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Ghana Seeks IMF Aid as Soon as Possible to Stabilize Cedi

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Aug. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Ghana wants to sign an agreement with the International Monetary Fund as soon as possible, helping reduce borrowing costs for the government, Finance Minister Seth Terkper said.

Inadequate gold and cocoa prices eroded steps taken to narrow the budget gap and made targets to cut the deficit “too ambitious,” Terkper said in an interview in Washington today, where he is attending the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The IMF program will include support for balance of payments, he said.

“We believe strongly that we are putting the right mechanisms into place,” he said. “It is about the certainty of policy that comes with an IMF endorsement.”

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama said last week his government will seek talks with the Washington-based fund to bring stability to an economy battered by the world’s worst performing currency in 2014.

Rising prices for gold and cocoa, steps to reduce debt-financing costs and cutting the state wage bill are already working and the government will see the benefits later this year as the IMF plan kicks in, Terkper said. Ghana is the world’s second-biggest producer of cocoa.

Funding Shortfall

The cedi dropped 36 percent against the dollar this year, as investors lost confidence in the government’s ability to narrow its budget gap to 8.8 percent of gross domestic product this year from 10.8 percent in 2013. The central bank financed the entire shortfall in the first quarter and continued to fund some of it in the following three months, prompting warnings from ratings companies that the practice would fuel inflation, already at 15 percent.

Ghana hasn’t decided how much funding it needs, Terkper said. It will consider a program that lasts from two to three years, he said.

Moody’s Investors Service cut the nation’s sovereign rating to B2, five levels below investment grade, in June and said the fiscal deficit will exceed 10 percent of GDP for a third straight year. Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings and Moody’s all have a negative outlook on Ghana’s debt, signaling the possibility of further cuts.

Since having most of its debt cleared in 2005 as part of a global relief campaign for poor nations, Ghana has ramped up borrowing, while failing to keep spending under control. The government will go ahead with plans to sell as much as $1.5 billion in Eurobonds by the end of the month, Mahama said last week.

The cedi dropped 0.6 percent to 3.7176 per dollar at 6:31 p.m. in Accra.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andres R. Martinez in Accra at amartinez28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net Nasreen Seria, Gordon Bell

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