The debate on the budget statement and economic policy of government for the year ending December 31, 2023 commenced yesterday with a low turnout.
Most of the members of the Majority Caucus of the House were not in the chamber at the time the debate commenced.
At the commencement of the debate, ahead of the approval or otherwise of the budget, at about 12:20 noon, not more than 30 of the 138 Members of the caucus were present in the Chamber.
Notable among the absentees from the debate were spokesperson for the MPs who want Mr Ofori-Atta out and MP for Asante Akim North, Andy Appiah-Kubi, MP for Subin, Eugene Boakye Antwi, Okaikoi Central Member, Patrick Yaw Boamah and Ngleshie Amanfrom MP, Alex Tetteh.
It was, however, announced in the Order Paper, the programme outline of the House for yesterday that the 20-Member Trade, Industry and Tourism Committee was to meet.
Budget debates, especially the day of commencement, is characterised by high turnout but during the debate yesterday, only the Minority caucus registered more than half of their numbers in the House.
It is unclear why the Majority caucus MPs did not turn up in their numbers unlike in the past but it comes on the back of their calls for the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to be removed from office.
A lot of the members of the Majority caucus have been pushing for the removal of Mr Ofori-Atta from office for what they described as “incompetence and conflict of interest.”
They threatened to boycott the budget presentation but changed their decision after meeting the leadership of the governing New Patriotic Party where it was agreed that “the president would act upon their request” after the minister has presented the budget, the appropriation bill passed and ongoing negotiations with the International Monetary Fund concluded.
As a ‘silent protest’ against the continuous stay in office of the Finance Minister, the Majority side was without their ‘first-to-call debaters’ when the floor was opened for the debate.
The Ranking Member on the Finance Committee and MP for Ajumako Enyan Esiam, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, said the mood in the chamber was a reflection of what Ghanaians feel about the budget and the government in general.
“The mood in this House should tell you how hopeless the nation has become. Mr Speaker, if you go out there, the mood on the street of Ghana would tell you that there is hopeless in the system.
“No wonder the Majority Members of Parliament have abandoned their own budget. The situation out there calls for an urgent action but unfortunately, we are not seeing that,” Dr Forson observed.
He said with inflation at more than 40 per cent, youth unemployment at 50 per cent, fast depreciation currency, debt to GDP projected to hit over 100 per cent by end of year, high interest rates portend a grim picture for the future of the economy.
BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI