CSOs call on private lenders to cancel external debt

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A group of Ghanaian civil society organisations (CSOs) has called on international lenders to cancel Ghana’s debt to ensure post-covid economic recovery.

The CSOs, in a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency, called for support for Ghana to stay in default on its payment obligations to external creditors unless they agree to the debt cancellation needed.

In December, Ghana announced it was suspending debt payments to external private lenders and had applied for the G20 Common Framework for Debt Treatments.

Ghana is expected to miss its first payment on a foreign currency bond on 18 January, a $41 million interest payment on a $1 billion bond.

It said Ghana was the latest country, which had defaulted on debt and sought a debt restructuring since the Covid pandemic began in the midst of increased food and energy prices in 2022.

The signatories of the statement include the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), Tax Justice Coalition Ghana, Ghana Integrity Initiative, Caritas Ghana and ActionAid Ghana.

It is also supported by the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (Afrodad), Debt Justice, Eurodad, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Public Services International and Third World Network.

 In the statement the signatories: “welcome Ghana’s suspension of most external debt payments until creditors agree to cancel enough debt to make it sustainable.”

They point out that the high interest rates private lenders charged meant that they should now be willing to accept losses on their risky bets.

“Ghana’s lenders, particularly private lenders, lent at high-interest rates because of the supposed risk of lending to Ghana. The interest rate on Ghana’s Eurobonds is between seven per cent and 11 per cent.

“That risk has materialised with the global Covid pandemic, rising food and energy prices, and increasing global interest rates. Given that they lent seeking high returns, it is only right that following these economic shocks, private lenders willingly accept losses and swiftly agree significant debt cancellation for Ghana.”

The organisations call on the G20 and UK, in particular, to support Ghana in the debt negotiations.

“The G20 can help by making clear that Ghana will be politically and financially supported to remain in default on any creditor which does not accept the necessary debt restructuring. Furthermore, Ghana’s foreign currency bonds are governed by English law.

The UK parliament could update their Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act to specify that no creditor can sue under English law for more than they would have got if they had taken part in the Common Framework debt restructuring.”
The statement also called for increased transparency, including bondholders releasing information on how much debt they own and the price they paid for it.

The statement said Ghana’s Eurobonds were currently trading at 35-40 cents on the dollar.
The signatories pointed out that tackling the debt crisis in many African countries required “a reformed international financial architecture through the United Nations, which delivers sustainable development finance to all countries.”

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