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23.02.2005 General News

Minority holds press conference on petroleum taxes and levies bill

By GNA

Accra, Feb. 23, GNA - The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Minority in Parliament on Wednesday said they were shocked at the insensitivity of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government in inflicting such hefty increases in petroleum prices and thereby worsening the precarious plight of the average Ghanaian family and the mass of unemployed youth.

The Minority said the recently announced petroleum price fails to provide Ghanaians with an indication of what constitutes the price build-up to the point of the ex-refinery price.

"This clearly hides from public scrutiny any inefficiency in crude procurement, handling and refining that is being passed on to the Ghanaian consumer."

This was disclosed to newsmen at a press conference by the Minority after they walked out of Parliament in protest of the Customs and Excise (Petroleum Taxes and Petroleum Related Levies) Bill, which was being taken in the House.

Mr. Alban Bagbin, Minority Leader, who chaired the press conference said the Minority cannot be part of "this unconstitutionality, to do so will be to break the oath we swore to the people of Ghana and thereby condone the illegality.

"This unconstitutionality undermines the principle of good governance so frequently espoused by President Kufuor and that it has reduced the whole concept of good governance to mere sloganeering."

Mr. Bagbin quoted Article 174(1) of the Constitution which states that, "No taxation shall be imposed otherwise than by or under the authority of an Act of Parliament" and Article 107(b) which also states that, "Parliament shall have no power to pass any law which operates retrospectively to impose any limitations on or to adversely affects the personal rights and liberties of any person or to impose a burden, obligation or liability on any person except in the case of a law enacted under articles 178 to 182 of this Constitution."

"Now, it is clear from the above that taxation is not one of the areas where Parliament can pass retroactive legislation. In other words the NPP government has no power to introduce a bill to impose a taxation/levy, which has retroactive effect."

He said the government by its actions is in clear breach of the constitution and wondered why an increase in the various levies and taxes on petroleum products was effected by the announced fuel price increases of February 18, 2005 and subsequently introduced legislation yesterday to give retrospective effect to its action taken earlier. Mr Bagbin said the government should immediately halt the collection of illegal levies and taxes and declare the amount collected so far to enable the people of Ghana decide how it should be utilised.

The Minority Leader said a strange new levy described as a "deregulation mitigating levy" of almost 2,000 cedis per a gallon has been included in the recent price hike, which he described as inappropriate and counterproductive.

"It is the strangest of logic comprehensible only to the NPP to increase the price of fuel by an upward adjustment of levies and taxes and then go further to impose a new levy to raise funds to mitigate the effect of the increase in fuel prices."

Mr. Bagbin said the timing of the increase at a time when unemployment is spiralling out of control and the various city authorities are callously evicting so-called hawkers without any well-thought out alternative employment programme is the mark of a government that has lost all sense of co-ordination.

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