The Budget for Election Year, 2016, is due to be presented in Parliament today by Finance Minister Seth Terkper. And already, many well-meaning Ghanaians are skeptical about how economically relevant the Budget will be for the development of the country next year.
The main opposition New Patriotic Party is not only “skeptical about the 2016 budget” but also “nervous”, with the fear that “2016 will be a playback of 2012, where sole sourcing of government contracts were done and costs of contracts inflated, all under a deadly culture of ‘create, loot and share’,” and solely targeted at wasting the nation’s resources to win the general elections.
We agree with the NPP that it was the horrendous experience of reckless spending personally supervised by President Mahama in 2012, which has brought years of untold hardship on the people, with the value of the cedi constantly falling, collapse of businesses, escalating mass unemployment, piled up huge arrears and debt repayments, all of which culminated in the decision to go to the IMF for a bailout.
We at the New Statesman, like any discerning Ghanaian, are convinced the 2016 Budget will be a deceitful attempt by President Mahama and his government to hoodwink the IMF into believing that they are committed to the programme they have signed onto to ensure fiscal discipline in the management of the economy.
But we can assure the IMF and other groups that will want to fall for this deceit that beyond the Budget, President Mahama and his people have another plan for how the nation’s resources will be dissipated. And the main agenda will be how to spend the available funds to ‘buy’ the 2016 general elections: that is what matters most to President Mahama and his cabal. And traces of this will be seen in increased deficit that will only be brought to the notice of the IMF after the 2016 elections, just as it happened after the reckless spending in 2012.
Simply put, the Mahama-led NDC government does not intend to work within the Budget the Finance Minister is presenting to the nation today; they have a different plan to work with: that is why we see the whole processes that went into the preparation of the Budget, as well as the discussions that will follow its presentation, as a waste of everybody’s time.
Spending strictly within a planned Budget in an election year has been a challenge to governments in the past since the return to multi-party democracy in 1992. Overspending in election year 1992, under the NDC, led to erosion of all the economic gains the nation had made in the previous years. 1996 was the same, and it was made worse in 2000, leading the nation into HIPC in 2001. 2004, under the NPP, was so far the best for the nation, but the same party could not maintain the record in 2008.
But the worst of all forms of reckless dissipation of the nation’s resources happened in 2012 under the personal supervision of President John Dramani Mahama, with his Office alone spending in excess of GHS 1600 million above its approved budget, without parliamentary approval.
The Mahama government further spent over GHS 700 million in excess of budgeted expenditure on Social Protection Programmes whilst the Youth and Sports Ministry spent GHS 300 million above its budget. In addition to that, the National Disaster Management Organisation also spent over GHS 300 million in the last quarter of 2012 only.
The naked misuse of funds from the national coffers was cleverly orchestrated through phantom programmes which stood in the names of institutions like rLG, SADA, GYEEDA, MASLOC, LESDEP and other schemes.
It was a common sight to see young girls driving Hundai i10s, with the inscription ‘Friends of JDM’, on our university campuses, just at the same time President Mahama discovered that traditional rulers needed 4×4 Land cruisers. Distribution of laptop computers with President Mahama’s campaign posters embossed on them was the order of the day.
The government was rushed into several bouts of impulsive expenditures all in the name of cushioning the ground for the NDC to retain power for President Mahama to continue his misrule. And when the chips were down, as much as GH¢8.7 billion had been blown, without authorization from Parliament.
In addition to this, cronyism, nepotism and outright corruption congregated to squeeze the ordinary Ghanaian from the centre stage of economic well-being. In fact, if President Mahama and his economic team had been a bit prudent with economic management, the ordinary Ghanaian would not have found himself in the current state of hopelessness.
What is very worrying is that President Mahama and his cabal are not worried about worsening the plight of the ordinary Ghanaian, in a desperate effort to win the 2016 elections.
Already, the New Statesman has seen documents that suggest that they intend to make the same mistake that has led to Ghanaians getting poorer and poorer and the economy struggling since the 2012 general elections.
That mistake was the reckless and criminal manner in which over $4 billion of unbudgeted funds were abused to allegedly steal and buy the election, registering a record 11.8% deficit.
We have uncovered a scheme that could make what happened in 2012 even pale into insignificance, with the president having approved a basic election budget for his party of GHC5 million per each of the 275 constituencies. This translates into a total official party budget of GHC1, 375,000,000.
One of the instruments earmarked for the vote-buying scheme is small-loan schemes, like MASLOC and the Youth Enterprise Scheme (YES). The President has budgeted GHC2-3 million worth of small loans to be distributed per every constituency with the sole purpose of buying votes.
With abysmal governance performance, and the worst ever economic mismanagement and deep-seated corruption hanging around his neck, President Mahama and his strategists are convinced that without spending excessively to influence voters the ruling party stands no chance of coming close to winning another four-year term.
This is certainly the plan of the Mahama government, which Ghanaians will not be told in the Budget being presented today. The Budget will say one thing while President Mahama and his people will do another thing, targeted at using funds from the nation’s coffers to ‘steal’ our mandate again.
The 2016 Budget will simply remain a document President Mahama and his government will not respect. Ghanaians should therefore expect a playback of the 2012 reckless and criminal spending next year, which will lead to another four years of suffering, if we make the mistake of retaining the Mahama government in power.
A vote against the NDC, and the ushering in of an Akufo-Addo-led NPP government, will mitigate the situation and subsequently lead to restoration of hope for the nation.
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