Ghana’s finance minister told a group of protesting retiree bondholders on Monday they were being offered a good deal, as the government of the struggling West African nation pushes to get a domestic debt exchange over the line by Tuesday.
Ghana launched a debt swap plan in December as part of attempts to address a spiralling economic crisis, but it has struggled to convince bondholders to register, in part due to a lack of clarity over its terms and concerns about profitability.
Ken Ofori-Atta told the group of over-60s protesting the debt exchange outside the finance ministry that the five-year maturity on offer was favourable given a third of them held instruments with maturities of more than 12 years, despite an interest rate cut to 15% from an average of 18.5%.
Those below the age of 59 are being offered a 10% coupon rate, according to a government document last month.
He ended up preaching by adding “Look into your heart and ask whether what has been offered is so injurious versus your contribution to our economy,” Ofori-Atta told five of the protesters, after a larger group had left their earlier demonstration.
“Hand on heart I feel (the deal offered) is good for you and good for the nation.”
Ghana exempted pension funds from the broader debt exchange in late December after widespread protest, contingent on labour groups agreeing an alternative solution with the government.
The protesting retirees said they also wanted to be left out of the debt exchange altogether.
“The minister has said they want 80% (of domestic bonds to be exchanged) to become successful,” said Adu Anane Antwi, convener of the Pensioner Bondholders Forum, which says it has 450 members.
“We think if pensioners are left out of the programme they will still get their 80%.”
Ofori-Atta said he expected “full tendering” from banks and other financial institutions that hold Ghana’s domestic bonds when the programme closes on Feb. 7th 2023 since that’s the deadline date.