Govt miss out on opportunity to fund SHS — Gatsi

BY: Jessica Acheampong
Prof. John Gartchie Gatsi
Prof. John Gartchie Gatsi

A renowned economist, Prof. John Gartchie Gatsi, has said government missed out on an opportunity to use taxation to provide a sustainable source of funding for its Free Senior High School (SHS) policy. 

He said from the onset, the government should have explored that option rather than announcing that there was a funding source. As a result, he said it would now be difficult to go back to that approach once there were challenges with the current source.

Prof. Gasti, who is also the Head of the Department of Finance at the School of Business, University of Cape Coast, was sharing his perspectives with the Daily Graphic ahead of the Graphic Business/ Stanbic Bank Breakfasting Meeting  scheduled for today at the La Beach Hotel.

He said the government should have adopted the model for funding the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), and the Road Fund to create a sustainable source of funding for the policy.

“Learning from the NHIS, our Road Fund, the appropriate means would have been a fiscal strategy – a form of a tax- that should be dedicated to the policy.

Perhaps the government has overlooked that strategy and has gone ahead to avoid the tax.”

“I do not know how the government can now convince people to go back to that approach. That would have been the best approach from day one.,” he said last Friday.

Funding education

Funding the Free SHS policy has been a source of concern to many after it was rolled out by government, with a section of the public expressing worry about the sustainability of the social intervention.

The Graphic Business/Stanbic Bank breakfast meeting is, therefore, expected to provide the platform for policy makers and experts to deliberate on the funding options available in sustaining free education in the country.

Some players in the oil and gas sector also expressed worry about the use of oil revenues to fund the programme through the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) - the portion of oil revenues used to support the budget.
Prof. Gatsi said using oil revenues to fund the policy was not a sustainable option, describing it as an illegal approach because the law did not make provision for that.
 “As it is now, it is an illegal approach of using oil revenues to finance free SHS.

The law does not encourage that. If you want to do that, it means you want to change the law and allow the oil money to be used to fund the free SHS,” he said.
In the 2018 budget, the government shifted the cost burden of the direct funding of its free senior high school (SHS) programme to the Scholarship Secretariat.

Consequently, the government reduced its Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) allocation to the programme from GH¢212 million last year to GH¢10 million this year.

The amount was a 95.3 per cent reduction of the funds allocated for the government’s flagship education policy in its first year of implementation, a report by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education stated.

A total number of 355,053 first year SHS students that comprised 113,622 day students and 239,431 boarding students were catered for under the programme.

The number of beneficiaries, as expected, doubled when fresh admissions opened in last September to commence a new academic year.

The Scholarship Secretariat was, therefore, expected to spend about GH¢500 million in financing the free SHS programme out of its budget of GH¢1.2 billion.

Breakfast meeting

The breakfast meeting series is organised by the Graphic Business, in collaboration with Stanbic Bank and it provides the platform for discussions on issues of national importance.

It is scheduled to take place at the Labadi Beach Hotel on Monday, November 12. It is on the theme, “Financing Free Quality Education in Ghana- Sustainable Funding Option.”

A former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana and an Economist with the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), Prof. Ernest Aryeetey; the Director General of the Ghana Education Service, Prof. Opoku Amankwah, and the Principal of SOS Hermann Gmeiner International College, Mr Israel Titi Ofei, have been billed to share their perspectives on the subject which has become necessary in view of the importance of education to national development.