Fact CheckPolitics

Fact-checking claims from NDC’s press conference on the economy (Part One)

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The National Democratic Congress (NDC) held a press conference on July 8, 2022, at its headquarters in Accra. The conference was to touch on Ghana’s current economic situation.

The National Communication Officer of the party, Sammy Gyamfi, who addressed the press indicated that Ghana’s economy showed signs of serious challenges before the COVID-19 pandemic. According to him, the NPP government should desist from continuously blaming the current economic hardship in the country on the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian Ukraine war. 

To make his arguments more evident, he made some comparisons between the economic performance of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and that of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

The full statement of the press engagement has been published on myjoyonline.com. The press conference was streamed live on major television stations, including Woezor TV. 

On Woezor TV it has garnered over 100 shares and received over 6,000 views with over 300 likes. DUBAWA decided to look into some of the comparisons to find out if they are true.

Claim 1: Ghana’s debt had increased from GHC 120 billion in 2016 to GHC 225 billion before COVID (that is: in 2019) (42:51-43:04)

False! The figures quoted by Sammy Gyamfi are inaccurate, as they differ from data from the Bank of Ghana and budget statements from the Finance Ministry.

By: Jeffrey Nyabor 

Verification

In economics, the money a country owes to lenders is called the Public Debt. These are monies borrowed by the government to meet its developmental obligations.

The Bank of Ghana and budgetary statements from the Finance Ministry are two sources where data can be acquired in analyzing Ghana’s public debt.

According to the Bank of Ghana, the country’s total public debt, in 2016, was GHC 122,263.02 billion. The figure rose to GHC 218,228.94 billion in 2019.

Source: Bank of Ghana 

The figures from the Central Bank are not so different in documents from the Finance Ministry that were analyzed by Dubawa.

Paragraph 125 of the 2017 budget reported that the country’s “public debt stock as of December 2016 was GHC 122,263.00 billion.” This figure was also repeated in paragraph 16 of the 2016 Annual Debt Management Report and paragraph 37 of the 2018 Annual Public Debt Report (APDR), both from the Finance Ministry. With regards to the Debt-to-GDP ratio, paragraph 38 of the 2018 APDR quoted 56.8%.

Source: Page 28 of  Annual Public Debt Report for 2018 

In the 2020 Mid-year budget review (paragraph 73), the total public debt for 2019 was quoted as GHC 217,990.7 billion. Paragraph 74 of that document reported that “the debt-to-GDP ratio at the end of December 2019 was 62.4%.” 

Page 64 of the 2021 Annual Public Debt Report quoted GHC 218,228.9billion as the country’s Total Debt with Financial & Energy Sector Costs. That same report indicated that Ghana’s total debt-to-GDP ratio with Financial & Energy Sector Costs was 62.4% for 2019.

Source: Page 64 of  Annual Public Debt Report for 2021 

Evidently, the figures quoted by Sammy Gyamfi as Ghana’s nominal debt for 2016 and 2019 are not entirely backed by data from the Bank of Ghana and the Finance Ministry. In 2016 the public debt according to data from the Bank of Ghana as well as the Budget statements indicate that debt was GHS 122,263.00 and not 120 million, Also in 2019, the total public debt was 218,228.9 according to data from Annual Public Debt Report and not 225 billion as stated by Sammy Gyamfi.

Claim 2: Our debt to GDP had increased from 56% as of 2016 to 64% in 2019 even before Covid-19. (42:51-43:04)

Verdict: Mostly false. Even though data from three financial institutions including the Ministry of Finance, the International Monetary Fund, and CEIC cite the fact that the public debt to GDP was 56% in 2016, it did not cite 64% as the public debt to GDP in 2019. The data quotes 62.4%. 

By: Kennedy Twumasi

Verification

The debt-to-GDP ratio is the metric comparing a country’s public debt to its gross domestic product (GDP). It basically means comparing what a country owes with what it produces. The Ghana Statistical Service defines Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth as the main indicator of economic performance.

DUBAWA decided to look into data from three financial institutions. We looked at the Ministry of Finance, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and CEIC, an international macroeconomic resource data centre. 

The Ministry of Finance cited 56.8% and 62.4% as the debt to GDP for 2016 and 2019 respectively. The IMF cited 55.9% and 62.7% while CEIC cited 56.9% and 62.4% as the debt to GDP for 2016 and 2019.

However, it is also evident to note that even though the debt to GDP during the NPP government under the Akufo Addo administration had increased from about 55.7% in 2017 to 62.4% in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic, there was also an increase from about 42.9% in 2013 to 55.6% in 2015 as cited on page 30 of the 2018 Annual Public Debt report

Claim  3: Debt servicing which is the money we spend on interest on our debt and principal that becomes due has increased from 11 billion in 2016 to 37 billion in 2019. (43:04-43:22)

Mostly false. Even though data from the Ministry of Finance confirms that the debt servicing for 2016 was 11 billion cedis, it did not increase to 37 billion cedis but 19 billion cedis in 2019. 

By: Kennedy Twumasi

Verification

Debt servicing refers to the money that is required to cover the payment of interest and principal on a loan or other debt for a particular time period.

As at the first quarter of 2022, Ghana’s debt stood at 391 billion cedis. So, how much did we pay as interest in servicing this debt in 2011 and 2019?

To have a bird’s eye view of the claim, DUBAWA decided to look at data of interest payments from the Ministry of Finance budget statements and economic policies from the year 2012 to 2021. The interest payment sighted by DUBAWA from 2012 to 2022 is the summation of payments made from “domestic” and “external” financial transactions. 

In 2012 Ghana’s debt service stood at GH₵ 2 billion (page 5), in 2013 it was GH₵3 billion (page 6),  2014 stood at GH₵7 billion (page 4), 2015 was also GH₵ 9 billion (page 4), 2016 was GH₵ 11 billion, 2017 was GH₵13 billion (page 54), 2018 was 15 billion (page 54) , 2019 was GH₵ 19 billion, (page 105),  2020 was GH₵ 21 billion (page 113)  while 2021 stood at GH₵ 32 billion (page 227), with the estimated debt service for 2022 at GH₵ 37 billion (page 231). 

Clearly, from the data above, the 37 billion cedis quoted as debt service for 2019 is untrue. The 37 billion is the estimated debt service for 2022. However, the data reveals that the debt service of 11 billion cedis in 2016 increased to 19 billion in 2019. 

Claim 4: Again, before Covid, the growth rate for the construction sector had declined from 8.4% in 2016 to -8.5% in 2019, and the growth rate of the manufacturing sector had declined from a growth rate of 7.9% in 2016 to 6.5% in 2019 under the much touted one district one factory. (45:13- 45:39)

Mostly false. Even though the construction growth rate for 2016 was 8.4% according to the Ghana Statistical Service, the sector did not decline to -8.5%, but it declined to -4.4%. Also, even though the manufacturing sector grew by 7.9% in 2016 it declined to 6.3% in 2019, not 6.5%. 

By: Kennedy Twumasi

Verification

DUBAWA looked into data from the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS). The service is solely responsible for the collection and analysis of statistical data in Ghana. In its rebased 2013-2019 Annual Gross Domestic Product published in April 2020 (page 7),  it quotes 8.4% as the growth rate of the construction sector in 2016 but cited -4.4% not -8.5% as the decline in the growth of the sector. 

Source: Ghana Statistical Service 

Likewise, in the manufacturing sector, the service cited 7.9% as the growth rate in 2016 but 6.3% in 2019. This is contrary to the 6.5% Sammy Gyamfi claimed. 

Source: Ghana Statistical Service 

Claim 5: Tax Revenue for 2019 was 43.9 billion. In 2020, government projected tax revenue of GHC 47.2 billion, revised to 42.7 billion and exceeded its revised target by collecting a total of 45.3 billion. In 2021, the government projected tax revenue of GHC 57.055 billion, but recorded 57.32 billion. (45:45 to 46:56)

False! The figures are inconsistent with data from the Bank of Ghana and the Finance Ministry.

By: Jeffrey Nyabor

Tax revenue is the income gained by the government through taxation.

Ghana government’s tax revenue projections and outturn can be found in the budget statements from the Finance Ministry. The Bank of Ghana also provides data on money accrued by the government through taxes.

In investigating the claim, we analyzed data from the two aforementioned institutions and we found the following:

Concerning the tax revenue for 2019, data from the Finance Ministry (Page 107 of 2020 Mid-year budget) quotes GHC 42,774,600,946 as the provisional tax revenue outturn whilst the Bank of Ghana quotes GHC’m 42,774.60. 

In the 2020 budget (Page 214), the government had projected to generate GHC 49,247,704,677 in taxes but later revised it to GHC 42,331,692,489 in the 2020 midyear budget document (Page 109). In the 2021 budget (Page 206), the provisional tax outturn was given as GHC 44,447,772,184. The Bank of Ghana, on the other hand, quoted GHC’m 44,452.26 as the government’s tax revenue for 2020.

For 2021, the government projected to accrue GHC 55,834,841,211 in taxes (page 208 of 2021 budget) and projected GHC 55,303,282,454 as the outturn in the 2022 budget (Page 229). DUBAWA has not sighted any document from the Ministry that indicates the provisional tax revenue outturn for 2021. The Bank of Ghana has also not yet updated its portal with the 2021 tax revenue.

Evidently, the tax revenue figures quoted by Sammy Gyamfi are inconsistent with data from the Bank of Ghana and the Ministry of Finance.

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