Friday, 15 October 2021

Digitalisation Agenda: banks vulnerable to cyber-attacks – BoG

 


 

The expansion of banking operations on digital platforms spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, have provided cyberattack opportunities to those who are up to no good, Dr Maxwell Opoku-Afari, First Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana has said.

 

Addressing cyber security risks, therefore, “have become more important than ever and policymakers need to internalise this fact in their discourse”, he said last week at the official launch of the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2021 at the NCA Conference Room.

 

“We are all aware that the banking sector is one critical institution whose role is to support growth. Over the years, banks have progressively moved to digitise their operations and in the process have become vulnerable to cyberattacks” Dr Opoku-Afari noted, adding: “Our inability to put in place policies to protect the infrastructure of banks from attacks could result in the destruction of the very foundation of growth and this has national security implications”.

 

He said regulating and close monitoring of cyber activities in the banking sector, thus, become “an important critical role for the central bank”.

 

“While we pursue this agenda, we need to recognise that regulatory frameworks alone may not be enough to protect the nation’s critical information infrastructure”, warned.

 

Read Dr Opoku-Afari’s full speech below:

 

Good morning and as always, it is a great pleasure to be here today to be discussing issues of cybersecurity which has gained heightened attention in recent times. Before I begin, let me commend the organizers of this programme for their thoughtfulness and for bringing together players in the cyber security space to share experiences on all these important issues, and it is my fervent hope the issues discussed and lessons learnt would strengthen our resolve to counter cyber threats in the economy.

Let me also thank the National Cyber Security Centre for extending an invitation to me to speak to such a distinguished audience on such an important issue which has become a top priority amongst most governments and private sector institutions, not here alone in Ghana but across the globe. It is also important to me because it also affords me to share with participants the steps being taken at the Central Bank to protect the financial sector from cybersecurity threats and related activities. This is important to assure the banking community of our efforts to safeguard the banking system and put it on that steady pedestal towards supporting growth. It is indeed an honour to be able to join you today.

The gradual evolution and change in the business models of firms and institutions and the speed with which the entire digitalisation agenda is progressing is forcing us to re-think ways and means of protecting the very infrastructure that supports this new way of life. Analysts have predicted that the next financial shock or shock to the global economy could manifest itself in the form of a cyber-attack and this makes it imperative for us to begin to think of how to secure and protect our infrastructure Cyber-attacks (i.e. attacks on information and communication technology systems) have emerged as a global threat to financial stability and our way of life. Successful cyber-attacks on computer systems and networks supporting critical national assets and infrastructure could cause significant havoc to our way of life, cause financial loss, undermine public confidence, and cause major disruption to our economy. I am therefore encouraged that all the major stakeholders are gathered here today to launch a national effort aimed at creating cyber security awareness to combat the rising threat posed by cyber-attacks and cyber-crimes. It is my hope that the steps we are taking today will be sustained to promote confidence in the financial system and also ensure financial inclusion.

Mr Chairman, let me also add that the COVID-19 pandemic, and issues emanating from it, has accelerated the adoption of digitalisation in Ghana and this is progressing at top speed. Embracing the new norm of working remotely, transferring resources across financial platforms, purchasing goods and services online e.t.c., are gradually changing the face of our economy and we need to position ourselves in readiness for the threats that come along with these changing lifestyles and doing business. The pandemic has also impacted cybersecurity in various ways, including:

Bringing to the fore a rapidly evolving cybersecurity threat landscape that has rendered traditional or conventional cybersecurity safeguards inadequate; and Increased cybersecurity exposure for Critical Information Infrastructure.

These new and emerging threats have left nations and organisations exposed and vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Current trends in cybersecurity point to significant increases in attacks against Critical Information Infrastructure and related organisations that are drivers of national economies. For many organisations today, the concern is no longer “if or when the organisation is hacked”, but rather “the organisation is likely hacked, we just don’t know how and when it happened”. Addressing cyber security risks has become more important than ever and policymakers need to internalise this fact in their discourse. In what follows, I will discuss regulatory regimes that are being followed through to enhance cybersecurity awareness in the banking sector.

We are all aware that the banking sector is one critical institution whose role is to support growth. Over the years, banks have progressively moved to digitise their operations and in the process have become vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Our inability to put in place policies to protect the infrastructure of banks from attacks could result in the destruction of the very foundation of growth and this has national security implications.

Regulating and close monitoring of cyber activities in the banking sector thus become an important critical role for the central bank. While we pursue this agenda, we need to recognise that regulatory frameworks alone may not be enough to protect the nation’s critical information infrastructure. Regulatory frameworks must be followed by actionable steps to lock in potential intentions.

For this reason, I will attempt to go through some issues and highlight the importance of cyber security awareness including on cyber hygiene as a means of confronting head-on cyber security risks.

Globally, cyber-attacks on digitised payment products are increasingly becoming sophisticated, especially on financial institutions with insecure IT systems. We have witnessed global cyber-attacks which resulted in disruptions to some critical financial services and destroyed financial assets and savings. It is important therefore to ensure that the security of electronic banking products and services are not compromised.

National Response and Preparedness At the National level, the Government of Ghana recognises the threat cyberattacks and cybercrimes poses to critical information infrastructure as well as the damage it can cause to the trust and confidence in our financial system. As a result, the government responded swiftly through regulatory measures such as the Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843) and the Cybersecurity Act, 2020 (Act 1038), as well as supporting directives and other related legislation to enforce provisions of the law across all sectors of the economy.

The Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843) recognises a person’s right to protect and safeguard their personal data and the Act sets out eight (8) basic principles for those institutions that control data to implement measures to protect the rights of data subjects and safeguard their personal information.

At the same time, the new Cybersecurity Act, 2020 (Act 1038): makes provision for the protection of Critical Information Infrastructures in the country including information under the control of the financial sector which is identified as a prime sector. Section 44 of the Cybersecurity Act, 2020 (Act 1038) further provides the legal basis for BoG to lead the Sectoral Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) for the financial sector, and I must say that as far as this is concerned work has already started to ensure the deployment of a security setup that provides realtime visibility into cyber threats and attacks targeting the financial sector.

Mr Chairman, Given the increasing spate of cyber-attacks on the financial sector worldwide, which has become more frequent with sophistication in recent times, and given the fact that our financial sector has also had its fair share of these attacks, the Bank of Ghana, as far back as October 2018 took actionable steps to issue the Cyber and Information Security Directive in a bid to enhance and protect the security of this critical sector of our economy. The Directive, at the time was aimed at creating a secure environment within the cyberspace for the financial services industry and thus serve to generate adequate trust and confidence in Information Communication and Technology (ICT) systems. Following the issuance of the Directive, the Bank of Ghana has introduced many initiatives to strengthen and secure the information security architecture of the banks, to ensure the systems at the banks are robust and resilient.

Mr Chairman, permit me at this stage to list a few of the actions we have taken in this regard:

a. The Bank of Ghana has worked collaboratively with the commercial banks to meet the governance requirements of the Directive, that is, appointments of Board Committee on Cyber and Information Security with a clear Charter; assignment of Director of Cyber and Information Security (DCIS); and appointment of Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs).

b. Banks have been reporting their cyber and information security incidents to the Bank of Ghana on monthly basis. c. The Bank of Ghana continues to have periodic engagement with member banks to clarify aspects of the Directive.

d. The Bank of Ghana, through the Directive, has facilitated safer digital transformation with the adoption of cloud technologies.

e. So far, the Bank of Ghana has prepared a banking sector Cyber and Information Security guidelines to protect consumers and create a safer environment for online and e-payments products. Among others, the guidelines seek to create a secure environment for transactions within the cyberspace and guarantee trust and confidence in ICT systems; provide an assurance framework for the design of security policies in compliance to global security standards and best practices by way of cyber and information security assessments, and protect banks, customers and clients against the potentially devastating consequences of cyber-attacks.

In pursuing these objectives, the Bank of Ghana has embarked on the Financial Industry Command Security Operations Center (FICSOC) project to enable the industry to have aggregated visibility into the cyber threat landscape confronting the sector, through monitoring and threat intelligence sharing. The components of the FICSOC Project include: 1. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): With the SIEM, a collector will be placed at each member bank’s premises to collect security alert streams from the banks and forward them to the FICSOC over a dedicated secured network for monitoring, analysis and information sharing.

2. Threat Intelligence Sharing: Regarding the sharing of intelligence threat, threat intelligence nodes will be placed at each member bank’s premises to receive relevant threat intelligence, including Indicators of Compromise (IoCs) from the FICSOC.

3. Network Traffic Analysis: Network traffic analysis is an important component of the FICSOC at each member bank that inspects Internet traffic for malicious or suspicious content and sends constant reports to the FICSOC for analysis.

4. Digital Forensic Laboratory: The FICSOC Project will also provide a Digital Forensics Laboratory comprising digital forensic evidence collection and storage facility, evidence processing rooms, and spaces for Examiners to discuss cases and hold relevant briefing. Not all these can be possible without the requisite human capacity needs, and the Bank of Ghana is looking into these issues closely to ensure sound implementation and rollout of these objectives. A cybersecurity expert with appropriate digital forensics capability will support the BOG in these efforts to helpfully deploy the project.

It is anticipated that this integrated approach to cyber security management would support financial institutions achieve both business and security-focused objectives, as well as regulatory compliance in an efficient and effective way.

Mr. Chairman, regulatory compliance by itself is not cyber security. The onus lies on banks to examine the state of their security systems, identify gaps and design appropriate mechanisms to counter possible cyber threats. In addition to these cyber security regulations, financial institutions will also be required to implement an integrated approach by adopting enterprise-wide frameworks of cyber risk management in line with business objectives.

Mr. Chairman, a lot has been said already in this forum on Cybersecurity Awareness and the role of employees in combating cyber-attacks, cybersecurity training, and the need to have in place a cyber-security hygiene policy. I don’t intend to re-hash these issues again but I believe as institutions strive to make their workplaces more cyber-safe, these critical elements discussed in detail will form part of future policy design. The Way Forward

Today’s world is completely different from a decade ago as changes in information and communication technology increase exponentially. As a result, it is important for institutions to undertake cybersecurity-related due diligence and assessments, identify proper detective controls, and enforce third party and insider risk programmes to protect and safeguard their working environments from cyber-related activities that are not conducive for growth. I believe we will all delve into some of these critical issues that are associated with our drive towards digitisation.

We at the Central bank will continue to draw strength from Act 1038, which is intended to further promote and improve collaborative efforts between the Cyber Security Authority and the Bank of Ghana. The Central Bank will work closely with the Cyber Security Authority to monitor trends of cybersecurity issues in the financial sector and ensure a collaborative response to cybersecurity incidents. The Bank of Ghana will also play an active role in the implementation of the Cybersecurity Act, 2020 through our representation on the Joint Cybersecurity Committee (JCC) pursuant to Section 13 of Act 1038. We will endeavour to provide all support available to ensure the smooth formulation of policies in this area.

On the basis of these, I wish you all fruitful deliberations. Thank You for your kind attention.

NPA predicts hike in fuel prices next week

 


Adnan Adams Mohammed

 

The prices of petroleum products at the pumps are projected to shoot up this month, the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) has noted.

 

It predicts that prices would be hiked to around GH¢ 6.86 per litre at the pumps in the coming week, if all other factors influencing pricing do not change.

 

A top official at NPA has indicated that, the second pricing window for October puts the price of petrol at GH¢6.84 per litre while diesel will likely sell at GH¢6.86 per litre starting October 16, 2021, baring any changes on the world oil market. These projections do not take into account the margins of oil marketing companies and that of the bulk distribution companies, which may cause the projected amounts to go higher while statutory taxes and margins remain the same.

 

“All things being equal, for the next window, [since] the price of petrol on the world market has increased by about 9% and diesel has increased by about 10%, so these two, holding everything constant will project that petrol will increase by about 5% and diesel also increase around the same figure which will take us to about GH¢6.84 for petrol and GH¢6.86 for diesel… This is the next window, which starts from the 16th of October,” Abass Ibrahim Tasunti, the Head of Pricing at the NPA stated in an interview.

 

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Chamber of Petroleum Consumers (COPEC), Duncan Amoah has expressed fears that the movement of forex could further cause the price of fuel to increase to at least GH¢ 7 by the end of the month.

 

While insisting the taxes imposed by the government on petroleum prices continue to play a significant role in the rising cost of fuel in the country, he said efforts must be made by the government to address the situation to bring relief to citizens.

 

“We can get to GH¢ 7 by end of October. If we are doing about GH¢ 6.8 for the projection, we are just about 14 pesewas shy so by the close of the month which is the first window in November if the trend continues and the cedi comes under the kind of pressure you will normally see towards the last quarter because of the pressure from importation, I do not see how GH¢ 7 is not possible before November,” he said.

GUTA-Nigerians trade fuse: resolution stalls amidst reconstituted taskforce

 


Attempts to resolve trade fuse  between Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) and the Nigerian Union of Traders Association (NUTAG) faces yet another challenge.

 

A recent meeting between the GUTA and the NUTAG at the behest of the new presidential taskforce mandated by the Trades Ministry to find an amicable solution to the stand-off once again failed to resolve the ongoing trade war.

 

Some Ghanaians traders have in recent times locked up shops owned by Nigerians in a bid to get them to comply with the laws that prohibit foreigners from engaging in retail trade in the country. Despite the law banning foreigners from engaging in retail trade in Ghana, some foreign nationals continue to engage in such activities in breach of the GIPC Act.

This development and lack of proper enforcement by regulatory agencies have led to some confrontations between Ghanaian retailers and their foreign counterparts in parts of the country.

 

“Unfortunately, at this meeting, the Nigerians have told us again they have not finished their consultation with their government, and so we could not carry on with the meeting. It had to be adjourned for another one week in the hope that by the time we meet again, the consultation between the Nigerians and their government would be complete, and then we can move on from there", Co-Chair of the Ghana–Nigeria Joint Implementation Task Force on Retail Trade Frank Agyekum told the media on the outcome of the meeting. "And in the interim, the Trade Ministry has asked GUTA to also hold off any actions until we have a response from the Nigerian government, and then we know what to do from there”.

 

In September this year, some foreign-owned shops in different parts of the country were forcefully closed.

 

The Ministry of Trade and Industry subsequently set up a new joint taskforce comprising leadership of GUTA and NUTAG to help resolve the issue following the failure of an initial taskforce to do so.

 

The Ministry of Trade and Industry also asked GUTA members to refrain from locking up shops belonging to foreigners ahead of a planned meeting with leaders of both trade unions last week.

 

The meeting was however inconclusive as members of NUTAG say they are yet to brief their government on the latest development and the way forward.

 

Co-Chair of the Ghana–Nigeria Joint Implementation Task Force on Retail Trade Frank Agyekum spoke to Citi Business News on the outcome of the meeting.

 

“Unfortunately, at this meeting, the Nigerians have told us again they have not finished their consultation with their government, and so we could not carry on with the meeting. It had to be adjourned for another one week in the hope that by the time we meet again, the consultation between the Nigerians and their government would be complete, and then we can move on from there. And in the interim, the Trade Ministry has asked GUTA to also hold off any actions until we have a response from the Nigerian government, and then we know what to do from there”.

 

Meanwhile, President of GUTA, Joseph Obeng, said he is hopeful the next meeting will bring finality to the matter.

 

“At the end of it all, it has been agreed that next week should be a decisive week. And so I think our brothers have clearly understood that they have to comply and from what they are saying they are going to comply with the laws of Ghana”.

World Bank revises Ghana’s growth rate; economy to expand 4.9% in 2021

 


 

The World Bank has revised Ghana’s growth to 4.9% rate in 2021, from the earlier forecast of 1.4% Gross Domestic Product, its latest October 2021 Africa Pulse report has indicated.

 

The Bretton Wood institution is also forecasting a 5.5% expansion in the economy in 2022, reflecting strong growth in exports.

 

“Ghana is projected to exhibit growth of, respectively, 4.9% and 5.5% in 2021 and 2022, reflecting strong growth in exports. The economy performed relatively well despite the outbreak of the Delta variant thanks to the fiscal support by the government”, the report explained.

 

The Banks’ June 2021 Global Economic Prospects Report predicted a 1.4% expansion in the economy this year, citing slow growth in most sub-sectors of services and industry.

 

This is despite expected resilience in agriculture sector which it said will not be sufficient to offset the Covid-19 pandemic’s lingering adverse impact on the oil and other sectors of the economy.

 

 

Ghana received the equivalent of US$1 billion in the recent International Monetary Fund SDR allocation, part of which will go to support economic recovery under the COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (CARES) programme.

 

The Africa Pulse report said “in an effort to meet its ambitious domestic revenue mobilization targets (starting in 2021), the government is implementing planned spending cuts (starting in 2022) and the Energy Sector Recovery Programme.”

 

West Africa to grow 2.4% in 2021

 

Meanwhile, the West and Central Africa sub-region is projected to experience a growth rate of 3.2% in 2021, up from -0.8% in 2020.  The sub-region is estimated to grow further by 3.6% in 2022.

 

 

Nigeria is projected to grow from -1.8% in 2020 to 2.4% in 2021, thanks to better performance of both oil and non-oil sectors.

 

Reducing heavy reliance on the oil sector through diversification of exports and assets will benefit the economy going forward, especially in the transition to a low-carbon economy in the medium term, the Africa Pulse report said.

Ghana’s economy expanded by 3.9% in the second quarter of this year, according to provisional figures from the Ghana Statistical Service.

 

During the same period last year where Covid-19 had emerged, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate was -5.7%.

 

However, GDP growth rate without oil and gas (Non-Oil GDP) for second quarter 2021 was 5.2%, which is against a growth rate of -5.8% recorded the same period last year.

 

According to the figures, the increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate was driven by a strong pick-up in the Services and Agriculture sectors.

 

The Health and Social Work (20.75%), Information and Communication Technology (20%), Hotel and Restaurants (18.7%) as well as Fishing (12.7%) Sub-sectors expanded significantly.

Govt likely to miss inflation target

 


The government is likely to miss its end year inflation target of 8 percent.

This comes in the wake of a sharp rise in inflation for the month of September 2021.

Year on year inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index, (CPI) has recorded 10.6 percent for the 12 months ended September, 2021 from 9.7 percent recorded in August 2021.

The recent hike in the inflation rate is slightly above the Bank of Ghana’s medium-term target band of 8±2 percent.

According to the governor of the Bank of Ghana, (BoG), Dr Ernest Addison at the recent Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) press conference, “the latest forecast indicates that inflation will remain within the medium-term target band, but closer to the upper limit in the near-term, in the absence of further unexpected shocks.

A close monitoring of the inflation situation is however warranted to respond swiftly to prevent potential second round effects on headline inflation from the rising food inflation. The Committee stands ready to respond appropriately as needed if this particular risk materializes”.

The Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) and the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) have indicated that prices of fuel will be adjusted upwards by at least 7 per cent at the pumps starting last week Saturday.

According to the Ghana Statistical Service, the increase in the price of Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and other Fuels (18.7%) triggered the hike in inflation.

The month-on-month inflation between August and September 2021 was 0.6% (0.3 percentage point higher than what was recorded in August 2021).

Food inflation (11.5%) in September 2021 was higher than last month (10.9%) and just above the average of the previous 12 months (10.4%). However, Food inflation contribution to total inflation dropped from 50.2% last month to 48.6% in September 2021.

Overall month-on-month food inflation was 0.0%. Vegetables, coffee and coffee substitutes, and cereal products were the only subclass that recorded a negative month-on-month inflation.

For non-food, year-on-year inflation on average went up this month compared to last month. It went up to 9.9% from 8.7%.

Out of the 13 division, six had higher year-on-year inflation than the rolling average over the last 12 months. Transport (13.6%) was the division that recorded the biggest difference in this month’s inflation compared to the 12- month rolling average.

 

Housing, Water, Electricity and Gas recorded a relatively high inflation (18.7%) this month compared to the rolling average (20.0%).

 

The inflation rate for imported goods was 8.1 % (same as recorded for last month), while the inflation for locally produce items was 11.5%, up from the 10.3% recorded last month.

The Volta region recorded the highest month-on-month inflation for September 2021 of 3.6%.

 

However, Upper West region recorded the highest inflation rate of 16.8%, followed by Northern region with 15.2%.

 

Greater Accra region registered an inflation rate of 12.9%, whereas the Ashanti recorded a rate of 11.7%

Transport either recorded positive month-on-month inflation or remained unchanged across all the regions.

Fuel price hikes: Use GHC948m PSRL balance to cushion consumers now - ACEP to gov’t


 

The Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) has said the government should “immediately” apply the estimated accumulated balance of GHS948 million in the Price Stabilisation and Recovery Levy (PSRL) account to cushion petroleum consumers instead of waiting for parliament, which is currently on recess, to grant a two-month suspension of the PSRL “when there is accumulated cash to assuage the suffering of the consumers immediately”.

 

A statement signed by Executive Director Benjamin Boakye said between 2016 and 2019, consumers of petroleum products paid GHp12 per litre on petrol, GHp10 per litre on diesel and GHp10 per kilogramme as PSRL.

 

The levy, he noted, was adjusted upwards in 2019 to GHp16 per litre on petrol, GHp14 per litre on diesel and GHp14 per kilogram on LPG.

 

The adjustments took effect in 2020.

 

“Based on consumption data of petroleum products between 2016 and a half year of 2021, the PSRL is estimated to have cumulatively raised about GHS2.53 billion, out of which an average of 50 per cent is estimated as subsidies for premix fuel and RFO. Adjusting for 25 per cent non-collection rate or theft by some Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs), the PSRL is estimated to have cumulatively raised about GHS1.89 billion. Out of this amount, about GHS948 million is expected to have been cumulatively spent on subsidies, leaving about GHS948 million as the balance of the account, given that levy has never been used to stabilise prices since it was imposed in 2015”, he said.

 

For policy credibility, Mr Boakye observed that “the utilisation of the accumulated balance is what is required to cushion consumers in this high oil price period”, adding: “Simply zero-rating the PSRL for two months creates the assumption that government does not intend to activate the price stabilisation purpose of the PSRL, thus raising the fundamental accountability question of what government intends to use the estimated balance of GHS948 million in the PSRL account for”.

 

“It is important to highlight that consumers of petroleum products in a deregulated market are price takers. They do not control the three key variables that significantly influence petroleum prices in Ghana; global crude oil prices, the foreign exchange rate and the taxes and levies imposed on petroleum products. Therefore, if there is a policy for consumers to pay a levy to assuage their pain in a high oil price regime, the least the caretaker of the levy could do is to preserve the credibility of the levy.  Unfortunately, the opposite appears to be the case”, he said.

 

“In the current escalating price regime, the application of the PSRL for its legally established purpose is an easier and more responsive approach to cushion consumers than what is proposed by NPA. Moreover, the application of the levy as established by law does not require Parliamentary approval. Therefore, it is intriguing that NPA prefers that citizens wait for Parliament (currently in recess) to grant a two-month suspension of the PSRL when there is accumulated cash to assuage the suffering of the consumers immediately”, Mr Boakye added.

 


Ghanaian workers to drag CAGD to court over ‘no Ghana card no salary’ directive

 

The Ghana Federation of Labour (GFL), the umbrella body of some workers in Ghana, has served notice that it will test the authority of the Controller and Accountant General’s Department in tying the salaries of public sector workers to the Ghana card.

“We are going to test the authority of the Controller on the use of the Ghana Card as the sole form of identity for the payment of salaries in court”, General Secretary Abraham Koomson said, last week.

The GFL wondered why the CAGD is rather not using the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) card of workers for that purpose.     

Mr Koomson said the federation is considering holding discussions with the leadership of some other public sector workers to test the authority of the Controller as far as the directive is concerned.

“For the Controller to say it will not pay the salaries of workers who do not have Ghana card as a form of identity on their personal data is absurd”, Mr Koomson stressed.

“As a federation, we will not sit down for our members to be mistreated by the Controller”, he warned.

He urged the Controller to come clean on the directive before things get out of hand.

Mr Koomson contended that some workers have registered for the Ghana card since last year but are yet to receive it from the National Identification Authority (NIA).

“So why the hurry for the Controller to tie the payment of salaries of workers to the acquisition of the Ghana card?” he queried.

He said it was high time the government took steps to ensure that all salary workers are registered before such fiats were issued.

“If this action is targeted at people who are not working to stop receiving salaries, then it is good but for workers who have been validated to have worked, it’s problematic”, he observed in an interview with Neat FM.

Effective 1 December 2021, public sector workers without a Ghana card will not be paid, a statement from the Controller and Accountant General’s Department has said.

Such workers have been given up the enforcement date to acquire the Ghana card if they do not have one already.

“Effective December 1, workers on the government of Ghana Payroll who have not registered with the NIA will not be paid,” the statement said.

The CAGD said it is working with the National Identification Authority to harmonise the database of public sector workers so as to “facilitate biometric and unique identification of all workers on the government payroll.”

The directive, the CAGD noted, is part of the government’s “efforts to deliver a speedy, secured and verified payroll service to government employees and pensioners while reducing the risk of undeserving payment or claims.”

“By this notice, all existing and prospective government workers are to ensure they are registered with the NIA and obtain their identity numbers,” the statement added.

Agyapa Royalties deal still on government's table for consideration - Ofori-At

 



Adnan Adams Mohammed

The Finance Minister, after long silence on the faith of the Agyapa Minerals Royalties agreement, has hinted it is still on government's table for consideration to be resent to Parliament.

The minister noted that, the most controversial and embattled Agyapa deal, has been reviewed and ready to be sent to Parliament for second consideration. He assured that all issues raised by stakeholders about the proposed deal have been addressed.

“The Attorney General has looked at it. We had a few stakeholder meetings and I think the new board should be energised to review that and go through the parliamentary process", Ken Ofori-Atta, said when he inaugurated the nine-member board of the Mineral Income Investment Fund in Accra, last week. "I’m unequivocal that it is the way to go in terms of monetising our minerals and finding a way to leverage mining.”

“You must continue with the work that has been done following the theme of the budget ‘Continuity, Consolidation and Completion’ and address and overcome all the concerns against the Agyapa transaction, so we can go to the market and create the first mineral royalty company in Ghana and in Africa because it is good for Ghana”, he charged the new Board.

He also assured the people of Ghana that the Agyapa transaction to monetize some of Ghana’s gold royalties was done in the national interest and in accordance with the laws of the land.

Board Chair of the 9-member board of the Minerals Income and Investment Fund is Prof Douglas Boateng.

Other members of the new board include: Felicia Nana A. Dapaah Gyamfi Ashley, Prof Akosua Apea Osafo, Edward Nana Yaw Koranteng, George Mireku Duker, Kow Abaka Essuman Esq, Associate Prof Grace Ofori Sarpong, Rev Ammishaddai A Owusu-Amoah, Dr Maxwell Opoku Afari.

In 2018, Parliament passed the Minerals Income Investment Fund Act 2018, which establishes the fund to manage the equity interests of Ghana in mining companies and receive royalties on behalf of the government. The purpose of the Fund is to manage and invest these royalties and revenue from equities for higher returns for the benefit of the country.

The government then, through the Minerals Income Investments Fund (MIIF), set up Agyapa Royalties Ltd to monetize Ghana’s gold royalties. This was after Parliament approved the Agyapa Mineral Royalty Ltd agreement in the name of the Government of Ghana on 14 August 2020 despite a walkout by Minority members of the House.

In exchange, the company plans to raise between US$500 million and roughly $1 billion for the government on the Ghana and London Stock Exchanges to invest in development projects. However, the deal has become a subject of hot debate after concerns expressed first by the opposition National Democratic Congress, leading up to the December 2020 general election.

However, a few days after approving an amendment to the MIIF Act, the Minority walked out during the approval process of the very transaction agreements, the facilitation of which the amendment to the Fund’s statute was amended.

Civil society groups quickly added their voices to the opposition, describing the special-purpose vehicle (SPV) being created then, Agyapa Royalties of Jersey, as being opaque, potentially corrupt and undervalued.

They insisted that the deal must be suspended to allow for greater stakeholder involvement, according to some of the dissenting voices. However, the government has insisted that the deal is in Ghana’s best interests.

Furtherance to this, in December 2020, Transparency International urged the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to make detailed inquiries into the government of Ghana’s application to list Agyapa Royalties Limited on the London Stock Exchange and to reject the listing if corruption concerns were not satisfactorily addressed.

The banks and lawyers involved in the deal were also urged to withdraw their engagement.

Agyapa Royalties Limited is a Jersey-based special purpose vehicle that would own almost 76 per cent of the royalties generated from 16 large gold mines in Ghana under a scheme that has caused controversy and political fallout in Ghana.

Forty-nine per cent of shares in Agyapa Royalties are to be sold through a listing on the London Stock Exchange.

Following the controversies over the Agyapa deal, the Special Prosecutor at the time, Mr Martin Amidu, raised red flags over the risk of money laundering in the deal and possible bid-rigging in the contracting of advisors.

Mr Amidu shared his report publicly in November, which gave further impetus to the advocacy for a review of the Agyapa Royalties deal.

In a submission to the FCA – and forwarded to J.P. Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch International and law firm White and Case – Transparency International detailed concerns shared by a coalition of almost 30 Ghanaian and international civil society organisations that the deal smacks of corruption.

Linda Ofori-Kwafo, Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative, the Ghana chapter of Transparency International, said at the time: “There are serious red flags in how this deal was set up. Concerns have been raised by civil society actors around inadequate stakeholder consultation, transparency and the valuation of the deal. Other concerns bother on the way transaction advisors became involved in the process and a lack of public oversight over the company at the heart of the deal. It is crucial for Ghana that the western financial institutions and regulators involved in this deal take these concerns seriously. They must not facilitate schemes that may end up plundering Ghana’s mineral resources in the name of investment.”

The president then directed the Finance Minister and Attorney General to review the transaction agreements and make the necessary adjustment to address some of the concerns raised by stakeholders, where appropriate.

Gov't overspending cause of high interest rates – BoG

 

 

Adnan Adams Mohammed

 

Some financial experts and economists are calling on the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of Ghana to cap commercial banks interest rate.

 

Other experts have also laid blames on the BoG for not being stricter in its regulatory and enforcement regimes to compel the banks to benchmark the MPC Policy Rate currently pegged at 13.5 percent whiles commercial banks average interest rate is around 21% according to BoG data.

 

The Bank of Ghana’s Summary of Economic and Financial data show that average lending rates have dropped from about 31 percent in 2016 to about 21 percent in 2021. Despite the improvement in the cost of credit in Ghana over the years, businesses in peer economies enjoy cheaper lending rates. Research conducted by International advisory firm, Konfidants showed that cost of credit is one of Ghana’s weakest points.

 

"The disparity in the country’s revenue and expenditure have forced government to borrow from banks, leading to a crowding out of the private sector as well as the prevalence of high-interest rates", Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr. Ernest Addison has posited.

 

According to the Konfidants research, the country ranks at the bottom of the list when compared to the top African exporters.

 

The 13.5% policy interest rate in Ghana as of September 2021 was doubled the African average of 7%, and also compared unfavourably to 1.5% in Morocco, 3.5% in South Africa, 4.5% in Côte d’Ivoire.

 

In response to questions on the high lending rate at the recently held Monetary Policy Committee press conference, the  governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr. Ernest Addison noted that improved fiscal consolidation will help in reducing the cost of credit in the country.

 

“If you look at the macro side, one of the problems we have is the strong demand from the side of the budget. If we were seeing greater fiscal consolidation, you would expect that lending rates will also follow. I use the example of country’s that run balanced budgets. Currently, the banks are holding GH¢ 80 billion in government bonds. If Ghana’s revenues were equal to its expenditures, where do you think that money will be and what do you think will happen to interest rates in that context.”

 

“So the issue of fiscal consolidation is also very key in addressing this issue of the high lending rates. We are working at it, government is doing its part by trying to reduce the budget deficit. It’s not easy, but work is being done,” he added

Govt borrows GH¢21b from money market

 


By Elorm Desewu

The government, through the Bank of Ghana, (BoG) plans to raise GH¢21 billion from the money market by issuing Treasury Bills, Notes and Bonds.

Of the GH¢21.170.00 billion, GH¢20.129 billion would be used to rollover maturities. The remaining GH¢1,040.70 million is fresh issuance to meet the government’s financing requirements.


The stock of public debt has increased to 76.4 percent of GDP (GH¢335.9 billion) at the end of July 2021, compared with 76.0 percent of GDP (GH¢291.6 billion) at the end of December 2020. Of the total debt stock, domestic debt was GH¢173.4 billion (39.5 percent of GDP) while the external debt was GH¢162.5 billion (37.0 percent of GDP).


Per this calendar, the government aims to build benchmark bonds through the issuance of instruments as follows: the 91-day and 182-day will be issued weekly; the 364-day bill will be issued bi-weekly also through the primary auction with settlement being the transaction date plus one working day; securities of 2-year up to 10-year will be issued through the book-building method; and consistent with the MTDS, Government may announce tap-ins/reopening of other existing instruments depending on market conditions.

 

The calendar is developed based on the revised net domestic financing provided in the 2021 mid-year budget, the 2021 domestic maturities, the 2021 Annual Borrowing & Recovery Plan and the 2021-2024 Medium-Term Debt Management Strategy.

It indicates the securities that are intended to be issued in respect of the government’s public sector borrowing requirements for the period October to December 2021.

The calendar takes into consideration the government’s liability management programme, market developments (both domestic and international) and the Treasury & Debt Management objective of lengthening the maturity profile of the public debt.

 

 

IMF revises Ghana’s growth upwards to 4.7% in 2021

 


The International Monetary Fund has revised Ghana’s growth rate marginally by 0.1% to 4.7% in 2021, signaling the Ghanaian economy is recovering from the impact of Covid-19.

 

This is line with forecast by the World Bank (4.9%) and other renowned international institutions.

 

According to its October 2021 World Economic Report, Ghana’s economy will also expand by 6.2% in 2022.

 

The higher growth rate indicates that businesses will be able to generate more revenue from sales and expand into the future.

 

However, these higher growth rates have not really translated into real jobs and rapid improvement of the livelihood of the people.

 

 

The Fund also revised Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product projection for last year to 0.4%.

 

Ghana’s growth rate according to the Fund will be higher than Sub Saharan Africa’s regional average of 3.4% in 2021.

 

“The revisions in part reflect improved assessments for some commodity exporters outweighing drags from pandemic developments (Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and Central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa)”, it explained.

 

BoG data points to rebound in economy

 

 

Data from the Bank of Ghana had indicated that the Ghanaian economy was on a rebound with a sustained momentum in pick-up in economic activity.

 

According to its September 2021 Monetary Policy Committee Report, developments continue to point to sustained recovery in economic activity following the downturn at the peak of the pandemic.

 

“The Bank’s update of the Composite Index of Economic Activity (CIEA) for July 2021 reflected continued recovery in domestic economic activity. The real CIEA recorded a 20.0% year-on-year growth in July 2021, compared with 20.2% in June 2021, and 3.9%t growth in July 2020. The growth in the indicators were somewhat broad-based with port activity, imports, domestic VAT, and air-passenger arrivals accounting for the increase.”

 

Data from the Ghana Statistical Service indicated a stronger pick up in the annual GDP growth to 3.9% in the second quarter of 2021, from the 3.1% recorded in the first quarter, and a 5.7% contraction recorded in the same period of 2020. Non-oil GDP, for the same period, grew by 5.2%, compared with a contraction of 5.8% recorded for the same period in 2020.

 

 

The stronger growth performance in the second quarter, the Central Bank noted, reflects the sharp rebound experienced in the cocoa sub-sector which grew by 27.6%, supported by equally stronger growth of 18.7% in Hotels & Restaurants, 13.8% in Real Estate, and 10.7% in trade.

 

This stronger performance was however, moderated by a contraction of 18.9% in the mining and quarrying sub-sector, on account of a 10.8% contraction in the production of oil and gas.

Credit: myjoyonline.com

US$840m cocoa loan hits BoG’s account


More than half of the US$1.5billion cocoa loan syndication has hit the accounts of the Bank of Ghana.

The US$840million received by BoG last week would boost the country’s Gross International Reserves, (GIR), improve the country’s balance of payments as well as support the cedi.

The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) last month signed a US$1.5 billion syndicated loan facility for the 2021/2022 cocoa crop season to finance cocoa purchases and other related operational activities in the crop season.

Currently, the country’s reserves stands at US$11.442billion representing 5.2months of import cover for the first eight months of 2021, according to the Bank of Ghana’s economic and financial data report.

A total of 28 institutions, made up of local and international financial institutions, participated in this year’s syndication, including Standard Chartered, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

The loan facility, which has an interest rate plus libor of 1.1 %, is repayable in seven months, beginning from February through to August and would help purchase a projected 950,000 metric tonnes of cocoa.

COCOBOD has consistently and successfully, through the pre-export syndicated finance facility, obtained a receivables-backed syndicated loan each year from the international money market to finance its cocoa purchases.


Editorial: Upwards inflationary trend and economic power of Ghanaians

 

As inflation keeps rising since June this year, the economic power of Ghanaians keeps shrinking as they use more money to buy same goods and services they could purchase before the month of June.

Economists therefore wish managers of the Ghanaian economy put in measures to immediately reverse the inflation trend. The current year-on-year inflation rate of 10.6% for the month of September is the highest since July 2020 and higher than the government’s end of year target of 8 percent.

For four months in a row, the rate of inflation had witnessed an increase. After dropping from 10.3% in February this year to 9.9% and 8.5% in March and April respectively, the rate dropped further to 7.5% in May. It has since then increased consistently through June, July, August and September, driven mainly by increases in food prices and other factors.

“Inflation is generally an erosion of your purchasing power. With an increase in the inflation rate, you would either need more money to buy the same item or buy less with the same amount of money you had last year", an economist with Databank, Courage Martey said in an interview. "So disposable income has been reduced as it stands for consumers, and it is only a matter of time that standard of living will also be negatively impacted.”

From an investor perspective, what it means is that if I give you my money the risk to the value of that money has been increased, so I would demand a higher compensation for that risk which means that the interest rate which is the compensation for risks such as inflation will start to go up and you’ll likely see investors demanding higher interest rates for loans or credit that they give.

Even though the year hasn’t ended, the September rate of 10.6 percent still beats the end of year projections by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, who are projecting that Ghana will end the year with an inflation rate of 9.8 % and 10.2 % respectively.

Some economists believe the projections of the Bretton Woods institutions are in order.

Much effort is needed by the government to tame the inflationary trend as soon as possible if it wants to achieve its single digits projection for the year.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Key financial institutions, developers to speed up agro-industrial zones in Africa

 


 

The African Development Bank’s Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) initiative can trigger a fundamental change in Africa’s economic transformation, participants at the first partnership meeting for agro-industrialisation said on Monday.

The gathering brought together representatives from development finance institutions, private developers of Special Economic Zones, and other key global and regional players in Africa’s agri-business sector to share insights on how agro-industrialization can create massive job opportunities, boost agricultural productivity, generate wealth, and improve the quality of life for people across the continent. Participants agreed to work together under a cooperation framework for SAPZ implementation in Africa, under the leadership of the African Development Bank.

“The value of the agribusiness sector is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2030…Those of us working in the economic zones sector will work closely with the African Development Bank initiative on this huge opportunity,” said Ahmed Bennis, Secretary-General, Africa Economic Zones Organisation.

Three African Development Bank vice presidents addressed the virtual gathering, detailing the Bank's strategy for scaling up employment opportunities and income generation through SAPZs.

“The stakes are extremely high: during this week of the UN Food Systems Summit, we stakeholders in Africa’s growth and development need to form a common vision on a road map towards agro-industrialization on the continent,” said Dr Beth Dunford, the Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development.

“At the African Development Bank, we believe that turnkey projects, such as Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones, are crucial to development. They bring together the ecosystem in regional value chains and key commodities, bringing together production, post-harvest, logistics, and processing to feed Africa’s growing cities and export to the world in a sustainable, green, and affordable way,” she added.

SAPZs are intended to focus on agro-processing activities in areas with high levels of agricultural potential. They enable farmers, agricultural producers, processors, aggregators, and distributors to work together in one location, lowering transaction costs and sharing business development services to boost productivity and competitiveness.

Bank Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization at the Bank, Solomon Quaynor, said: “If we are going to create jobs, we need to enable the private sector to thrive. Overall, it is about industrializing Africa.”

Dr Kevin Kariuki, the Bank’s Vice President for Power, Energy, Climate and Green Growth, encouraged partners to work together on an implementation model for SAPZs, making a case for renewable energy to ensure optimal benefit.

Closing the session, Professor Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, Special Adviser on Industrialization to the African Development Bank President, said that the experiences and commitment shared by participants were valuable ingredients for a cooperation framework that would ensure high-level leadership and inter-agency coordination. The framework would also ensure that each Zone attracts the right investment, is implemented to high standards, and avoids unpredictable risks like political setbacks.

Leading financiers and developers attending the session included: African Export-Import Bank; Industrial Development Corporation; Africa Finance Corporation; Trade and Development Bank; OPEC Fund for International Development; Africa 50;West African Development Bank; Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa; Islamic Development Bank, and International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Source: afdb

Is gov't treating exceptional IMF SDR flows as appendix footnote - Tekper quizzes

 


 

Since 2017, we have argued against the change of fiscal accounting by the current government in treating ‘exceptional’ expenditure items and arrears as a footnote.

It has used this approach to account for the banking and energy sector bailout costs.

In fact, in the case of the energy sector costs it has even skipped the footnote treatment and brazenly added the expenses and arrears to amortization.

This is a departure from what past governments have done. They treated all exceptional revenue inflows and expenditure outflows ‘above the line’; hence they have added them to revenue, expenses, or arrears, but showed them distinctly in the fiscal framework.

This means that the exceptional revenues decrease the deficit while the counterpart expenditures increase the budget deficit (also called the fiscal balance). Examples include divestiture and HIPC/MDRI (as revenues or receipts) and single spine, excessive subsidy, additional fuel cost for thermal plants during droughts, or gas supply disruption (as expenses).

However, when it came to the exceptional bailout costs, this government excluded the cost and boasted of better budget deficit performance. Note that at the same time government treated the related ESLA flows as revenues, which minimises the deficit or fiscal balance.

It is disappointing to note the defence from well-informed experts and institutions that government had the option to go against well-known GFS and IPSAS accounting rules on the matter.

The practice also defies the accrual accounting rules in the PFMA – and other well-informed experts simply chose to remain silent, including those who should set our national standards.

We must state that the IMF and ratings agencies now isolate but include exceptional expenditures in determining the budget deficits or fiscal balance. To date, however, government has not changed this practice. Of course, the ballooning public debt stock has exposed this practice as a hoax.

As we wait for the budget for 2022 and the Provisional outurn for 2021, we wait to see how government will treat the ‘exceptional’ IMF US$1billion SDR inflows or revenues as a Budget Appendix Footnote or as income.

If it does, it will be following the ‘consistency’ rule but be incorrect. If it does not, and follows what it does with ESLA now, it will also be consistent their current practice but simply exercise a discretion or option that does not warrant it comparing its fiscal performance to those of any past governments.

It will continue to be disappointing for our experts and institutions to continue defending this practice or remaining silent.

Seth Tekper,

Former Minister for Finance

September 2021