The shameful rejection of the government’s 2022 budget came as a surprise but actually met the expectation of the nation with satisfaction. Even though the government side Members of Parliament walked out just before the vote to reject the obnoxious budget, a careful analysis of the conduct of the government side MPs clearly showed they were against the draconian budget but refused to state or show it publicly for obvious reasons.
First it was patent that the MPs have no choice but to reject a budget that infuriated majority of citizens. The introduction of the electronic levy (e-levy) at 1.75% which will affect even mobile money transactions was widely met with consternation. The same government through its vice President stated earlier that taxing mobile money will negatively affect the poor. Prior to the budget reading there was spirited campaign against the reversal of the 50% benchmark discount on imported goods because it will lead to hike in prices of listed items but the government grew deaf ears.
Secondly fuel prices being increased weekly is killing businesses. There were calls for the abolishing of some nuisance taxes such as the sanitation levy, the ESLA, BOST margin among others introduced in the 2021 budget to be removed or capped to reduce fuel prices but were not heeded to. They were rather maintained to the dismay of many especially commercial drivers who have been agitating since. The #fixthecountry movement scheduled and held a demonstration on the budget approval day while the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) voiced their opposition to the economic policy.
Thirdly it appeared Ken Ofori Atta extended his arrogance and stubbornness to the other arms of government. The budget reading was postponed once; on the day of reading it delayed for hours after which the Speaker had revealed that leadership of the house has grave differences with the minister on the budget. Apparently the house was not happy with the allocation of less than 1% of national income allocated to them. The same was hinted about the judiciary who were said to be angry as well.
Observers at the budget reading have also raised questions about the absence of the head of the Economic Management Team in parliament during the event. Explanations given for his absence were not convincing to them. They rather suspected a disagreement over the budget prescriptions between the Minister and the Vice President. They observed further that during the budget reading the deputies of the Finance Minister were nodding their heads in disapproval giving credence to the suspicion that the Minister was doing his own thing against the collectively agreed position.
Then vociferous Roads and Highways Minister went on to implement the budget before it is approved by Parliament. Not even an admission by his side of wrongdoing and a directive by the Speaker to him to reverse his order for cessation of collection of road tolls until budget is approved tickled him. He arrogantly disrespected Parliament. John Boadu, the governing party’s General Secretary, went ballistic at Mankesim asking the Speaker of Parliament to go and collect the tolls himself; a clear indication that the government was determined to defy Parliament. The stage was therefore set for a showdown between the executive and legislature on budget approval day.
And came it did, the approval day. The governing party side chickened out of proceedings to force the Speaker to suspend proceedings for 30 minutes. The determined opposition party side, resolved to shoot down the wicked budget was fully camped in the house. Finally the government side came with a lame excuse that they were in a caucus meeting which the Speaker was not informed about. It was also revealed that two members of the government side, Sarah Adjoa Sarfo and Kennedy Agyapong, Henry Quatey Amoako Atta were outside the jurisdiction hence the government lacked the numbers to avert rejection of the budget. Rumors even suggested a chartered flight was organized to whisk them into the country to come and vote.
The Speaker was determined to carry on business of the house despite the gymnastics. The government side came with a motion to permit the finance minister to submit a plea to the leadership once again before the vote on the motion to approve the budget. The Speaker ruled that leaders of both sides must make their final submissions on the budget first before the motions are considered. The government side was dismayed yet finally agreed. After leaders spoke, it was time for the two motions to be considered.
A new twist was caused by the government side again. They demanded that the General Secretary of the opposition who was sitting in the public gallery be ordered to leave the house before the motions were debated. This was resisted leading to a walk out by the government side. The house however formed quorum and carried on. The motion for the Finance Minister to submit a plea to leadership was lost while the motion to approve budget was also defeated. The Agyenkwa budget fell flat by the NPP’s own doing. They saw the country was against it but could not withdraw it out of arrogance and sheer stubbornness.
The Economic Management Team or the mafias who prepared that rejected policy now have time to write remedial. Time awaits the next development but for now Ghana has spoken clearly about its unhappiness with the bad governance of Akufo Addo and his intransigent NPP.
A time to eat humble pie and listen!
By: Edwin Afetsi & Assibid Dauda