It is emerging that, the GH¢100 and GH¢200 banknotes announced by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) last Friday, was printed by President Akufo-Addo’s younger brother, Edward “Bumpty” Akufo-Addo, at a yet to be disclosed cost to the taxpayer, but believed to be running into several millions of pounds. The new notes, greeted with anger are to be in circulation this week.
The company, which printed the notes, has been mentioned as De La Rue, a security printing firm based in the United Kingdom, and Mr “Bumpty” Akufo-Addo, according to insiders, holds the agency for De La Rue in Ghana, for many years.
What is strange is that, despite his senior brother becoming President, with their cousin; Ken Ofori-Atta, as Finance Minister in direct control of BoG, nothing has changed, even with suspicion of conflict of interest.
The introduction of the new cedi notes, the highest denominations in Ghana’s history, has sparked outrage in the street, Parliament, the business sector and market places, with many describing it as totally unnecessary.
There was no debate on the currencies and a coin as previously witnessed under Presidents John Jerry Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor and late John Evans Atta Mills, which had seen the specimen of the currencies on display in the dailies, banks and other public places for months, until the day of their release, but these new notes were sprung on Ghanaians.
Interestingly, the BoG, had in October 2018, denied it was working to issue a new GH¢100 note.
The then Head of Communication at the Central Bank, Esi Hammond, said there was no such plan on the table for now.
This was after media report, showed a banknote with a black star at its right side, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s portrait at the far right corner with a GH¢100 value.
Speaking on Accra-based Joy FM, she insisted at the time, “this note that is circulating is fake, because anytime that we are planning to issue a note, there are several processes that we go through and at the moment, there is nothing on the table for now.”
Mrs Hammond, added that they want to assure the markets that all the necessary conditions that influence the issuance of a note are not under consideration, urging the public to disregard it, but that assurance has turned out to be false.
Many have expressed misgivings about the new the GH¢100 and GH¢200 banknotes, with others saying they were printed purposely to help pay government debts, as the government is unable to borrow from both the domestic and international markets to pay off contractors some of whom have been owed since 2016 or earlier than that.
Ghana’s total debt stock has hit GH¢205 billion ending July this year and reports are that, the government is having difficulties borrowing, and so had to print the new banknotes to complete projects, especially as President Akufo-Addo prepares for re-election, in December next year.
Others are also speculating that, government needs money to pay off customers of the liquidated banks, hence had resorted to the printing of the notes.
The declaration of “Ghana Beyond Aid” by President Akufo-Addo, has also denied the country some aid money and this has put the country through some financial difficulties, hence some strategies are being employed to prevent the economy from crushing.
In the markets, there are argument about how difficult it will be in getting a change after buying with the GH¢100 and GH¢200 banknotes, because already it is difficult getting a change after buying with GH¢50.
Financial analyst, Joe Jackson, has also described as unnecessary; the introduction of new high-value cedi denominations, arguing it adds no value to the economy.
The 100 and 200 cedi banknotes announced he said, defeats the cashless society agenda the Akufo-Addo government has been pushing.
BoG in announcing the banknotes, explained the theGH¢100 and GH¢200banknotes, will ensure customer convenience and bring about efficiency in the printing of currency to generate savings for the country.
But speaking on the issue on TV3 news analysis programme, The Key Points, Saturday, Mr Jackson, who is the Chief Operations Officer of Dalex said “creating new denominations is not going to do anything to the underlining parameters of the economy.”
He said, the move only contradicts government’s talks of creating a cashless society with seamless use of money via digital platforms.
“…I don’t think it’s appropriate,” he said.
He said “moving towards cashless and making cash more convenient is at odds with that strategic objective we have”.
“I want to make people use less cash and more digital forms of money, so why would I make cash more convenient?” Mr Jackson quizzed.
He said, the government should be more focused on coming up with more ways through which businesses can be transacted without physical cash, and not introduce new cedi notes.
“There is mobile money…If you want the informal sector to work, it’s mobile money. Come out and tell me about how you are making mobile money more secure,” he said.
The financial analyst, said the use of physical cash by informal sector business owners, further draws them away from the tax system.
Contributing to the discussion, Executive Director of the Institute of Development and Economic Research, Felix Larry Esilfie, identified digital and electronic means as one of the mechanisms in expanding the informal sector.
For his part, Development Economist, Dr. George Domfeh, said although running a cashless society is a good idea, government has a lot to do in terms of educating people on some of the digital payment platforms.
“You need people to have appreciable level of education in order to appreciate the use of some of these things. Research has indicated it works best in societies where you have considerable level of education. Even though cashless is good, we cannot do it one day, it should be a process.”
Dr. Domfeh suggested he supports the introduction of the new banknotes, because it cost less to print the 200 and 100 cedi notes.
The Dean of School of Graduate Studies at the University of Professional Studies (UPSA), Dr. Kwaku Mensah, said BoG should come clear with the amount of money spent on printing the new cedi notes.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Lambussie-Karni Constituency, Edward Kaale-Ewola Dery, said NPP government’s introduction of higher Cedi denominations is a waste of the public purse and insisted that the move is a means to perpetrate corruption.
Speaking on TV3 on Friday, November 29, the Vice Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, said the move completely defeats the aim by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to have a single currency.
Introducing the two higher denominations of GH¢100 and GH¢200 and GH¢2 coins, the Governor of the Bank, Dr Ernest Addison, told journalists that the introduction of the higher notes and the coins should not be misinterpreted to mean a shift away from the policy of pursuing a cashless society and pursuing electronic modes of payment.
He said the move was as a result of a market survey conducted from March, 2017, but the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP said the Governor and, by extension, government strongly denied reports of a similar introduction about a year ago.
“Go back to what they said at that time,” he told host, Paa Kwesi Asare. For him, the whole move smacks of corruption.“They can print dollars but what is written is written,” he said, insinuating a defeat for the government in next year’s polls.
The NDC Minority demanded the immediate withdrawal of the new denominations through another member of the Finance Committee, Benjamin Komla Kpodo, who questioned the timing for the issuance of new notes, insisting BoG withdraws it for further consultations.
“We do not have any law, asking them to come specifically to the house to seek permission to do so but they should have mentioned this to us [and] let’s talk about it,” he stated.
Speaking to Joy News Kwesi Parker-Wilson, Mr. Kpodo, was of the view that the introduction of the new denominations will only increase the rate of inflation in the country’s economy.
He added that “even if we are to introduce it, it shouldn’t be beyond GH¢100.”
Recently, a retired Deputy Governor of the BoG, Emmanuel Asiedu-Mante, revealed the Ghana Cedi is printed by De La Rue.
In an interview with Graphic Online, Mr Asiedu-Mante said: “We have done with firms in Germany and France too; these are security printers and the cost is a huge one,”adding that De La Rue print and charge in British pounds.
“It is because each banknote costs a lot of money. Think of it; the paper, the security features and the ink. A lot goes into it,” he added.