This week in Parliament; Mid-year budget debate to dominate

BY: Musah Yahaya Jafaru
Osei Kyei—Mansah-Bonsu-Majority Leader (right) and Haruna Iddrisu—Minority leader
Osei Kyei—Mansah-Bonsu-Majority Leader (right) and Haruna Iddrisu—Minority leader

Majority and Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) will slug it out this week as they begin the debate on the mid-year fiscal policy review of the 2018 budget statement and economic policy of government presented by the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, in Parliament in Accra last Thursday.

The bone of contention will be whether the new Value Added Tax (VAT) policy amounts to an increase in taxes or not.

In his presentation, Mr Ofori-Atta said there would not be increase in VAT contrary to suggestions in certain quarters.

Rather, he said the government was consolidating contributions to the Health Insurance Fund Levy and the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) portion of VAT into a separate Health and Education Levy.

That, he said, would enable the government to isolate and increase the budget for health and education, and indicated that both the Health Insurance Fund and GETFund levies would continue to be 2.5 per cent each, while the applicable VAT rate was 12.5 per cent.

Before debate begins

Even before the debate begins, Minority members have accused the government of increasing the VAT through the back door.

It said the deception would fall flat and Ghanaians would bear the brunt of the increases.

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The Minority members said the announcement by Mr Ofori-Atta of the policy of changing 2.5 per cent Health Insurance Fund Levy and the 2.5 per cent Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) levy on VAT to a flat levy would increase the tax liabilities of manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.

Therefore, they said the prices of goods and services would definitely go up with the implementation of the new VAT policy.

Strong defence

However, the Majority members have mounted a strong defence of the tax policy, describing it as a prudent measure.

The Majority members said Minority members were rather put to shame because the minister had not announced an increase in VAT as they had speculated.

Members of both sides are also expected to disagree strongly on the performance of the economy regarding inflation rate, the depreciating of the cedi, interest rate, among other indicators.

The debate will begin on Monday, July 23, 2018 according to the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu.

Other activities for the week

The Joint Committee on Mines and Energy and Finance will present its report on the concession agreement between the government and consortium of investors led by the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) for private sector participation in the ECG with the terms of the Second Millennium Challenge Compact.

Much attention will be given to the consideration stage of the Right to Information Bill, 2018 during the week.

According to the business statement, the consideration stage of the bill will be concluded on Friday, July 27, 2018.

The House will also take the Ghana Integrated Bauxite and Aluminium Authority Bill, 2018 through the consideration stage during the week.

One of the striking questions slated for the week is in the name of the Member of Parliament (MP) for Keta, Mr Richard Quashigah, who wants to find out from the Minister of Health how many new health workers have been engaged since 2017.

The House will sit on Monday and sittings may also be extended to enable the House to deal with numerous issues before it.

The House is expected to adjourn sine die on Friday, July 27, 2018.