Linda Akrasi Kotey
Parliament yesterday approved by a resolution the financial policy of the government for the year ending 2011.
The Minority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, who led the debate, stated that the budget has gone into the history of the country as one which lacked steam, and was economical with disclosures.
He said everyone in this country knows that the government was not spending, and so to talk about fiscal deficit reduction, overall budget deficit clamp down, and build up in gross international reserves, was artificial and a ruse.
He said what was abundantly clear, was the fact that what the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government had spent in the past two years, was less than what the New Patriotic Party (NPP) spent in the year 2008 alone, saying that if inflation was factored in the spending, the amount would be far more than the figure.
The Minority Leader mentioned that the NDC’s projection of GDP growth at 8.3% by 2013 with oil was lower than the 8.4% achieved in 2008 without oil, and in the midst of global crises at the time.
He said average inflation in 2009 climbed down to 9.0%, and in 2010 is projected to fall further to 6.5%, which would then mean that Ghana had failed.
Touching on the petroleum and oil sector, he said, the Minister had already factored into the budget receipts from petroleum production, which is the first false step, which means that parliament is just to rubber stamp it.
“We are not yet through with the revenue management bill in respect of petroleum, if parliament decides otherwise, what would happen,” he asked.
He said he had major reservations about where to locate the petroleum funds earmarked for investment. “Where it is situated, is where the problem is, because if it is part of the budget, it should be segregated, so that everyone would know what it is going to be used for.”
This, he added, allows the Minister to properly track where the funds are going, and also allow parliament to be placed in a position to monitor the use of the funds, because as it is now, it is difficult to trace where they are going to be used.
He maintained that if care was not taken, we may go the slippery path, where some people have also gone, which makes the resources dry up, for it to be difficult to tell the specific projects that the resources were used to do.
He observed that the bill before the house states that the benchmark price of the oil should be known before the budget estimates is brought to the house, adding that parliament needs to know the price for which it is fetching so much money.
On his part, the Majority Leader and head of government business, Cletus Avoka, said the budget statement was presented in an atmosphere of decorum, thoughtfulness, and appreciation, and commended the Finance Minister for his maturity and statesmanship.
He noted that the theme of the budget indicates that it was a balanced budget dedicated to ensuring equity and fairness to the socio-economic development of this country, and also seeks to address the inbalances in the economy.
Mr. Avoka mentioned that the budget was well cooked as such it did not need to be steamed again, as the Minority Leader alluded to. According to him, the budget estimates was so convincing that not even the minority had organised a press conference, which has been the precedent from the time they took office.
“Silence means consent,” he stressed.
The majority head said the think tank organisations had all sanctioned the budget, sending a signal to the government that they were fine with its contents.