Low attendance characterises budget debate
Attendance of Members of Parliament (MPs), particularly the Majority Caucus, at the ongoing debate on the 2023 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the government has been low.
For two straight days since the debate commenced, the House has recorded an extremely low turnout of MPs in the Chamber, with only 37 out of the 137 Majority MPs turning up yesterday.
When the Daily Graphic reached out to Alhaji Muntaka on why some MPs had not been in the Chamber, he said about 100 Minority MPs had been around since the debate started.
The Asawase MP explained that when MPs were debating various sectors of the economy as contained in the budget, legislators who were due to speak on a particular sector the following day normally would stay in their office to monitor the debate on the floor while preparing.
“If you are to speak tomorrow it will be very difficult for you to be sitting in the Chamber because of the microphone. So, you rather stay in your office and watch the debate while you prepare and if there is the need for voting, you come to the Chamber and do so.
“This is what has accounted for some of my members not being in the Chamber,” he explained.
Corroborating the assertion by the Minority Chief Whip, Mr Afenyo-Markin agreed that a number of MPs had to stay in their offices to prepare ahead to speak on sector by sector for the debate, hence the reason for being absent.
The spokesperson for the 80 plus disgruntled Majority MPs who called for the dismissal of the Finance Minister, Andy Appiah-Kubi, told the media: “I cannot explain why people have not come.”
He said they agreed with the President on certain issues “and we expect the President to respect a road map in respect of Mr Ofori-Atta to be disengaged.”
“That will mean that when we get to the passage of the budget, the President will also perform his part of the agreement,” Mr Appiah-Kubi said.
Asked if he was disappointed that Mr Ofori-Atta had not shown up in the House during the debate, he said: “I am not disappointed because I did not even expect him.”
“I expected the President’s budget to come and if the budget has come and the motion has been moved by somebody else I think it is proper,” he added.
Few Majority MPs
For yesterday’s debate, at the time proceedings began around 12 noon, the 37 Majority MPs present included the Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, and the Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin.
The Majority Leader told the House that the Majority Chief Whip, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, who was marked absent for the two days, was on an official parliamentary assignment outside the country.
On the side of the Minority Caucus, there were over 93 Minority MPs on the floor. They included the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu; the Deputy Minority Leader, Dr James Klutse Avedzi; the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka; the First Deputy Minority Whip, Ibrahim Ahmed, and the Second Deputy Minority Whip, Comfort Doyoe Cudjoe.
As of 4.50 p.m., there were equal numbers of 23 each of Majority and Minority MPs in the House until the House adjourned a little after 5 p.m.
Contributing to the motion on the budget, the Ranking Member on the Roads and Transport Committee, Kwame Governs Agbodza, said the budget must give all MPs serious concern as it would affect the “way we live our lives.”
He said the economic situation in the country had already started “altering our life for the poorer.”
“Today, perhaps if you have GH¢100 in your pocket then the value of that money is probably GH¢50 because what you could buy with that GH¢100 a year ago can only buy half of what you bought one year ago,” he said.
He expressed concern over how the cost of transportation had become so high and added that it was time to revisit large capacity public transport systems such as the bus rapid transit, which the government must subsidise to cushion Ghanaians against the high cost of transportation.
He said the Minority welcomed the decision by the Roads Minister to bring back road tolls.
“If you bring the road tolls back, all the approvals must go into maintenance otherwise we are not going to support you,” he said.
On October 25, 2022, more than 80 aggrieved Majority MPs held a press conference in Parliament to press home the dismissal of the Finance Minister and the Minister of State at the Finance Ministry, Charles Adu Boahen.
The spokesperson of the group, Mr Appiah-Kubi, who is also the MP for Asante-Akim North, said they decided to voice their position because all attempts to get the President to heed their request to fire the minister had failed to yield any outcome.
In their view, the firing of Mr Ofori-Atta would help restore confidence in Ghana’s deteriorating economy.
The leadership of the Majority and leadership of the NPP also held a meeting with all Majority MPs who agreed to be present in Parliament when the Finance Minister presented the 2023 budget statement, an appeal that was heeded.