By Maxwell Ofori .
The Minister for Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, has announced that as of the end of 2017, the Akufo-Addo-led government had managed to pay off over GH¢6 billion of outstanding debt it inherited from the previous Mahama administration.
The Minister made this known on the floor of Parliament on Thursday, July 19, 2018, whilst reviewing the 2018 Budget, in accordance with the Constitution.
In the early days of the current government, there were reports from officials that the Mahama government had left colossal debts on the nation, which had virtually collapsed the economy.
The then National Democratic Congress (NDC) government rushed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for succour, and the latter dictated how the country’s economy must be run, including freezing public sector recruitment.
However, a few years later, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta was “pleased to report that by the end of 2017, in less than one year, our collective effort had put the economy back on track, evidenced by the following indicators: we managed to pay off over GH¢6 billion (including ESLA payments) of outstanding claims that we inherited,” he stated.
As at end of May 2018, the Minister said, gross public debt stock in nominal terms stood at GH¢154 billion, representing 63.8 percent of GDP, compared to 66.8 percent in same period in 2017, the review captured.
Indicating plans on managing the debt, Ken Ofori-Atta noted that a 2018-2021 Medium Term Debt Management Strategy (MTDS) has been prepared and published, in accordance with the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921).
The strategy, which envisages an increase in the issuance of medium-to-long-term bonds in the domestic bond market over the strategy period, also aims at diversifying the instrument base and providing suitable options.
With that, institutions like the pension and insurance companies can match their assets to their liabilities, the review read in part, he added
That aside, the Minister got the Majority side of the House showering praises on him, while the Minority was silent, when he indicated that the government had increased the school feeding programme from 1.6 million to 2.1 million children.
In what seemed as making a mockery of a party, which had been voted out of power on the basis of abysmal performance, the Finance Minister further chronicled the achievements of this government, as if to say, the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) has done in two years, what ‘Napoleon’ could not do in eight years.
Trumpeting on the NPP government’s socio-economic achievements so far, the Finance Minister said the Akufo-Addo government had eased the burden of hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians, and invested in the future of our children and country.
The major flagship programmes of the government, the free Senior High School, was not left out, as the Minister told Parliament it had saved parents a minimum of GH¢3,000 and GH¢1,950 per student per academic year for boarding students and day students respectively.
According to the statement read on the floor yesterday, the government continues to provide over 49,000 teacher trainees and 51,000 nursing trainees with GH¢480 every month.
Over 200,000 farmers, the Minister said, had been supported with fertiliser and seeds to help increase production and improve their incomes and create employment.
“We have been more diligent with payments of Statutory Funds, unlike under the previous government, when they could be in arrears for three quarters or more.
“We have given tax relief of over GH¢800 million to businesses and households through the abolishment of nuisance taxes, and electricity tariffs have been reduced by 17.5-30 percent for the various customer classes, leading to savings of approximately GH¢1.8 billion per year for businesses and households.
“In addition, we continue to make significant investments and renegotiate Power Purchasing Agreements (PPA) to avert defaulting on unconscionable financial transactions in the energy sector inherited from the NDC, and also to ensure that we do not go back to the dark days of dum-so,” Mr Ken Ofori-Atta asserted.
Usual of him, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, in his all white African wear, neatly ironed, did not disappoint with his bible quotation, as he does in almost all his presentations in Parliament.
This time, it came from Proverbs 24:3–4 (NKJV)-3: which reads: “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; 4: By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches,” he said in his concluding remarks.