Former President John Dramani Mahama has attributed the debts Ghana, among other African countries was plunged into to the ‘bitter conditions’ the International Monetary Fund (IMF) attached to the help it extended to its beneficiaries.
According to him, Ghana’s declining economy in the 70’s and 80’s required that it sought help from a bigger source to improve the situation hence the decision to buy into the International Monetary Fund program for some African countries.
Citing former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda’s comparison of the IMF to a mad doctor which can only dispense the bitter pill quinine, Mr. Mahama said the body had very stringent benchmarks such as cutting down government subventions on virtually every sector including agriculture, education, and the health sectors.
“Our country has come a long way since then, the international financial institutions have also come a long way since then. Kenneth Kaunda said the IMF is like a mad doctor, it can only dispense one prescription, quinine, those of you who know quinine, it is the bitterest medicine you will ever encounter on earth, and that’s all the IMF knew to do, give you quinine, so we had to cut down subsidies to everything, subsidies to healthcare, education, agriculture…but Ghana had to go through it, take the bitter pill and make some adjustments..”, he said.
He explained that these “bitter” conditions from the IMF eventually resulted in the inflation of the cedi and the introduction of policies such as the “cash and carry” system in the health sector and also largely affected other African countries, leaving terrible traces of poverty.
“it was in those years that the cedi was left to float, foreign exchange bureaus were introduced, forex bureaus were introduced, those were the beginnings of court sharing and the beginning of cash and carry in the health sector, you had to pay before you were given service,. It created a lot of hardship in Africa and more classes of poverty”, he stated.
The former President however added that the situation has changed since the IMF has revised some of its policies and has introduced more flexible social protection programs including the National Health Insurance Scheme and the school feeding program which supports the feeding of many school children nationwide among other programs which the body will previously not have indorsed.
“I must say that those final institutions have changed however, they accept that there must be strong social protection programs in any adjustment program that you are conducting and so when we started this current program in which Ghana is currently in with the IMF, one of the areas they benchmarked is how much money is going into social protection and livelihood empowerment over poverty programs”, he explained.