20.05.2005 Business & Finance

Exceeding tax targets could be due to wrong projects

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Ho, May 20, GNA - The yearly ritual of major state revenue collecting agencies, announcing figures surpassing set targets, might not be a reflection of the efficiency levels at these organizations, but rather due to wrong projections, says a chartered accountant. Mr Kofi Osei-Afiakwa who was speaking at a public review forum on the 2005 budget, held that surpassing set targets could also be due to a gross under estimation of indicators of collectable tax by the collecting agencies.

The forum was organized by the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) in Ho on Thursday.

Mr. Osei-Afoakwa, who is the finance officer of the Ho Polytechnic, said there was the need therefore to rehash the parameters for projections of these organizations to nudge them to collect more than they saw themselves capable to do.

He said the government's national GDP growth of 5.8 per cent, the same as the previous year, was too modest, adding that such less ambitious target settings meant Ghana might not attain the middle-income status by the year 2010.

Mr. Osei-Afoakwa said the recent increases in fuel prices were expected because of the rising price of crude oil on the international market.

He said the snag about the increment was that it was delayed for political reasons because elections were due.

"Even the NDC (National Democratic Party) would have raised the prices of fuel if it had won the 2004 elections," he added. Mr. Osei-Afoakwa suggested that governments shift taxes put on fuel and some other commodities to beer and cigarettes.

He said the increase in the minimum daily wage to 13,500 cedis, though progressive, was still too little, but bemoaned the large size of "hangers-on" on the pay roll of public organizations as making it increasingly difficult for the government to pay realistic wages. Mr. Osei-Afoakwa slammed the government for reneging on agreements reached with labour over salaries and pensions.

"People who deal with these issues must be told that their actions and inactions were making the government unpopular. Government must take staff salaries serious," he stated.

Mr. Stephen Awunyo-Akaba, a Development Planning Consultant, said economic policies must reflect positively on the life of the people.

"Budgets don't have to denigrate the lives of the people," he added. He called on the Bank of Ghana to address the confusion over publicized bank lending rates differing from those attached to transactions.

Mr. Awunyo-Akaba said the implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme could be hampered by the lack of medical staff at some of the health facilities in the rural areas.

Issues raised by members of the public during an open forum included the inability of government to protect local industries against cheaper but sometimes, inferior imported products. 20 May 05

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