RESPONSE OF THE MINORITY NPP TO THE 2015 BUDGET
STATEMENT AND ECONOMIC POLICY OF THE GOVERNMENT
AND CURRENT EVENTS – JANUARY 8, 2015
Fellow Ghanaians, on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, in line with article 179 of the 1992 constitution, caused to be laid in Parliament the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government of Ghana for the 2015 financial year. The Minister for Finance Mr. Seth E. Terkper performed the act on behalf of the President.
Countrymen and women, the theme for the 2015 Budget Statement and Economic Policy is “Transformational Agenda: Securing the Bright medium Term Prospects of the Economy”. The word “secure” means “to be free from danger, trouble, worry or uncertainty”. That is according to the Chambers 21st Century Dictionary. This theme that the President chose for the budget derives from the President’s attempt to buttress his own assertion in his 2014 State of the Nation Address that “our economic fundamentals remain sound and the mid-term prospects are bright”.
The President emphasized his bold declaration with statistics on economic growth. If one were to assume rather erroneously, as the President did, that economic growth rate alone make up economic fundamentals, then it becomes relevant to analyse the facts to enable one to properly judge the President’s descriptions of the state of our economy which this budget statement borrows a leaf from.
1. GDP GROWTH INDEX
The GDP growth rate which was inherited by President Kufuor, i.e. in 2000, was 3.7%. In 2001 the GDP grew at 4.2%; in 2002 it grew at 4.5% rising to 5.2% in 2003 and to 5.6% in 2004. It rose to 5.9% in 2005; 6.4% in 2006; 6.3% in 2007 and to 7.3% in 2008 which was later reviewed to 8.4% after the rebasing of the economy. This is steady growth which occurred without the benefit of crude oil exports. This is how a really sound economic growth aggregate looks like.
Now compare with the rather convulsive growth rates achieved under the Mills-Mahama administration. In 2009 GDP growth rate swung down to 4.0%; in 2010 it grew at 8.0% and upped to 14.4% in 2011 when, for the first, time oil output was added to the GDP. It is important to underscore that for 2011 the non-oil sector registered a 7.8% growth. The provisional GDP growth for 2011 was 13.6% (see pg 4 of the 2011 budget). That was later reviewed to 14.4%. The 2015 budget document indicates that GDP growth for 2011 was 15%. The basis for these multiple reviews must be questioned (ref to Pg 158 of the 2015 budget).
We were told the GDP (with oil) grew at 7.6% in 2013. The figure was later reviewed downwards to 5.8% with the non-oil sector registering 4.1%. In the 2015 budget the GDP growth rate of 2013 has been revised again to 7.2%. The 2014 growth rate is 6.9% (ref. page 11 of the 2015 budget). This figure is according to the Ghana Statistical Service. Ironically, the Ministry of Finance itself has projected the 2014 GDP growth to be 4.6%. The differences between these estimates of GSS and MoFEC shows the uncoordinated nature of the management of the country’s economy under President John Mahama. Notwithstanding, it is important to stress that all these rebased figures since 2011 have oil components. What is crystal clear is that the non-oil sector of the economy has never managed to grow at 8.4% since 2009 under the Mills-Mahama administration inspite of the pontifical high mass that they have every year organized to celebrate what they deem as “bright economic prospects”.
2. OTHER ECONOMIC INDICATORS
Ladies and gentlemen, let us consider the other economic indicators: Exchange Rate: The cedi depreciated by 17.6% in the first quarter alone in 2014. As at the end of August 2014 the cedi had depreciated by over 75% since December 2013. As we speak now the cedi has made some recovery from ˘3.85 to $1 to ˘3.30 and that represents a depreciation of over 50% from the December 2013 level even though we are told that officially it is about 31%. The Bank of Ghana may have to explain to us what the basis of their calculation is. For in December 2013 the exchange rate was GH˘2.20 to US$1 and the 2014 budget projected that the cedi will get to GH˘2.35 to US$1 in December 2014. Today, it is GH˘3.30 to US$1.
In the 8-year administration under President Kufuor, the cedi moved from GH˘0.72 to US$1.0 to GH˘1.1 to US$1. Thus the cedi depreciated by 53%. Six years into the NDC administration the cedi has depreciated by 200.0% and we are still counting.
Interest rates now hover around 30%. Kufuor brought it down to 25% from the 42% that it was in December 2000. Our gross international reserves, we are told, have since August 2014 recovered from 2.2 months of import cover to 3.3 months but the net international reserves covers less than three weeks. But again, there are questions to ask: what is the quantum of our international reserves? In Paragraph 74 of the 2014 Budget the Minister of Finance stated that it decreased from $5.35billion as at December 2012 to $5.2billion as at September 2013 which provided for 2.9months of import cover. The projection then was that it would go further down. Indeed, the Governor of the Bank of Ghana reported in March 2014 that the reserves had decreased further to $4.88billion as at February 2014.
Clearly, therefore when the Minister of Finance now states that the stock position of our gross international reserve as at December 2013 was $5.6billion (par 62 of 2015 budget) it must be taken with a pinch of salt. The Minister and his Governor of the Bank of Ghana must be truthful to Ghanaians with figures. Our trade deficit was US$1.3billion. The country’s fiscal deficit and current account deficit have all escalated since 2008. The public debt stock is over GH˘70billion from GH˘9.5billion in December 2008.
Even at GH˘70billion it means each Ghanaian, including the child delivered as I speak now, owes GH˘2,800.ŘŘ. Last year at this time the burden for every Ghanaian was GH˘2,000. One year on, the debt per capita has increased by 40%, no thanks to “y1ntie obi ara” government.
Fellow Ghanaians, the 2008 debt stock of GH˘9.5billion represented 33% of GDP. Today, 6 years into the Mills-Mahama administration the GH˘70billion debt stock is almost 7˝ times or indeed 636% increase in the debt stock. The GH˘70billion figure means our debt stock has risen to 60.8% of GDP as at September 2014.
Inflation, meanwhile, has risen to 17%. The NDC propagandists have their tails in between their legs. There is no more talk about single digit.
The country is over borrowing and astronomically increasing our debt pile up which has crossed the 60% threshold and that should be extremely worrying as it shall, before long, plunge us into the league of countries with high risk of debt distress.
These represent the gory circumstances of our economic fundamentals and if these in the eyes of President Mahama, represent bright medium-term prospects of the economy which must be secured, then we need God Almighty to rescue us.
4. WAMZ COUNTRIES
Countrymen and women, the 2013 economic growth in countries in the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) most of which are non-oil producing averaged 6.7%. The countries in that league are The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria. In the third-time revision of the GDP growth rate for 2013 Ghana’s non oil sector grew at 5.8% or 6.5%? (ref paragraph 43 of 2014 Budget and pg 158 of 2015 Budget). Either of the figure was less than the average growth in the sub-region. In 2013 Ghana placed last in the WAMZ league as it was the only country to have met only 3 out of the 10 primary and secondary criteria as at September, 2013.
Indeed, by December 2013 the country had slipped also on “exchange rate stability, “real interest rate” and the “Central Bank (BoG) financing of the country’s deficit for 2013 must be less than 10% of the previous year’s tax revenue”. Hence at the close of 2013 the country met none of the 10 criteria. Ghana’s abysmal record of fiscal year 2013 was the worst performance by Ghana in 20 years. Accordingly, the N.P.P in our “True State of the Nation Address” took the NDC government to task on this. For 2014 the provisional GDP growth rate for the WAMZ countries in the sub-region is over 6%.
Non-oil producing countries!!
For the first time in over, 21 years the Minister for Finance refused to present the table of performance of the country in the WAMZ league in the 2015 Budget document. The reason is simple. The picture will represent a bitter truth to government and the country and hence, for them, it is better not to show it at all. Truth is like cork and a responsible government which purports to be committed to transparency, probity and accountability must not hide anything from the citizens. One cardinal principle of good budgeting is transparency.
All relevant information for sound budgeting should be available in an accessible format. Budget information must be accurate, reliable and comprehensive. What is the government afraid of? Let the people know the truth. The truth is that for the second year running Ghana could not achieve even one of the 10 convergence criteria.
BACKGROUND AND EXPECTATIONS ON THE 2015 BUDGET STATEMENT:
Fellow Ghanaians, it is abundantly clear from the preceding paragraphs that the 2015 Budget Statement was presented against the background of weak and deteriorating economic fundamentals, including:
• Declining Real GDP Growth
• Increasing Inflation and cost of living
• Double digit fiscal deficits for two years in a row,
• Large and increasing central bank financing of government
• Double digit current account deficits for two years in a row,
• Massive increase in the public debt stock,
• Net international reserves at a precarious level
• Government unable to meet its statutory obligations
• Declining consumer and investor confidence
• Exchange Rate Depreciation
• Rising Corruption
• Rising Cost of Doing Business – taxes, lack of access to credit, high utility tariffs, Incessant Power outages – “Adumdumadumdum”, high interest rates, etc.
• Very High cost of petroleum products
• Rising Youth Unemployment
• IMF bailout talks
The expectation of Ghanaians was therefore of a budget that would set out to address these issues and alleviate their suffering. However, Ghanaians have been terribly disappointed. The 2015 budget provided no relief to the suffering of Ghanaians after six years of NDC government. Indeed, the 2015 budget rather actually increased the suffering of Ghanaians by implementing some rather harsh tax measures and failing to address the fundamental issues of concern.
After six years in office, Ghanaians are now being asked to pay dearly for the economic mismanagement and corruption of this NDC government which has resulted in economic decline, high debt levels taking Ghana again towards debt unsustainability, rising levels of unemployment, rising cost of living, rising cost of doing business, depreciating currency, rising interest rates and an inability to meet statutory payments including pensions.
In a bid to raise revenue to cover the mess they have created, the NDC government has resorted to taxing everything in sight. The budget has demonstrated very little appreciation of the problems Ghanaian workers and businesses are going through at the moment. Ghanaians would like to know when the “dums4” will be over for example.
Now to some of the specifics:
The Projected Sharp Decline In Growth In 2015 Is Puzzling Given The Estimated Growth Performance In 2014”
The 2015 budget shows an economy in decline. After six years in government, during which the NDC claimed “unprecedented economic growth” in 2011, the harsh truth is that real GDP growth is in decline. Real GDP growth has declined from 15% in 2011 (with the onset of oil production) to a projected 3.9% in 2015 (including oil). The budget is projecting non-oil growth of 2.7% in 2015. These facts are as revealing as they are disturbing.
The government is claiming that the economy is recovering. If indeed the economy is recovering as indicated by the government, and we have “turned the curve”, what will be explaining the further decline in growth in a year that claims to be focused on sealing up the bright prospects of the economy? What sort of recovery sees real GDP growth decline from a purported 6.9% in 2014 to 3.9% in 2015?
The growth rate in 2015 would be just about what it was in the year 2000 and less than one-half the rate of the 8.4% achieved in 2008 without oil!. Non-oil growth in 2015 will be below the growth rates attained in 2000! The decline in real GDP growth is reflected in all the sectors, (Agriculture, Industry and Services). In the midst of this deep decline in economic activity we wonder what scope exists for the Minister for Finance to rake in revenues to support infrastructure development and meet Government’s statutory obligations.
Ladies and gentlemen, something is not quite right with the real GDP numbers. They lack credibility. How can an economy which went through so much turmoil in 2014, with a colossal 75% depreciation or even if we take the official figure, 69% depreciation of the currency and massive load shedding register real GDP growth of 6.9% only to decline sharply to 3.9% when the government claims the economy is transforming or recovering. Is the recovery in reverse gear? Our view is that the 6.9% real GDP growth reported by the Ghana Statistical Service needs to be re-examined.
Otherwise, the government should explain the reason for this sharp decline in real GDP growth in 2015. This is important because if the real GDP numbers for 2014 are overstated, it would have implications for the 2015 projections and policies.
This notwithstanding, the fact remains that the economy that was inherited by the NDC government in 2009 was growing at 8.4% without oil. Having become an oil producer, the government has superintended over a precipitous decline in real GDP growth from the supposed 15% or 14% (depending on which lense one uses) in 2011 to a projected 3.9% in 2015. Let us put this into perspective — the economy has lost steam equivalent to 11% of GDP since 2011 suggesting that for a $50.0 billion dollar economy, almost $5.0 billion dollars worth of economic activity has disappeared, and this is worrying. Slow growth means higher unemployment, higher prices and declining revenues. In this respect, the NDC administration has woefully failed Ghanaians and one is deeply worried about the depth to which the economy is sinking.
GHANA’S DEBT SUSTAINABILITY IS IN QUESTION
The 2015 budget revealed that at the same time that Ghana’s economic growth has been in sharp decline, Ghana’s Debt/GDP ratio has sharply risen to 60.8% of GDP as at September 2014. Ghana’s debt stock has crossed the 60% of GDP level that developing countries with limited access to capital flows should worry about in terms of debt sustainability.
As of 2008, Ghana’s total public debt stood at GH˘9.5 billion (33% of GDP). In the last six years however, the stock of public debt has risen dramatically to GH˘70 billion (60.8% of GDP) at September 2014. This is an increase in the stock of debt by GH˘60.5billion or the equivalent of some $27 billion using the average exchange rate for 2009-2014 or $17.5 billion at current exchange rates . This also represents an increase in the stock of debt by 636% over a six year period (i.e. an average increase in the stock of debt by 106.14% a year). This is a frightening rate of accumulation of debt by any standard or measure. On this track, Ghana is clearly on the way back to the unsustainable debt levels that pushed us to HIPC.
This is a worrying development because Ghana received HIPC relief just 10 years ago after a similar debt binge by the previous NDC Government. If the current borrowing binge continues, it will only be a matter of time before the international rating agencies will classify Ghana as a country with high risk of debt distress. The consequences of this classification would compromise Ghana’s ability to raise further financing from the international capital market and, worse still, disable the country from servicing and paying our debts.
The accumulation of debt by this NDC government over the last six years has quite frankly been reckless. The interest payments on this debt in 2014 alone is four times Ghana’s oil revenue in 2014! In 2015, Interest payments alone on the debt would amount to GHC9.5 billion. This figure is equivalent to the total debt stock of GH˘9.5billion in 2008 at the end of President Kufuor’s administration for which debt stock both President Mills and John Mahama lampooned the NPP government. This, indeed, is reality check.
The increase in interest payments by 4.3% of GDP between 2008 and 2015 (i.e. from 2.8% in 2008 to 7.1% in 2015) has taken away critical fiscal space that was available to government. In the 2014 budget, the entire allocations to the Ministry of Roads and Highways (GH˘779 million), Trade and Industry (GH˘256.5 million), Ministry of Fisheries (GH˘279 million), Ministry of Food and Agriculture (GH˘128 million), Ministry of Water Resources and Housing (GH˘531 million) and Ministry of Transport (GH˘89 million) amounted to a total of (GH˘2062 million). Interest payments in 2014 is more than three times what was allocated to these six key ministries combined! The story is no different for 2015.
Given the precarious nature of Ghana’s debt situation, one would have expected some bold measures to fundamentally reduce the increasing debt overhang which, if not dealt with would push Ghana into the high debt/low growth trap. The budget basically dodged the issue.
WHAT HAS THE BORROWED MONEY BEEN USED FOR?
As stated earlier the NDC government has borrowed an amount equivalent, at the time of borrowing, to some $27 billion over the last six years. This is besides oil and tax revenue. No government in Ghana’s history has been so lucky as to have had access to this volume of resources for development. What is shocking about this borrowing-spree is that it has happened at the same time as capital expenditure as a percentage of GDP has unbelievably declined.
In his media encounter to commemorate the second year of his coronation President Mahama said if Ghanaians want to know what development projects and programmes his government has committed the resources that have come the way of his government to, they should relate to parliament. Well, the evidence is that 94% of the increase in government spending has been for recurrent expenditure! The increase in government debt over the past five years is an amount that could have built at least 15,000 km of tarred roads for example. It is an amount that could have solved Ghana’s energy, water, and sanitation problems.
However, the increase in oil revenues notwithstanding, capital expenditure as a percentage of GDP has actually been on the decline from 7.1% of GDP in 2009 to 5.2% by 2015. It is in fact a travesty that Ghana before the discovery of oil was spending a higher proportion of its income on infrastructure investment than after the discovery of oil.
In the 2015 budget the Minister of Finance mentioned a number of star projects that have been financed by the borrowing. When the Minority leader started listing these projects in his contribution to the budget debate the chorus from the NDC Parliamentarians that greeted him was “investment”, “investment”. What was meant by the chorus was that the monies had been used for investment.
What was meant by the chorus was that the monies had been used for investment. The signature projects include:
PROJECT COST $ MILLION
i.Ghana National Gas Processing Plant to 850
help solve the energy crisis,
ii. Refurbishment and Expansion of the Ridge Hospital 306
iii University of Ghana Teaching Hospital 217
iv. Expansion of the Kpong Water Pumping Station 273
v. Kwame Nkrumah Interchange 95
vi. Sofoline Interchange in Kumasi 52
vii. Tetteh-Quarshie – Madina road project 38.7
viii. Achimota-Ofankor road project 46
ix. Construction of Affordable Housing Units by OAS Construction 200
x. Kumasi Central Market 172.5
xi. Kasoa Interchange 172
xii. 200 Buses for the Metro Mass Transit, and an additional 40
xiii. 295 Scania Buses for the Rapid Transport System 94
xiv. Parliament House- Job 600 Offices and reconfiguration
of Parliament 102
xv. The 500-bed Military Hospital Project in Kumasi; 180
xvi. First and Second phase of the Tamale Teaching Hospital 110
xvii. The Police Hospital Project; 68.4
xviii. The Ashanti Regional Hospital at Sewua-Kumasi; 339
xix. The Upper West Regional Hospital 21.5
xx. Kpong Intake Rehabilitation Project 21.1
xxi. Accra-Tema Metro Area Water Supply Project 20.8
Reality check reveals that all these projects sum up to some $3.42 billion out of the increase in total debt by the equivalent, at the time of borrowing, of some $27 billion, and oil revenues. In an apparent attempt by the Minister for Finance to respond to this query he enumerated a couple of water and road projects all of which added up to $450million thus bringing the total sum to $3.87billion. So where is the rest of the money? Mr. Minister, how do you account for the difference between $27billion and $3.87billion? For the sake of transparency, the Government should list all the projects financed by domestic and external borrowing and the amounts involved since 2009 to enable proper accounting for the increase in the stock of debt and oil receipts. We are indeed happy that a member from the NPP minority caucus in Parliament has filed an urgent question requesting the Minister of Finance to do just this.
SPECIAL TAX ON PETROLEUM
The budget has unleashed more hardships on Ghanaians by hurriedly passing into law a 17.5% Special Tax on petroleum products. The alacrity and manner of the passage of this tax in itself shows that the government is aware of the high pitch of ill feeling against this tax and did not want the public to debate it before passage. We should recall that this is the same ruling party who at the time oil prices hit $147 per barrel complained that domestic fuel prices were too high. They went on demonstrations using the Committee for Joint Action (CJA) to protest the high price of petroleum products.
At the time, they argued that the taxes on petroleum products should be reduced and promised to reduce petroleum prices “drastically” when elected. Six years down the road, many of the CJA demonstrators are now ministers in or apologists and cheer leaders for this NDC government and they have forgotten all their pledges to the Ghanaian people. The NDC and their praise singers have demonstrated in so doing that they do not care and they cannot be trusted.
In 2008, the price of a litre of kerosene (which is largely used in rural areas) was Ghp70. At that time it represented 31% of the daily minimum wage. The NDC said the price was too high. Before the 2015 budget the price of the same litre of kerosene had increased to GHC3.23, representing 53.8% of the daily minimum wage. It is clear that an additional special tax of 17.5% will only further increase the burden on Ghanaians. The Government through the NPA, in applying the Automatic Price Adjustment Formula should have reduced the price of petroleum products following the recent global reduction in oil prices. Rather than doing this, the NPA, with the tacit support of government, for a long period adamantly refused to do so. The Automatic Price Adjustment Formula has apparently now become an ‘Automatic Upward Price Adjustment Formula’ under this NDC government. While consumers were still trying to figure out what has been going on, they were hit by a Special Tax. Hon. Minister of Finance, should Ghanaians expect a Special Wage Increase to compensate workers?
The Special Tax on petroleum products will further increase the already high cost of doing business in the country. At the time when many businesses are having to pay for diesel to run generators as a result of load-shedding, they are being asked to pay more taxes on fuel. This will escalate the cost of production.
It is instructive to state that government has since December 31, 2014 decreased the price of petroleum products by 10%. That is a mere pinprick. From the price of $95 per barrel that crude oil averaged for a greater portion of the year to the current prices of below $50 per barrel, petrol should be selling at GH˘9.39 per gallon instead of the current reduction price of GH˘13.85 using the Automatic price Adjustment formula.
If government moves swiftly to deal with the deep seated waste and reported corruption in payroll administration, enough savings would accrue to the budget and this tax measure would have been rendered unnecessary. If the leakages are not plugged, then no amount of tax increases would solve the problem. We have reached a point in our developmental trajectory where value for money should be demanded by all stakeholders and partners.
VAT ON FINANCIAL SERVICES AND REAL ESTATE
In the 2014 budget the Government pushed through, against sound arguments to the contrary, a VAT on fee-based financial services. The confusion surrounding its implementation resulted in the withdrawal of the policy measure. In their desperation to raise tax revenues, the 2015 budget states that this VAT on fee-based financial services will be implemented. This is a bad policy for the economy. Ghana’s financial system is underdeveloped with only some 20% of the population having a Bank account. What the government should rather be doing is providing some incentives for financial inclusion. The introduction of VAT on fee-based financial services would only serve to drive people away from the banking system with the attendant reduction in financial savings.
It will also increase the cost of doing business for the business community. For example, a manufacturer who imports raw materials has to pay VAT on imports. If he transfers money through the Bank to pay for the imports, the manufacturer would pay an additional VAT for the banking service. The argument is similar for cost of doing business in the real estate industry.
Some statistics on the property market in Ghana would be instructive in placing this increased tax on real estate transactions in context. First, Ghana currently has the highest mortgage to income ratio (at 605%) in the world. In terms of House Price to Income ratio, Ghana is the 10th highest in the world. In terms of housing affordability, Ghana ranks as the least affordable property market in the world . Given these facts, it is clear that the real estate industry in Ghana needs help. Government should rather be trying to encourage the development of the mortgage market through tax incentives for real estate developers and better land administration. A 5% increase in the tax on real estate transactions is the wrong way to go.
THE FOCUS ON TAXATION RATHER THAN EXPENDITURE CONTROL IS WRONG
The 2015 budget demonstrates that the NDC government has created a fiscal mess after 6 years in office but has no clue how to deal with it. The government’s focus now is on raising revenue to hide the fiscal indiscipline. However, the major problem is expenditure mismanagement. The budget does not address expenditure review and re-composition and measures to ensure fiscal discipline, but rather focuses on the revenue side (raising more taxes), thus clearly being insensitive to the population and taxing them to hide inefficiencies. There is a saying that “if all you have is a hammer everything begins to look like a nail!” This is so appropriate in the case of this NDC Government.
In search for tangible achievements by this Government, the Minister of finance included the following as achievements:
• “virtually eliminating the spectre of long queues for fuel as well as the huge budget overruns of about GH˘339 million in 2012 and GH˘135 million in 2013 that resulted from past failures to adjust prices through the “automatic adjustment” pricing formula;
Who created the long queues for fuel in the first place and budget overruns? How can you create a problem and then consider it an achievement to revert to the status quo ante?
• “a demonstration of our ability to raise both domestic and external funds to complete several projects that were put on Government budget without adequate source of funds”.
How can this be an achievement? Even as a HIPC economy, Ghana was able to raise funds domestically and externally.
• we achieved another important and significant success in launching our third Sovereign Bond of US$1 billion in early September 2014. Similarly, on the same day as the Bond issue, the Ghana COCOBOD also signed an agreement for US$1.7 billion, which was the result of another successful bid to access the international capital markets.
How can COCOBOD’s regular annual raising of funds for the purchase of cocoa suddenly become an achievement by this Government?
IMF POSSIBLE PROGRAM AND RELATED ISSUES
The Government announced to the world that it was seeking the support of an IMF supported program to help address the current imbalances in the economy. On the basis of this, it was able to calm the nerves of investors and issue a $1 billion sovereign bond. In the prospectus that sought to convince investors, the Minister of Finance indicated that a substantial portion of the amount borrowed would be used for infrastructure development and critical projects. What projects did the Minister of Finance have in mind? The Minister should list and provide a detailed plan of what projects he has in mind.
We are reliably informed that the amount raised has been used to reduce government’s indebtedness at the Central Bank and that the funds are not available anymore for the purpose for which it was raised. The NPP Minority in Parliament have already raised red flags on this and called on the Minister of Finance to answer questions relating to the $1billion sovereign bond. How untruthful can a government be? How can we borrow such a huge amount to fill a gap at the Bank of Ghana? Is this the use to which non-concessional borrowing should be put? This is a very serious development and Government should realize that its credibility is being shred into tatters!
In the 2015 budget statement, there are no visible elements of an underlying agreement on an IMF supported framework. In all likelihood therefore the nation will see a revised budget statement if a final deal is concluded in 2015. Where is the financing coming from to fill the budget gap? Are Donors likely to disburse without an IMF agreement and in the midst of corruption especially in payroll administration? Is the government planning on using parastatals like GNPC (which has recently purportedly entered into an agreement to borrow $700 million without parliamentary approval in violation of the Constitution and the Petroleum Revenue Management Act) to fill the gap? What will the government do if there is no IMF agreement? The questions are tall and this budget is therefore clouded with so much uncertainty going forward.
The 2015 budget is supposed to be the work programme of the government for a period of just one year. The programme should be predictable in order to be able to offer assurance to potential investors. If we cannot plan for one year then it will be difficult to woo investors.
PILLARS OF TRANSFORMATIONAL AGENDA
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are told in paragraph 131 of the budget statement that the transformational agenda rests on three strategic interventions, namely:
i. strengthening and deepening the essential elements and institutions of good governance. Parliament is the bastion of democratic governance. How has Parliament been strengthened in the budget? The Electoral Commission is an essential institution in good governance. How has that institution been resourced in this budget? Charity, they say, begins at home. Parliamentary democracy is not strengthened if their request is decimated.
We know the Electoral Commission has not been allocated resources to perform some critical activities which they need to do in 2015 preparatory to the 2016 General and Presidential elections. The sign posts are emerging. The Finance Minister should not by his actions and inactions create a situation where the December 2016 elections would be engulfed in confusion. Nobody should have any cause to complain again. And that is why we urge the Minister of Finance to do what is right, immediately.
ii. Promoting export-led growth through products that build up on Ghana’s comparative strength in agricultural raw materials is the second of three strategic interventions. There has been a paradigm shift in the international economy and geopolitics: the discourse now is on competitive advantage and no longer comparative advantage or strength. The Minister should be alert to the socio-economic philosophy of the day and not immerse himself in ideas of yesteryears.
iii. The third is “anchoring industrial development through prudent use of natural resources based on locally processed value addition.
Fellow Ghanaians, the second strategic intervention that government intends to make is in the area of agriculture to promote export-led growth. The question to ask is which agricultural product is government piloting in this promotion? The budget mentions only one agric product, cotton (Ref. Par. 351). If we want to stimulate growth in the cotton industry, then we need to be more scientific. The bud of Ghana’s cotton is small and, therefore, the yarns of cotton produced in Ghana are short and twining comes with additional expenditure. This is why the Akosombo, Juapon and Tema Textile companies, as early as in the sixties, had to import long-yarned cotton from Egypt and Sudan. Unfortunately, the budget does not provide any solutions to this, going forward.
Re-afforestation has almost collapsed whilst logging has gone into high gear. The latter contributed 16.5% in the overall agricultural growth of 5.3% in 2014. It should tell us that we are fast depleting our forest cover. At the turn of the 20th Century the forest cover of Ghana was 8.5million hectares. Today, the forest cover is less than 700,000 hectares. In 2014 there were many reported cases of chainsaw activities and illegal lumbering. We are not sure anybody heard of new acreages of degraded lands being reafforested! If agricultural growth as contained in the 2015 document, is being led by logging in the face of serious deforestation, the nation should be scared.
Fellow citizens, if we must admit it, agriculture is not doing well (ref. pg.12). Agriculture is not doing well because of the paltry budgetary allocation to the sector. In December 2013 we lamented the fact that only 1.07% of total budgetary allocation went to agriculture in 2014 that is excluding the ABFA from the Petroleum Fund. This explains why in 2014, $1.5billion of foodstuffs was imported into the country against a food import bill of $600million in 2008.
Out of the total GH˘44billion budget figure for 2015 only GH˘484.3million equivalent to 1.1% is allocated to the Ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries and agriculture Development. How do we grow agriculture with such pittance?
The import of fish poultry, tomatoes, cooking oil, have all almost doubled between 2008 and 2014.
In 2013 we lamented that the true state of the food, agriculture and cocoa subsector is one of stagnation. Real growth in agriculture spiraled downwards from 7.4% in 2008 to 7.2% in 2009 through 5.3% in 2010 then 0.8% in 2011; 2.3% in 2012 and 5.0% in 2013. The projected growth for 2014 is 5.2%. Clearly, a major reason for the decline of agriculture has been the decline of the share of agriculture in the total budgetary allocation. From 3.0% in 2009 it climbed down to 1.9% in 2012 and 1.07% in 2013. Add onto this the tax that was slapped on matchetes, fertilizers, hoes, other farming equipments, fishing nets, and premix fuel. The result of this is reduced food security for the country and low productivity resulting in low income for farmers.
Over the past three years we have lamented the stagnation of growth in the production of basic food staples (cereals, legumes, roots and tubers). The huge yearly fluctuations in outputs and the rising imports of rice from 395,400 metric tonnes in 2008 to 543,465 metric tonnes in 2011 and over 600,000 metric tonnes in 2013 for which alone the nation spent US$374million (ref.pg 11 of 2014 State of the Nation Address) provide ample testimony to the deepened food insecurity in the country. Today the nation is on the brink of serious shortages in the supply of maize a major staple in all parts of the country. In 2014 Crops was projected to grow at 5.8% but the out-turn was 3.6% which is 38% short of what was anticipated to be produced.
Production of meat and fish has not seen much growth and that is why, correspondingly, there has been a steady increase in the importation of livestock and poultry products: from 128,000 metric tonnes in 2008, to 139,000 tonnes in 2011, $170million in 2013 and $283million on imported fish. Government was least serious in its policy on poultry in 2013 – 2014. For in 2013 the Ministry of Agriculture raised and distributed 8000 cockerels to 500 farmers – so each farmer had 16 cockerels!!
In 2009 the NDC government established the Local Premix Committees (LPC) to facilitate what they called “a fairer distribution of premix fuel to fishermen”. Today, there are still reports of persistent shortages of premix in virtually all the fishing communities. That is quite aside the fact that the price of premix fuel, fishing nets, outboard motors and wooden canoes have all gone up steeply. The combined effect of these is deepening poverty in the fishing communities.
There is no mention of fertilizer subsidy in the 2015 budget. In the 2014 government gave an indication to distribute 180,000 metric tonnes of subsidized fertilizers to farmers in the course of the year. How much money was set aside for this exercise and what has happened to the money especially since the farmers are in agreement that for 2014 no new fertilizers were imported or distributed?
Today a bag of NPL fertilizer is selling at GH˘130. How many farmers can afford this? Yet another reason why food security is being threatened.
Recently the Ministry of Agriculture has pronounced that farmers should get used to less subsidies from government. Is that the new policy? And, if so, what will the effect be on production and income to farmers, and by that, on poverty reduction in the country?
IRRIGATION OF ACCRA AND AFRAM PLAINS
The Accra Plains and Afram Plains irrigation projects which have the potential of positively in impacting food security for the nation have remained on the books. The 2009 – 2013 budget documents all mentioned these projects. The 2015 document mentions the development of Accra plains in line with tradition but that is all that there is to it as it has been since 2009 (ref. par 347).
Once again, farmers have been called to rescue Ghana. Can anybody imagine what the exchange rate, indeed the economy would look like without the recent US$1.7billion syndicated cocoa loan? It is the cocoa bean that was pledged to international bankers for $1.7billion to save the economy from virtual collapse. That is why it is doubly agonizing when farmers are not commensurately appreciated.
The annual bonuses due farmers have not been paid for three consecutive years, i.e. 2011/12 – 2013/14 cocoa years. The GH˘5 bonus per bag of the produce announced recently is a slap in the face of the farmers since “by day” labour attracts double that amount.
After three years of paying fixed and agonizing producer price against the backdrop of escalating prices in every facet of our national life the cocoa farmer has now been awarded an increase to GH˘345 per bag. Given the world market price today, the current exchange rate as well as the NDCs own manifesto pledge to pay at least 70% of the FOB price, the cocoa farmer should have received a new price of not less than GH˘470 cedis per bag and especially also because for three years now government has fed fat on the sweat of cocoa farmers.
Inspite of the contrived euphoria which greeted the producer price increase, this amount will not encourage farm land expansion nor spur increase in the quantum produced.
We in the NPP note the coincidence, that last year’s “farmers’ Day” held at Sefwi Wiawso. We had earlier gone there to show solidarity with cocoa farmers, and draw attention to how government was shortchanging farmers in Ghana. The good thing is that government went to the same location, not to bring relief but to restrict themselves to the status quo.
The third strategic intervention relates to industrial development through prudent use of national resources. High fallutin pontifications! The plain truth is that industry is not doing well. Industry was targeted to grow at 6.8% in 2014 from the high 11% growth in 2012. It grew at 4.6% and that was driven by petroleum activities which grew at 18.2% (par 44). Manufacturing grew at negative 8.0% (-8.0%). Construction grew at 12.8% but employment in construction is usually short-term and transitional. The real deal is in manufacturing which is not doing well.
Manufacturing industry is not doing well because of lack of access to long-term credit. The second is the lack of access to even short-term credit (over borrowing by government is squeezing out private entrepreneurs); the third is high interest rates for those who are able to access credit; the fourth is the erratic nature of utility supplies to industry. Fifth is the high cost of utility services. Sixth is the incessant power outages. Seventh is the huge taxes imposed on industry. Finally, the depreciation of the cedi is worrying to industry as it renders the fiscal environment unpredictable. In that sense, the platform to stabilize industry has not yet been created, so using industry to secure the bright prospects of the economy in 2015 can only be a mirage.
LOW INVESTOR CONFIDENCE
Ladies and gentlemen, the rising cost of doing business, occasioned by the huge taxes, lack of access to credit, high interest rates, “dums4” “dums4”, rising inflation, high utility tariffs, a weakening currency all point to a clear case of declining consumer and investor confidence in the system and one would have thought that the budget would have devised and introduced ingenious ways to stimulate growth in investor and consumer confidence. Alas, there is none!
In 2001 trade deficit registered US$3.1billion. In 2012 the deficit was $4.2billion. In 2013 merchandize export was US$13.7 billion while total merchandize import amounted to US$17.6billion. The pattern has continued in 2014.
The worsening balance of trade position contributed to the massive current account deficit of $5.7billion in 2013 and a colossal depreciation of the cedi from GH˘2.2 to US$1.0 in December 2013 to GH˘3.30 as we speak now.
The free fall of the cedi has resulted in over exposure of local traders who are left unable to protect their working capital. Many Ghanaian retailers were in 2014 forced to close their shops because they were operating at a loss. The situation was further aggravated by the invasion of foreigners in local trade.
The huge cost of transportation as a result of frequent increases in the price of petroleum products, six times in 2013 and five times in 2014 has occasioned a huge price differential between the farm gates and the markets in the cities. These are matters that call for the intervention of government yet the 2015 Budget and Economic Policy provides no direction.
Fellow Ghanaians, where agriculture and industry are not doing well employment cannot be generated. We need to provide employment to increase productivity and generate growth yet there are no new bold measures in this direction.
It is important to state that the right to work, according to Article 24(1) of the constitution is a fundamental human right and hence the work program of government must address this. One must concede, however, that, realistically, as a nation we are far away from affording this right to every Ghanaian. Notwithstanding, we must focus attention and effort to address this phenomenon.
In 2008 the NDC assured the nation to apply State machinery and resources to create jobs for the people, especially the youth. Their strategic objective was to provide every Ghanaian with a job from which they could earn their livelihood (pg 60 of 2008 manifesto). Even though the combined strength of Public and Civil Servants is about 750,000 the NDC propagandist and misinformation Ministers claimed that they had, by 2010 created 1.5million jobs. The budgets of 2011 and 2012 both indicated a job creation of 120,000. The 1.5million phantom jobs creation could only come from persons who insist that when their fellows see a sheep they have to exclaim that they have seen a cow.
Exploiting President Nkrumah’s “work and happiness” slogan the NDC declared to launch an Employment Policy to reduce unemployment to the barest minimum. Today, unemployment has risen sharply, no thanks to the very high cost of doing business in Ghana, the “dums4, dums4”, the erratic water and other utilities supply and the ever increasing petroleum products prices, many people have been thrown out of employment because industry in Ghana is restive and not doing well.
In 2012, as in 2008, the NDC has promised in their manifesto to launch a major housing and public works scheme involving urban roads, drainage construction and environmental sanitation to generate massive employment. The 2015 Budget document offers no direction in this.
Mid-year 2007 and early 2008 the country had problems with power generation attributable, primarily, to the low level of water in the Akosombo dam at that time due to severe drought. The NDC in response then insisted that they “would ensure the supply of power on a reliable and suitable basis” if they were elected into office.
They pledged “to ensure the delivery of energy services to all consumers in a secure, efficient, reliable, sustainable, safe and environmentally-friendly manner”. Indeed, the Hon. Haruna Iddrisu forcefully asserted, even in the face of the drought that Kufuor’s government had no excuse to plunge the nation into power outages and that if the NDC assumed the reigns of government, “adumdum adumdum no begyae”.
Six years on, the NDC have not delivered on their pledge and the energy sector is in crisis.
The problems in the energy sector are self-inflicted and ensue from indecisions and not-well-thought-through policies of government. The resolution of these problems is within the competence and control of government and VRA. The latter have not kept up their capacity expansion and government has not sufficiently resourced VRA to procure crude oil to propel electric power generation.
Government is still hugely indebted to the Bulk Oil Distribution Companies which debt is destabilizing the BDCs and also deepening the risk exposure of the commercial banks in the country. BOST is in dire straits and the country’s strategic oil reserves are virtually non-existent. Under President Kufuor the country’s strategic oil reserves could hold for 3 months.
On monthly basis the country has to experience fuel price increases because of the ever depreciating Ghana cedi and not because of world price increases. The Bui Dam meanwhile has run into technical problems.
About 25% of electricity generated is lost because ECG’s transmission network is in a terrible state of disrepair. ECG needs about $700million investment. Government is not assisting but government is hugely indebted to ECG. In the meantime, ECG loses about $110million yearly due to poor transmission.
The T3 thermal plant ran into technical problems arising out of contractual disagreements between VRA and the Canadian contractors on the project. The TI plant has also not worked effectively and efficiently over the past three (3) years.
The gas project at Aboadze has had several false starts and it is good that professional assurances are now being given about readiness of the facility to free the thermal plants in Takoradi. There is still no converter plant to scale the gas for industrial and commercial use and the earlier we demonstrated seriousness on this the better for the nation.
In the face of these mountainous problems it borders on absurdity to hear the Minister of Energy who is now responsible for Petroleum in his contribution to the Budget debate in Parliament castigating the NPP that they are the cause of the problems confronting the energy sector because they did not generate one megawatt of power in the entire 8-years of Kufuor’s administration. That was most unkind and most untruthful.
Uthman dan Fodio is the sage who said, “Conscience is an open wound which only truth can heal”. For the avoidance of doubt, we will like to chronicle the plants that were started or added during NPP’s 8-years in power:
To avoid such misinformation, we put out the party’s contribution to the generation of electricity during our administration.
The following Plants which had a total generating capacity of 1536mw were added or started during NPP’s two terms in Office:
1. VRA Plant – Tema (Funded by government) – 110 megawatts.
2. Mines Reserve Plant (Funded by Mining Companies with Government support) – 80 megawatts.
3. The VRA Athol Plant – Tema – 50 megawatts.
4. Emergency Plant – Tema (Funded by government) – 120 megawatts.
5. Asogli Plant, Tema (Funded by Private investor with government support) – 200 megawatts
6. Bui Hydroelectric power – 400 megawatts (funded by government)
7. Aboadze Thermal Plant, (T3), Takoradi (NPP secured funding) – 136 megawatts
8. Osorno (CENT) Thermal Plant, Tema – 120 megawatts
9. Kpone/Zachem Thermal Plant – 220 megawatts
10. Akosombo Retrofit increase Akosombo’s capacity from 920mw to 1020mw
11. The NPP also by strenuous efforts superintended the discovery of oil in commercial quantities, which made possible the availability and production of Gas.
All these were bequeathed to the NDC in 2009. The NDC assumed office when there was no load shedding in January 2009.
Three (3) and half years into the tenure of the NDC, the nation was plunged into load shedding. The load shedding has persisted up to today with varying intensity.
It has taken the NDC five (5) years and we still have not seen the completion of the gas project, despite several proposed completion dates from the Minister and his associates.
Instead of apologizing for the hardship they have brought unto Ghanaians and businesses, the Minister of Energy is rather shifting blame and engaging in bragging.
It is a reflection of the Minister’s ability that the electricity generation has been taken away from his portfolio. We urge him to work harder in his remaining portfolio and do less propaganda.
Energy conservation also saves power, for example in 2007 $15m was spent to procure 6million compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) to replace the high energy consuming incandescent bulbs which were distributed freely saved the country 124 megawatts Replacement of old fridges with new one will reduce consumption of energy (The Energy Commission Report of 2007).
Whilst we are at this, it may be important for the nation to know why inspite of the fall in the price of Brent crude and light crude which have dropped below $52 and $50 per barrel, respectively, the price of petroleum products locally have not commensurately responded? Once again, we demand: has the Automatic Price Adjustment Formula been abandoned? If it has not been abandoned, the NDC must keep faith with Ghanaians and cause petrol to be sold at GH˘9.39. Nothing less than that. If the government, in their usual “yentie obiaa” stance decide not to listen, we in the NPP will have to make them listen.
GNPC & IT’S BORROWING SPREE
By way of emphasis let us also strongly indicate to GNPC that they cannot be a law unto themselves. A fully subvented state enterprise cannot use revenues due to the State as collateral to secure loans! The PRMA allows only the State to use our oil revenues as collateral. That privilege is not extended to any corporation, regardless of its status. We in the NPP will stand up against that misadventure which almost collapsed Ghana Commercial Bank in the early 90’s and which caused Dr. Kwesi Botchwey to resign as Minister of Finance.
In his 2004 State of the Nation Address the President declared that his Vision for national development has a people first agenda. That being the case, education should be of paramount concern to us all. Besides, as a people we need to strenuously work to achieve MDG2. Beyond that, one would have thought that having established the three strategic nodal areas of intervention as captured in paragraphs 121 and 131 the budget for “Transformation” was going to provide the connect between how education would feed into the strategic needs of the economy. In other words, how would education positively impact efficiency of labour force in both agriculture and industry to engender greater productivity? There is no interface.
Whilst the budget for the education sector has increased by 15.9% over the 2014 allocation, inflation over the same period was 16.9% whilst the depreciation of the cedi is in excess of 70%. In real terms, therefore, there is negative increase in funding education. In the event, investment in education may suffer as personnel emolument cannot be touched.
Ladies and gentlemen, 25% of the entire budgetary allocation goes to education i.e. GH˘5.8billion in 2014 and GH˘6.74billion in 2015, yet these do not reflect in the performance of pupils in public schools due in particular to poor management and administration as well as poor supervision of and output from teachers. That explains why even when gross enrollment rate is rising at the level of basic education the dropout rate at the JHS and SHS level is getting rather alarming. The 2015 budget related to arrears in GETFUND, School Feeding, Capitation Grant and the salaries of new Teacher recruits. The combined effect of these is the lowering of morale. One must also allude to the many strikes affecting the education sector: POTAG, UTAG, NAGRAT, TEWU etc. These will negatively impact the performance of pupils and students. Government must show concern.
As part of improving the quality of education, the President in 2013 assured to integrate Kindergarten (KG) education into the mainstream system as if the policy did not already exist. Between 2005 – 2008 the Kufuor administration included a 2-unit KG block in the basic schools that were constructed at the time. Teachers were to be trained to acquire the requisite skills. Since 2009 the Mills-Mahama governments have abandoned the idea of re-integrating KG education into the mainstream. The President’s assurance in 2013 was therefore heartwarming yet nothing has happened since then. The new basic school structures that have been awarded since 2013 do not come with KG components and the training of teachers to cater for the KG system have not be mentioned since then. The 2015 budget does not mention them.
The 2008 NDC manifesto stated that the basic school feeding program, which the Mills-Mahama administration inherited would be expanded to cover all basic schools in 4 years, i.e., beginning 2009. That promise had by the end of 2012 not materialized. In 2013 the President shifted the goal post and stated then that they would expand the school-feeding program to “all public basic schools in rural communities”, significantly, this time, not any longer to all basic schools in the country! Even then, how many public basic schools in how many rural communities which had no school feeding before 2013 have benefitted since then remains unaccounted for in both 2014 and 2015 Budget Statements. There is no indication because, apparently, nothing happened.
In the meantime, the payment of the capitation grant has since 2013 become a big problem for Mahama government. In most schools for a whole year the grants have not been paid. Chalk is the most basic working tool for any school teacher. Many public basic schools cannot still access chalk to teach schools children.
Last year in re-commissioning the Shoe Factory in Kumasi the President promised to supply basic school kids with shoes from the factory. The 2015 budget is silent on this. Is it the case that our President just enjoys giving promises without checking on whether or not the State can afford it? It is no wonder people are now referring to him as “Mr. Promise and Fail”.
In 2014 the President stated in his State of the Nation Address that his government has a “vision to extend quality health care to all our people…” The mandate of the Ministry of Health is to promote good health for all Ghanaians through the prevention of diseases…” among others. The Ministry has been concerned with some star projects which the Minister chronicled then the Minister spoke about preparations to confront Ebola, which fortunately has not entered Ghana yet. The outbreak of cholera in 2014 has traumatized Ghanaians and caused several casualties. The budget provides no mention about dealing with it.
The budget purposes the scaling up of capitation in health service delivery to all the regions in Ghana except Greater Accra and Northern Region (par 633). Capitation in insurance increases out-of-pocket expenditure and therefore further impoverishes subscribers. Government is determined to replenish the resources of the insurance scheme but that should not further negatively impact the living conditions of the people.
There have been too many frictions and hiccups in the relationship between Health practitioners and government. Increasingly the relationship between the associations and government seems to be worsening thereby negatively affecting the health of the people. Appropriate conflict resolution mechanisms must be devised to deal with this but there is no new policy direction in this budget.
Let us conclude, on issues of corruption that have lately befuddled our governance system. On Tuesday December 2, 2014 the Ghana Integrity Initiative, the local chapter of Transparency International launched their report on 173 countries. Ghana placed high on the list of corrupt countries scoring less than 50 points. The issues they related to include recovering so-called judgment debts that have been wrongfully paid to Alfred Agbesi Woyome, Waterville, Isofoton, Construction Pioneers, the unbridled resort to sole sourcing in procurement, gathering the political will to prosecute cases of corruption in high places; SADA, GYEEDA, SUBA matters, among others.
One could only be sorely disappointed when the President plaintively declared that (government) “will introduce new rules and deploy systems to strengthen expenditure management which will reduce waste and corrupt practices (ref. par 886)”. How, when, where we are not told! Empty rhetorics!! Yet corruption has become a canker.
Now, there are issues connected with National Service Scheme. The nation is awaiting the prosecution of the suspects.
Kumasi Airport, GH˘29million spent…. How much was spent on resurfacing the 1800m stretch of the runway, GH˘2million? And the procurement of the runway (aeronautic) lighting system? How much was spent on the improvement of the parking area? Parliament shall have to inquire into what the GH˘29million has been spent on.
In President Rawlings era, the average cost of double-layered asphalted road construction was $600,000 per kilometer; in President Kufuor’s time the average cost was $480,000. Today, under President John Mahama the average cost has escalated to $1.4 - $1.5million. The cost of constructing a 6-unit classroom block plus a 2-unit KG block was GH˘85,000 under President Kufuor, under President Mahama the 2-unit KG has been taken out, the 6-unit block is priced at GH˘300,000. We have made issues with the so-called sale and purchase of Merchant Bank; the payments made in the STX transaction; the purchase of Embraer planes; the projects which the $3billion loan was supposed to fund; the cost of the construction or refurbishment of health facilities, including the Ridge Hospital and Police Hospital; SUBA, GYEEDA, SADA; government’s own unprecedented over-expenditure in 2012 on programs and projects which to date have neither been properly explained nor sufficiently accounted for etc, etc. Simply put, the nation is being fleeced and the nation is bleeding.
Countrymen and women, on the way forward to fighting trade in narcotics in the face of the recurrence of arrest of narcotics dealers in Washington, New York, London, Hamburg, Berlin, Amsterdam, etc and especially in the arrest of Ms. Ruby Nayele Ametefe and the man in charge of aspects of security at KIA, we in the NPP have proffered suggestions:
1. NACOB must be overhauled
2. The Bill to turn NACOB into a Commission prepared in 2008 must come to Parliament as soon as possible.
3. The position of the Executive Secretary of NACOB must be taken from politicians and revert to professional intelligence operatives.
4. Cooperation in the operation West Bridge must be deepened.
The NPP has drawn attention to the breach of the statutory provisions with respect to the non-payment of Social Security contribution which state institutions collect from civil and public servants as well as transfers to DACF, NHIS, GETFund and Road Fund by government as of September 2014. As has been done before, we expect the Minister to seek explicit approval from Parliament to be allowed to pay these arrears by a specified time period. In addition, the Minister should assure Parliament that going forward he will be in compliance with the various Acts and provide quarterly reports to Parliament on the status of implementation.
All told, Fellow Ghanaians, the nature, character, form and shape of the 2015 budget is anything but TRANSFORMATIONAL. The short term prospects of the economy are gloomy, and therefore do not provide any proper foundation for the future and hence the medium term prospects cannot be bright. In that regard the “Transformational Agenda” of the 2015 Budget Statement and Economic Policy can only be a forlorn hope without any basis.
The President is required under Article 36(1) to “Take all necessary action to ensure that the national economy is managed in such a manner as to maximize the rate of economic development and to ensure the maximum welfare; freedom and happiness of every person in Ghana and to provide adequate means of livelihood and suitable employment and public assistance to the needy”.
Article 36(2) deals with the steps to establish a sound and healthy economy and strands out critical issues like:
i) guaranteeing fair and realistic remuneration to encourage higher productivity;
ii) fostering an enabling environment to boost the private sector;
iii) undertaking even and balanced development of every part of all regions, especially, improving the living conditions in the rural areas;
iv) promoting the robust development of agriculture and industry, among others.
These are the yardsticks that must be used to comb and assess the economic policy of the NDC government as expressed in the 2015 Budget Statement.
The President has since 2013 been assuring all who care to listen to him that the “medium term prospects of the (country’s) economy are bright”. In the context of that declaration, “securing the bright medium term prospects of the economy” which is the theme of the budget can only mean, that in the eyes of the President, the budget seeks to “firmly fix” or “firmly assure of the custody” of the bright medium term prospects of the economy.
In the final analysis, the issues that matter to the Ghanaian people as far as the 2015 budget is concerned are as follows:
1. Does the budget ensure that the national economy and the resources available are well managed? The answer is “No”.
2. Will the budget maximize the rate of economic development? No
3. Will the budget create Jobs for our teeming unemployed, especially graduates? No
4. Will the budget reduce the cost of doing business and make the economy investor-friendly? No
5. Will the 2015 budget reduce the high cost of living and suffering of the ordinary Ghanaian? No
6. Will the budget improve the standard of living and ensure the maximum welfare of the people? No
7. Will this budget provide adequate means of livelihood, suitable employment and public assistance to the needy? No
8. Will this budget provide better conditions of service for teachers, nurses, doctors, civil servants and workers in general and hence reduce the agitations and strike actions by workers? No
9. Will the 2015 budget allow workers to select their own Tier 2 Pension Fund Managers and account for the deductions made? No
10. Will the budget restore the allowances of teacher and nursing trainees? No
11. Will the budget end the incessant power outages (“Adumdum adumdum”)? No
12. Will the budget stop the high level of corruption in the country today? No
13. Will the budget transform the economy and formalize the informal sector? No
The 2015 budget does not answer any of the above questions in the affirmative, and that is why it is meaningless to the ordinary Ghanaian. At the end of the day, if the fundamental problems with the economy are not dealt with, the threat to the macroeconomic stability of the country, going forward, will not abate.
A local adage puts it more succinctly: “akyea na 1mmui, 1sen ab1buo nyinaa d1” which loosely translates “even though it (the economy) is heavily tilted, it is not completely broken and hence it can be salvaged”. The New Patriotic Party is ready to rescue this sinking ship since, clearly, both the driver and the mate have demonstrated to all of us Ghanaians that they are clueless in the face of such grotesque maladministration.
Fellow Ghanaians let us all come together, roll up our sleeves and put our shoulders to the wheel to rescue this sinking ship, as clearly a Sinking Fund alone cannot do it.
As you might have noticed, we have basically dealt with the economy, the financials and just a few of the sectors. In the coming weeks we intend to address the critical matters afflicting the various sectors with a view to proffering suggestions to get the country out of this self-inflicted Mahamian mess.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, we thank you once again for your prompt response to our invitation.
|Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not reflect those of Peacefmonline.com. Peacefmonline.com accepts no responsibility legal or otherwise for their accuracy of content. Please report any inappropriate content to us, and we will evaluate it as a matter of priority.|