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Ghana's Retiree Bondholders Resist Revaluation, Delay $3B IMF Deal

FILE - A person holds notes of the Ghana currency, in Accra, Ghana, Dec. 1, 2022. Ghana is battling its worst economic crisis in decades.
FILE - A person holds notes of the Ghana currency, in Accra, Ghana, Dec. 1, 2022. Ghana is battling its worst economic crisis in decades.

Ghana this week for a third time extended a deadline for Ghanaian bondholders to exchange their government bonds for lower value ones, in an effort to restructure its crippling debt to secure a $3 billion support package from the International Monetary Fund.

However, most domestic creditors are retirees who oppose the switch because of the impact it would have on their retirement.

Retired Ghanaian teacher Selasie Antwi said she invested all her severance package in treasury bills and bonds, which the government wants to devalue.

She told VOA that revaluing the bonds is a raw deal that will squeeze her and her two children.

"The interest that we are making on these bonds is what we are using to pay school fees, pay rent, put food on the table for the family, and also for our medical bills," Antwi said. "So, right now, if the government decides that it is going to give zero coupons or it's not going to pay any interest whatsoever in 2023, where does that leave all of us?"

Ghana's government first supported then retracted the possibility of exempting individual domestic debt holders from the restructuring.

On Monday, the government announced a third extension of the deadline to January 31 for Ghanaian bondholders to agree to swap them, but has offered little incentive.

Speaking to journalists Thursday in Accra after meeting bondholders, Ghana's Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta said he thinks he can convince most to comply.

"We are confident that we'll get there, but I think all of us sitting down to think about it would be good for us," he said. "Also, I think the clarity for all of us is that it is a voluntary program. We've anticipated maybe getting up to 80%, which will still put us within the perimeter. So, we are asking everybody to really join then [we look] at things we may do to mitigate the impact."

Independent financial analyst Charles Mensah said Ghana's government must do more to attract the domestic bondholders.

"The individuals who took their money to the fund managers to invest on their behalf expect that the borrower or the user of the fund will pay them," he said. "Indeed, most of the bonds prior to this crisis were paying up to between 17% to 25% per annum. So, at least some 5% to 7.5% should be paid on the amount that they have invested."

Ghana has defaulted on most of its external debt and last week requested to restructure its bilateral debt under the G-20 group of wealthy nations.

Of Ghana's $28.4 billion in external debts, $1.9 billion is owed to the Paris Club of major creditor countries and $1.7 billion to China.

More than 20 aid groups this week called for international creditors to cancel a large portion of Ghana's debts as it struggles to stabilize its economy.

A major exporter of cocoa and gold, Ghana's inflation hit a record 54% in December.

The government hopes creditors can compromise on a debt swap before the end of January to improve its chances of sealing a deal with the IMF.