2024 Budget: Focus on job creation, people —Prof Bokpin
Professor of Finance and Economics, Professor Godfred Bokpin, has challenged government to use the opportunity of the 2024 Budget Statement and Government’s Economic Policies to outline measures that will generate economic growth and create jobs.
According to him, this would facilitate the quick economic turnaround the government is hoping for in the near future, adding that, job creation must also be a priority in the budget.
“What we should focus on right now is to focus on job creation, the DDEP with its attendant current economic crisis have shot up unemployment in the country and government must tackle that,” he stated.
The 2024 Budget is expected to be read by the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta on Wednesday, November 15 in Parliament.
Speaking to the Graphic Business in an interview, Prof. Bokpin also noted that the 2024 budget must contain a broad based economic recovery programme that encapsulates all the 16 regions in the country and not only in Accra.
According to him that will create the right condition for the proper take-off of the economy and for it to attain it pre-pandemic characteristics.
“The economy must be broad based because even though we have seen inflation coming down, regional differences exist, especially with respect to food inflation. The 2024 budget has to deliver on how government intends to drastically bring down food inflation, and broaden the process of disinflation across the 16 regions,” he told the Graphic Business in an exclusive interview in Accra last Wednesday.
He revealed that food inflation in the North East Region was more than 73 per cent, almost twice the national average, although the region was a major source of food production.
“Even though we are in Accra here celebrating the national average, marginality exists across regions and districts and that explains why the relative stability is not broad enough,” he stated.
He admonished government to abolish the E-Levy, the Covid 19 health levy, merge the levies with the standard Value Added Tax (VAT) rate and peg it at below 18 per cent and amend the growth and sustainability act to rake in revenue from small companies.
He called on the government to ease the tax burden on businesses and households to enable them to get the fiscal space to ensure growth enhancing activities such as investments.
“The 2024 Budget must give us a concrete evidence and an assurance on how government intends to use the GHS61 billion cedis worth of fiscal space that has been generated by the Domestic Debt Exchange (DDEP) for the benefit of Ghanaians,” he stated.
He urged government to develop an appropriate tax structure that collects revenue and also preserves private sector and household balance sheet.
“It is never true that it is only through taxation that this country can develop. What we have in Ghana is a state sponsored robbery, not taxation,” he stated.
He challenged government to make good its promise of moving the country from taxation to production.
A recent pre-budget survey conducted by audit firm KPMG and UNDP shows businesses look forward to the budget considering initiatives that consolidate macro-economic stability, review certain tax policies to lessen economic impacts, invest in industrialisation and agriculture, and focus on improving on SDGs relating to education, health and wealth creation.
The government itself has hinted at more expenditure cuts, cost cutting measures and freeze on jobs.
The Food and Beverage Association of Ghana (FABAG) also waded in by appealing to the government to make the 2024 budget business friendly by doing away with what they described as nuisance taxes in the tax structure.
However, the astute economist noted that for a country under an IMF supported programme which is fully aware of the fiscal framework, direction of the debt sustainability path, direction of the monetary policy, next year’s budget should be easy to implement and monitor.
“The budget must target a job-rich recovery that targets low income earners, narrow inequality and lifts millions out of poverty, a recent survey by the World Bank revealed over 800,000 people have been submerged into poverty under this current economic crisis and the budget must tackle that,” he stated.
He charged government to move beyond celebrating jobless growth, highlighting GDP figures, and focus on job creation. He called for an engineering of a job-rich growth while making the broad contours of the economy felt by all in the country.
He called on the government to prepare for graduates of the Free Senior High School as they exit, prioritise job creation drivers such as manufacturing by creating a linkage between agro-processing and agro-business linked to manufacturing to create jobs for the youth.
Leakages and corruption
He charged government to block the leakages in the system, stymie the procurement breaches and prevent contract over-valuation. “It must be a combination of an efficient tax system and efficient utilisation of the tax,” he added.
Monitoring and implementation
While doubting any positive impact the 2024 budget will have on Ghanaians due to what he described as the government’s insensitivity to the populace, he called for monitoring of the budget by CSOs and experts to ensure the right implementation of the budget.
He charged the government to create an avenue where the implementation of the budget could be properly and adequately monitored.
He expressed the hope that the government would not overspend to avoid derailing the IMF programme which could exacerbate the suffering of the masses.