Ghana President Picks Investment Banker as Finance MinisterBy and
Ken Ofori-Atta is former executive chairman of Databank
Government faces high borrowing costs, debt at 70% of GDP
Ghana appointed investment banker Ken Ofori-Atta as finance minister as the new government seeks to reignite growth in a nation facing stubbornly high inflation and low prices for its exports.
President Nana Akufo-Addo on Tuesday announced the appointment of the 57-year-old Ofori-Atta, who was executive chairman of the Accra-based investment bank Databank Financial Services Ltd. for 12 years until 2012 and served as director of fundraising during the New Patriotic Party’s campaign for last month’s elections.
“One of his main strengths will be the ability to effectively communicate with the financial sector that a change of government policy has occurred and instill confidence that the government can turn around the fiscal metrics,” Mark Bohlund, Africa economist with Bloomberg Intelligence in London, said by e-mail.
Ghana is trying to lower borrowing costs as drops in prices for its main commodity exports, cocoa and oil, strain government revenue and weigh on growth. The economy probably expanded at the slowest rate in more than two decades last year, according to the International Monetary Fund. Akufo-Addo says public debt, which is almost 70 percent of gross domestic product, will be a key challenge facing his incoming administration.
Former Finance Minister Yaw Osafo-Marfo will be part of the government’s economic team, according to the president, who has pledged to create jobs and boost the private sector. Inflation has been outside the central bank’s target band of 6 percent to 10 percent for almost four years, with consumer prices rising 15.4 percent in December.
Speaking briefly to reporters after his appointment was announced, Ofori-Atta, who has an MBA from Yale University, said he’s unlikely to raise utility prices further after a sharp increase in tariffs following months of recurring 24-hour power outages.
“Many will be encouraged by a slightly younger finance minister with extensive business experience when it comes to Ghana’s chances to deliver the kind of endogenous growth which has been sought but hard to deliver,” Bohlund said. The previous finance minister, Seth Terkper, is 59.
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