During a parliamentary session on Thursday, February 16, the Minority Leader in Parliament, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, requested that Members of Parliament be given 10 minutes each to make a contribution on Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta’s presentation on the Domestic Debt Exchange Programme. The Minority Leader further requested that he be given 20 minutes to make his submission, citing the severity of the matter being discussed.
In response to the request, Speaker Alban Bagbin had initially given lawmakers five minutes each to make their submissions on the Finance Minister’s presentation. However, Dr. Forson argued that the matter was a major threat to the economy and that they should be given sufficient time to address it appropriately.
Dr. Forson’s request for additional time to make his submission was made in his capacity as the Minority Leader. The Finance Minister had earlier briefed the House on the Domestic Debt Exchange Programme, which closed on February 10 with over 80% participation of eligible bonds. The Programme was designed to help protect the economy and enhance the country’s capacity to service its public debts effectively, according to the Ministry of Finance.
Deputy Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin challenged Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson’s request for additional time to make his submission on the Finance Minister’s presentation. Mr. Afenyo-Markin argued that the Standing Orders of Parliament did not support the Minority Leader’s request. He advised the House to adhere to the Speaker’s earlier ruling, which had given lawmakers five minutes each to make their contributions on the presentation
The Minority Leader’s request to give members 10 minutes each to make contributions on the Finance Minister’s presentation on the Domestic Debt Exchange Programme was challenged by Deputy Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin. However, Speaker Bagbin ruled that each member will have 8 minutes to speak, and the leaders of the minority and majority parties will have 15 minutes each to present their submissions.
During the presentation, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta informed Parliament that he has met with pensioners who have been protesting their inclusion in the DDEP three times, and explained the terms of the new bonds to them. He assured that the government is committed to the well-being of senior citizens and pensioners, and that the government will honour their coupon payments and maturing principles.
Former Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo, who was part of the picketing pensioners, expressed suspicion over the fact that the Finance Minister had not responded to their letter requesting their exemption from the programme, while responding to similar requests from other groups. She insisted that pensioners should be exempt from the programme.
Meanwhile, the government has revealed that it has achieved over 80% participation in the programme and has reached closer to securing the $3 billion extended credit facility from the International Monetary Fund. The government thanked all bondholders for their participation in the programme and assured individual bondholders, especially pensioners who did not participate, that their coupon payments and maturing principals will be honoured in line with laid-down rules.