Government aims for tighter fiscal management in 2013 budget

Government aims for tighter fiscal management in 2013 budget

Ahead of the presentation of the 2013 budget, Ghana’s finance minister, Seth Tepker has  signaled that government will be targeting tighter fiscal management this year.

Mr Tekper, who spoke to newsmen, said that the slippages that led to overrans in 2012 will not be tolerated in 2013. He said the budget, expected to be presented in early March, would have a much lower fiscal deficit target than was he case in 2013.

“For now I can say that the government has taken an economic and fiscal stance to tackle the fiscal challenges that led to the deficit overrun and I am optimistic that we will not experience those slippages in 2013,” he said.

According to the Bank of Ghana, Ghana’s deficit in 2012 was 12.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), almost double its target of 6.7 percent. Mr Terkper attributed this to payments of larger-than-estimated public sector wage arrears and fuel subsidies. This, coupled with a significant shortfall in expected corporate income tax from petroleum companies, after production problems meant government failed to meet its revenue targets.

“The (wage) arrears payment has taken a toll on the budget beyond what the government had programmed – the fuel subsidies have also widened year after year,” he said.

The government is currently weighing the options for a possible reduction in fuel subsidies but no decision has been taken yet.

Fuel subsidies for last year totalled one billion cedis ($526 million) and are expected to rise to 2.4 billion cedis this year.

Mr Tekper however assured the public that the budget would not be a painful budget, which is usually the case in post-election budgets as governments seek to correct the fiscal splurges of the election.

“It is not going to be an austere budget – it is not going to be painful but at the same time, we are not going to repeat some of the mistakes,” Mr Terkper said.

The finance minister said government would continue to issue short- and medium-term bonds as source of funding for capital projects, in addition to accessing loan facilities from China and other bilateral donors.

The 2013 budget will be Mr Terkpers’s first budget as finance minister. He previously served as deputy minister between 2009 and 2012 under Dr Kwabena Duffour and is respected in financial circles for his meticulousness.