ANALYSIS-Ghana's new president has no time for honeymoon

Mon Jan 5, 2009 4:04pm GMT

By Kwasi Kpodo

ACCRA Jan 5 (Reuters) - Ghana's president-elect John Atta Mills will have little time to celebrate his narrow election victory as he faces mounting government debts, wage demands and political divisions after a bruising campaign.

The former vice-president, in opposition for eight years, will be sworn in on Wednesday after being declared winner at the weekend of one of Africa's closest leadership races.

While crude oil production is due to start in late 2010 and that should bring some relief for the economy, handling the revenues could be a political minefield for an establishment riven with accusations of graft, patronage and drug trafficking.

"It's a very difficult time internationally to be coming to power in Ghana. And there are internal issues, not least the oil, but also the growth in the drugs trade," said Tom Cargill, Africa Programme Coordinator at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, in London.

"The new government's going to find itself with a long list of challenges (including) to heal the divisions opened up by these elections," he told Reuters.

The losing New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration, whose candidate to replace President John Kufuor narrowly lost a run-off to Mills, sharply raised public spending in the runup to the poll, increasing the national debt to fund expansionary measures to help the country cope with high oil import prices.

But the onset of the world economic slowdown combined with harsh credit conditions have stymied plans to follow up on its successful 2007 Eurobond issue -- a first for West Africa.


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