THE FISCAL policies and programmes of President John Evans Atta Mills' administration for this year has been described by the Minority in Parliament as a 'Sakawa' budget- a rehash of the erstwhile New Patriotic Party (NPP) regime's.
Immediately after the Minister of Finance, Dr. Kwabena Duffour delivered the highlights of the budget statement on the floor of Parliament yesterday, the Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Minority side raised flyers with inscriptions: 'Sakawa Budget', 'Alakpator Budget', and “Lying Budget”, shouting, “There is nothing new”.
According to them, the budget merely emphasized the continuation of ongoing programmes in all sectors of the economy, which were started by the NPP administration, without new and bold policy initiatives that would facilitate the growth of the economy in the midst of the current turbulent global financial crisis.
For instance, they pointed out that nearly all the road projects mentioned in the budget are already in progress including the Achimota-Ofankor (5.7km), Asankragwa-Enchi (56.4km), Bamboi-Tinga (53.4km), Berekum-Sampa Phase 2 (56.0km), Kumasi-Techiman Phase 2 (76.0km), Tetteh Quarshie-Madina (4.6km) and Tetteh Quarshie-Mallam (14.0km) stretches.
In a post budget presentation interview with DAILY GUIDE , the MPs and NPP gurus including Yaw Osafo-Maafo; O. B. Amoah, Aburi-Nsawam; Joe Baidoe-Anshah, Effia Kwesimintsim; Professor Yaw George Gyan-Baffour, Wenchi; Dr. Matthew Prempeh, Manhyia; Frema Osei- Opare, Ayawaso West Wuogon and Justice Joe-Appiah, Ablekuma North, summed up their views by saying President Mills' budget is without substance, clarity and vision. They described the budget as very a very disappointing one which would end up deceiving Ghanaians.
Yaw Osafo-Maafo, first Finance Minister under the Kufuor-led NPP Administration noted that the budget accurately captures the current economic trends in Ghana and globally without providing concrete measures that would significantly reduce the budget deficit of 14.9 percent to 9.4 percent of GDP for 2009 to engender accelerated economic growth of the economy.
Osafo-Maafo described the current budget deficit as stifling, noting that the projected figures are encouraging.
He was however quick to add that measures to attain the new projections are not specifically stated in the budget.
“There has to be specific measures to improve revenue and to reduce expenditure but those were not well articulated to achieve that level of reduction,” Osafo-Maafo pointed out.
According to him, the proposed reduction in petroleum taxes announced in the budget statement, although in line with campaign pledges of the NDC, will haunt the government that is desirous of making revenue generation a top priority in cutting the budget deficit.
He explained that taxes from petroleum forms a major part of Ghana's revenue, emphasizing that the reduction in taxes can significantly affect the efforts at improving the revenue base.
On his part, Hon. O. B. Amoah said he would like to see the full budget to make further scrutiny of the financial policy of government since what was presented on the floor of Parliament were the highlights.
The former Deputy Minister for Education, Science and Sports said a lot of issues under education have not been addressed.
“For instance, we have embarked on new educational reforms: what measures are being put in place to ensure that these reforms are carried through; that these reforms become very successful. I did not hear enough about some of these measures,” Hon. Amoah noted.
He pointed out that the highlights were mainly on policy interventions, “a few school uniforms here and there and I did not even hear much about the School Feeding Programme started by the ex-President Kufuor-led NPP administration”.
He noted that the school uniforms and Capitation Grant are not major issues under the new educational reforms, adding that there is the need to bring out measures to make the reforms successful and to improve the overall educational sector.
Former Minister for Trade and Industry and MP for Effia Kwesimintsim, Hon. Joe Baidoe-Anshah lamented the failure of the budget to put in place concrete measures that would support the growth of the private sector, trade and industry.
By announcing that the Airport Tax would be increased from $50 to $75, Hon. Joe Baidoe-Ansah pointed out that government would be increasing the cost of doing business in Ghana.
According to him, the expected increase would drastically reduce revenue in the tourism sector as many people would now be moving to other countries in the West Africa sub-region where airport taxes are quite low.
Akosua Frema Osei-Opare, MP for Ayawaso West Wuogon explained that the proposed increase in road tolls among others would increase the cost of goods and services as cargo trucks would be paying more levies.
The former Deputy Minister for Manpower and Employment submitted that there are no concrete plans in the budget to support state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to help provide jobs for the teeming unemployed youth in the country.
By Awudu Mahama & Sheilla Sackey