Cheers, jeers greet 2019 budget statement

Mr Ofori-Atta is being congratulated by Mr Osei Kyei Mensah whiles Vice President Dr Bawumia looks on

Mr Ofori-Atta is being congratulated by Mr Osei Kyei Mensah whiles Vice President Dr Bawumia looks on

THE usual rancorous cheers and jeers that have become a permanent feature during the presentation of annual budget statements and fiscal policies were virtually missing yesterday when the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, came to Parliament in Accra yesterday to deliver the 2019 edition.

For long periods of the close to four hours presentation, the House went quite as members, joined by their colleague ministers of state, followed the presentation of the economic policy on their smart phones.

Occasionally, however, the House went haywire in approval or disapproval of the highlights of the 174-page document which outlined government’s plan of projects for the year.

Whiles the Minority caucus, led by Tamale South MP, Haruna Iddrisu, jeered at the soft-spoken Finance Minister on plans, policies, and projections they disagreed with, the Majority side, led by Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, MP, Suame, cheered the Finance Minister on.

Loud cheers and jeers, sometimes disruptive, have become a characteristic of the constitutional mandate, backed by Article 179(1) of the 1992 Constitution, to the displeasure of the citizenry who have had to follow the presentation live via the media outlets.

According to the citizenry, it had always been difficult hearing successive Finance Ministers anytime the budget was being delivered amidst the ‘noise’.

Though the House may have paid heed to the concerns of the electorates, they could, however, not abstain from making their ‘noise’ as they on few occasions engaged in their old known game to either prop up the achievements of the government or to discredit same.

At the start of the presentation at about 10:30 a.m. it appeared the Finance Minister’s voice may be drowned in the expected noise from both sides of the House as a fired-up Minority caucus which had predicted that the budget would inflict more hardship on Ghanaians turned up in their numbers to match the numbers on the side of their opponents.

Giving an indication of what should be expected of them, the Minority caucus called on Mr Ofori-Atta to “deliver the budget” as he read the 53-point introduction of the document which lasted about 30 minutes.

“Where is the budget? Read the budget and stop the lamentations”, were some of the calls that could be heard from the Minority side as their counterparts impressed on them to be patient.

The House, thereafter, went quite for long periods but came to life intermittently anytime the minister spoke on policies that have been controversial in nature.

Some of the areas that attracted reaction from the Minority and response from their colleagues in the Majority were the Free Senior High School Policy, the fight against corruption, the ‘Nation Builders Corps, job creation, restoration of trainee allowances, and the health of the economy.

The tipping point of a highly expected day was when the minister ended his presentation amidst cheers from the Majority as the Minority, in uniformity, displayed placards with inscriptions like “ahokyere budget”, “tramador budget”, “made in China budget”, “hopeless budget” amongst others.

Conspicuously missing in the public gallery was the huge presentation of the opposition National Democratic Congress  (NDC), which goes to the polls this Saturday to elect national officers.

Sylvester Mensah, a presidential candidate aspirant of the NDC, independent presidential candidate in the 2012 polls, Jacob Osei Yeboah, Hassan Ayariga, founder and leader of All People Congress, were some of the dignitaries in the public gallery.

BY KINGSLEY ASARE, YAW KYEI & JULIUS YAO PETETSI

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