The New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) have expressed different views on the 2017 budget statement read by the Finance Minister, Mr. Ken Ofori Atta in Parliament yesterday.
Former Finance Minister, Mr. Seth Terpker, said the tax reliefs mentioned in the budget were out of place, warning that the country will soon return to an era of heavy subsidies.
“We can’t continue to tax the traditional sectors of the economy leaving out the sectors that are growing, excluding the services sector which is the largest revenue earner,” Mr. Terkper said, adding that “you cannot perpetually leave the services sector out of the tax net.”
According to him, with the removal of taxes on spare parts and raw materials, Ghana was likely to see “erosion of our tax base moving into other countries” as these products will be smuggled to neighbouring countries “because, already, Ghana is a transit point.”
But, Tema East MP, Daniel Nii Titus-Glover said “the budget had identified the difficulties in the economy and the solutions to the challenges.”
It was unacceptable, he said, for an oil economy to grow at 3.6 per cent when the outgone government was bequeathed with an economy which was growing at 8.4 per cent.
“This budget is to create jobs and government alone cannot do it therefore, the private sector needed to be supported so that they can absorb the teeming unemployed graduates and doing so let us look at the taxes that have been scrapped. They will help the private sector to expand and to employ more people,” he said.
Mr. Isaac Adongo, the MP for Boltagatanga Central said the Finance Minister misled Ghanaians when he said government was scrapping levies on street lights because “all that have been consolidated into the energy sector levy which they are not willing to touch.”
He also said scrapping the banking sector levy was needless because the majority of the citizenry were unbanked.
Mr. Adongo said slashing the statutory funds meant for the District Assemblies and the Ghana Education Service and allocate same to the constituencies in furtherance of the governing party’s pledge was “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Ofoase Ayirebi lawmaker, on his part, said reducing the statutory funds outlined in the budget was what the country had waited for over decades.
He said: “it doesn’t make sense to allocate 7.5 per cent to the District Assemblies Common Fund when they won’t get the money. It is better to reduce the threshold and make sure they get it.”
Mr. Oppong Nkrumah said previous governments had abused the common fund by borrowing from the fund for central government use, starving the districts of the necessary financial allocations.
Pru East MP and a former Power Minister, Dr. Kwabena Donkor, said the budget “sounds beautiful on the edges but the core is cosmetic, because the NPP promised to scrap the energy sector levies, but surprisingly, did not touch.”
In his view, the promise by the NPP to abolish corporate income tax, which had not been captured in the budget statement, was deceitful.
Lawra legislator, Anthony Karbo, however, described the budget as a “people and business friendly budget the country has ever seen. This budget will bring the needed relief to our people”
He described his colleagues in the minority as “sour losers” who were yet to come to terms with their electoral defeat and urged Ghanaians to disregard them on their position on the budget.
By Julius Yao Petetsi