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29.11.2007 General News

Parliament Debates Budget, Throws Searchlight On Oil Find

Amidst heckling, catcalls and drama, Parliament on Tuesday continued the debate on the 2008 Budget, with the spotlight on the energy sector.
Contributions from the largest Minority, NDC raised issues that the budget was silent on the revenues so far accrued from the oil find in Ghana, and argued that the figures provided covered fuel tax revenue and not proceeds.
 Mr. Moses Asaga Member (NDC) for Nabdam, who set the ball rolling argued that oil was significant in the economy and it was necessary its revenue proceeds were accounted for even if it were in small quantities.
 He said by his own rough estimates, there were about $55 million earnings from the oil, but the Majority NPP, dared the Ranking Member to produce evidence, which he said, he would only provide if he were on the Majority side.
  Immediate Former Deputy Minister of Energy, Mr Kobina Tahir Hammond, now Deputy Minister of Interior, said he had given the figures sometime earlier this year in a 'personal intercourse' with the Ranking Member, on
a radio programme.
According to Mr. Hammond, there was a receipt of $400,000 as at the last account (in August).   Mr. Asaga argued that oil receipt issues had led to problems in Nigeria, added that countries like Sao Tome and Principe did make provision for their oil prospecting in spite of the low levels.
 He suggested an account for the oil receipts to be set up by the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Ghana.    Mr. John Mahama, (NDC-Bole Bamboi) expected that the Budget would have taken bold initiatives to address poverty 'social dislocation' and reduce imports, but Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, Deputy Minister of Trade  
raised issues on the source of the data, which Mr. Mahama used, saying they were not from the budget.
 Mr Mahama also spoke on the payment of tax on the airtime on the use of cell-phones, nicknamed 'talk tax, and argued that if a person makes a call for 20 minutes a day for 100 cedis per minute call, the subscriber might have paid a tax of 3.6 million cedis in five years.
 Mr Isaac Asiama (NPP-Atwima Mponua) called on MPs to educate the constituents on the tax on the use of airtime to make it a success to have more funds to create more employment avenues for the youth.