Majority, Minority disagree over debt stock
Majority and Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) last Tuesday disagreed over the true state of the country's debt stock.
While the Minority MPs blamed the government for increasing the debt stock to GH¢150 billion, the Majority members said the figures churned out by the Minority were inaccurate.
The disagreement followed a motion on the Annual Public Debt Management Report for the 2017 fiscal year moved by the Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah.
The Minority Spokesperson on Finance and Ranking Member on the Finance Committee, Mr Ato Forson, led the onslaught by stating that if the government were to add the UT/Capital bond and the Energy Sector Bond to the public debt as approved for 2017, the public debt would be approximately GH¢150 billion.
"What this means is that there had been an additional accumulation of GH¢28 billion within 12 calendar months," he said.
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Dr Assibey-Yeboah rose on a point of order to indicate that the UT/Capital bond was issued in 2018 and wondered why Mr Forson was adding it to the 2017 debt.
Besides, Dr Assibey-Yeboah, New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for New Juaben South said, the energy sector bond was not classified as a public debt.
He indicated that the government created a special purpose bill called ESLA Plc, and indicated that the debt stayed in the books of ESLA Plc.
Mr Forson, who is also the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Ajumako Enyan Essiam, however, insisted that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) captured the energy sector bond in their books as part of public debt.
"My argument is that the Energy Sector Levies Act is an act of Parliament and imposed a tax which is being drawn from the consolidated fund.
"So if he (Dr Assibey-Yeboah) said it was a special purpose debt and the government did not care about it, I don't agree. This is not the case. It is a public debt. You service the debt and it should be seen as that," he stressed.
Responding to the debt stock, Dr Assibey-Yeboah said the previous National Democratic Congress (NDC) government left behind a debt of GH¢122 billion as of 2016.
"At that time, the debt stock was increasing at 36 per cent per a year. In 2017, the debt stock grew at 13 per cent. So it grew from GH¢122 billion to the GH¢140billion he talked about", he said.
Dr Assibey-Yeboah, therefore, urged Mr Forson not to pad the debt.
The NDC MP for Bolgatanga Central, Mr Isaac Adongo, said the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, had told Parliament that GH¢9.7 billion would be used to reprofile the debt.
However, he said, only GH¢4.2 billion of that amount was used to reprofile the public debt.
Therefore, he added, GH¢5.5 billion of that money was not accounted for, and stressed the need for the Minister of Finance to be made to account for it.
Mr Adongo said Ghanaians were told in the Annual Public Debt Management Report that the public debt rose only on account of domestic debt to finance budget deficit.