Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, Convention People's Party (CPP) Presidential aspirant yesterday summed the sentiments of the Minority on the 2008 budget when he warned government not to be complacent with the strides chalked in the economic front over the last couple of years.
Other members of the Minority in Parliament such as Mr Ken Dzirasah, former Deputy Speaker and NDC-South Tongue, Mr Moses Asaga, NDC Nabdam and Dr Benjamin Kumbour, NDC- Lawra/Nandom said the budget did not have focus and failed to bring desired relief to the people.
He told the Ghana News Agency that while issues such as the GDP and inflation targets are on track, 'there are some three areas that they should not relax about, but double their efforts to ensure that success crown their efforts and the sacrifices of Ghanaians.
Giving his impressions on the 2008 budget to Parliament, Dr Nduom said, the three areas, 'notably the public sector labour plans, pay reform and the manufacturing sector must be examined critically and programmes initiated since last year should not be left on the shelves.'
He explained that the labour front issues as well as the pay reform strategies that started last year, must be handled with tact in order not to degenerate into chaos that will see workers spilling onto the streets agitating out of tune to government plans.
Dr Nduom said last year, 'pay reform featured prominently in the budget and measures put in place to anticipate changes and trends. However, there is nothing like this in this year's budget.
'He said the budget should also focus on further enhancing the energy generation capacity of the nation, mentioning the expansion of the Aboadze Thermal Plant specifically, 'otherwise we would end up falling back into the troubles we experienced with power outages and economic loss as we did over the past year.'
Dr Nduom said Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu himself recognised the pain in the manufacturing sector when he outlined the effect of the importation of cheap goods onto the Ghanaian market.
'Strangely, he noted, 'no specific mention was made on what steps would be taken to reverse the trend. The manufacturing sector is a major component of the Ghanaian economy and if we do not act fast we might collapse our local manufacturing capacity.'
Mr Dzirasah said the seriousness of the 2008 budget was lost in the fanfare associated with the 2008 financial statement.
Mr Frank Agyekum, Deputy Minister for Information and National Orientation disagreed with the earlier comments, saying that he was happy that the budget emphasised on energy and steps that would be taken in addition to earlier steps to consolidate current energy status of the country.
On the oil find he said: 'at last we are giving the oil find the seriousness it deserves and I hope that we would work to make it profitable to all Ghanaians.'
Mrs Eugenia Kusi, Chairman of the Women's Caucus in Parliament and NPP-Tarkwa Nsuayem described the budget as positive as it showed that as a ruling party, strides made over the last 7 years have been consolidated and the youth can look forward with some hope.
She expressed satisfaction that the breast cancer crusade by the Women's Caucus has been adopted and women in various parts of the country would benefit from free screening of breast to reduce the rate of breast cancer among women.
Mr Kojo Armah, CPP-Evalue-Gwira also said the budget was good and approved it, saying the initiative to resuscitate the school feeding programme was laudable.
Many people thought that the school-feeding programme was dead, but we hear that there is something coming up to save it. He also called for proper management of the oil find and noted that; 'Ghanaians should have a greater involvement in the processes associated with it.'
Mr Moses Asaga, NDC Nabdam and former Deputy Minister for Finance and Economic Planning described the budget as a difficult budget as depicted in leaflets distributed by the National Democratic Congress members.
He argued that even though the Finance Minister described the budget as a budget for the future, 'I thought it should be giving hope to Ghanaians. But with electricity, fuel and water prices going up almost every week, and Ghanaians having problems to have a descent meal in a day, it can only be seen as a tough budget.
'It is insulting when at a time where Ghanaians cannot afford landlines for communication, government is about to place an extra tax on the cost of air time on mobile phones.'
Mr P.C Appiah-Ofori, NPP Member for Odoben/Asikuma/Brakwa, also known for his anticorruption stance, did not mince words and said not until corruption was checked and public funds managed properly, all the beautiful proposals in the 2008 budget would remain a dream.
According to him, every year the budget was read but lack of funds hampered the implementation process because of the many leakages in public finance and corruption. He called for a plugging of the holes in the management of public funds and hold public office holders accountable to reduce the drain on public funds to realise the targets set in the budget.
Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister for Women and Children's Affairs, was particularly happy with the gender dimensions of the budget and said plans to screen women and men for breast and prostrate cancer respectively was in the right direction.
She said the issue of equity was also high on the 2008 agenda because the programme to ensure that selected communities in each district received equal share of water, electricity and road development resources, showed government's commitment to equity in development.
Minority Leader, Alban Bagbin, on his part, said the seed capital of 25 million Ghana cedis for the development of the three northern regions was nothing to write home about. He said plans to extend equal share of water, road and electricity resources across all the 166 districts in the coming year was going to further widen the gap between the rural and urban areas.
The Minority Leader said deprived communities in rural areas should have received more development projects.
Mr Bagbin expressed disappointment that the last budget statement of the government did not initiate a process for constitutional review because there was the need to overhaul the legal framework of the nation to promote good governance and further entrench democracy
Dr Benjamin Bewa-Nyong Kumbour, Minority Spokesman on Finance, described the budget as nothing new but a repetition of unachieved programmes in the last three budgets. He wondered how new institutions set up would be able to achieve the set targets within one year when those that already existed were not equipped enough to carry out that functions effectively. He said the targets were fantasies.
Dr Kumbour, who is also NDC MP for Lawra Nandom, hailed the establishment of the Northern Development Fund, but however said the seed money was rather not sufficient.
Mr Freddie Wormaseo Armah Blay, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, described the budget as comprehensive, and it would build on the stability so far achieved in the economy.
He said the 2008 budget was different from previous ones, and indicated Government's preparedness to invest in the social sector as it encouraged insurance companies to invest in the social.
Mr Blay endorsed the budget, which the Majority NPP said was a budget for a bright future and lauded the proposed improvement in the mode of paying cocoa farmers in rural areas.
Mr Felix Kwasi Owusu-Adjapong, one of the NPP Presidential Aspirants, said the budget would consolidate the gains achieved by the Government, to be built by any successive government.
Ms Josephine Hilda Addo, NPP-Kwadaso, lauded Government for the maintenance of the school feeding programme and the Capitation Grant in the budget. She said it would be of assistance to women in low-income groups to send their children to school.
However, Mrs Elizabeth Amoah-Tetteh, (NDC-Twifo Atti Morkwaa) said the budget was not gender sensitive, and explained that despite the passage of the Domestic Violence Law, the budget made no provision for the care, and places to shelter women traumatised from spousal abuse.