MEMBERS of Parliament (MPs), yesterday, engaged in a heated debate over the 2020 mid-year budget review and economic policies presented by the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, as the government sought approval to spend an additional GH¢11.89 billion to support its expenditure for the rest of the year.
The revisions made to the 2020 fiscal framework had resulted in the demand of the additional money which will bring the overall budget expenditure for the year to GH¢109.93 billion from the GH¢93 billion earlier estimated.
Members of the minority group expressed a dissenting view and insisted that the nation’s economy remained weak thereby posting a deficit of 7.1 per cent in 2019.
“In the 2019 mid-year review budget at appendix four, page 58, overall balance (total income minus total expenditure) as stated by the Minister of Finance was 7.1 per cent and not less than 5 per cent conceding and admitting,” MP for Yapei/ Kusawgu indicated.
Even though the Finance Committee Chairman, Dr. Mark Assibey-Yeboah, pointed out that the document referenced by Jinanpor had a footnote that indicated that 7.1 deficit included financial sector bailout that was occasioned by the legacy debt in the banking sector, the NDC MP insisted on his grounds.
According to him, the real deficit figure of the country is the 7.1 per cent as captured in the 2019 budget review and not the 4.8 per cent presented in the 2020 mid-year review.
He argued that the NDC government under ex-President John Dramani Mahama better managed the economy of the country, pointing out that the fishing sector grew at 3.1 per cent and noted that “today, it is growing at 1.7 per cent.”
He said the NDC left office in 2016 with the manufacturing sector growing at 7.9 per cent as against 6.3 per cent under the NPP government, construction sector at 8.4 per cent as against negative 4.4 per cent.
“Our debt level was at 56.7 per cent and now under NPP it is at 67 per cent. Exchange rate depreciating was at eight per cent but it is 13 per cent under NPP,” he noted and added that the NDC again left office with the financial sector growing at eight per cent, while the NPP government recorded 1.6 per cent by the end of 2019.
“This is an abysmal performance. This is the record of NPP,” he submitted and argued that in an extra ordinary time the country needed a leader who would think outside the box.
However, in a sharp rebuttal, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Abena Osei-Asare, said the NDC MP appeared to lack understanding of the figures, and said there was the need to be holistic when reading the ministry’s document and that the country’s budget deficit stood at 4.8 per cent in 2020 and not 7.1 per cent as indicated by Jinapor.
According to her, the government has shown great leadership by resolving to ensure that the dignity, lives and livelihoods of Ghanaians are protected, while also ensuring an unprecedented transparency in the management of the public finances.
“Our figures are not cooked. We have been transparent in our figures and they will stand the test of time any day anywhere,” she argued.
Osei-Asare, who is also the MP for Atiwa East, said the government had so far invested over GH¢3.2 billion in the Free SHS which had resulted in 1.2 million Junior High School (JHS) students getting access to secondary education to have a better future.
“Mr. Speaker, this has also translated into an amount of GH¢2.2 billion in the lives of families and parents. In the area of planting for food and jobs, this initiative has brought about food security and the government has spent an amount of 1.85 billion on this alone,” she said.
The Deputy Finance Minister said there was an abundance of food on the stables of Ghanaians and that about 1.2 million people had benefited from subsidized fertilizer and access to improved seeds.
She also touched several other achievements of the government and mentioned the School Feeding Programme, pointing out that “we have witnessed a huge jump in the number of beneficiaries by 78.3 per cent.”
By Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House