NPP:Ghanaians Are Suffering

Dr.Akoto OseiThe New Patriotic Party (NPP) says the government has nothing good to offer the country this year than to further deepen the economic woes of the average Ghanaian.

According to the party, the policies introduced by the government as measures to salvage the economy were extremely harsh and would bring undue   hardship on the public.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, said the government had indicated that utility tariffs would be increased every month from January to September this year.

Aside that, he said the National Petroleum Authority had also signaled that the automatic adjustment formula for petroleum products would be fully operational this year.

“This is in addition to the increase in the road levy which has just been introduced. The implications for higher pump prices and its consequent impacts are obvious,” he said.

Dr. Akoto noted that increases in fees and levies, some by over 200 per cent, had already become operational as hospitals such the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital had already advertised an increase in their fees.

Furthermore, he said the personal income thresholds which were raised in previous years to protect low income earners as well as compensate for inflation had been frozen this year.

The mining sector, he said was faced with an imminent windfall profit tax in the face of declining gold prices, while withhold tax on rent for commercial properties had been increase to 15 per cent.

“These are a few of the policy measures which have been approved by Parliament for the fiscal year 2014. Unless government intends to propose other policy intervention in the course of the year, then on the basis of the last poor performance on revenues and excessive over-expenditures since 2009, we predict that the year 2014 is likely to bring as many challenges to the average Ghanaian as the year 2013 did,” he said.

Touching on the US$3 billion Chinese loan, he said over 75 per cent of this year’s capital expenditure programme would be funded from foreign sources and added that 78 per cent of the amount expected from foreign sources was dependent on the expected disbursement from the Chinese loan.

He, however, wondered how the government could expect an amount of $1.6 billion from the loan this year, when only US$$600 million had, for the past three years, been disbursed from the loan.

On the government’s performance last year, Dr. Osei said 2013 was the year in which new taxes on condoms, cutlasses, fishing nets, wellington boots, among others were introduced.

“During the latter part of the year 2013, in a rather unorthodox fashion the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate was increased from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent, but to be made effective in 2014.   In 2013, government lived beyond it means by an additional GH¢9 billion” he said

He indicated that delays in the payment of statutory funds had become a regular feature of the economic management strategy of the government since 2009 and noted that in the 2013 fiscal year, there was further accumulation of arrears in the District Assembly Common Fund by GH¢450 million, GETFUND, US¢240, NHIF, GH¢151 million, SSNIT contributions by the government, GH¢695 million, among others.

“Together these amount to over GHC 1.5 billion. This does not include arrears owed to road contractors, salary arrears owed to public sector workers, arrears owed to suppliers of goods and services to government agencies including the security services and secondary institutions as well as caterers for the school feeding programme,” he added.

Dr. Osei said 2013 was a year in which Ghanaians experienced one of the worst episodes of power crises and added that the government responded to the problem by increasing electricity and water tariffs to its unbearable level.

In addition to that, he said the government welcomed Ghanaians to a “happy new year” by increasing electricity tariffs by an additional 9 per cent this month.

Touching on public debt, he noted that the government, last year, borrowed at least GH¢1.2 billion almost every month from domestic sources and added that by the end of 2013, the country’s total debt stock stood at over $23 billion, rising significantly from a stock of only $8 billion in 2008.

“The result is that in fiscal year 2013 alone, payment of interest on our debt amounted to over GH¢4.4 billion more than the amount spent on District Assemblies Common Fund GETFUND and National Health Insurance Scheme put together,” he said.

Inflation, he said, had been in double digits reaching 13.2per cent in November, while public sector workers were given an increase of only 10 per cent, not even to keep up inflation.

The Minority spokesperson on Finance said the government made matters worse by proposing a wage freeze  for 2014 in the budget.

“In 2013 the Ghana cedi depreciated by almost 24% against the dollar. It is important to note that Mr Fifi Kwetey in his address at the NDC forum said that the Ghana cedi had depreciated by only 5% against the dollar.  We only hope that this was a slip of tongue from the former propaganda secretary of the NDC,” he said.

In a sharp rebuttal, a Deputy Minister of Information, Felix Fosu- Kwakye said the NPP’s allegations   had no basis, saying, “government has done creditably well since it came into office”

He said in the education sector alone, the intervention of the Ministry of Education last year saw the distribution of more than 12. 5 million text books to basic schools across the country.

He explained that every single sector of the country had seen some improvement since the NDC came into power in 2009; therefore Ghanaians would be the best judges. By Yaw Kyei       

 

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