Making our nation greater, stronger

BY: Daily Graphic
Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta
Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta

The Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Review of the 2021 Budget and Economic Policy of the government has been laid before Parliament.

Last Thursday, the Finance Minister, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, delivered the review, which is in accordance with Article 179 of the 1992 Constitution and the Public Financial Management Act 921.

Updating the House on how the economy had performed in the last six months and the outlook for the second half of the year, the minister respectfully assured the nation: “Mr Speaker, I am not here today to ask for more money. I have not come to ask for more taxes. I have come to update the House on the performance of the economy for the first half-year of 2021 and our plans for the unexpired term of the year.”

The claim that he was not in the House to seek for more money and the assurance that he would stick to budget targets could only come from a bold and confident minister.

The review coming on the back of a revenue shortfall for the first five months of the year, as announced by the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of Ghana days before the review, some had expected that the Finance Minister would seek approval from the House to spend additional money, as the government raced to bridge the many infrastructure gaps, chief among them being the road network in the country.

Fortunately, the Finance Minister chose to stay within the 2021 appropriation for the first time since 2017.

The Daily Graphic finds the development welcoming, in view of the fiscal deficit which the government has vowed to reduce over time to restore full confidence in the economy.

It was also a demonstration that the government is keeping faith with its revenue and expenditure plans for the year, all in a bid to restore integrity to public finances.

What we find satisfying again was the announcement that the government was not going to introduce new taxes and impose additional levies on the citizenry.

This is important because many, including economic watchers, had earlier warned that any attempt by the government to increase or introduce new taxes would be an overkill and raise the cost of living in the country even higher than it is presently.

Under normal circumstances, at a time when revenue collection has lagged behind target by GH¢4.1 billion in the first half of the year, while COVID-19 challenges were testing the elasticity of expenditure plans, asking for more funds to patch the gap would have been the ideal thing to do but not necessarily right.

In 2017 and 2018, we witnessed a situation where the government revised the budget targets to accommodate the slow pace of revenue inflow in those years but requested for more money to make up for lower-than-programmed revenues in 2019 and 2020.

To be able to withstand the pressures and the many demands being made and the impatience of the populace in view of the harsh economic conditions and the fast deteriorating infrastructure in the country in the last couple of years is commendable.

We know the dilemma facing the government presently. But for us, we are confident that, given the policies put in place and the determination of the government to stay within its means, it will be in a better position to meet the revenue targets at the end of the year.

However, we would want to prevail on the government to take drastic measures to block all the leakages within the system by not only cracking the whip on recalcitrant individuals and organisations but also ensuring that no ministry, department or agency of the government lives beyond its means by haphazardly awarding contracts which have not been budgeted for. It must also be on the lookout for over-bloated contract sums meant to milk the state dry, even in these times of hardship when the state is hard pressed with numerous demands for attention.

The many efforts to digitise the economy to reduce paper work and physical contacts when it comes to government transactions must also be intensified across board to prevent people from manipulating the system to satisfy their selfish interests at the expense of the majority of the people.

For us at the Daily Graphic, it is our fervent hope and prayer that all of us, as Ghanaians, will live within our means and discharge our duties with diligence and be truthful to ourselves to overcome these hard times.

We have no doubt that once we all commit to and play our part so well, we will not only reach the light at the end of the tunnel but also smile at the storm and make our nation greater and stronger.