The following slightly edited version of this article was first written and posted on Dr. Yaw Perbi’s FaceBook wall on January 31, 2023. At the time, that last day of January was the deadline to tender in eligible Government of Ghana bonds in the controversial Domestic Debt Exchange (DDE). There have been scores of passionate responses to the trending article that we have decided to reproduce it here so people are able to document these for posterity.
I am pained that, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’ (Ezekiel 18:2). For over 20 years now, The HuD Group and I have championed a culture of savings and investments in Ghana, and had the JOY of seeing thousands heeding the call, especially young people. Financial Whizzdom, is what we called the campaign.
I wrote three personal finance books and executed a triple launch of Financial Whizzdom, Financial Whizzdom Nuggets (a summary) and Financial Whizzdom through Investment Clubs. It was around that time that Uncle Ken became a mentor to me. He was intrigued that a medical student would be so adept at the world of finance. He not only loaned us some money to finish the project (which we fully paid back within three months or so) but he also passionately spoke at the triple launch. The year was 2004.
Many like-minded people came together to push a savings and investments culture among young people. We traveled the length and breadth of Ghana, doing several seminars and workshops. Medics Investment Club (which really is the first investment club in Ghana per the National Association of Investment Clubs definition) became a model for many who also started their own investment clubs around the country, from university campuses and nursing training colleges to even secondary schools. No wonder I’ve been christened “the grandfather of investment clubs in Ghana.”
The many who wanted to join our investment club at the University of Ghana Medical School but who couldn’t (we had set the maximum for 20) were mobilized into a collective investment scheme we called ‘Mutual Medics.’ At the peak we grew to about 300. We sacrificed student loans, ice cream money and even extra-curricular fun and entertainment to save for our future. Almost none of us have withdrawn the monies we invested almost two decades ago.
Today, January 31, 2023, is the deadline for the trustees of this mutual investment scheme we set up way back in our medical school days to inform Databank for sure whether or not to tender in our eligible bonds in the Government of Ghana’s Domestic Debt Exchange (DDE) debacle. Our fund managers had 70% of the total value of the fund in government bonds, which in normal times and normal places with normal people are supposed to be very low risk, even tempting some advisors to say ‘no risk’ (nothing is ‘no risk,’ not even life itself!).
This DDE is supposed to be a voluntary move but in reality it is a case of “choose your poison.” If you drink this one you will die, if you drink the other one, you will surely die. I am pained for myself, colleagues, fund managers, and the whole investment fraternity in Ghana, especially the younger generation. How did we get here? Indeed, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
Even more heart-wrenching is that if this should happen under any Finance Minister’s regime, not under the watch of the very mentor who, as far as I know, has spent his whole life building the very financial culture, structures and systems that seem to be now crumbling at his hitherto dextrous hands. The irony.
I am pained. Very much. Whoever has eaten our money, killed our dreams, buried our hope and compelled us to come for unfashionable haircuts that make us look like our misery will have to make it up to us, somehow, even if it is their children or their children’s children. In the mean time, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ Ah!
~By Dr. Yaw Perbi
Photo credit: Opinion Nigeria
We shall do well to document as many of the responses we’ve garnered so far as possible. This issue warrants a national conversation, at the least. A national demonstration for all those equally pained might also be in order to send a strong message to the current government, who in spite of all the pain they are inflicting on the citizenry, have shown no significant sense of regret, repentance or even austerity.