The President of policy think tank IMANI, Franklin Cudjoe has downplayed assertions that the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) strict surveillance of government’s budget instigated President Mahama’s comment on the striking doctors’ issue.

“The IMF has virtually nothing to do with this. This is a perennial matter,” he said on Citi FM’s news analysis programme on Saturday.

The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) declared a nationwide strike on Thursday July 30 withdrawing all out-patient department (OPD) services following the failure of government to provide them with their conditions of service. They have threatened to resign en bloc if their demands are not met.

President Mahama in responding to the doctors’ demand, said he will not bow to any pressure to release salaries or allowances that had not been captured in the budget.

“Currently other negotiations are ongoing on other categories of allowances at the public services joint negotiation committee. Any agreements that are reached in respect of allowances of conditions of services will have to be appropriately captured in the budget. I will not authorize any expenditure on wages and compensation not provided for in the budget. Fiscal discipline requires that not a single pesewa is spent on remuneration outside what has been budgeted for,” he noted during the 80th anniversary celebration of the Ghana Registered Midwives Association in Accra.

The president’s remarks, many have said, is as a result of the demands by IMF for the country to spend as required by the current bailout programme.

But the IMANI boss opines that the president’s comments were pragmatic.

“What the President said is the smartest thing to say. Ordinarily by suggesting that I’m not going to spend a dime outside this budget. Fine, that is the mark of a very straightforward leader. If we have been doing these all this while we wouldn’t have to get here. So whether the IMF is saying it or not, that should have been the norm but having said so it doesn’t mean that when demands are made we should also pooh-pooh the demands. Then it becomes very difficult. Let’s have a proper conversation. The sincerity of the state must be in order,” he said.

Adding: “I think that the president’s statement, by the way, again I’m ambivalent, half of it was pragmatic, was saying the honest thing that ‘I cannot pay you beyond what I have’ but at the same time I am saying that the issue of meritocracy unfortunately has been given to the dogs and we need to come back to that conversation.”