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Opinions of Monday, 25 December 2017

Columnist: Abdul-hamid Inusah

The youth and our budget

Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, presented what was dubbed “Putting Ghana Back to Work” budget to Parliament on the 5th of November 2017. Fundamentally, the budget captures the government’s planned programs for the next fiscal year.

It is estimated that the Ghanaian government will spend $13.9 billion (62 billion Ghana cedis) in the next fiscal year.

The budget cost is expected to be covered partly by grants that are expected to reach 51 billion cedis in the 2018 fiscal year. In addition, the Ghanaian government has put in place robust measures that are intended to enhance the collection of tax.

Key Budget Proposals

The Ghanaian government has over the years been accused of failing to vigorously advance the interests of youths. With an estimated population of 26,908,262 people, Ghana has a young age structure.

To this end, approximately 57% of the nation’s population is under the age of 25. It is due to this reason that the government set out to align its financial policy with the aspirations of its youth.

In the next fiscal year, the budget has provided for a tax relief for private universities and tax holiday for young entrepreneurs. In addition, the government has proposed 13% reduction in electricity tariffs for residential consumers.

The Plight of the Ghanaian Youths

It is undeniable that the proposed policy change will significantly impact on youths. However, it is equally true that the government has not tackled some of the challenges that have consistently affected Ghanaian youths. According to the 2015 Labour Force Survey Report by the Ghana Statistical Board, more than 1.2 million Ghanaians are unemployed.

A majority of the unemployed population consists of youths. Therefore, it would have been prudent for the government to outline credible measures that can help alleviate the suffering of the younger generation.

The lack of political goodwill has seriously undermined efforts by other entities such as non-governmental organizations in addressing the issues affecting the youths. The lack of political commitment by the authorities has resulted in high unemployment rates in the country.

The Threat of Corruption

The government has a moral and legal duty to address the threat posed by corruption. Public sector corruption is probably one of the toughest challenges that the Akufo-Addo government faces.

It is my considered opinion that the proposed revenue collection initiatives will not succeed due to embezzlement of funds. The government must be transparent in how revenue is generated to avoid embezzlement.

Public officers have in the past exhibited an unwavering appetite for public coffers. Like in the past, it is highly unlikely that the government will effectively fight corruption, particularly, due to the lack of political goodwill. As such, most of the revenue collected will end up in the pockets of a few selected individuals with the necessary political connections.

Conclusion

It is imperative that the relevant watchdog entities play their rightful role to ensure that embezzlement of public funds by state officers is checked. If well implemented, the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2018 will greatly improve the lives of Ghanaians.

In particular, the youths must be at the forefront in ensuring that their interests are advanced. The youths must be actively engaged in the political discourse as it influences the distribution of resources in any society. I am convinced that the government has not adequately addressed the issue of employment which affects millions of Ghanaians.

Towards this end, it is important that the necessary policy changes are considered to provide viable solutions for the nation.