The Executive Director of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), Professor H. Kwasi Prempeh, has said the 2023 budget was a missed opportunity to reset the economy and address the economic crisis facing the country.
He said the 2023 budget should have been an avenue to build consensus and seek the inputs and views of the major opposition party on the economic challenges facing the country, but as usual it was a document developed and presented to Parliament by the ruling government.
Prof. Prempeh stated this at the post 2023 Budget Forum organised by the Coalition for Democratic and Inclusive Governance, Economic Governance Platform and WeBeCitizens.
It was on the theme “Interrogating Ghana’s 2023 budget and economic policy as a pathway to economic recovery “.
The other speakers were Prof. Abena Oduro of the Department of Economics, University of Ghana, Prof. Godfried Bokpin of the University of Ghana Business School, Kofi Asare, Executive Director of Africa Education Watch, and Ben Boakye, who respectively spoke on social policy, fiscal, education and energy aspects of the budget.
Prof. Prempeh, who spoke on issues of politics and governance of the budget, said the 2023 budget could not build consensus on how to deal with the crisis facing the country.
“It appears the 2023 budget was done as a one party product. We are in a crisis moment and we could have done better,” he said.
According to Prof. Prempeh, the challenges of the country were a manifestation of the weakness of the country’s political and governance system.
He said it appeared the government was more accountable to its development partners than the citizens.
“The data government kept from citizens is now in the budget because of the International Monetary Fund programme,” Prof. Prempeh stated.
On tax administration, the CDD Executive Director called on Parliament to put a sunset clause in the budget indicating the number of years the government could collect property rates on behalf of the Ministries, Department and Agencies.
Prof. Oduro, for her part, said it was encouraging the 2023 budget had retained social intervention programmes such as the Free Senior High School, School Feeding Programme and the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty.
She said financial allocation to the SFP and the LEAP had been increased.
Prof. Oduro, however, said the 2023 budget and economic policy of the government lacked poverty target.
Prof. Bopkin, speaking on the fiscal aspect of the budget, said the country’s macroeconomic challenges were debt induced and had nothing to do with Russia-Ukraine war.
He said as far as eight months ago, the government was warned of a looming debt crisis.
Prof. Bopkin said restoring macroeconomic stability would require enhanced revenue generation measures and cutting of expenditures, and stressed that fiscal adjustment should be crafted in a way that would not affect the poor and vulnerable.
On education, Mr Asare said what was good about the 2023 budget was that the government had maintained all its flagship programmes.
However, he said a freeze on employment would affect teaching and learning as new teachers could not be recruited to fill vacancies in schools.
Mr Asare claimed about 9,000 basic schools would lack teachers in 2023.
Mr Boakye, on energy, said the sector continued to accrue debt due in part to inefficiencies in the sector.
He said the creation of the ESLA bonds to raise financial resources to clear energy legacy debt had not been able to solve the problem.
BY KINGSLEY ASARE