Mrs Joyce Bamford-Addo PARLIAMENT HAS approved the financial policy of President Mills's administration for this year, after days of debate in the house.
The budget, christened, 'Investing in a better Ghana' received parliamentary approval after a week of intense debate from both sides of the House.
On March 5, Finance Minister, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, presented the document to Parliament, paving way for commencement of debate on Tuesday March 10, with the usual condemnation of the document by the Minority, who described the document as 'sakawa budget' while the Majority showered praises on the government for coming up with a budget that would rescue what they termed, a challenging economy left behind by the previous administration.
After listening to the debate which was characterized by intense heckling from both sides of the House, the Finance Minister thanked both sides for their invaluable contribution which he said would enrich the mid year budget review.
“We have all enjoyed the debate and I must thank all of you for your contributions and comments. I assure you that we will go by your comments to ensure that they enrich the fiscal policy of the government”.
Likening the budget to the 'New Testament of the Bible', the Minister of Finance said the budget was for all Ghanaians, assuring that every comment and contribution would be implemented to the letter to enable the government accomplish its slogan 'moving forward in the right direction'.
He attributed the poverty rate in the country to mismanagement of its resources and pledged to ensure that the right indicators are put in place to achieve the goals set out in the budget.
According to him, he would use experiences in the preparation of the 2001 financial policy to bear on this year's budget.
Dr. Duffuor pointed out that there was no intention of restoring tariffs on foodstuffs .In this regard, the Customs Excise Duties Amendment Bill that would be laid before the house would be withdrawn.
Earlier, former Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and MP for Old Tafo, Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, recalled the time when the National Democratic Congress (NDC) critised the NPP budget eight years ago saying, it did not measure up to its description and that it was half-made budget.
He said looking through the current budget statement, the NDC is moving backwards instead of moving forward in the right direction.
Citing the growth in per capital income which he said was moving backwards, the MP said since 2001, the NPP increased the growth in per capital income thereby putting money back in the pockets of Ghanaians.
He recalled that the NDC in their manifesto alleged that taxes would not be introduced; however it has set up three new taxes including Airport Tax which has been increased from US$50 to US$75 to burden the people.
Describing the budget as an interim, Hon. Akoto Osei urged the Finance Minister to come back to the House with a new budget, assuring that “the House will do everything possible to assist the Minister achieve his target”.
On his part, MP for Kintampo South, Yaw Effah-Baafi said the NDC administration has shown commitment in the development of agriculture in this year's budget.
He cited the strengthening of Agricultural Extension Agents to conduct crop and livestock demonstrations to show best practices and proven technologies in about 12,500 communities and the training of the youth in agric-business as laudable programmes that must be supported.
He lamented that even though rice has become a staple food in the country, local producers produced only one-third, with the remaining two-thirds being imported. He therefore called for a reduction of rice importation to the country to encourage the local producers to produce more to feed the growing populace.
By Sheilla Sackey and Awudu Mahama