent of this extra revenue to education, as international benchmarks require, this could increase the sector’s budget by US$1.5 billion, which is almost 60 percent of the 2019 education budget.


ActionAid, in the report further indicated that, Ghana relies on tax revenue as a key source of domestic revenue, but is not currently collecting as much revenue as it could. It said government spending on education has been shown to be progressive due to a high share of public spending on pre-primary, primary, and junior high school education.


“Ghana requires new public funds to meet the sustained costs required to meet SDG4 over the long term. Yet, in a time of increasing fiscal pressures on the budget, this will become ever more difficult. This means raising new revenues has become increasingly important,” the report said.


“It is increasingly important for Ghana to increase taxes, given that debt servicing is sucking away precious revenues,” it said.


Over the period 2007 to 2017, the country did too little to improve its tax-to-GDP ratio. Also, the country reduced reliance on indirect taxes versus direct taxes during the same period, suggesting that the tax system has become increasingly progressive.


According to tax experts, one-fifth of the tax waivers could have provided 10,378 new classrooms or employed 78,254 additional teachers for the country.


While a total of US$500 million tax waivers was granted to the private sector alone in 2018, an additional US$400 million was granted between 2019 and 2020, available data has shown.


The figure covers waivers on customs and import duties, which constitute only a fraction of the total tax incentives granted in a year, excluding those on government institutions or goods.


These were made known in Accra, last week, at the dissemination of the findings of a study conducted between 2018 and 2020 to ascertain how tax incentives are depriving government of the resources needed to improve the quality of education in Ghana.


The study, titled “Tax Incentives. What Tax incentives can do for basic Education in Ghana,” conducted by ActionAid Ghana (AAG) in collaboration with the Tax Justice Coalition-Ghana made some relevant revelations and recommendations that, if implemented will help boost the country’s tax revenue to help cut the excessive borrowing.


Presenting the findings, a Policy Analyst at the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), Mr Bernard Anaba, said the research team thoroughly examined a slew of parliamentary hansards between January 2018 and February 2019 to arrive at the $901 million figure.


He emphasised that the study did not suggest that granting tax incentives to organisations was a bad practice, but sought to highlight the enormous revenue Ghana could rake in if it paid critical attention the current tax exemption regime.


"The findings of the study give a clear reason to government to review the current tax exemption regime because we cannot continue on this path whiles the country records continuous revenue shortfalls at the detriment of the ordinary Ghanaian,” Mr Anaba said.


He called for the passage of the Tax Exemptions Bill “as soon as possible” to help regulate the sector “so that the arbitrary incentives that we give out would be reduced.”


The study also revealed that although Ghana had made significant investments in the education sector, the country had over the years failed to dedicate at least 20 per cent of its national budget allocations to education financing as recommended by the Global Partnerships for Education (GPE).


A comparative analysis of government’s budgetary allocations to the education sector revealed that from 2016 to 2020, the education sector consistently recorded an average shortfall of GH¢4.1 billion, according to the GPE benchmark.


According to Mr Anaba, the practice continued to hamper a total realisation of Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) and Goal Four of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


“Just 20 per cent of the $901 million potential revenues lost to tax incentives could provide extra 950,527 places for pupils in school or more school infrastructure with the potential of 10,378 classrooms for pupils in Ghana,” he said.


The report recommended among others that VAT exemptions “should be more effectively targeted to lower-income households or to sectors that generate positive social or economic externalities.”


It also recommended that all tax exemption applications should be thoroughly scrutinised by the respective authorities to ensure that the right incentives were granted to prevent illicit deals.


Meanwhile, the Country Director of ActionAid Ghana, Sumaila Abdul-Rahman, urged civil society organisations in the country to strengthen citizens’ engagement on the issue and rally the general public for immediate action “against this worrying phenomenon.”


“We need to embark on a citizens-led advocacy. If we continue with business as usual and go to bed after this report, the situation will linger and we will not do our country any good,” he said.


For her part, the Executive Director of International Child Development Programme, Mrs Joyce Larnyoh, appealed to the media to join the advocacy and engage policy makers on the issue.

'You don’t need money to make money' - Dr Kofi Amoah

Chief Executive of Progeny Ventures International, Dr. Kofi Amoah has revealed how you can take advantage of opportunities to make money.


Talking about his life experiences in the United States, he stated, “There are a lot of opportunities in Ghana. I like to create things out of nothing”.


In an interview he said, people always asked him where he would source funds for his dreams and his answer to them was always the same.


“I always told them you don’t need money to make money. If you needed money to make money, then, how did the first person to make money do so”.


He believes one needs ideas and provide services to people, solve problems, share ideas and “make people become a part of what you’re doing. Through that, you can make money and God will also bless you.


He advised his young listeners, “it is always important to know what you need to do, to get to where you want to be”.


Dr Amoah added “young people, try to acquire knowledge and be sincere with yourself and with what you want to do because nobody will do it for you”.

Check the insurance companies you can do business with

 Adnan Adams Mohammed

 The National Insurance Commission (NIC) has announced to the general public the list of all insurance entities that can be trusted for business operations.


NIC, the regulatory and supervisory body of the insurance services sector served the general public with the list of insurance entities in good standing as of October 31, 2020.


The list which in total is one hundred and thirty (130) insurance entities is comprised of; 17 Life Insurance Companies, 23 Non-Life Insurance Companies, 3 Reinsurance Companies and 87 Insurance Brokers and Loss Adjusters.


The National Insurance commission periodically updates the public on insurance entities that are in good standing to do business with.


Read full statement below:




The National Insurance Commission (NIC) which is the regulatory and supervisory body of the insurance services sector with a broad consumer and prudential mandate under Insurance Act 2006(Act 724) wishes to bring to the notice of the general public the list of insurance entities in GOODSTANDING as at October 31, 2020.

The LICENSED one hundred and thirty (130) insurance entities comprise of 17 Life Insurance Companies, 23 Non-Life Insurance Companies, 3 Reinsurance Companies and 87 InsuranceBrokers and Loss Adjusters.

For periodic updates, please visit the Commission’s website:


Life Insurance Companies

The following are Life insurance companies in good standing as at end of October 2020.

1. Allianz Life Insurance Company Limited

2. Donewell Life Insurance Company Limited

3. Exceed Life Assurance Company Limited

4. Enterprise Life Assurance Company Limited

5. First Insurance Company Limited

6. Ghana Union Assurance Life Company Limited

7. Glico Life Insurance Company Limited

8. Hollard Life Assurance Company Limited

9. Metropolitan Life Insurance Ghana Limited

10. miLife Insurance Limited

11. Old Mutual Assurance Ghana Limited

12. Phoenix Life Assurance Company Limited

13. Prudential Life Insurance Ghana

14. Saham Life Insurance Ghana Limited

15. SIC Life Insurance Company Limited

16. StarLife Assurance Company Limited

17. Quality Life Assurance Company Limited


Non - Life Insurance Companies

The following are non-life insurance companies in good standing as at end of October 2020.

1. Activa International Insurance Company Limited

2. Allianz Insurance Company Limited

3. Best Assurance Company Limited

4. Donewell Insurance Company Limited

5. Enterprise Insurance Company Limited

6. Ghana Union Assurance Company Limited

7. Glico General Insurance Company Limited

8. Hollard Insurance Ghana Limited

9. Imperial General Assurance Co. Ltd.

10. Loyalty Insurance Company Limited

11. NSIA Ghana Insurance Company Limited

12. Phoenix Insurance Company Limited

13. Prime Insurance Company Limited

14. Priority Insurance Company

15. Provident Insurance Company Limited

16. Quality Insurance Company Limited

17. Saham Insurance Ghana Limited

18. Serene Insurance Company Limited

19. SIC Insurance Company Limited

20. Star Assurance Company Limited

21. SUNU Assurance Company Limited

22. Vanguard Assurance Company Limited

23. Wapic Insurance Ghana Limited


Reinsurance Companies

The following are Reinsurance companies in good standing as at end of October 2020

1 Ghana Reinsurance Company

2 GN Reinsurance Company

3 Mainstream Reinsurance Company


Insurance Brokers, Reinsurance Brokers and Loss Adjusters

The following are intermediaries in good standing as at end of October 2020

1. All Risks Insurance Brokers Limited

2. AllStar Insurance Brokers Limited

3. Alpha Insurance Brokers Limited

4. AP&L Insurance Brokers Limited

5. Apex Insurance Brokers Limited

6. ARB Insurance Brokers Limited

7. Cardinal Insurance Brokers Limited

8. Claim Insurance Brokers Limited

9. Crown Insurance Brokers Limited

10. Danniads Insurance Brokers Limited

11. Felin Insurance Brokers Limited

12. Functions Management Insurance Brokers Limited

13. GBL Insurance Brokers Limited

14. Goldlink Insurance Brokers Limited

15. Horizon Insurance Brokers Limited

16. Insurance Management Services Limited

17. Insurance Solutions Limited

18. iRisk Insurance Brokers Limited

19. JinG Insurance Brokers Limited

20. K&A Insurance Brokers Limited

21. KAV Insurance Brokers Limited

22. KEK Insurance Brokers Limited

23. Khols and Hols Insurance Brokers Limited

24. Liberty Insurance Brokers Limited

25. Metrix Insurance Brokers Limited

26. Midas Insurance Brokers Limited

27. NDL Insurance Brokers Limited

28. Novelty Insurance Brokers Limited

29. Olea M&G Insurance Brokers Limited

30. Pacific Insurance Brokers Limited

31. Rellius Insurance Brokers Limited

32. Ringfence Insurance Brokers Limited

33. Riscovery Insurance Brokers Limited

34. Risk Partners Insurance Brokers Limited

35. Risk Management & Advisory Services Limited

36. Safeguard Insurance Brokers Limited

37. Safety Insurance Brokers Limited

38. Sealand Insurance Brokers Limited

39. Strategic Insurance Brokers Limited

40. Tri-Star Insurance Brokers Limited

41. Visal Insurance Brokers Limited

42. Westom Insurance Brokers Limited

43. Willis Insurance Brokers Limited

44. Boaitey Insurance Brokers Limited

45. Lordship Insurance Brokers Limited

46. Multinational Insurance Brokers Limited

47. Saviour Insurance Brokers Limited

48. Dezag Insurance Brokers Limited

49. Global Impact Insurance Brokers Limited

50. Allied Insurance Brokers Limited

51. Afro-Asian Reinsurance Broking Company Limited

52. KEK Reinsurance Broking Company Limited

53. Visal Reinsurance Broking Company Limited

54. iRisk Reinsurance Broking Company Limited

55. Worldwide Insurance Brokers Ltd.

56. Oak Insurance Brokers Ltd.

57. Shield Insurance Brokers Ltd.

58. Trans-National Insurance Brokers Ltd.

59. Banbo Insurance Brokers Ltd.

60. Alhet Insurance Brokers Ltd.

61. Arrowclass Insurance Brokers Ltd.

62. Prudent Insurance Brokers Ltd.

63. Trinity Insurance Brokers Ltd.

64. Beulah Insurance Brokers Ltd.

65. Insurance Centre of Excellence Insurance Brokers Ltd.

66. Expertis Insurance Brokers Ltd.

67. Asterisk Insurance Brokers Ltd.

68. Ceris Insurance Brokers Ltd.

69. Supreme Trust Insurance Brokers Ltd.

70. Excel Insurance Brokers Limited

71. Ascoma Ghana Brokers Company Limited

72. Akoto Risk Insurance Brokers Limited

73. First Anchor Insurance Brokers Limited

74. Edward Mensah Wood & Associates Limited

75. Progressive Insurance Brokers Limited

76. Africa Sureties Insurance Advisory Services Ltd.

77. Benefits Insurance Brokers Ltd.

78. Goldstar Insurance Brokers Ltd.

79. Ogyeaman Insurance Brokerage Ltd.

80. Planwell Insurance Brokers Ltd.

81. Resolute Insurance Brokers Ltd.

82. Securisk Insurance Brokers Ltd.

83. Spoton Insurance Brokers Ltd.

84. GG & B Partners Brokerage Limited

85. Titan Insurance Brokers Limited

86. Rudder Insurance Brokers Limited

87. CoverUniversal Insurance Brokers Limited

Gov’t targets 70% private financing for Ghana CARES program

Adnan Adams Mohammed

The Ghana Government has launched the Ghana COVID-19 Alleviation and Revitalization of Enterprise Support (Ghana CARES) initiative to pool together GH¢100 billion in public and private funding to help mitigate the economic challenges brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic.


Government has indicated that, it is seeking to raise at least 70 percent out of the GH¢100 billion from the private sector, and the 30 percent left from public funding and grants.


The programme, which is also known as the “Obaatan Pa” is expected to be rolled-out over the next three years as part of the government’s resolute steps to get the economy back on track.

“We have already signaled that 70 percent of the financing will be sought from the private sector and government will do its utmost to create a more conducive environment for them to invest, create jobs and thrive,” Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta said, last week, at the launch of the initiative. Adding that, “to fully implement this programme, government will need the full engagement of private sector partners, both on the international and domestic market.”


He explained that the Ghana CARES “Obaatan Pa” programme provides a mechanism to consolidate private sector investment into productive sectors of the economy to create a dynamic regional economy for Ghana.


“We will provide the support to build back boldly but smartly, paying greater attention to inclusive growth especially in the areas of health, agriculture, industrial processing and service delivery,” he said.


The Minister noted that government’s comprehensive approach under this programme is focused on saving lives, as well as protecting the poor and vulnerable, whilst ensuring business rebuilding and growth in sustainable ways.


“So, we look forward to establishing a dynamic national enterprise culture of an open economy with flexibility of labour, capital and product markets. An economy characterised by efficiency, social justice, social mobility and prosperity for all; the preferred destination for business and commerce on our beautiful continent with a common African Continental Free Trade Area market and population of 1.2 billion and a GDP of US$2.5 trillion,” Mr. Ofori-Atta said.


Describing the “Obaatan Pa” programme as “ambitious and unprecedented”, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo reiterated that the roll-out of the programme over the next three years is part of the government’s resolute steps to get the economy back on track.


President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo also pledged his commitment to building an all-inclusive Ghana.


“Fellow Ghanaians, I pledged to build a Ghana that works and gives every one of us the opportunity to improve our lives. Over the last 3 years and 10 months, my government has done exactly that. We have stabilized the economy to create the enabling environment for business.


“This three and a half year, two-phased ¢100bn Ghana CARES “Obaatan Pa” Programme is Ghana Beyond Aid in action! We must take advantage of the opportunity the pandemic has afforded us to do things differently.”


Senior Minister Yaw Osafo-Maafo spoke on behalf of the President described the Ghana CARES ‘Obatan Pa’ Programme as Ghana Beyond Aid in action which is expected to turn around the economic fortunes in 2021 at 5.7 percent.

Banks told to go digital to end internal fraud

Adnan Adams Mohammed

The Ghanaian banking and financial sector have been told to double up efforts to implement financial technology modules to improve the banking industry.

This is to position the banking and financial sectors in line with the government’s ongoing digitization program as well as the Bank of Ghana’s financial technology drive to support financial inclusion.

Currently, development shows a clear direction that, the banking industry is steadily moving towards a digital approach to improve service delivery as well as to tackle internal fraud perpetrated by banking staffs. In this direction, the Ghana Institute of Bankers has revealed plans to launch the Ghana Banking Code of Ethics that will help address increasing cases of banking fraud and stealing by staffs.

“The banking landscape is changing from physical service delivery to digital banking platforms with rapid adoption of financial technology. This is broadly in line with the government’s ongoing digitization program as well as the Bank of Ghana’s financial technology drive to support financial inclusion”, Head of Banking Supervision at the Bank of Ghana (BoG), Osei Gyasi explained at the 24th National Banking Conference held in Accra, last week.


He said, “It is a fact that financial technology will be a game-changer in the financial sector and for that matter, banks will have to scale up digital banking to be future-ready,”


Consequently, at a separate event, the President of the Ghana Institute of Bankers has indicated the preparedness of the Institute to soon introduce a working guiding principles and standards of the banking sector to be christened ‘Ghana Banking Code of Ethics’.


“The Ghana Banking Code of Ethics is a collaboration between Bank of Ghana, the Ghana Association of Bankers and the Chartered Institute of Bankers coming together with the endorsement of the government under ACT 991 to further reinforce confidence in the banking sector by way of ensuring ethical behavior by all staff members in the banking sector.” Patricia Sappor explained.


“That is one thing. I think that to a very large extent we have very credible people in the banking industry. As part of what we are doing, we are trying to reinforce the need for integrity, ensuring good corporate governance and integrity in the banking industry.


“And so the code of ethics is going to address all that, and I believe that all those found culpable would be sanctioned in one way or the other.


“So what we are going to do is to reinforce and also educate and create awareness of the importance of ensuring good integrity, having good values wherever you are,” she said.

Businesses recovering from COVID-19 amidst few challenges - survey

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Adnan Adams Mohammed

The second edition of Ghana's COVID-19 Business Tracker Survey has indicated that businesses are recovering from the impact of Coronavirus pandemic lockdown and its attendant’s effects.

The survey, conducted between August-September, revealed that many firms now fully re-opened but continue to report a decline in sales, difficulties in sourcing inputs, and challenges in finding financial resources to cover revenue shortfalls.

Businesses reported an average decline in sales of an estimated 85.5 million Ghana Cedis (51.5 percent), but this is an improvement compared to results from the first round Business Tracker, carried out in May/June, which reported an estimated decline in sales of 115.2 million Ghana Cedis (61percent).

“The COVID-19 Business Tracker is one of the three COVID-19 impact studies being carried out by GSS with nationally representative samples. The results from this second wave of the Business Tracker Survey aim to provide critical information in monitoring the effects of the pandemic on businesses”, noted Professor Samuel Kobina Annim, Government Statistician.


The findings show a decline in sales continuing to impact on employment and the operating model of firms. Despite improvements over the first-round results, the latest results indicate the COVID-19 shocks forced many firms to continue to cut costs by reducing staff hours, wages, and in some cases laying off workers.

 About 297, 088 estimated workers had their wages reduced in August-September, whilst 230,361 estimated workers had reductions in their working hours, with 11,986 estimated employees being laid-off. Though the number of workers affected has reduced compared to findings in May/June, (where 770,124 had their wages reduced, 297,088 workers had reduced working hours and 41,952 workers were laid-off), the results show the pandemic continues to negatively impact on labour.


Cash Flow problems persist, with 7 out of 10 firms (70% from 76% in the first tracker) reporting a deterioration in their cash flows, an indication of continuing weakness.


“The findings indicate that there have been some improvements, but Ghanaian businesses continue to be affected by the pandemic in various ways. Through our current initiatives to support businesses, we will continue to work with all partners to support the Government's efforts to help businesses to fully recover from the pandemic”, said Silke Hollander, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP in Ghana.


In terms of digital uptake, about half of the firms increased the use of mobile money as against 38 percent in May/June. However, the share of business establishments that have adopted or increased the use of the internet for sales fell marginally from 9 percent in May-June to 8 percent in August-September. This calls for policies and business development services to facilitate technological upgrading, including the use of digital technologies to support firms adjust to the “new” normal to increase productivity.


“Even though the survey shows some improvements, Ghana’s private sector remains deeply affected by COVID-19. The World Bank will continue to work with the Government of Ghana to mitigate negative impacts, but also to create pathways for long-term recovery and economic growth to make the economy more resilient to shocks such as COVID-19,” said Pierre Laporte, World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.


The survey shows that firms which benefited from Government support almost tripled, compared to the first-round results, with currently 9 percent of firms (up from 3 percent in the first-round survey). Many firms continue to indicate that they were not aware of support programs, suggesting the need for increased awareness and clarity on the guidelines and requirements of current programs.


Moreover, trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to start in January 2021, and this second round survey enquired about the businesses’ knowledge and perspectives of the AfCFTA. Only a quarter of firms (26.2 percent) report that they are aware of the AfCFTA.


“Let’s leverage the fact that Ghana is hosting the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area to explore how best to enable businesses to benefit from the agreement”, added Ms Hollander.


The results of the survey suggest that policies are needed to support firms both in the short- and medium-terms. The continued decrease in demand, as well as difficulties in financing cash shortfalls, but many firms in a difficult position. Firms continue to report that measures that aim at improving liquidity (subsidized interest rates, cash transfers and deferral of payments) are the most desired policies.


In the medium and longer-term, steps should be taken with policies that support the private sector in the recovery stage from the pandemic, and with credit guarantee schemes for those accessing finance, assistance with input procurement, and trade facilitation.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Botched Agyapa Deal: CSOs, Minority and others deserve national commendation

Dr Steve Manteaw, addressing journalist
on behalf of Alliance of CSOs. Credit Joynews 

By Adnan Adams Mohammed

Once again, collective action by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and advocacy efforts by other national and international voices have saved the nation from a well-planned 'state capture'. 

But for the timely intervention of civil society, the Agyapa gold royalties’ deal would have occasioned a situation where millions of dollars accruing from Ghana’s gold royalties would have ended in the hands of a few powerful political elites and private individuals to the disadvantage of the ordinary Ghanaian citizens. This has been the pre-occupation of the Alliance of CSOs working on Extractives, Anticorruption and Good governance and its partners.

The Alliance of CSOs made up of a 25-member coalition of CSOs and policy think-tanks united against the Agyapa deal in its current structure. On Wednesday, November 11, 2020, the Alliance released a press statement in response to the Office of the Special prosecutor’s corruption risk assessment report on the controversial Agyapa gold royalties’ deal.

At the press conference held at the Mensvic Hotel in response to the OSP's report and subsequent comments by the President and the Finance Minister, the Alliance called for "the entire set of Agyapa transactions to be rolled back and the transaction agreements abrogated."

The Alliance believe "Parliament cannot repair the defects." This position of the Alliance appears to be informed by several expert analysis of the subject matter by member institutions of the Alliance, as well as international non-governmental organizations like the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).

In a recent blog on Agyapa, NRGI analyzed the risks and rewards in the Agyapa deal, proffering eight useful points for consideration by government and civil society actors in shaping the Agyapa deal to the best interest of the people of Ghana.    

The Alliance has in the past released two press statements, generally calling for the deal to be halted to allow for broader national consensus. The Alliance’s two earlier press releases and follow-up advocacy work attracted international attention – including the international media, foreign missions and the investor community.

The strong national advocacy of the Alliance of CSOs moved the Ministry of Finance to temporarily halt the implementation of the deal in September to give room to meet the CSOs after their first series of press conferences and engagement which had even scheduled a second press conference the very day, the Ministry of Finance invited the CSOs for a meeting, which was against the ministry's initial posturing of 'not ready to listen to anyone syndrome'.

It was also the Alliance’s work that occasioned the Office of Special Prosecutor (OSP) to invoke its statutory powers to halt the deal to allow space for 'corruption risk assessment, the report of which assessment is what the Alliance now seeks to respond to. The underlying philosophy of the Alliance’s campaign has been to ensure a good Agyapa and other extractives sector deals that would ultimately benefit the people of Ghana.

Martin Amidu, Special Prosecutor

The OSP's report on Agyapa released a fortnight ago highlighted serious irregularities with the deal, transactions that pose a high risk of corruption, and transactions that plainly breach the Public Procurement and Financial Management Acts. In this report, Martin Amidu, the Special Prosecutor reveals a “stinky, rotten and a well-calculated attempt of state capture, breach of procurements regulations, conflict of interest, abuse of public office by the Finance Minister to benefit his private company, cronyism advantage among others”.

Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta and Gabby Otchere Darko

The release of the 'damning and indicting' report against the Finance Minister, Majority in Parliament, Office of the President, private companies and individuals like Gabby Otchere Darko's law firm pushed the President of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo to direct the deal to be halted temporarily and the transaction documents constituting the deal relayed in Parliament for broader deliberation and consensus-building. The president additionally requested Parliament to reconsider the deal only after the December 2020 elections.

But, Many feel the President’s statement is inappropriate and inundated with bad motive such that, in the event that, the President and his party NPP wins the elections for his second and last term, then they might revisit the implementation of the deal in its exact same structure. The largest minority party in Parliament, the NDC, has indicated they would completely abandon the deal if they win the December elections. 



The opposition NDC, yesterday, held a press conference in Accra addressed by their General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, who called on the government to retrieve all monies 'already wrongly' paid some entities and individuals within a two-weeks ultimatum, failure of which of the party together with other stakeholders organized a big demonstration in the first week of December, 2020.


Hon Asiedu Nketia retorted that, "the OSP has found, that the Mandate Agreement under which billions of cedis have been paid to companies like Databank, which is owned by the President’s cousin and Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta; African Legal Associates, which is owned by another cousin of President Akufo Addo, Gabby Otchere Darko and their foreign partners, are illegal and therefore null and void." He then posited that, "What Ghanaians must be interested in at this stage, are the steps the Akufo Addo government is taking to retrieve the illegal payments that they have made to these companies. This is because, you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand. If the agreements under which these companies were made are null and void, then so are the payments made thereto, hence must be refunded to the State."


"The Corruption Risk Assessment conducted on the “Agyapa” scandal by the Special Prosecutor confirms our long-held position that the whole Agyapa deal is daylight robbery. As found by the OSP, the transaction processes and Mandate Agreement violated the Public Procurement Act, the Financial Management Act, and the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, hence null and void. As a matter of fact, the processes leading to the transaction agreements and Mandate Agreement were shady, opaque and fraught with procurement rigging, stonewalling, fraud, statutory and constitutional breaches. The valuation of our gold royalties and transaction agreements that President Akufo Addo and his corrupt New Patriotic Party approved was a ripoff and an affront to the sovereignty of our dear nation", the NDC General Secretary read.


Mr Benjamin Boakye, Executive Director of ACEP, a key member in the coordination of the Alliance of CSOs, in his remark on the efforts of the CSOs so far intimated that, he is glad the OSP's report has vindicated their main objective for the collective actions of the CSOs, which was calling on the government to allow further consultations to ensure transparency and amend some parts of the fiscal terms in the deal.




Saturday, 7 November 2020

GalamStop: Dr Aubyn says gov’t rushed with implementation plan

Former Chief Executive of the Minerals Commission and the Chamber of Mines, Dr Tony Aubyn, has faulted the government for halting the activities of all small scale mining as it mounted a campaign against illegal mining (galamsey).


According to Dr Tony Aubyn, the fight against galamsey has negatively impacted responsible small scale mining which contributes significantly to gold production in the country vis-à-vis tax revenue.


Small scale miners constitute about 30 percent of players in the mining industry and Dr Aubyn believes the government could have had a better approach to the galamsey fight.


Speaking to Joy Business, the former Minerals Commission boss described government’s illegal mining fight as rushed.


“So I think that there were some concerns, significant concerns about the impact of mining and of course the influx of Chinese into our system. So, I think that raised an alarmist concern.


But I think we shouldn’t have rushed into it. Iit’s like a madman coming to you in the bathroom, taking your towel and you run towards him to collect your towel, you know…you go with everything out. That’s a mistake I believe shouldn’t have happened especially because in 2013 there was an attempt by the then government to use force to stop illegal mining,” he said.


The issue of the ban on small scale mining and ‘galamsey’ has taken center stage in this year’s electioneering campaign.


Ghana is recognised today as the second-largest gold producer in Africa.


It is the undisputed mining hub of West Africa and is dominated by two main gold mining sectors: the large scale mining sector (LSM) and small-scale or artisanal small-scale mining (SSM/ASM).


Within the small-scale gold mining sector is “galamsey”, a local term used in Ghana for illegal or unregulated gold mining operations.


Illegal gold mining operations are criticised heavily throughout Ghana due to their detrimental environmental effects, which many believe outweigh any possible economic and cultural justifications.


The general public, the media, and academia have raised serious concerns about the negative effects of galamsey operations and have called for its abolishment, and the restoration of the many abandoned mining sites and spoils.

Economist chides gov’t for blaming high debt burden on previous government

The Dean of the Business School at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) has asked the current government not to blame the current high debt burden on the previous administration.

Professor John Gatsi explained that, the nature of Ghana’s debts is such that some instruments have a maturity period of 3-30 years which means interest will be paid or is being paid on the loans over the years as the principal payment is made only at the maturity of a specific debt contract.

It is therefore false to say NPP government’s high debt is because loans were taken to pay NDC’s debt.

“What is rather true is that debts of shorter duration, say 3 years, contracted in 2015 should have been paid in full by now just as the NDC set up the sinking fund to retire maturing debts during the NPP’s regime, especially the $750m Eurobond issued by the then NPP government in 2007 and was fully amortized in April 2017.


“From the above, it should be clear that current governments will always pay part of the debt acquired by previous governments including servicing interests on previous debts. All these obligations should inform the debt management strategy of a government. No government, even if it serves two terms can claim to have solely paid the debts acquired by the previous governments.


“That would be an uninformed position to propagate. Between 2009 and 2016, the NDC could not have finished paying all the debt obligations that crystallized from President Kuffour or Rawlings’ era though the Mahama administration was smart and forward-looking to have established the sinking fund to pay off the 2007 Eurobond,” he said in a statement.

TOR's prolonged crisis: who to be blamed; management or political interference?

 Adnan Adams Mohammed

The Tema Oil Refinery Limited (TOR) is experiencing uneasiness within its corporate governance structure as workers are accusing the board of directors for their poor performance resulting in the refinery’s increasing debt and operational inefficiencies. 

Last week, the unionized staff of the nation’s only refinery registered their dissatisfaction at the performance of the current Board through a picketing. In a statement co-signed by Mr Bright Adongo, Chairman of the Union of Industry, Commerce and Finance Workers (UNICOF) and Maame Serwa Duncan Williams, Chairperson of the General Transport, Petroleum and Chemical Workers' Union (GTPCWU), the unionized staff said the failure of the Board in directing proper management of the refinery has resulted in a lot of debt and inefficiency.

The statement pointed out that “for the first time, the Board and Management could not assure workers of future prospects of revenue inflows”, adding that: “Retirees’ end-of-service benefit payments continue to be in default”.

TOR is “owing everywhere and adding on to the debt”, the workers claimed, adding that, “Nothing has been done” about TOR’s “long-standing indebtedness” to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), and the Ghana Water Company Limited.”

Some energy experts have blamed the over decade long inefficiency and debt-ridden TOR on the excessive political interference in its operations including the appointment of the Board members whom mostly assume duty just to serve the political interest of the politicians. 

Among the experts is Dr Steve Manteaw, who have consistently called for depoliticising of the affairs of TOR, "the nation will only want TOR to serve its intended purpose efficiently and professionally."  

But, management of TOR has described as unfortunate and unsubstantiated calls by workers’ Unions of the Refinery for the removal of its Board of Directors for making no significant contribution to the company.


In a press statement signed by Dr Kingsley Antwi-Bosiako, Corporate and Public Affairs Manager of TOR, said the agitation “was occasioned by Management’s request to defer the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations to 2021, due to the harsh economic impact of COVID-19 on TOR‘s finances in 2020.


"The Union and Management of TOR meet every three years to negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement that sets out salary and benefits for the next three years”.


Clarifying some concerns raised by the unions, Management indicated that between 2013 and 2017, the financial accounts of TOR had not been audited, adding that the refinery had outstanding debts of around US$345 million, and also about GHS1.05 billion owed to third parties, traders, and financial institutions.


“Statutory liabilities owed GRA and SSNIT as well as Utility companies and others amounted to GHS84.4 Million. In addition, about GHS11.8 Million staff related liabilities were outstanding as at December 31, 2016”, it stated, adding, “It is not surprising that the TOR’s books had not been Audited since 2009”.


Management indicated that it was instructive to note that when the current Board was constituted in 2017, they discovered that TOR had missed three cycles of critical Turnaround Maintenance, which had not been carried out since 2009.


According to the statement, the neglect of critical maintenance prior to the constitution of the current Board had resulted in a deteriorated refinery plant which was characterized by frequent shutdowns, inefficient operations and an unsafe working environment for the cherished staff of TOR.


“It is therefore also unfortunate, that prior to the appointment of the current Board, one of the refinery’s two crude heaters (Furnace) exploded. This effectively reduced the refinery’s processing capacity from the nameplate capacity of 45,000 barrels Per Stream Day (BPSD) to about 25,000 BPSD.


The reduced processing capacity led to its attendant reduction in revenues since it rendered the refinery only capable of processing at half of its design capacity”.


On the progress made by the current Board, Management stated that the efforts by the Current Board had led to the payment of TOR’s outstanding GHS1 Billion debt accrued between 2009 and 2016.


“The payment was made by the current Nana Akufo-Addo Government as part of support to TOR. A further US$67million of the debt carried over from 2009 to 2016 has also been paid by the Government. The Board and Management of TOR continue their efforts to clear the debts that were left”.


Apparently, the workers bemoaned that “For the first time, Provident Fund payment is always in default.”


They listed a number more of concerns including the fact that, some state-owned institutions got some financial relief, as a result of the COVID-19 [pandemic], but the Board of TOR could not secure a similar deal for us. No new project or initiative has been undertaken since coming into office.


The unions said the Board, as eminent as its members are “failed to secure partnership from several investors who had expressed interest in expanding the refinery capacity between 100,000 to 150,000 BPSD. And also, have not been able to exert its influence on NPA, in order to collect already-received money paid by all Ghanaians to be used for recapitalizing aspects of TOR”.


“We are calling on government to dissolve the Board because, as far as we are concerned, the Board has failed us, as the co-chair said earlier. The Board has failed us from the beginning to an end. They have been here for four years and they cannot boast of anything, so, the government should dissolve the Board. That is what we are asking for, and when the management also misbehaves, they will follow them. No production is going on. Nothing is going on as we speak”, Duncan Williams said during the picketing. 

Economist worried over Ghana’s 2021 Eurobond issuance… predicts higher yields


 Adnan Adams Mohammed

An economist has expressed serious reservations over Ghana’s intent to raise US$3 billion Eurobonds for the first quarter of 2021 fiscal period as he predicts investors might demand higher yields.

The economist believes, the recent cautions from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank over Ghana’s rising debt levels which is estimated to hit over 75 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), could be a major risk factor for investors to bank on to demand higher yields.

Parliament, last week, approved the government’s budget for first quarter of 2021 which included plans to raise US$3billion from Eurobonds to cushion up expected revenues to finance planned expenditures. The Minority in Parliament raised concerns over the impact of the Eurobond issuance on the country’s debt stock when the request for approval was tabled on the floor of Parliament.


“Borrowing on the heels of the IMF sounding a caution on your debt level will lead to higher interest rates,” Dr. Lord Mensah, a lecturer at University of Ghana has said in an interview last week.


He advised that, government should instead cut capital expenditure, strengthen the fiscal rules, phase out off-budget operations and improve domestic revenue performance.


“If your revenue performance is low, you cut expenditure to ensure a balance. You don’t go about borrowing to finance capital expenditure to increase the fiscal deficit,” the University of Ghana Business School lecturer said.


The IMF had projected Ghana’s debt-to-GDP to end the year at 76.7 percent in its Regional Economic Outlook for sub-Saharan Africa released on October 23.


The rising debt levels coupled with low revenue performance and sluggish economic growth induced by the Covid-19 pandemic will feature prominently in investor considerations when the government holds the roadshow for the bond early next year.


The country’s debt level rose to 68.3 percent of GDP (GH¢263bn) at the end of July 2020, figures released by the Bank of Ghana on September 28 showed.


In February this year, Ghana raised the longest-dated Eurobond in sub-Saharan Africa as part of an auction that raised $3bn and attracted bids exceeding $14bn.


The country sold $1.25bn in debt with an average life of seven years and a coupon of 6.375 percent, $1bn in 15-year bonds with a coupon of 7.875 percent, and a record $750m debt with an average maturity of 41 years and a coupon of 8.875 percent.

Govt rolled-over maturing T’Bills to raise over GHC2bn

  Adnan Adams Mohammed

Government of Ghana has rolled-over maturing cedi-denominated two-year treasury notes (T-Bills) as it expects to raise about GHC2.7 billion for the last two months of the year.

The Bank of Ghana, last week, opened the order book to resident and non-resident investors interested in rolling-over their 2years T-Bills. This followed the release of the initial pricing guidance for the issuance of the notes, which will mature in 2022.

An amount of GH¢1.5billion was expected to be raised in November, and a further GH¢1.2billion expected to be raised in December as per the government’s debt issuance calendar for the last quarter.


In total, the government is aiming to raise GH¢22.2bn from domestic debt issuance in the last quarter, of which GH¢19.7bn will be used to roll over maturing issues.


The notes were issued through Absa, Databank, Stanbic, Fidelity Bank and IC Securities acting as book runners for government.


According to the government, its 2020 debt strategy focuses on an appropriate financing mix to mitigate costs and risks, and to achieve the desired composition of the public debt portfolio with respect to borrowing from external and domestic sources.


The financing strategy proposes issuances of government securities on the domestic market to create cash buffers on top of the programmed net domestic financing of the budget deficit.


The strategy states that government will issue or re-open medium- to long-term instruments (2-year, 3-year, 5-year, 7-year, 10-year, 15-year, and 20-year bonds) and refinance some of the maturing Treasury bills and bonds.


The strategy also plans to issue marketable and non-marketable debt against possible contingent liabilities arising from the financial and energy sectors in 2020.

Islamic Finance: an Alternative for Government Financing

Adnan Adams Mohammed

Prof. John Gatsi in his unrelenting advocacy has indicated that the desire to introduce Islamic banking in Ghana is closer as stakeholders have gained enhanced knowledge about alternative banking. 

He explained that as the Banks and Specialized Deposit-Taking Institutions Act, 2016 (Act 930)  does not support Islamic banking in its current form, it needs some changes if Ghana has to introduce Islamic banking as an alternative to traditional banking in the country.

Speaking at an Islamic banking forum organized in Accra by the Islamic Finance Research Institute of Ghana, Prof Gatsi noted that among the stakeholders, the Bank of Ghana, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), National Insurance Commission and other religious groups have to understand the principles of Islamic banking within a secular democracy.


“The fact that a political party has clearly stated this alternative banking in its manifesto for the 2020 elections means the principle has become even important to achieving financial products diversity, inclusion and alternative financing of government projects and businesses”, the Dean of Business School at UCC posited. To him, “this also requires more stakeholder engagement to provide clear understanding to all stakeholders within the financial sector and the general public.”



Prof. Gatsi advised that since Islamic financial products provide alternative access to business funding, Shariah board membership should be structured to include non-Muslims to remove fears which may not be founded. The board membership ought to be people with expertise in Islamic banking including non-Muslims.


He asked the regulatory institutions such as Bank of Ghana, SEC, NIC to accept the fact that the interest and prospects of this alternative financing model and show a regulatory and capacity building framework. He added that discussing Islamic banking in line with Ghana's secular democratic values will be a welcome development. He therefore asked the regulatory bodies to own the roadmap and work with institutions interested in Islamic banking.


Prof. Gatsi also explained how Islamic banking may support joint ventureships, partnerships and project finance. He advised Muslims not to scale up their micro-level Islamic banking products without regulatory blessing. He finally advised those calling for Islamic banking products not to discuss the subject as a superior proposal to conventional banking and financial system but as an alternative to deepen financial inclusion and financial products diversification with choices.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Cancel Ex-gratia of the Executives and Parliamentarians cut salaries in the First Quarter Budget of 2021 in the Interest of Sick Ghana

By: Dr Kwame H. Afaglo 


Being a Thursday morning 5th November 2020 and after the rains in Accra, heads are calm as we approaching the end of the week with workers hoping to cash out their salaries, hence taking time to go through this short write of 59 seconds reading could be done comfortably.


A week ago, the Finance Minister did seek permission from Ghana’s parliament to get an approval for twenty seven billion cedis (GHc27,000,000,000.00) to be taken from the Consolidated Fund  for January-March 2021 expenditures for the following purposes:


️ Salaries of public sector workers and ex-gratia of numerous elected political officers of GHc7 billion;


▪️Loan interest repayment of GHc3 billion;


▪️Repayment of loans on installment plan of GHc3 billion;


️ borrow more as bonds of GHc5 billion;


▪️Purchases of goods and services to run the public sector, and few more.


As a starter, Ghana does not have enough in its Consolidated Funds else it would not go borrowing nicely and deceptively named *bonds*.


Then, a simplistic looking at expenditure that can be changed for the benefit of a highly geared country points to about GHc12 billion that can be relooked at by parliamentarians and have the majority side to ask the Finance Minister to go back and amend their expenditure.


The suggested expenditure meant for radical changes are,


️ Salaries and ex-gratia of elected politicians.


️ Borrowing.


Specifically, in the interest of slowing down the nation’s borrowing, the majority in parliament must halt the planned borrowing of GHc5 billion.


Then, the controversial but most needed cancellation of ex-gratia payment to the executives and parliamentarians. The law on ex-gratia to the executives and parliamentarians must be suspended forthrightly to save the tax payer, tax man’s performance and the country’s wallet (Consolidated Fund).


Further, salaries of all political appointees in public service must be reduced by 50% and that of public servants be docked by 25%, for the first three months.


This way everyone is sacrificing for the economy of Ghana in the short term for a long term benefit.


_Nyee gbe dze anyi_

©️2020 rafa raja


LG Electronics (LG)  has unveiled the LG OLED  GX series (Gallery Design TV) into the Nigerian market  to boost the viewing experience of customers. This new addition is the latest and flagship model from the stable of the electronic brand leader.

It is not just a great TV; LG OLED GX guarantees true decorating versatility that brings elegance and artistry to the living room. It allows home owners to follow their decorating tastes without making compromises.

LG OLED GX integrates seamlessly with any lifestyle, enabling the creation of the desired living space, in spite of preference whether minimalism or bold use of color, traditional or contemporary style, or more.

The GX model is an impressive all-in-on set and the most elegant wall-mountable designs ever seen. The model’s unique style stems from its self-lit technology with over 100 million self-lit sub-pixels to deliver the next level of TV. This feature gives it the deepest blacks, richest colors, and most realistic picture quality.

The new TV has been designed to boost viewing enjoyment, gives more interior design options. It is packed with features that enrich the home entertainment experience, such as Dolby Vision IQ, Dolby Atmos and Filmmaker Mode, and a diverse selection of streaming apps that supply an amazing array of premium content.

Mr. Vanjamin Kim, General Manager, Home Entertainment TV Division, LG Electronics Electronics West Africa said “In the ‘new normal,’ people are spending the vast majority of their time at home. One of the outcomes of this new situation is that interest in interior decorating has never been higher, especially when it comes to redesigning the living room – the center of daily life in most households. And at the center of most living rooms is the TV, which has undoubtedly become more important of late given its ability to deliver entertainment, information and (albeit virtually) social interaction.

He added that: “The TV is also inextricably linked to one’s décor, with today’s large screen-sizes often forcing design concessions and using up a good deal of space in the process. Helping consumers to achieve decorating freedom – and giving them more room to move– wall-mountable TVs are an interior designer’ dream. A standout example from this growing category is the LG Gallery design TV, sporting the company’s gorgeous Gallery.”

The advanced TV combines a slim form factor that saves space, a minimalist aesthetic that fits with and elevates any decorating style, along with the first-class picture quality and state-of-the-art features LG OLED is known for.

The TV’s understated minimalist design is perfectly at home on any wall, irrespective of texture or color. On top of that, its slender, sophisticated form looks sublime from every angle – as do images displayed on its stunning OLED screen, which uses self-lighting pixels to deliver sumptuous colors and incredible contrast.

One of the most obvious benefits of a wall-mounted TV is the amount of space it opens up in the room itself. Without need for a TV cabinet, shelf or entertainment unit, viewers can unleash the potential of their space in whatever way they choose. LG OLED GX saves even more room than most wall-mountable models as it doesn’t require a separate box –its slender frame cleverly housing all necessary components and its specially-designed wall mount.

According to the Country Manager, Mr. Sejin Im “the flawlessness of its flush-to-the-wall design instantly adds value to your environment, improving flow and fitting in effortlessly with the way you like to live. For enhanced sound, the OLED GX can be paired with the GX sound bar; the perfect audio (and visual) companion to LG’s artistically-inspired Gallery series TVs. The sound bar shares the TV’s minimalist aesthetic and can also be mounted flush to the wall to create a unified, almost sculptural effect. Alternatively, it can be set on a table or shelf if the user so desires. Either way, the elegant combo delivers an exceptional home entertainment experience with excellent sound, superb picture quality and a new level of spatial and stylistic integration.

 “There is, of course, another impressive benefit offered by LG’s next-gen TV. And that is its ability to bring movies, TV shows, sports and games to life like never before. The self-lighting pixels of the TV’s OLED panel can be turned on and off individually, resulting in more natural colors, greater contrast and detail so real you can practically touch it.”