Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama has agreed to almost $1 billion in IMF loans to help control a ballooning budget deficit and stop the cedi from depreciating, according to Bloomberg NewsGhana's President John Dramani Mahama has agreed to almost $1 billion in IMF loans to help control a ballooning budget deficit and stop the cedi from depreciating, according to Bloomberg News (AFP Photo/John Macdougall)
Accra (AFP) - Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama on Thursday promised decisive action to fix the country's worsening electricity crisis, which has wreaked havoc in the once bourgeoning economy.
"The effects and frustrations posed by the power deficit are clearly felt in our work places, our homes, schools and hospitals," Mahama said in a state of the nation address to lawmakers in the West African country.
"Big businesses and industries are also suffering and threatening to lay off workers...
"I do not intend to manage the situation as has been done in the past," he said. "I intend to fix it!"
Mahama's pledge came after the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) organised a rally in the capital Accra on February 18, calling on the president to resign if he proved unable to boost electricity supply.
The Ghanaian president offered a strong rebuttal in Thursday's speech, urging the nation of some 25 million people to embrace a range of solutions to permanently guarantee sufficient electricity.
He said his National Democratic Congress (NDC) was developing private sector partnerships to install solar panel hubs nationwide, noting similar efforts in biomass production and other renewable energy sources.
He also said more traditional power generators, including hydro and gas, would be enhanced while encouraging homes and businesses to consider options for energy conservation.
Mahama said the country's power woes were partly the result of Ghana's economic success over the last decade.
"Our demand for power is estimated to be growing in excess of 10 percent per annum," he said, conceding that the country was struggling to feed this rising need.
- Provisional bailout reached -
Ghana has been viewed as the rising star of West Africa, backed by an increasingly strong democratic record as well as solid exports in gold, cocoa and, since 2010, oil.
But even before the electricity woes became acute, cracks in the so-called Ghana success story had begun to emerge.
The cedi currency has fallen 30 percent against the dollar over the last year, and observers said Mahama's government was not doing enough to curb wasteful public spending, lower deficits and pay down debts.
Mahama, noting the range of challenges facing the country, called on Ghanaians to seek inspiration from the national football team, the Black Stars.
He recalled the side's dismal, scandal-plagued performance at the 2014 World Cup, which led to widespread pessimism ahead of this year's Africa Cup of Nations.
But the Black Stars "showed the fabled resilience of the Ghanaian" with a strong performance at the African championship, which ended with a loss in the finals to Ivory Coast, Mahama said.
Ghanaians "have victory in our DNA," the president claimed.
In a reflection of its growing difficulties, Ghana had turned to the International Monetary Fund for an emergency relief package aimed at stabilising the economy and easing debt pressure.
The IMF and Ghanaian authorities reached a "staff agreement" on Thursday, which would give Accra roughly $940 million (838 million euros) in loan assistance, provided key reforms are carried out.
One of the IMF's top priorities is ensuring that so-called "ghost workers" are purged from government payrolls.
The deal must still be approved at an IMF board meeting, tentatively scheduled for April, a statement said.