The Akufo-Addo administration appears to have ruffled the feathers of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) by announcing goodies for Ghanaians and declaring to launch an ambitious “Ghana Cares” programme to shepherd the country’s economy in the wake of the global financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, presenting the 2020 Mid-Year Budget Review and Economic Policies, announced in Parliament last Thursday that the government had taken measures to stimulate Ghana’s economy, including a GH¢100 billion development programme to be launched by the President in the coming weeks.
Since the ‘Obaatan Pa’ budget presentation last Thursday, elements of the opposition party have gone haywire, foraging for ‘dirt’ to dent the government proposed programme, including goodies like the extension of free water for another three months and subsidized electricity consumption by 50 per cent to Ghanaians and businesses, as well as providing an insurance scheme for workers who have been laid off as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The NDC Member of Parliament (MP) for Bolgatanga Central, Isaac Adongo, the NDC’s darling economist, was the first to fire a ‘warning shot’ when he described the budget as “hopeless, disappointing and deceptive”, intimating that the GH¢100 billion development programme to be launched was a clever attempt by the government to steal funds from the people.
“When you put the finances in the hands of people who are clever thieves that is what you see. I felt very sad sitting in there (Parliament) and listening to the minister. With my professional eyes, I saw the attempts to plunder away and steal our national resources and then find a way to cover for it.
“How on earth can you be coming for GH¢11.8 billion and you don’t know what you are going to use it for. He is now going to sleep over it and think about the lie that he will come and tell the Finance Committee, but as of the time he was coming to Parliament today he only had expenditure of GH¢5.3 billion,” said.
The Ranking Member of the Finance Committee, Cassiel Ato Forson, a former Deputy Finance Minister during their tenure, said he felt disappointed as the budget statement and economic policy of the government was ‘empty’, asserting that there was nothing good in the budget for ordinary Ghanaians to be happy about.
“I am disappointed as a Ghanaian and I am disappointed in the Akufo-Addo government. I say this because the mid-year review that was presented to us was very empty. There was nothing in it for the ordinary Ghanaian for us to be happy about. Rather, we are receiving some major shocks to the extent that we are hearing for the first time that the government has spent or intends to spend GH¢11.1 billion on coronavirus expenditure alone, without giving us a breakdown of what the money has been used for.
“This is sad and unacceptable. We thought the minister would use this golden opportunity to provide us with some breakdown of what the money has been used for. Unfortunately, it is all Bible quotations and nothing in the budget,” he submitted.
The NDC MP for Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam tagged the budget statement as another ‘manifesto promises’ of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration, adding “clearly, from what we are seeing, this government must go.”
“You cannot as a government come into office with a public debt amounting to about GH¢120 billion and increase it to GH¢280 billion with very little to show. Yet, you have had resources in excess of GH¢300 billion in your disposal and yet they could not tell us anything,” Ato Forson added.
“What surprises me is that the minister responsible for finance has said that the President is coming to inaugurate a new programme on the coronavirus alleviation. Apparently, if you are to look at paragraph 412 of his review, this programme will actually start from 2021 to 2023. So clearly, this is not the time to announce this. It is a manifesto pledge,” he jabbed.
Ato Forson said he expected the government to break down all expenses incurred in the name of the coronavirus after the Finance Minister revealed that the pandemic had left the country with a revenue shortfall of GH¢13.6 billion and unplanned expenditures of GH¢11.7 billion.
Another NDC darling energy expert, the NDC MP for Yapei Kusawgu and former Deputy Minister of Energy, John Jinapor, slammed the government for its economic policy and said the budget statement was nothing but a ‘dishonest’ and ‘exceedingly disturbing’ piece, which failed to portray the true state of the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If today your revenues drop, what you do is that you prioritize. The minister is asking for another GH¢11 billion. You have a shortfall of GH¢13 billion and he is asking for another GH¢11 billion. Clearly the minister’s mind and the whole budget are geared towards elections,” he stressed.
Jinapor said Ghanaians should brace themselves up for very difficult times ahead, and indicated that the government was pushing the citizens into a ditch, adding “we are going to have a major challenge and from next year. All of us are going to bear the brunt of these populist and unwise decisions we are witnessing today.”
By Ernest Kofi Adu