Politics of Monday, 18 March 2013
Source: Daily Guide
The Minority in Parliament has asked Ghanaians to tighten their belts for tougher and more difficult times in 2013.
Winding up debate on the financial policy of the National Democratic Congress (NDC)’s budget for 2013, the Deputy Minority Leader, Dominic Nitiwul, said with government’s intention to cut down the huge budget deficit this year, more economic crisis and hardship will be heaped on Ghanaians.
“We, as Ghanaians, must pray hard because utility bills are going to go up, taxes would be increased and already we cannot afford the high fuel prices announced by government about a month ago,” he said.
According to the minority leader, the current water and electricity crises might not abate because the government will need between GHC3 billion and GHC4 billion to finance its budget deficit and achieve the nine percent deficit prescribed in this year’s budget.
Hon Nitiwul said the people of Ghana did not vote for the government to go through such unbearable situations.
“We need solutions not lamentations,” he said, adding that President Mahama should wake up from his slumber and put in place very achievable and pragmatic programmes to help ameliorate the sufferings of Ghanaians.
“We have erratic water supply, erratic supply of electricity, high prices of fuel, high cost of living, high unemployment rate, high cost of doing business, high school fees, huge housing deficit and collapsing National Health Insurance Scheme but the budget does not prescribe concrete solutions to them,”
He said the people of Ghana want the government to be sensitive to their plight and help them out of the quagmire of unbearable difficulties.
Commenting on expenditure in the budget, the minority leader said it was very strange for the government to overspend above the appropriated amount approved by parliament.
“After approving the 2012 budget at the beginning of the year, government came back in July the same and said it needed extra GHC2.6billion in a supplementary budget and parliament approved that too,” he said, adding that government spent that GHC2.6billion and spent extra GHC2.8billion which was in conflict with the appropriation act.
“This extra spending of taxpayers’ money amounting to GHC2.8billion without the approval of parliament is an affront to parliament and some people like the Minister of Finance, governor of the Bank of Ghana and the Auditor-General must be held responsible,” he noted.
The Minister of Finance, Seth Terkper, who was in parliament, in a response to the serious concerns raised by the minority, said that the extra money spent by the government was justified.
He explained that there was a shortfall in the production of oil as expected and that serious agitations by doctors and teachers for improved salaries and arrears also accounted for the overspending.
“There were unforeseen circumstances. Doctors were on strike and the government was forced to pay their arrears to avoid people dying in the hospitals,” he said, adding that teachers also went on strike and government had to intervene to avoid the situation whereby students would not be able to write their examinations.
He admitted that the country faced challenges in the year resulting in more borrowing.
He however added that those monies were put into the productive sectors of the economy.
He said the current debt stock of the nation included money borrowed for the Bui dam and the GHC107million equipment for BOST.
He noted that the single spine salary structure also impacted strongly on the finances of the country.
The minister said the government was committed to improving the economy hence the 2013 budget which will not only help bring some fiscal discipline in the financial sector but also help accelerate the growth of the economy.
The minister used the occasion to inform the house that the ministry was able to collect GHC305million as debt recovery levy which was not previously captured in the budget.
After approving the financial policy of the government, parliament adjourned and will resume sitting on Monday to start scrutinizing the estimates of the various ministries, departments and agencies and approve them by the appropriation act.