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MPs fight over 2018 budget

The debate on the 2018 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of government by Members of Parliament (MPs) started yesterday, with the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) accusing the present New Patriotic Party (NPP) government of lacking credibility when it comes to the implementation of economic policies nicely packaged in the budget.

The Majority NPP also lambasted the minority for raising credibility issues, adding that the previous NDC administration deceived the people and mismanaged the economy.

Setting the tone for the debate yesterday, the MP for Wenchi and Minister for Planning, Prof George Gyan-Baffour, said the 2018 budget is to build a resilient economy that can withstand internal and external shocks.

“Mr Speaker, building a strong and resilient economy will focus on industrialization by embarking on comprehensive industrial transformation effort through ensuring energy availability, affordability and reliability and also provide incentives for the production and supply of quality raw materials and investment in research and development for industrial development.”

He said the NPP government has ‘solid’ programmes spelt out in the 2018 budget to speed social development in the country through the creation of thousands of jobs.

“Mr Speaker indeed all our flagship projects, including Free SHS; One District, One Factory; Planting For Food and Jobs; Infrastructure for Poverty Reduction; National School Feeding, Inner City and Zongo Development; Nursing Training Allowance and Teacher Training Allowance have all been paid for in this budget,” he said to thunderous shouts of ‘hear, hear’ by the majority members.

He said most of these interventions by government will definitely push the non-oil sector growth upward significantly.

Pro Gyan-Baffour said the country would wean itself off the IMF programme, which the last administration ushered the nation into, by the end of 2018.

“Mr Speaker, no more lies about our economic management when some people were touting home-grown policies and programmes when we were being chaperoned by the IMF. Putting Ghana back to work is clearly evident in every section of the budget”.

Contributing to the debate, the NDC MP for Ajumako/Enyan/Essiam and ranking member of Finance Committee of Parliament, Cassiel Ato Forson, asked the Finance Minister to completely withdraw the 2018 budget from parliament, otherwise the minority members will advise themselves accordingly when it comes to the consideration of the Appropriation Bill on the budget.

He said the Minister did not use the proper procedure to read the 2017 Mid-Year Review Budget, which should have come with a motion for parliament to ratify as provided for in section 28 of Public Financial Management Act.

“If the government is saying that the 2018 budget is geared towards job creation, then that cannot be the truth because all the budgetary allocations to the productive sectors of the economy have been slashed significantly while huge allocations have been made to areas that are not productive, he added.

He said for instance that a whopping GH¢1.94 billion has been allocated to the Office of the President in 2018 from GH¢1.5 billion in 2017 while allocations to Ministries such as Agriculture, Works and Housing, Roads and Highways and Aquaculture had been reduced significantly, defeating the argument that the government wants to create more jobs.

Hon Ato Forson noted that the hullabaloo that the government intends to use the ‘Nations Builders Corps’ is just a propaganda because an amount of GH¢650 million allocated to it for the creation of 100,000 jobs for graduates will mean that every month each employed graduate under the scheme will receive a paltry amount of GH¢500 as his salary which is woefully inadequate.

The chairman of the Finance Committee and NPP MP for New Juaben South, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, said the NPP has a better economic management team than the NDC.

According to the Chairman, through the better management of the economy, the country was able to save GH¢700 million in 2017.

The chairman said the manufacturing sector saw a growth from 2.7% to 3.1% in 2017, adding that all the investment to provide jobs and make secondary education free, as well as other social interventions will significantly increase the country’s GDP in the medium and long-term.

The NDC MP for Bolgatanga Central, Isaac Adongo, said the Minister of Finance intentionally did not provide the right figures in terms of the country’s current debt stock, pointing out that an additional GH¢11.3 billion has been borrowed by the government aside the GH¢138 billion debt declared in the budget by the Minister.

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