Parliament begins debate on budget statement

The debate on the 2020 Budget Statement and Economy Policy kick-started on the floor of Parliament yesterday, with the Minority Caucus maintaining its stance that the budget is geared towards consumption rather than focusing on capital investment.

The Majority Caucus on the other hand trumpeted its social interventions under many flagship policies and the containment of fiscal regimes leading to sound micro-economic gains the country needed to boost economic transformation.

Kick-starting the debate from the Majority side, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, Member of Parliament for New Juaben South said the economic transformation under the New Patriotic Party government was on course with the agricultural sector projected to grow at 6.4 per cent, industries at 8.8 per cent and the services sector at 4.5 per cent.

Dr Assibey–Yeboah who is also the chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament said the government intended to run a prudent fiscal regime irrespective of the fact that, next year was an election year.

He said it was as a result of that fiscal discipline that the Finance Minister in his own wisdom established by law the Fiscal Deficit Responsibility Act to ensure that public debt deficit stayed within the five per cent range.

Dr Assibey-Yeboah said the task ahead of government was enormous since come next year, the government would have to budget for the election which was going to cost a  huge chunk of money coupled with the upcoming National Population and Housing Census and the full rollout of the Free Senior High School from Form One to three.

He said more worrying was the fact that government needed about US$1 billion to address the lingering energy sector debt, adding that in all, government was committed to allocating about GH ¢12 billion to settle the upcoming programmes and policies.

Mr Cassiel Ato Baah Forson, Member of Parliament for Ajumako-Enyan-Essiam Constituency  and a ranking member of the Finance Committee arguing against less allocation of budgetary finances to capital investment, said between 2017 to 2020 government  in its recurrent expenditure of GH¢ 209 billion only spent GH¢26 billion on capital investment.

He said that notwithstanding, government has capped some of the Statutory Funds to make GH¢ 2.2 billion windfall from those funds without anything to show for what the money has been invested.

Mr Forson raised particular concern about the Road Fund and the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), which according to him were most needed to take care of the sectors to ameliorate the challenges of poor road infrastructure and school buildings to accommodate the growing free SHS students.

He also argued that for the past three years, the government had been on a road show for eurobonds totaling over GH¢35 billion only to use a larger part of the money on consumption expenditure while a paltry sum of GH¢2.9 billion was allocated for capital investments.

Mr Forson said it was not in the best interest of the nation to borrow money to spend on consumption expenditure, describing such expenditure as “Kwashiorkor” syndrome since larger part of the money went to feed the stomach without other body limbs benefitting.

He said it was no wonder that the government inherited a public debt of GH¢120.3 billion but as at September this year, the public debt was GH¢208.6 billion meaning that the government within 33 months off its tenure in office has added a total of GH¢88.3 billion to the national public debt.

Mr Forson said out of the GH¢88.3 billion additional public debt the government has accumulated, GH¢15.6 billion allocated to capital expenditure while the GH¢72.7 billion went into consumption expenditure.

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