Parliament divided over 2018 budget

Prof Mike Oquaye, Speaker of Parliament

Prof Mike Oquaye, Speaker of Parliament

Members of Parliament yesterday engaged in a fierce debate over the post mortem on the 2018 Budget Statement and Fiscal Policy presented to the House last Wednesday.


Unable, as expected, to find a common ground on whether or not the budget would meet the said targets and find solutions to the prevailing economic conditions in the country, the two caucuses engaged in fact digging exercise to either support arguments or reprove what their opposite colleagues might have said.


Before the debate started, the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye, set the modalities including time allocation to ensure the debate was devoid of “unnecessary heckling.”


Mr Ofori-Atta, presenting the budget for the year ending December 31, 2018, by a motion said the current administration had “turned the economy around…..Our policies are yielding results, restoring hope and bringing relief to Ghanaians.”


Seconding the motion, the Planning Minister and MP for Wenchi, Professor Gyan-Baffour said the Finance Minister couldn’t have presented a more pragmatic budget to address the economic challenges of the country, adding that the policy proposals will be matched with effective implementation.


He said the budget was anchored on creating opportunities for all, building a stable and resilient economy and aggressively protecting the natural environment to create jobs and that the 2017 fiscal policy has largely achieved its objectives.


But the Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Cassiel Ato Forson, disagreed, saying that the 2018 budget is a charade and does not address the unemployment needs of the country.


“This budget is empty. It must be rejected and withdrawn,” he argued on the grounds that the Finance Minister failed to do a “presentation of a revised budget outlook for the unexpired term of the financial year” as prescribed by section 28(2d) of the Public Financial Management Law.


He was at a loss as to why the administration cost of the government would increase from GH¢4 billion to GH¢6.7 with same happening to the Office of Government machinery jumping from GH¢31 million to GH¢1.56 billion over a one-year period.


According to Ato Forson, a former Deputy Finance Minister, it was contradictory that monies for the agriculture, tourism, fisheries, roads and highways among others which he considered critical to job creation, were rather on the decline.


He accused government of depleting some statutory funds to fund unrelated areas and challenged it to find ways to fund its flagship programmes and take hands-off the funds which are targeted at specific sectors of the economy.


The Chairman of the Finance Committee, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, MP, New Juaben South, in a sharp rebuttal clarified that the volumes of monies had increased because some of the flagship programmes including the Free Senior High School (SHS), One District, One Factory, the National Identity programme were to be supervised by those offices.


Drawing a contrast between the current government and the immediate outgone one, Mr Assibey-Yeboah said the debt of the country had reduced from 73 to 68 per cent of GDP, inflation from 15 to 11 per cent, real estate industry and manufacturing all growing, nuisance taxes abolished culminating into a total projected growth of 7.9 from 3.7 of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).


He said by these statistics, confidence in the Ghanaian economy was booming in leaps and bounds, touting the capabilities of managers of the economy under the current administration than their colleagues in opposition.


Bolgatanga Central MP, Isaac Adongo, taking on the government said the administration was concealing the real state of the economy by updating inflation figures to November and using June figures to report on the debt stock of the country.


Per his calculation, the debt to GDP as of the end of October stood at 76 per cent, adding that the government was presiding over a declining ICT sector which had become the fulcrum for job creation and doubted if it would be able to create any meaningful job to engage graduates.


A Deputy Finance Minister, Kwaku Kwarteng on his part said the 2018 budget offers hope because cost of power would be reduced, taxe incentives introduced, social interventions would be strengthened and that “the macroeconomic indicators being recorded will be sustained to ensure that we don’t return to the IMF.”


Fifi Kwetey, Ketu South MP, however, thinks the government lacks credibility because it has failed on its promise to remove corporate tax, scrap the energy sector levy act, start the construction of the 51 factories it promised for this year under the 1D1F and should not be taken seriously on its projections for 2018.


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