Budget figures are “cosmetic” – Minority

The Majority and Minority caucuses of Parliament, in a characteristic manner, locked horns yesterday in response to the statement on mid-year review of the 2017 Budget Statement and economic policy of the government ending December 31.

As expected, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) majority wing remained optimistic of the attainability of the programmes outlined in the economic policy, the first of the Akufo-Addo led government, but the minority was skeptical about the achievability of the targets.

The presentation of the mid-year review by Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, was in line with the Public Financial Management Act 2016, Act 921 which states that the midyear review is presented not later than July 31.

Mr Ofori-Atta touted the economic credentials of the government including declining inflation, interest rate, increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), job creation, stable energy, amongst others.

After an hour of presentation amidst cheers and jeers from the two sides of the House, the stage was set for the caucuses to peruse the document presented by the Finance Minister.

The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, a former Employment and Labour Relations Minister disagreeing with the procedure used by the minister in presenting the budget review said the government had made the lives of Ghanaians worse off because it increased basic salary by 11 per cent against 12 per cent done by the outgone NDC government.

In his view, the NPP government was being hypocritical because it “demonised” borrowing but is doing worse and charged it to pay the allowances of nursing and teacher trainees as promised and “do equity to every Ghanaian student in the senior high schools and not only first years.”

But the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, on his part brushed aside the concerns of the minority on the mode by which the finance minister presented the review budget and said it was important to review the budget to establish if the country was fulfilling the targets set out in the budget.

The Suame MP said there were positive indicators six months on in the areas of declining inflation, declining fiscal deficit, reduction in debt to GDP, declining interest rates among others which were setting Ghana back on its feet.

Earlier, the Ranking Member on the Finance Committee, Casiel Ato Forson said the budget which has been christened as the ‘asempa’ (Good news) budget can only be described as ‘asemboni’ (bad news) budget.

He said there has been a shortfall of GH¢2.7 billion by way of tax revenue, cutting down goods and services by GH¢600 without giving them the necessary tools to work and that arrears are being accumulated charging that the figures provided by the finance Minister are “cosmetic.”

Responding to him, the chairman of the Finance Committee, Dr Mark Assibey Yeboah, said the outlook for the country looks brighter as economic indicators, in his view, continue to show positives.

He said the government was still fixing the ‘broken’ economy they inherited from the outgone government and that the full picture will be clearer at the turn of the year as the economy continues to improve.

Bolgatanga Central MP, Isaac Adongo said  the economy has worsened during the reign of the NPP because figures from the Statistical Service indicates that the economy as at June, without oil and gas, grew by 3.9 per cent as against 6.3 per cent and ditched the government for growing the debt stock by GH¢ 3 billion monthly.

Old Tafo MP, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, said the taxes removed and others abolished were engendering growth in the economy declaring that “Ghana is working again.”

BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI & KINGSLEY ASARE

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