Parliament on Tuesday approved the 2020 Budget and Economic Policy after a gruelling concluding debate between the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, and the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu.
The Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, presented the Budget Statement and Financial Policy to Parliament on November 13, 2019 and the debate on it began on November 18, 2019, with Majority and Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) slugging it out in many areas.
As anticipated, Tuesday’s concluding debate, which was witnessed by the Finance Minister, was a contest as to which political party in government was the better manager of the economy.
There was also a clash between Hon. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu and Hon. Haruna Iddrisu concerning the true state of the economy and with the passage of the Budget, the next move by Parliament is to consider and approve the Annual Budget Estimates of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
The Minority Leader who set the tone for the debate, accused the government of dwelling so much on slogans without focusing on the work, and of massaging figures in the election-year budget presented to the House and described it as propaganda budget contrary to the reality on the ground.
According to the Tamale South lawmaker, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta manufactured figures to deceive Ghanaians into thinking that the economy is healthy and faulted the GH¢400 million allocated for insurance for the agricultural sector which he said was too high.
He said the Akufo-Addo government has disrespected known values and laws such as the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (PFMA) and the Fiscal Responsibility Act and, thus, asked Ghanaians to be vigilant and hold the government accountable.
Hon. Haruna Iddrisu was of the view that there are some acts of mismanagement undertaken by the NPP administration including numbers that are being hidden from donors, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Ghanaian public, which allowed the Finance Minister to have cooked the numbers in order to justify the deficit he wants to unleash on the Ghanaian people.
He said the 2020 Budget is laced with propaganda as some of the economic figures are been massaged to discredit the previous National Democratic Congress (NDC) government and criticized Ken Ofori-Atta’s persistent taunts of good growth of the economy within the three years, and blames on the NDC where they failed.
Hon. Haruna said the public sector employment figures stated by the Finance Minister are not accurate, stating that as at January 2017, the public sector employees figures stood at 686,000 and that the Finance Minister’s claims that the Akufo Addo government added 380,000 within the three years is not only propaganda but deceptive.
He dismissed the government’s 2020 Budget Statement presented in Parliament and as the hopeless budget ever, saying the Finance Minister presented nothing new and added that it failed to outline how to address the challenges Ghanaians are battling with.
He charged that the 2020 Budget was not different from the three other budgets presented by the Finance Minister and challenged him to brief the House on how much has been spent to clean the financial sector and urged the media to point out the lack of candour and sincerity on the part of the Minister.
The Minority Leader said government policies to create employment were not sustainable and warned that the NDC Minority will resist this illegality when they come to appropriation since majoritarian rule cannot side-step the laws of the land.
Hon. Iddrisu said it was the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government that laid the solid foundation for the current macroeconomic gains in the country adding the NPP was only reaping the benefit and tasked the government to acknowledge the achievements of the past government and build upon them.
He rejected the suggestion by the Finance Minister that it was the NPP government that ended the power outages (dumsor) that had plagued the country for about years and declared that the NPP inherited an economy where energy was guaranteed in terms of expansion.
Taking his turn, the Majority Leader Hon. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu defended the Budget as a fit-for-purpose Budget which must be supported by all and reiterated his call at the Post-Budget Workshop for colleague MPs to debate the substance of the Budget.
He said the budget, which was prepared by the Minister of Finance and his competent team of economist experts, contained policies to grow the economy and create jobs to improve the living standards of the people and is focused on ensuring macroeconomic stability, industrial transformation, the promotion of agriculture and the creation of opportunities for the private sector.
He said the thrust of the Budget, as envisioned by the President, was to create opportunities for all and to lay a proper foundation to propel the country’s socio-economic development in leaps and bounds since the NPP government is working together as one nation to put Ghana back to work.
Hon. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the economic performance of the Mills and the Mahama administrations was not impressive and added that the NPP government had demonstrated that it performed better than the NDC in the management of the economy.
The Majority Leader said it was wrong for the Minority to indicate that the current government had not added a volt of power to the national grid since assuming the reins of power some thirty four (34) months ago.
On the banking sector clean-up, the Majority Leader said the clean-up was government’s way of intervening to save and free depositors savings and investors whose funds were locked up in the failed financial institutions and that in 2017 and 2018 the government spent 11.7 billion to save depositors savings held by banks that were resolved by the Bank of Ghana.
He further added that the government set up of the Consolidated Bank Ghana Limited (CBGL) and spent GHS1.5 million to revoke the licenses of certain financial institutions all in the interest of safeguarding depositors savings and investors and added that this year government had to intervene again to provide relief to depositors when the Bank of Ghana revoked the licenses of 347 micro-finance institutions, 15 savings and loans and eight finance houses at a total cost of about 1.5 million cedis.
Concluding his presentation, the Majority Leader explained that the National Development Bank and the Enterprise Credit Scheme will finance industry, businesses, mortgages and entrepreneurs.
Delivering his final comments, Mr Ofori-Atta said the 2020 Budget assures Ghanaians of a stable and peaceful year in which there are no new taxes and gave the assurance that government was laying the foundation to propel the country’s socio-economic development and bring Ghana back to work.
He disclosed that lending rates will come down and the roads will be built while the government shall strengthen partnerships with labour, employers and faith-based organisations.
The Minister concluded that the government’s key policies of free SHS, Planting for Food and Jobs and One-District, One-Factory (1D1F) and the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda were being implemented and called on the House to unanimously approve, what he termed, the “nkosuo ne nkabom” Budget Statement and Government Economic Policy for the 2020 Financial Year.