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Ghana Needs to Improve Fiscal Position, Standard & Poor’s Says

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May 9 (Bloomberg) -- Ghana’s efforts to narrow its budget and current-account deficits will be key to maintaining its credit rating, Standard & Poor’s said.

“We are very worried about the sustainability of the situation,” Konrad Reuss, head of S&P’s sub-Saharan Africa unit, said in an interview in Abuja, Nigeria. “What is critical for us in the coming months and the year ahead is really that the government will be able to manage these accounts in a better way.”

Ghana has been struggling to curb spending since its fiscal deficit ballooned to 12.1 percent of gross domestic product before 2012 presidential elections. The gap will probably exceed 10 percent of GDP for a third consecutive year this year, Moody’s Investors Service said in February. Ghana’s cedi has lost 18 percent against the dollar this year, making it the worst performing African currency.

West Africa’s second-biggest economy has a B rating at S&P, five steps below investment grade, with a negative outlook. The International Monetary Fund warned last month that Ghana and Zambia are most at risk in sub-Saharan Africa if there is a sudden reversal of foreign inflows. Spending has been growing at unsustainable levels in the two countries, the organization said.

Ghana scrapped fuel subsidies last year and increased water and electricity prices as it sought to trim the budget. Finance Minister Seth Terkper said last month he aims to cut the government’s wage bill, which absorbs more than 70 percent of tax income.

Reuss said discussions about wage agreements in the public sector “are steps in the right direction.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Pauline Bax in Accra at pbax@bloomberg.net; Chris Kay in Abuja at ckay5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net Ben Holland, Emily Bowers

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