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BoG announces new policy rate today …As Stanchart Africa boss predicts a rise from 16% to 17%



By: Fred Yaw Sarpong
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of Ghana (BoG) will announce to the general public as to whether it will maintain or increase the policy rate today Thursday 6 February, 2014. This is after the committee has reviewed the state of the economy.

The expectations to today announcement by the regulator of the banking industry are very high, as some economists have predicted the rise of the policy rate from the current 16.00%.

Also, Ghanaians especially business owners, both exporters and importers will expected the managers of central bank to give measures put in place to rescue the cedi from further falling. Bank of Ghana has indicated that, it will inject some millions of Ghana cedis into the economy to save the cedis.

Some financial experts have argued that the current challenges facing Ghana Cedis have forced the central bank hold their Monetary Policy Committee meeting earlier than scheduled date to review the economy. The regulator was expected to meet on February 17, 2014 and engage journalists in a news conference on February 19, 2014.

It likely a decision will be taken concerning the some major foreign currencies. Barely some days back, Bank of Ghana directed all commercial banks in the country to start charging interest on all foreign currencies accounts. This directed generated a lot of debate, especially among financial experts.

Some were of the opinion that the directive of the Bank of Ghana, asking commercial banks to charge interest on foreign accounts was unacceptable since people would rather keep their foreign currencies outside the banks.

Meanwhile, Razia Khan, Standard Chartered’s Head of Africa Research has said that ‘we still expect the Bank of Ghana to raise its Prime Rate by 100 bps to 17% when it meets this week.  Even if the assumption is that inflation is driven primarily by one-offs, utility and fuel subsidy adjustment – as the Bank of Ghana has suggested -and that these one-offs may well prove to be temporary given the weakness of demand in Ghana - in our view, tightening now would still be the correct thing to do.’

In a statement issued by the bank in Accra said, with inflation accelerating to 13.5% year-on-year in December, last year and at risk of rising further, policy have become a lot more accommodative in real terms.  ‘Tightening by 100 bps now would arguably offset only partially some of the rise in inflation seen since the last rate hike.  In real terms, policy remains accommodative, especially taking the magnitude of the fiscal deficit into account,’ she added.

Khan observed that cedi weakness poses additional risks to inflation, even if growth is judged to be relatively subdued. But a rate hike would send a strong message about the Bank of Ghana’s commitment to price stability. While rate tightening on its own is probably not going to be sufficient to single-handedly restore stability to the FX market, it would nonetheless be an important complement to other efforts by the authorities to raise the attractiveness of cedi-denominated assets. 

‘In the absence of any tightening, the risk is that the announcement of other measures aimed at stabilizing the cedi will be sub-optimal,’ she emphasized.

She stated that If the Bank of Ghana fails to tighten further now, and should the GHS remain under pressure, the risk is that inflation might become more generalized, and the Bank of Ghana will have to tighten even more aggressively further out. 

This would raise the cost of domestic debt service in Ghana significantly, potentially crowding out other spending, and weakening growth.  For Ghana, this is not an option.  The growth trade-off from a modest tightening now is far less severe than an aggressive tightening later, which might put at risk government spending.

Stanchart boss said should inflation in fact improve over the coming months, then there is nothing to stop the Bank of Ghana from reversing any rate hike further out.  For now though, inflation is accelerating, and we expect to see a policy response. 

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