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Politics of Friday, 29 August 2003

Source: GNA

Elections 2004 to cost 235 billion cedis

Accra, Aug. 28, GNA - Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, on Thursday said the 2004 presidential and parliamentary elections would cost the nation 235 billion cedis. "This certainly will put undue pressure on the budget... calls for strict fiscal discipline and avoidance of over-expenditure as well as a critical assessment of the electoral budget and prioritisation of the activities involved, while ensuring value for money for the procurement of goods and services."

Mr Osafo-Maafo whose speech was read on his behalf by Dr Samuel Nii-Noi Ashong, Minister of State for Economic Planning, stated this at the on-going national consultative forum on state funding of political parties.

The forum seeks to build consensus on the way forward for the financing of political parties and the electoral process, how to resource the parties to make them more effective in the performance of their duties and examination of the challenges of financing elections. About 100 participants, comprising representatives of political parties, the Trades Union Congress, security organisations, professional organisations and chiefs attended the forum. It was organised by the Electoral Commission and KAB Consult, a non-governmental organisation, with funding from USAID.

Mr Osafo-Maafo said, notwithstanding, the difficulties associated with the funding of the electoral process the government would endeavour to make available the financial resources needed to fund the elections, while also ensuring that a stable macroeconomic environment was maintained.

He, therefore, urged the EC to ensure the provision of a credible voters' register to serve as the basis for future elections and thereby relieve the nation of the cost of spending huge sums of money to reconstruct a new register.
On challenges facing the nation as it enters an election year, the Finance Minister said analyses of the economy during the elections of 1992, 1996 and 2000 indicate that policies designed for short-term political gains replaced the programmed budgets for these years. These ushered in a spree of visible overspending and the initiation of new projects not budgeted for.
Election years, particularly 2000, were characterized by the freezing of prices of utilities and petroleum products and the granting of generous wage increases. This led to huge fiscal deficits, high rates of inflation and massive depreciation of the cedi.
He said these election-year-distortions tendered to destroy all the gains made in stabilizing the economy in the years preceding elections. The result was that after elections, the country had to start the stabilization process all over again, while grappling with the deficit, with its consequent devastating impact on the operations of the private sector.
Mr Osafo-Maafo said the government would ensure that the economy stayed on course and that all programmed expenditures were within budgetary allocation.
Once this was achieved, it could meet its part of the expenditure required for the elections, with the satisfaction that the budget had not been distorted through undue reallocation of expenditure, he said. The Minister said ensuring macroeconomic stability would also facilitate the inflow of the donor component of the resource needed to finance the elections.
"Any signal to our development partners that the events leading up to the election may destabilize the economy will usher in a period of uneasiness and a strain in our relationship. This will surely have negative consequences and must be avoided at all cost."

UNDP calls for prudent budgetary estimates for Elections 2004

Accra, Aug. 28, GNA - The timely submission of audited accounts of political parties based on authorized audited reports is eloquent expression of transparency and accountability, the bedrock of good and sound governance.
This view was expressed by Mr Alfred Sallia Fawundu, UNDP Resident Representative, at the end of the National Consultative Forum on State Funding Of Political Parties.
He said proper planning based on realistic estimates is a cherished good governance practice and is, therefore, a challenge that must be met.
In short, transparency and accountability is a challenge inherent in the proper utilization of resources, be they public or private, Mr Fawundu said.
The forum, which held in Accra to runoff a series on regional ones, was used to build consensus on the way forward for the financing of political parties and the electoral process. The participants discussed how to resources the parties to make them more effective in the performance of their duties and examined the challenges of financing elections in the country. About 100 participants, comprising representatives of Political Parties, Trades Unions, Security Organisations, Professional Organisations and Chiefs attended the forum, which was organised, by the EC and KAB Consult, a non-governmental organisation, with funding from USAID.
Speaking on "Challenges of Financing Elections in Ghana," Mr Fawundu said a pragmatic approach is of the essence, "we are to be guided not only by budgetary considerations but also and perhaps more by the integrity of the exercise as reflected by assessed needs and realistic cost estimates.
It may not be superfluous to underline the fact that elections that are organised to elect the President and representatives of the people are a most concrete and sublime expression of national sovereignty. Mr Fawundu also urged the Government to absorb the costs of elections in increasing proportions to donor assistance that would embolden its development partners to make contributions ensuring timely and full-cost payment.
It might well be a matter of trade-offs whereby government allocates an amount for the elections considered substantial while its partners increase their contributions to non-sensitive sectors and activities correspondingly.
Other considerations could be Government absorbing the local costs while its development partners took care of inputs from overseas. The UNDP Resident Representative urged Government and the EC to work with its electoral partners to examine assessed needs and costs in a transparent and timely manner.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Papa Owusu Ankomah said government would move the discussion from rhetoric by making adequate provisions to support the parties. Papa Owusu Ankomah also called for submission of timely budgets since the time for the next elections was drawing near.