The Minority in Parliament has observed that government is hiding behind the Coronavirus pandemic to plunder state resources.
According to the caucus, the mid-year budget review and fiscal policy of the government for the year 2020 as presented by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, in parliament yesterday, was another manifesto promise that offers no hope in alleviating the suffering of Ghanaians.
“The mid-year budget review is empty, very empty. There was nothing in it for ordinary Ghanaians for us to be happy about. Rather we are receiving some shocks to the extent that we are hearing for the first time that government intends to spend GH¢11.1 billion on Coronavirus expenditure alone,” Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Casiel Ato Forson told journalists in Parliament.
To him, the announcement by Mr Ofori Atta that a GH¢100 billion Coronavirus Alleviation and Revitalisation of Enterprises Support (CARES) programme from 2021 to 2023 would soon be launched to resuscitate the economy was only a mere manifesto promise.
The Member of Parliament for Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam stated that government had spent GH¢11.1 billion on COVID-19 expenditures alone this year without giving Ghanaians breakdown of how the money was expended.
“We had thought that the Finance Minister would have used this golden opportunity to provide Ghanaians a breakdown of what the GH¢ 11.1 billion was being used for but he did not,” he stated.
“He was not only reading a new budget but what he has done indeed means that he has actually introduced a manifesto promise into the official documents and we urge the ordinary Ghanaians to be mindful that this mid-year review brings about nothing,” Ato Forson charged.
Mr Forson said the original budget presented in November 2019 indicated that government would borrow additional GH¢18 contrary to the GH¢44 billion announced by the Finance Minister in the reviewed budget.
“This means that by the end of 2020, Ghana’s public debt will be approximately GH¢280 billion from the GH¢120 billion the government inherited. This means that public debt will be between 74 to 76 percentage of GDP,” he said.
Describing it as “scary”Ato Forson said government also intends to borrow an additional GH¢16 billion from the domestic market adding that despite multilateral institutions deciding to hold on to the debt Ghana had to pay from 2020 to 2021, government has projected spending additional GH¢4.5 billion on the already GH¢20 billion plus as interest payment.
“This means that Ghana’s interest will increase by GH¢4.5 billion obviously as a result of government’s reckless attempts to borrow and this is unacceptable.
“You cannot as a government come to office with the public debt amounting to about GH¢120 billion and increase it to GH¢280 billion with very little to show when the government has had resources in excess of GH¢300 billion at its disposal,” he said.
Urging Ghanaians not to be swayed by the announcement of a reduction in the Communication Service Tax (CST) from nine per cent to five per cent, the former Finance Minister said “it is the same administration that increased the CST in the first place”.
But Bantama MP, Daniel Okyem Aboagye, said the Minority and the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has never believed in any good work of the government.
He said the opposition for example never believed it when Ghana struck oil, the restoration of allowances to students and the flagship free Senior High School.
“So the NDC is government of impossibilities so they do not expect that we are capable of doing anything we say we will do and they will never provide any constructive alternative solutions,” Mr Aboagye, the government spokesperson on the economy said.
BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI