Minority disappointed with budget review

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman
Mr Haruna Iddrisu  — Minority Leader
Mr Haruna Iddrisu — Minority Leader

The Minority in Parliament has described the mid-year budget review as a clear indication of the government’s willingness to depend entirely on debt relief and debt forgiveness to “rescue and sustain” the economy.

According to them, the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, failed to explain to Ghanaians how the government planned to generate more revenue to cushion the economy against the unsustainable public debt.

Besides, they said, it was because the economy was in a tattered state that the Finance Minister told the House he was not there to ask for more money.

The Minority stated this in reaction to the presentation of the mid-year fiscal policy review of the budget statement and economic policy of the government by the Finance Minister on the floor of the House yesterday.

‘You can’t drink from empty calabash’

Speaking on the floor of the House, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said: “You cannot borrow more money because you do not drink from an empty calabash. So we can understand why the Finance Minister is not here to ask for money.”

He indicated that with boards of public institutions and chief executives of metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies yet to be appointed, Mr Ofori-Atta was not in a position to ask for more money.

“I only remind him that as for farmers who want fertiliser, it is seasonal. If you do not give them their fertiliser now, we lose the opportunity,” he said.

The Tamale South MP said the mid-year budget review was an indication that the hope of the President to sustain the economy was in “debt relief and debt forgiveness”.

“That is their hope to rescue this economy; if there is debt relief and debt forgiveness, it is only hope,” he said.

Unsustainable borrowing

In an interview with journalists outside the Chamber, the MP for Bolgatanga Central, Mr Isaac Adongo, argued that the country was clearly trapped in public debt and was compelled to borrow every year to survive.

He noted that out of the $22 billion that the government had borrowed since assuming office, about $7.3 billion had been used to pay interest, an unsustainable payment that had caused the country to be trapped in debt.

“I expected to hear bold revenue measures that demonstrate that we are going to get more revenue by the end of the year,” he said.

Mr Adongo also expressed concern over the decision by the government to use over 91 per cent of tax revenue to pay interest cost.

Cosmetic statement

Contributing, the Ranking Member on the Finance Committee, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, described the mid-year review budget as “nothing but hopeless”.

He said almost every single revenue item in the statement was undermined, as the entire government revenue had underperformed within the first six months of the year.

He also accused the government of spending over GH¢4.5 billion on goods and services, instead of the budgeted GH¢2 billion.

“It is needless for the government to spend GH¢4.5 billion on goods and services for six months. That is not acceptable, as capital expenditure is coming down,” he said.

He said while the government spent GH¢6 billion on capital expenditure, it was spending GH¢15.5 billion on interest payments.

‘Minority were dazed’

The New Patriotic Party MP for Nhyiaeso and member of the Finance Committee, Dr Stephen Amoah, said the Minority were dazed by the “no request for more money” statement by the Finance Minister. 

He noted that while the previous NDC administration introduced 10 new taxes, the Akufo-Addo led-government scrapped 15 different taxes to bring relief to Ghanaians following the burden brought on them by the NDC administration.

"In times such as these, we are among the countries that have managed their economies prudently," Dr Amoah said.

The MP said the combined effect of the COVID-19 on trade, industry, productivity and revenue generation had hit the economy.

“Despite projections that the Ghanaian economy was to shrink last year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the government managed to grow it by 0.4 per cent. These indicators, even in a global pandemic, deserve commendation and not condemnation from the opposition lawmakers,” he said.