Sophia Akufo, a former Chief Justice of Ghana, has expressed her objections to the government's plan to include pensioners' funds in the Domestic Debt Exchange Programme (DDEP). She believes that pensioners, who have worked hard for their money invested in government bonds, should not have their funds touched.
Ms Akufo described the inclusion of pensioners in the DDEP as wicked, disrespectful, unlawful and totally wrong. She spoke to journalists after joining a group of pensioners to picket at the Ministry of Finance in Accra on February 10th.
“These are all people who have worked, they have worked very hard, they could have left the country when others were going but they stayed, they worked for the nation,” said Ms Akufo. “Why are we in the mess? Nobody has fully explained to us, yes we took debt, what was it used for? and where is the accountability? Exactly what was it used for? You are not telling us about how you are going to be able to make things better but just that ‘help me and I help you', no, you help yourself first, let me see you doing something serious because we have seen these sorts of things too many times.”
Ms Akufo added that the elderly should be respected and criticized the government's seeming nonchalance to the pensioners' demands. “I am over 70 years now, I am no longer government employed, my mouth has been ungagged and I am talking and I am saying that we have failed and it is important that the elderly should be respected. I find this wicked, I find it disrespectful, I find it unlawful, I find it totally wrong,” she said.
The pensioners have been picketing at the Ministry of Finance since February 6th to demand exemption from the DDEP. The deadline for voluntary subscribers to join the Programme is today, February 10th, after the Ministry gave another extension from February 7th.
The government has already reached agreements with banks, insurance companies and securities companies to join the DDEP, which is part of the country's debt restructuring exercise ahead of an extended credit facility from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While the government had previously assured active workers that their pension funds would be exempt from the DDEP, it is said to have included pensioners' funds in its revised memorandum.
Most of the pensioners say that the bonds with the government is their only source of livelihood, and their demands for exemption from the DDEP have been ignored by the government, forcing them to begin a picketing action at the Ministry of Finance each day between 10:00 am and 11:00 am.