Ghana, a nation known for its rich history and cultural diversity, has been grappling with a significant increase in public debt. As of April 2023, the country’s public debt reached a staggering GHS 569.3 billion, witnessing a remarkable GHS 134.7 billion surge since January 2023. This article delves into the details of the current debt situation and explores the government’s efforts to manage the mounting debt obligations through the Domestic Debt Exchange Programme (DDEP).
The Soaring Debt Figures
Ghana’s total public debt, converted to dollar terms, stands at US$ 52 billion, accounting for approximately 71.1 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This represents a worrisome trend, as the escalating debt-to-GDP ratio can have potential implications for the country’s economic stability.
Breaking down the debt figures, the external debt during the same period amounted to GHS 321.4 billion, equivalent to US$ 29.3 billion, while the domestic debt contributed GHS 247.9 billion. Comparing these figures with previous data, it is evident that the debt burden has increased significantly in a short span of time.
Growth Trajectory of Debt
The Central Bank’s July 2023 Summary of Economic and Financial Data reveals a concerning pattern in Ghana’s debt trajectory. In January 2023, the debt was reported at GHS 547.8 billion ($50.7 billion). However, by February 2023, it escalated to GHS 564.1 billion ($51.2 billion), and further increased to GHS 569.5 billion ($51.7 billion) in March 2023.
While this growth can be attributed to various economic factors, it also raises concerns about the country’s ability to manage and repay its obligations without hampering its economic growth prospects.
Nominal GDP Increase
In contrast to the escalating debt, Ghana has witnessed a nominal GDP increase from GHS 610.2 billion in December 2022 to GHS 800.9 billion in April 2023. This growth of GHS 190.7 billion highlights the country’s potential to generate economic activity. However, despite this growth, the debt burden continues to weigh heavily on the nation’s economic prospects.
Government’s Debt Exchange Initiatives
In response to the rising public debt, the Ghanaian government has introduced the Domestic Debt Exchange Programme (DDEP) as a measure to alleviate the pressure and restructure various components of domestic debt.
However, the initial round of the DDEP fell short of expectations, necessitating a revisit of the program. As part of the second round, the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) is offering investors holding cocoa bills, which are short-term debt securities, an opportunity to exchange them for longer-term debt securities. This initiative aims to provide investors with greater flexibility and offer the government more time to manage its debt.
Additionally, the government has announced a new phase of the DDEP, focusing on US dollar-denominated bonds. This program targets the restructuring of approximately $800 million worth of these bonds, intending to improve Ghana’s debt management and mitigate foreign exchange risks.
Ghana’s escalating public debt presents a significant challenge to the nation’s economic stability and growth prospects. While the nominal GDP has shown promising growth, it has not been enough to offset the mounting debt burden. The government’s efforts through the Domestic Debt Exchange Programme seek to address this issue and find feasible solutions to manage the country’s debt obligations effectively.
As the nation moves forward, it is essential for the government to implement prudent fiscal policies, foster economic growth, and explore sustainable debt management strategies to ensure a stable and prosperous future for Ghana.