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Zambia’s lesson for Ghana: call the IMF

Posted by Business in Ghana on June 10, 2014

by Javier Blas, Reuters

When Zambia last week approached the International Monetary Fund for financial help, another cash-strapped African country was surely watching: Ghana.

Lusaka and Accra face similar problems: runaway fiscal deficits – the result of electorally-driven increases in public sector salaries – and a swelling current account deficit that is pressuring the exchange rate.

The market response to Zambia’s request should convince Ghana to seek help, too.

By all accounts, the fiscal problem is more severe in Ghana than in Zambia. The ruling National Democratic Congress introduced in Ghana a new public sector salary structure in 2010. After a wave of salary hikes, the government’s wage bill now consumes roughly 70 per cent of the country’s tax revenue.

The market was expecting that Ghana would first approach the IMF. Instead, Zambia last week asked the IMF to discuss “an economic programme that could be supported by a fund arrangement.” The market reaction has been very positive, officials say.

The Zambian currency, the kwacha, has appreciated sharply against the dollar. At one point this year, it was down 27.5 per cent against the US dollar since January, making it the worst performing currency in Africa. But after rallying strongly over the last week as rumours of the IMF plan surfaced, it has cut its losses to 16 per cent. Read the rest of this entry »

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