Chorus of cheers and jeers that have for years become a feature of budget statements and fiscal policies presentation in Ghana’s parliament was on full display yesterday when the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, delivered the 2020 edition.
Both the Majority and Minority sides of the House cheered and jeered to show their approval or disapproval of the highlights of the 152-page document which outlined government’s plan of projects for the year.
For close to three hours, the minister, who had the voices of the Majority caucus behind him, delivered the budget, titled, “Nkosuo and Nkabom Budget” to wit, progress and unity, to a fully packed House.
It was the final budget statement of the current government ahead of next year’s general elections.
The cheers and jeers, however, was not a disruption to members of the House and the attending public who were seen following the presentation to apprise themselves of government’s intentions in the coming year.
A fully-packed Minority caucus, led by Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale South, Haruna Iddrisu, jeered at the Finance Minister on plans, policies, and projections they disagreed with.
In response, the Majority caucus, led by Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, MP for Suame, and supported by Vice President Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia and colleague Ministers of State, cheered government’s achievements and intentions announced by Mr Ofori-Atta.
Midway through the presentation, Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Ocquaye, was compelled to call members to order as the loud cheers and jeers became disruptive to the flow of the presentation.
Though the House responded positively to the orders, some members, however, on few occasions, found ways to shout their opinions on government’s economic achievements and plans.
The Free Senior High School Policy, taxes, fight against corruption, the Nation Builders Corps, job creation, restoration of trainee allowances and the health of the economy, attracted the most reaction from the Minority and response from their colleagues in the Majority.
The loudest cheers and jeers were, perhaps, reserved for the biblical quotations, which have become a ritual for the Minister of Finance when presenting budget statements in the chamber.
At about 11:20 a.m., the Finance Minister, who was dressed in his all white apparel, and arrived in Parliament in the company of Vice President Dr Bawumia, commenced the highly-anticipated presentation to a packed House.
A fired-up Minority caucus, which had turned up in their numbers to match the numbers on the side of their opponents, called on Mr Ofori-Atta to “deliver the budget” and stop the preaching.
For long periods, the House remained quiet, but came to live intermittently anytime the Minister spoke on policies and plans that had sparked debates between the two sides.
Displaying papers with the inscription “Bye Bye Budget”, the Minority caucus sang “bye bye oooo, bye bye oooo” when the presentation came to an end; in response, the Majority caucus sang victory songs and cheered on the Finance Minister.
BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS