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13.03.2009 Business & Finance

ISODEC digests 2009 Budget …says it does not represent a social democratic agenda

By Daniel Nonor - Ghanaian Chronicle

The 2009 budget has elements of a pro-poor budget, but it is not yet a social democratic budget. The budget would need to re-establish the balance between the economic and social sectors, in both its political orientation and taxations or allocations.

The Executive Director of the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), Mr. Bishop Akolgo made this known at a press conference on the 2009 policy and budget statement by the Centre for Budget Advocacy of the ISODEC in Accra, yesterday.

He noted that the economic policy of the 2009 budget sought to pursue three key targets, namely economic growth, stability and equity.

Growth, though important, is not enough to ensure poverty reduction, especially where the distribution of assets, like land and credit and others are unevenly unequal.

Both the source of growth and how it is distributed are critical for quality of life of the poor, marginalized and vulnerability in society.

Mr. Akolgo alluded that in the short run these three are contradictory but in the long run they are complementary. Some of the social agenda policies pursued by the current government is based on the manifesto of National Democratic Congress (NDC) as well as the crises of food, fuel and finance, and high expectations of Ghanaians.

The above could have been transparently articulated in an annual Fiscal Strategy Paper outlining the fiscal assumptions, targets and spending priorities for the fiscal year to guide the government's expenditure policy.

This would have enabled us to interrogate the social democratic agenda; especially how trade-offs and choices were made on our behalf in the budget.

The Executive Director, recalled that in the past citizens input into the budget process, were taken into the annual budgets.

Unfortunately, this process was truncated this year, during the preparation of the 2009 budget. Mr. Akolgo therefore called on the government to formalize the public input into the budget process.

He stressed that it should go even beyond request for input from the public to the situation where the public is involved in Ministry, Department and Agencies' (MDAs) policy reviews and budget hearings and debates in parliament on the budget.

Additionally, the budget should be presented in a non-technical language and in a format that is reader-friendly and conveys all information to allow citizens to understand and use it as a guide to life decisions.

Over the years, however, there is limited analysis of the budget as well as very technical language and, therefore, needs to be a citizens' budget, targeting all Ghanaians.

Touching on macro-economics and gender, ISODEC indicated that gender inequality in access, ownership and control of resources limit their ability to respond adequately and positively to market opportunities thus leading to the inefficient allocation of these resources.