Parliament has approved the Budget Statement and Economic Policy for the 2020 fiscal year, after heated arguments from both sides of the House.
The Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, on Wednesday, November 13, 2019, presented the 2020 budget statement and highlights to Parliament, detailing the government’s programmes and policies for the year.
The Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, who moved the motion to set the debate rolling, announced that when the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government took over the administration of the country, it was compelled to extend the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme started by the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government because the NDC had missed the targets it had agreed with the IMF.
Dr Assibey-Yeboah, who is the NPP Member for New Juaben South, indicated that every single microeconomic indicator had improved since January 2017, making the economy buoyant, while the Bank of Ghana (BoG) was working to clear all the mess in the country’s financial sector.
There was heated argument between the two sides before the budget was approved.
The Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said under the NPP, the country had grown from strength to strength and transformed into an emerging market.
He said when the government presented the 2017 budget, it consolidated six critical areas, and that for the last three years a lot had been achieved but more needed to be done.
He said there was a difference between commitment and the fanciful, saying that over the past three years, the number of beneficiaries of the free SHS programme had increased.
The Majority Leader said since the NPP assumed power, the rate of economic growth had doubled and the people of Ghana were the better judges.
He indicated that the 2020 budget sought to consolidate the gains and create jobs for all, adding: “Indeed, it is a solid rock and I urge all to support the motion raised by the Finance Minister to approve the budget.”
The Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, submitted that when the Finance Minister presented the budget to Parliament, he likened the achievements of the NPP government to the miracle of the three loaves and fish.
“Mr Speaker, miracles should be seen and felt by all Ghanaians, not a single person,” he said, adding: “Let the youth in Ghana feel the miracle by getting jobs.”
He said the growth should spread geographically, saying that the minister had misled Ghanaians because what the NPP government had said in its manifesto was not what was currently being witnessed.
Mr Iddrisu pointed out that on page 201 of the 2020 budget, the Finance Minister indicated that the government had improved the economic situation in the country, but that was inconsistent with prevailing conditions.
“Mr Speaker, we were told that China will be granted five per cent of our country’s bauxite reserves. We want to know the country’s total reserve of bauxite and who evaluated it to arrive at a figure that $2 billion amounts to five per cent. We, the Minority, demand transparency,” he said.
According to the Minority Leader, the free SHS policy had expanded access to SHS, but it came at an opportunity cost to other aspects of the economy.
He noted that the 2020 Budget did not address the issue of unemployment and that the continued expenditure of oil revenue on consumption was very worrisome to the Minority.
“Mr Speaker, we on this side of the House are not convinced about his reportage of the 2020 deficit because it still excludes certain expenditure and they will not accommodate that,” he stated.
In a concluding statement, Mr Ofori-Atta indicated that the work of the government for the last three years had helped to transform the lives of Ghanaians.
“Mr Speaker, I was impressed with the contributions of the Minority during the debate, and despite their claims, the records show clearly that we have prudently managed the economy,” he said.
He said President Nana Akufo-Addo had a noble ambition for the country and called on Ghanaians to support him.
During his presentation of the budget, Mr Ofori-Atta revealed that it would review the country’s tax exemption policy and indicated that a lot of resources were lost to exemptions, hence the need to straighten them out and make the exemptions count.
He said the government’s flagship programmes, including the free SHS and Planting for Food and Jobs, would receive dedicated funding and gave an assurance that the government would ensure that the roads were fixed.
The government, the minister noted, was thinking structurally about tax reforms and added that it was focused on its export drive and doing things that would place the country in a position of real growth to bring about the needed employment opportunities.