Shilan Shah, African economist at Capital Economics, said Ghana has been spending too freely on public sector wages and subsidies, leading to a widening budget deficit.
"Compounding the problems are recent allegations that the Bank of Ghana is attempting to finance the deficit by printing money, which has pushed up inflation to over 15% year-on-year," Shah wrote in a research note.
Ghana's imports are also racing ahead of exports, draining the country's foreign currency reserves and piling pressure on the cedi.
An IMF bailout would provide backstop funding while the government takes steps to get a better balance between spending and revenue, and in foreign trade.
That's almost certain to mean tough austerity measures for a country where annual GDP per capita is still only $1,850. The IMF may also insist that interest rates -- already at 19% -- rise further to persuade people to spend less and contain inflation.
Growth could slow to about 4% this year and next, down from 7% in 2013, as a consequence, said Capital Economics' Shah.
Talk of a bailout comes less than a decade after $3 billion in debt was wiped off Ghana's books as part of an international relief initiative.