Alban Bagbin with MPs after the budget reading
Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has said that the “trust deficits in democratic institutions in Ghana” calls for a change of minds and attitudes of Members of Parliament (MPs), and the ways they conduct themselves and businesses of the House.
According to him, a 2022 Afrobarometer survey report, highlights the dissonance and dissatisfaction with the performance of “our core mandate of exercising our power in the interest and welfare of the people we represent.”
Delivering a keynote address at the 2024 post-budget workshop in Parliament during the weekend, the Speaker indicated that Ghanaians scored Parliament 8% in the trust rating of democratic institutions in Ghana, with the presidency scoring 14%.
He said the courts and the Electoral Commission scored 10% apiece, quizzing that, “What else do we expect when we, as politicians, say one thing to the citizens and do a completely different thing? Let’s all ponder over it, for I will be calling on the House soon to take a decisive step towards reclaiming the trust of the voter,” Speaker Bagbin noted.
“Together, leaving nobody behind, let us all forge ahead with this open parliament concept to create a legacy that we can pass on to future generations,” he urged.
He asserted that the time is ripe again for MPs, as elected public officials, to rise to the occasion, saying that they have a duty to those who have invested their trust in them, and are looking forward to them to prove that they are worthy of the title, ‘duty-bearers’.
He stated, “Allow me to add that a new dispensation beckons, and very soon, we will find ourselves at the crucial point, where our fate rests in the hands of the people we represent.”
The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said that in the nation’s efforts to revamp the economy, there is the need to understand the importance of gender equality and economic growth. “Applying a gender lens into the budgetary process helps us to understand the impact of the budget and prioritise policies that make a positive contribution to gender equality.
“Failing to adopt gender-responsive policies risks long-term effects of macroeconomic stability that will cement women’s disadvantage and harm prospects for recovery,” he asserted.
He argued that it would be very interesting for MPs to have access to a gender impact assessment that can help identify how the new tax or spending initiatives contained in the budget impacts gender equality. “I would like to entreat us all to scrutinise the budget with a gender lens to ensure gender equality,” the Majority Leader said.
He stated that last year, Parliament passed the Tax Exemption Bill into law, which “sets clear eligibility criteria for tax exemptions and provides for the monitoring, evaluation and enforcement of exemptions to ensure that they are used for the intended purposes.”
He indicated that, notwithstanding, concerns are still being raised about the tax exemption regime.
“If there is the need for further scrutiny to identify gaps in the regime and improve on them, the government is ready to engage stakeholders in this regard,” he suggested.
Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, the Minority Leader, stated that since 2024 is an election year, it should go without saying that fiscal discipline is often neglected in the pursuit of electoral fortune. “Overspending is often the order of the day in an effort to satisfy unplanned campaign promises; projects are hurriedly commenced without a dedicated funding source, organised labour is assured of improved conditions of service without regard to its impact on the wage bill, among others,” he added.
According to him, since the last budget is to be presented for and on behalf of President Nana Akufo-Addo, the temptation by the President to fulfil some of his “unrealistic promises irrespective of the consequences on the Ghanaian economy is therefore high.”
By Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House