MEMBERS OF Parliament (MPs) have given the official nod to the 2023 budget that seeks to raise a total of GH¢143,956 million through taxes and grants for spending by the government without controversy.
The House passed the budget into law by a voice vote in a plenary meeting yesterday, endorsing a spending of GH¢205,432 million next year to stabilise the economy that is facing challenges.
The projected expenditure represents 25.6% of gross domestic product (GDP), as against 22.3% of 2022 end-year projection.
The government has targeted to achieve 2.8% for overall real GDP growth for 2023, with the expectation that inflation will decline from 40.4% to 18.9% by the end of the year.
Before the approval, Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu had accused the government of running the economy down through mismanagement, saying, “To say the economy is in a crisis is understatement,” and called on President Akufo-Addo to take responsibility.
According to him, the challenges with the economy are self-inflicted, and therefore, the NDC Minority MPs would fiercely fight against the approval of the 2.5% increase of the VAT that is contained in the budget.
Mr. Iddrisu said this would bring more hardship on Ghanaians, claiming that the current difficulties with the economy underscored that the NDC were better managers of the economy.
Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, in a response, berated his colleague, intimating that the track record of the NDC in government is appalling.
“Mr. Speaker, just to tell him (Haruna) about the Akan adage: The sickness that befell the vulture which culminated in a hair loss, if it had afflicted the crow, the crow would have been buried,” the Majority Leader slammed.
He described as patented untruth assertions by the NDC MP for Tamale South that the government’s debt situation now is the worst ever.
“In 2000, the debt to GDP was 140%. Ours is globally induced; never in our history have we had this down-scaling of productivity at the instance to COVID-19.
“In 2000, the debt stock of this country was GH¢9.2 billion. At the time the NDC was leaving, it had grown to GH¢122 billion. The percentage increase that happened to our debt stock at the instance of the NDC was 1,229%, and you have the courage to just talk in this country.
“The [current] debt stock is GH¢450 billion but the increase is 268% as against your 1,2295. You have the courage to talk to the management of the economy,” he pointed out.
On the VAT increase, Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu explained that the 2.5% was meant to tackle road construction in the midst of the present crisis.
“My colleague spoke eloquently about challenging the 2.5% increase in the VAT, but as we all do know, he himself ended on that note that the economy is not in the best of shape. And yet we need to continue in the development of roads.
“About 25% of questions that are asked in this Chamber relate to roads. Some roads have begun and the intention is to ensure that they don’t deteriorate; they are not left unattended to.
“So, the 2.5% increase in the VAT, primarily, is going to be used for road construction. If you don’t want the roads to be constructed, tell us that you don’t want your roads to be constructed,” he argued.
The Majority Leader also hit back at criticism and name-calling of the Vice President by the NDC MPs, indicating, “Interestingly, these days when the Minority group discuss the current economic challenges, they are always quick to tag along the Vice President as the Chairman of the Economic Management Team of Government.
“Mr. Speaker, the President Mills after 2011, the economy experienced downstream. GDP growth rate declined from 14.4% in 2010 to 9.5% in 2011. [former] President Mahama was the Vice President, and was the Chairman of the Economic Management Team into 2012.
“GDP swung down again, and Mr. Speaker, the Vice President was the Chairman of the Economic Management Team. Nobody rubbed him in and the reason is that the Finance Minister does the preparation and manages the economy for and on behalf of the President, not the Vice President,” he said.
According to him, even in cabinet setup, where the committee system works, the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia is not the Chairman of the Economic Committee.
“My colleagues know that. Vice Presidents have never been. I should tell you the Economic Management Team has no constitutional basis in the set. So, when people talk about this, it is because they just want to give the Vice President a bad name, like the proverbial dog, and hang it,” he asserted.
BY Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House