Minority accuses the government of crippling the economy, but Majority says the review would accelerate economic recovery and make the country prosperous, as the House ends debate on the 2021 mid-year budget review.
Parliament ends debate on mid-year budget review
Parliament has concluded a debate on the Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Review of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the government for the 2021 financial year, delivered on Thursday, July 29, 2021.
The house concluded its debate on the mid-year budget review on Tuesday, August 3, after three working days of intense contrasting expositions by both the Majority and Minority Leaders.
The Leader of the Minority Caucus in Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu, tagged the mid-year review statement as hopeless and an attempt to steal from Ghanaians.
He added that the review statement as presented by the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, would worsen the living conditions of Ghanaians and foster economic hardship.
On the matter of the minister not requesting a supplementary budget for additional spending, he said the government deserves no commendation and said he was not impressed by the government’s decision.
The Tamale South legislator described the state coffers as an empty calabash and opined that the government was drinking from an empty calabash and hoping for debt forgiveness.
He was of the view that the government should have used the opportunity to scrap some new taxes introduced earlier in the year, including the COVID-19 Health Recovery Levy.
Other taxes that could have been scrapped according to Iddrisu, included the National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL) and a one percentage point increase in the VAT Flat Rate to support expenditures related to COVID-19.
Others are the Sanitation and Pollution Levy (SPL) of 10 pesewas on the price per litre of petrol/diesel under the Energy Sector Levies Act (ESLA); and a further Energy Sector Recovery Levy of 20 pesewas per litre on petrol/diesel under the ESLA.
In the view of Iddirsu, the country’s economy is simply not doing well, as the Akufo-Addo government paints the picture to be, noting that it is on the brink of collapse due to the crippling debt of the country.
The Tamale South MP said the country spends more money servicing debts against investing in state infrastructure and policies geared towards improving the lives of Ghanaians.
He lamented that as the government deals with a debt stock of GH¢ 332 billion, he was very confident the both the President and Minister’s only hope now is debt relief and debt forgiveness.
He added that the Finance Minister has also failed in producing a policy to guide the rebound of the economy following its recession as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iddrisu argued that the country’s inflating debt could be detrimental to Ghana’s burgeoning economy.
In disagreement with the Minority Leader’s arguments, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister and Leader of the NPP Caucus in Parliament, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, stated that the 2021 mid-year budget review is based on policies and principles, and not superficialities.
According to him, the mid-year budget review outlines the president’s programme for accelerated recovery from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said he was optimistic that the mid-year policy statement would restore and sustain macro-economic stability, which is expected to attain improved fiscal performance through enhanced revenue mobilisation, strengthen the economy and ensure investor confidence in the economy.
He also said President Akufo-Addo’s vision to create an “optimistic, self-confident and prosperous nation” was still on course.
Furthermore, he noted that the achievement of this vision is being done through the creative exploitation of human and natural resources, operating within a democratic, open and fair society in which economic opportunities exists for all.
Presentation of the 2021 budget review
The Finance minister in accordance with Section 28 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) last Thursday presented the mid-year fiscal policy review to Parliament.
It detailed the government’s programmes and policies for the rest of the year, including the economic and fiscal performance of the economy for the first half of 2021.
The review also provided an update on the implementation of key programmes including, strategies by the government to create employment for Ghanaians in general and the youth in particular.
The mid-year fiscal review also highlighted the status of the implementation of the Ghana CARES programme that seeks to revitalise and transform the economy to pre-pandemic times.
The fiscal policy review also touched on the assurance of the government on securing COVID-19 vaccines for vaccination and effective domestic revenue mobilisation.