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18.03.2009 General News

Parliament approves `Rescue` budget

By Stephen Odoi Larbi - Ghanaian Chronicle

Parliament yesterday approved the financial policy of the Government of Ghana (GoG) for the year ending December 31st 2009. This was after Members of the House have deliberated on the financial policy statement, which was moved on the floor of the House by the Finance Minister, Dr. Kwabena Dufuor, on March 5th, 2009.

The debate on the budget lasted for almost two weeks drawing various criticisms from the Minority Members who described it as 'Sakawa' budget, which contains nothing new and is only intended to bring hardship to the people.

The Majority Members on the other side of the House saw the budget as a 'Rescue' financial policy from the government, intended to bring smiles on the faces of the citizenry, since the previous New Patriotic Party (NPP) government failed to achieve the numerous targets it set for itself in 2008, resulting in a huge deficit in the economy.

Moving the motion in support of the budget statement on the floor of Parliament, the immediate past Minister of state at the Ministry of Finance, Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei who is also a Member of Parliament (MP) for Old Tafo Constituency drew into account various criticisms the then NPP government in 2001 faced at the hands of some minority members of the then NDC, when it presented the financial policy on the floor of Parliament for deliberations.

He reminded Members of the various micro-economic targets that the NDC set for itself when in power in 2000, which it failed to achieve. According to him, the NDC targeted a 5% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2000 but ended up realizing 3.7%. On inflation, he said the NDC's target was to bring the trend down to 12.5% but ended up at 40.5% with a budget deficit of 8.5%, instead of 6.1%.

To Mr. Akoto Osei, the NDC again failed to achieve a zero percent balance of payment it set for itself in 2000 but ended up with a $194million.

There were interjections from both sides (Majority and Minority) of the House.

Advancing his argument, Mr. Akoto Osei outlined the track record of the NDC when in government from 1996-2000. According to him, per capita income under the NDC government at that time kept dwindling thereby bringing hardship conditions on the people.

“As I look through the budget statement and the performance of the NDC government over a period, the growth of per capita income has consistently from 1996-2000 gone backwards”, he noted.

On the contrary, Dr. Akoto said when the NPP took over the reigns of power from the NDC in 2001; the growth of per capita income has kept soaring which was a clear indication of putting money into the pockets of the people.

“Since 2001, the NPP has consistently increased the growth of per capita income which is a clear indication of putting more money into the pockets of the people”, he said.

Per capita income is the average total income per person of a country's overall income level. For example, if a country has a collective income of $1 million and 20 residents, the per capita income or average income per person is $50,000.00.

According to him, the growth rate per capita in 1996 dropped from 2.0 to 1.96 in 1997 and a further dip to 1.42 in 1998. Again, he said the trend continued to dip further in 1.42 by the time the NDC government was leaving office in 2000, adding “Madam Speaker, if you keep that trend, you will be taking money out of the peoples' pocket”.

Comparing the achievements of the NPP when in power from 2001-2008 on the subject matter, the former minister of state noted his government was able to turn around the fortunes of the country resulting in a per capita income of 2.46 in 2006.

This, according to him, brought money into the pockets of Ghanaians.

Dr. Akoto Osei was of the view that the cost saving as outlined in the budget cannot be realized, looking at the economic condition of the country and that of the world economy, which is been faced with challenges. He complained bitterly on the increase in airport taxes, and user fees among many others.

“If you put all these together, the NDC government is increasing taxes to the tune of almost $90m”, he added.

He therefore called on the Finance Minister to go back and study the budget statement and come back to the House with a new budget statement that would alleviate the plight of the people.

Dr. Kwabena Dufuor on his part thanked Members of the House for their contributions to the budget statement. According to him, he would appear before Members of the House at the appropriate time to address the various issues they raised concerning the budget.

He noted that “we are not poor because we don't have the resources but poor because we don't know how to manage our resources”. He therefore emphasized that government would focus on efficiency in managing the economy to achieve best results for the country.