BUILD CONCENSUS FOR BUDGET APPROVAL

On November 17, this year, the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, presented the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government to Parliament in accordance with Article 179 of the 1992 Constitution and Public Financial Management (PFM) Act 2016 (Act 921).

As the practice is, after the budget is presented, Parliament, comprising both the Majority and the Minority, debate it and finally approve it.

Unfortunately, the unexpected happened last Friday when the Minority rejected the 2022 Budget in the absence of the Majority from the Chamber of the House.

The Majority had staged a walk-out from Parliament in protest of the refusal of the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (the party forming the Minority), Mr Johnson AsieduNketia, who was sitting in the public gallery of the House, to leave after all non-Members of Parliament on the floor of the House, including Ministers of State, had left on the orders of the Speaker, Mr Alban SumanaKingsford Bagbin. 

It should be noted that our current Parliament is a hung one in which both the Majority (made up of members of the New Patriotic Party – the ruling party) and Minority have 137 seats each with one Independent Member together forming the 275-member House.

This means the usual mantra of ‘the minority will have their say but the majority will have their way’ is difficult to reign in the House.

Therefore, it is incumbent on the members of the current Parliament, the eighth of the Fourth Republic, to seek first and foremost the interest of the people more than showing partisanship tilted towards populism or winning political points.

The Ghanaian Times raises this issue based on some comments in the media attributed to some MPs from both sides of the House which has the potential to muddy the current situation.

For instance, NDC MP for North Tongu, Mr Samuel OkudzetoAblakwa, is cited to have stated in a Facebook post that Parliament will not reconsider the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the government after its rejection last Friday.

According to the NDC MP, “the Government’s only nationalistic option is to eat humble pie, and present another budget which must be a product of broad consultation with the Ghanaian people.”

Mr Ablakwa is supported by colleagues such as Mr Rockson-Nelson EtseKwamiDafeamekpor, NDC MP for South Dayi constituency in the Volta Region.

The Majority caucus claim that the pronouncement by the Speaker of Parliament that the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the government has been rejected by Parliament is “null, void and of no effect” is also in bad taste.

In a press statement issued on Friday, the Majority caucus argued that Article 104 of the 1992 Constitution and Order 109 of the Standing Orders of Parliament read together require that at least 138 MPs needed to have been present in the Chamber at the time of the purported vote of rejection.

This paper thinks the banter will not help but a compromise. The country surely needs the approval of the budget without which government spending is impossible, which will undermine national development.

Therefore, what the Ghanaian Times believes should be the case is for the House to make the Minister of Finance take out parts of the budget that some think are not in good taste such as the E-Levy rather than its total rejection.

Parliament, particularly the Minority side, should reconsider the precedent being set as it can re-emerge one day to hunt the conclusion of another important debate in Parliament.

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