The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, presented the 2023 budget statement and economic policy of government to a calm near-full Hous eparliament despite earlier opposition to his presentation.
The presentation was without the usual cheers, jeers and heckling that have characterised budget presentation.
In his usual all-white apparel, it took Mr Ofori-Atta an hour and half to present the 40-paged 147 paragraph budget to the House.
Spotted in a touch of the national colours – red, yellow and green – ahead of Ghana’s opening match against Portugal in the ongoing FIFA World Cup, the lawmakers were seen chatting away as the minister presented the statement.
In show of support to the senior male team, the Black Stars, the dress code of the House was relaxed as the MPs, led by the Speaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, wore their replica jerseys beneath their suits with the leadership benches draped in the national flag.
Among the well attended Majority caucus were some ‘rebelious’ MPs who called for the dismissal of the Finance Minister and threatened to boycott the presentation if their demand was not met.
They included MP for Asante Akim North and spokesperson for the group, Andy Appiah-Kubi, the MP for Subin, Eugene Boakye Antwi, MP for Okaikoi Central, Patrick Yaw Boamah, Alex TettehDjornobua, NgleshieAmanfrom MP, Stephen Tetteh, among others.
Also notable was the low attendance in the public gallery with the diplomatic community missing.
In his presentation, Mr Ofori-Atta announced seven areas where the budget would be anchored on to restore macro-economic stability to accelerate the country’s economic transformation.
They include mobilisation of domestic revenue, streamline and rationalise expenditures, boost local productive capacity, promote and diversify exports, protect the poor and the vulnerable, expand digital and climate-responsive physical infrastructure and implement structural and public sector reforms.
The above are to be achieved through a successful negotiation of a deal with the IMF, coordinating an equitable debt management programme and attraction of green investments, he told the House.
Mr Ofori-Atta also announced some austerity measures including a 2.5 percentage hike in the Value Added Tax (VAT), a net freeze on public sector employment, a one per cent flat rate E-levy across all transactions, reduction of fuel allocation to government appointees by 50 per cent, ban on the use of V8 and V6 vehicles except for cross-country trips amongst others.
He called for unity behind the government as it takes steps to return the economy to growth.
In his preliminary comment ahead of the debate scheduled for Tuesday, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, said his side of the House was ready and willing to assist the government.
Mr Iddrisu, MP, Tamale South said his expectation of the finance minister in the 2023 fiscal year was for him to regularise his borrowing under the amended Bank of Ghana Act.
“Mr Speaker, the minister confirmed that Ghana’s economy is on life support and when you are on life support, two things happen; a recovery or the unknown. He has a prayers that we will help him to recover the economy,” Haruna assured.
BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI