Majority and Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) locked horns Tuesday as to the true state of the country’s economy as they began the debate on the 2018 budget and economic policy presented to the House by the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, last Wednesday.
The debate centred on which ruling political party was the better managers of the economy and credible in terms of giving accurate macroeconomic figures.
While the Majority MPs touted the 2018 budget as the best panacea for the country’s socioeconomic development, the Minority legislators described the budget as empty and devoid of any hope for Ghanaians.
The Majority MPs said the government’s flagship programmes of free senior high school (SHS) education policy; one district, one factory, and Planting for Food and Jobs had taken off smoothly.
Therefore, the Majority legislators said, the budget was bringing Ghana back to work.
But the Minority MPs countered that claim, insisting that all the touted programmes had been a flaw.
The Minority legislators said the budget was rather sending Ghanaians out of work.
There was also a contest as to whether the government could create the 100,000 jobs under the National Builders Corps programme.
The Majority legislators who mounted a defence of the budget included the MP for Wenchi and Minister of Planning, Professor George Yaw Gyan-Baffour; the MP for New Juaben South and Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah; the MP for Obuasi West and Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr Kwaku Kwarteng, and the MP for Ofoase/Ayirebi and Deputy Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah.
Their contenders in the Minority side included the MP for Ajumako/Enyan/Essiam and Ranking Member on the Finance Committee, Mr Cassiel Ato Forson; the MP for Ketu South and former Minister of Transport, Mr Fifi Kwetey; the MP for Bolgatanga Central, Mr Isaac Adongo, and the MP for Yapei/Kusawgu and former Deputy Minister of Power, Mr John Abdulai Jinapor.
Despite the ground rules set by the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, for the debate to be allowed to flow without interjections, there were intermittent hecklings from both side of the House, forcing the Speaker to call members to order occasionally.
Supporting the motion for the approval of the budget, Professor Gyan-Baffour said the budget contained solutions to the country’s socio-economic challenges.
“Ghana will begin to work again because it (the budget) will fund the policies and programmes of the government. Every aspect of the budget is informed by the government policies and programmes”, he said.
Prof Gyan-Baffour said the vision of the President “is to create an optimistic, self-confident and prosperous nation in which there is mutual trust and opportunity for all.”
Dr Assibey-Yeboah said confidence was being restored in the economy as international rating agencies had consistently rated Ghana high in terms of economic performance.
He said the government’s decision to move the economy from taxation to production was yielding dividends.
For instance, he said, the country’s economy was expected to grow by 7.9 per cent by the end of this year.
Mr Kwarteng said the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government inherited power outages (dumsor), lower growth and unemployment, high indebtedness and interest payments on loans contracted.
He said within the 11 months in power, the government had taken measures to grow the economy and address the challenges.
Mr Kwarteng said in 2008, “our policy is to put the economy back by making Ghana a business friendly economy.”
Besides, he said, the government would reduce electricity tariffs for domestic consumers and industry and provide tax incentives to young entrepreneurs and remove corporate tax for universities.
Mr Oppong-Nkrumah said the it was rather the NDC government that had credibility challenges because it included the oil sector in its growth indicators but the party members were now criticisms the government for including the oil sector in its gross domestic product (GDP) for this year.
Mr Forson said he did not see any hope in the budget because “The budget is more or less empty.”
Besides, he said, the details of the budget did not give an indication that the government could create the 100,0000 jobs and more it promised in the budget.
Mr Forson faulted the Finance Minister for revisiting the expenditure allocations and revised revenue targets in the budget without recourse to Parliament as required in the Public Finance Management Act.
He, therefore, suggested that the budget should be rejected and withdrawn from Parliament.
Mr Kwetey said the inaccuracies in the budget had rendered it incredible.
For instance, he said, the government failed to acknowledge that the economic successes achieved this year were the outcome of the achievements of the previous government.
Against, he said, dumsor ended before the NPP came to power but the Finance Minister indicated in the budget that it was the current government that ended dumsor.
Mr Adongo said the economy was not growing as touted in the budget and indicated it was an economy that could create any meaningful jobs.
For instance, he said, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, which was growing at 20 per cent in the last administration was now growing at only five per cent, saying “How can you create jobs when the ICT sector is challenged.”
Besides, Mr Adongo said the health sector, which recorded 16.8 per cent in the Mahama administration had slowed down to 6.8 per cent.
He said despite the government’s promise to build 56 factories under the one district, one factory programme not a single one had been put up.
Mr Jinapor said the wrong information given by the Finance Minster about the ending of dumsor should not be left to go unchallenged by Parliament.
Source: Daily graphic