The Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Parliament has kicked against plans by the government to review the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (APRM), to allow it tap into the Heritage Fund to sponsor the proposed free Senior High School (SHS) policy.
According to the minority members, the move by the government exposed the lack of innovation to fund the free SHS policy.
The Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo suggested on Tuesday that the fund would be used to sustain the programme, adding that would guarantee the human resource development of the country particularly the youth.
But addressing a press conference in Parliament yesterday, a former Deputy Minister of Finance, Cassiel Ato Forson, said the minority would “resist any attempt to amend the APRM” for the purpose of funding the policy.
According to him, “the plan to use the Heritage Fund is therefore not only an incompetent way of redeeming a campaign promise but a lazy man’s approach that completely undermines the national consensus” on what the fund was intended for.
Mr. Forson said the fund, its investment and the amount accrued since it was established in 2011 was inadequate to meet the US$ 1 billion required annually to underwrite the free SHS programme.
With two accounts, one in Accra and the other in New York, the fund has so far accrued US$242 million with the US$122.5 and US$140 million respectively, he said.
He noted that allocating the fund to education was not without other cost because it formed part of the core reserve of the country which takes into account the long term needs of the nation, such as the macro-economic stability.
According to him, the notion that the fund was set aside from the country’s fiscal management, was erroneous since a critical examination of the fiscal table in the budget showed that there was an accounting set-off between revenue generation and deficit financing.
“The withdrawal of the Heritage Fund is likely to have a negative impact on the country’s reserves, the value of the currency and will lead to a likely destabilisation of the macro economic and fiscal situation of the country”, Mr. Forson stated.
With this decision, Mr. Forson, flanged by Mr. James Klutse Avedzi, the deputy Minority Leader and Mr. Kofi Armah Buah, a former Energy Minister, said it appeared the NPP government had ran out of ideas within its first month in office as to how to fund one of its flagship programmes.
It advised the government to rather reallocate the distribution of national resources from the sectors they regard as non-priority to fund its campaign promise.
“We urge the NPP government to stay off the Heritage Fund for it is particularly reserved as a saving for the future generation since petroleum resources are not renewable.
Future generations deserve a shot at progress and that is what the Heritage Fund seeks to achieve. We cannot sit idle whilst the NPP attempt to mortgage our future for their partisan objectives” he stressed.
Meanwhile, civil society organisations including the Public Interest Accountability Committee and the Africa Centre for Energy Policy have also kicked against the move to fund the free SHS programme with the Heritage Fund.