You can’t drink from an empty calabash – Haruna Iddrisu to Finance Minister

BY: Isaac Yeboah
Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu
Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu

Minority Leader in Parliament and MP for Tamale South, Haruna Iddrisu, has suggested government’s claims of managing a resilient economy underpinned by high discipline and competence, is a façade soon to be exposed.

He predicts that only debt forgiveness or relief will save the Ghanaian economy from the depths government has driven it.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta was in Parliament Thursday, July 29, to present the Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Review of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government of Ghana for the 2021 Financial Year, during which he said Government, per its discipline, will keep to its appropriations and will neither impose new taxes to raise revenue nor demand to spend more.

“"Mr. Speaker, we are managing the finances of the country with discipline and competence. The fiscal operations for the period January to June 2021 indicate that the overall budget deficit was GH¢22.32 billion, equivalent to 5.1 percent of GDP. The corresponding primary balance for the period was a deficit of GH¢7.3 billion, equivalent to 1.7 percent of GDP, against a target deficit of GH¢4,797 or 1.1% of GDP. We will continue to pursue our fiscal consolidation agenda to ensure that we remain within the appropriation given by this House,” he had told the house.

He continued; “Mr. Speaker, I stand before this august House today to assure the nation that our transformation agenda is very much on course. However, with COVID-19 still with us, it is important to stress that this recovery is only the beginning; a beginning that requires our collective sense of responsibility and action as citizens to guide, protect and participate in the recovery efforts. Mr. Speaker, this Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Review that I am presenting does not come with a supplementary budget, and our revised fiscal framework for 2021 is kept within the fiscal target of 9.5 percent of GDP. We are staying within the 2021 Appropriation.”

“Respectfully, Mr. Speaker, let me repeat. I am not here today to ask for more money. I have not come to ask for more taxes. I have come to update the House on the performance of the economy for the first half-year of 2021 and our plans for the unexpired term of the year, consistent with section 28 of the PFM Act,” Ken Ofori-Atta had assured parliament, and the public.

Soon after he had completed his statement presentation however, First Deputy Speaker Joe Osei Owusu, presiding, beckoned the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu to comment on the statement ahead of a motion for adjournment of proceedings.

Haruna duly responded, and with a couple of witty sayings indicated that a critical debate of the statement will expose the hopelessness of the economy.

“Mr Speaker, we have heard the honourable Minister for Finance on ‘I am not here today to ask for money’. Mr Speaker you don’t drink water from an empty calabash so we can understand why he is not here to ask for money. No Boards in place. No Chief Executives in place, No DCEs in place, what will you ask for more money for? But Mr Speaker, I will only remind him that as for farmers who want fertilisers, it is seasonal. If you don’t give them their fertiliser now, you lose the opportunity. So Mr Speaker, the thigh is not in a haste for a dance that ensues in the day. We will stand adjourned if that is the wish of the Leader so that tomorrow…and debate thoroughly on it.”

He continued that he was very convinced the Minister’s hope, and that of President Akufo-Addo, of salvaging the economy is banked only on debt relief and debt forgiveness from the country’s creditors, insisting “That is their hope to rescue this economy, if there is debt relief and debt forgiveness, only hope.”