Mid-year budget must restore hope

BY: Graphic Business
Ken Ofori-Atta — Minister of Finance

The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, will tomorrow appear before Parliament to address the country on how the economy has performed in the first half of the year and the projections for the coming months.

The minister will do so when he presents the Mid-Year Review of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government and Supplementary Estimate for the 2022 financial year in pursuant of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921).

The fiscal policy measures which were captured in the 2022 budget to generate more revenues and undertake transformational projects have so far performed below expectation.

The measures were expected to help generate about GH¢100.52 billion by the end of the year but the first quarter results which have been released indicate that only GH¢16.71 billion had been raised, less than a quarter of the projected revenues.

The Electronic Transactions Levy (E-Levy), for instance, which was expected to rake in some GH¢4.5 billion, has not performed to expectation due to delays in the passage of the bill and other challenges.

Aside from the pronouncements on the revenue and expenditure side, the minister is also expected to make his first public comments on the government’s decision to officially reach out to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for support.

Like many other members of the public, the Graphic Business is expecting the Finance Minister to use the opportunity to announce more pragmatic measures to raise revenue.

For instance, we expect him to forcefully push for the passage of the Tax Exemptions Bill in the next few months to help save the country billions of Ghana cedis to shore up its revenue.

At a time when revenue projections have fallen below target, we must leave no stone unturned in ensuring that all the loopholes that deny the state its due are blocked.

We also do not expect the government to announce new tax measures or increase taxes because that will be another avenue for more strikes by labour which will demand to be cushioned because of the high cost of living.

Instead, we want to prevail on the government to ensure that those who are not in the tax net are roped in. This means that there must be a deliberate and a more pragmatic effort to widen the tax net in a manner that ropes in those who do not pay at all.

For instance, there are many businesses that operate only after working hours of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA). The tax collecting authority should be able to deploy staff to such businesses to collect taxes because they make huge sums on money as profit and must be able to honour their obligations to the state.

In the last couple of weeks, there have been a lot of strike actions on the labour front, particularly within the teacher unions. They are demanding an additional 20 per cent of what they describe as ‘Cost of Living Allowance (COLA).

It is clear that the demands will increase the government’s already bloated expenditure and make an already bad situation worse. From their arguments, it is clear that the government and its appointees are living a comfortable life and, therefore, they should also be considered.

In a show of solidarity, the President announced that there has been a drastic cut in the salaries and allowances of his appointees in a show of commitment to reduce public expenditure.

For us at the Graphic Business, we expect the Finance Minister to use the opportunity tomorrow to present to the people a comprehensive report of the savings made from those measures.

This will allow teachers to trust in the policies and perhaps soften their stance and return to the classrooms. It will also help restore confidence in the public, particularly other labour unions to soften their stance regarding demands for increased remuneration.