Issah Alhassan reports from Kumasi that the reaction of residents in the metropolis to the government’s Budget Statement delivered yesterday by the Finance Minister, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, could best be described as a political one.
Apart from a few people who took a cursory look at some aspects of the statement and made specific comments on them, most people The Chronicle interacted with, shortly after the Minister finished delivering the statement, simply did not hide their dislike for the government, even though they claimed not to have followed proceedings in the august house.
While many residents displayed total distrust in the ability of the government, vis a vis its fiscal policy, to improve their lots, others also declined to comment on the statement, simply because they did not have an interest in it.
A trader at the Kejetia terminal told this reporter he did not see the benefit the budget would bring him, because as far he was concerned, every year the government comes out with the budget, but none of it has had any positive effect on his life.
A taxi driver said he was expecting the government to announce a reduction in petroleum prices now that the country was about to benefit from the oil exploration.
A market woman stated: “Let me think about myself; we are not interested in this long talk; we need real action, food is expensive, we cannot pay electricity and water bills, we want the government to address that.”
Gov’t intention good but…
A Lecturer at the Kumasi Polytechnic, Mr. Kusi Boafo, was generally impressed with the government’s plan on revenue mobilisation, but was pessimistic about its ability to meet the targets set in the budget.
According to him, governments, both present and past, have often failed in their efforts to widen the tax net to be able to realise enough revenue for the country, even though they make pledges to that effect anytime budgets are delivered.
The result, according to him, had also been the creation of funding gaps, due to lack of enough revenue to execute programmes and policies.
“We need to do well to mobilise enough funds internally to carry out programmes and policies; our international donors like America, Britain, are all cutting down on spending, so there should have been enough plans to widen the tax net and generate internal funding, rather than concentrating on international partners.”
Mr. Boafo, who is also a Business Consultant, warned the government to thread cautiously about its decision to target growth, stressing that anytime the government targeted growth in its budget statements, it fails to match that with trends in inflation.
He was also not happy about the fact that the government was not specific about what it would do with the expected oil revenue, which he said, should have targeted areas that would bring direct benefit to the people.
“I was expecting the government to be specific with what our oil revenue will be used for; we should target precise projects, otherwise Ghanaians will not see any real impacts,” he noted.
Mr. Boafo also wants the government to strengthen the local tax market, and ensure enough job opportunities.
He also expressed worry about the decision by the government to withdraw tax exemptions on some institutions, which he said, would bring undue pressure on private tertiary institutions.
A founding member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr.Goerge Ayisi, describd the budget as “Koliko,” implying that it was a replication of what was presented last year.
According to him, there was nothing new in the government’s statement, except for the area where the government pledged to synchronise the Single Spine Salary Structure to accommodate other areas of public service.
“I believe the decision to extend the SSSS to other sectors next year is in the right direction, but the government was not specific as to how it was going to go about it, or get the money to implement it; it is true the SSSS is a laudable policy, and it was not for nothing, that the previous administration was very much particular about it.”
The NPP founding member did not hide his displeasure about the government’s continuous apportioning of blame on the past administration, two years after taking over.
According to him, it was about time the NDC administration accepted the fact that governance was about continuation, and not apportioning blame.
“With two years into your administration, you cannot continue to pass on the buck; it is a known fact that all our previous governments always leave behind debts with the exception of our colonial masters, so if you inherit an administration, you need to concentrate on what you can do to bring about change, and not to sit down and blame your predecessor,” he cautioned.
He said governance throughout the world had shifted attention on four major areas, which are improving the welfare of the people, improving health and social interventions, education, transport, and security, adding, “These are the areas we want the government to focus on.”
Budget did not address security issues
A broadcast journalist in Kumasi, Erastus Asare Donkor, was not happy about the Minister’s inability to give comprehensive programmes towards ensuring maximum peace and security, which have been the bane of citizens in the country.
He said considering the recent spate of armed robbery cases, and general insecurity, he was expecting the government to come out with programms that would provide enough reassurance to the people, and guarantee their safety.
The Kumasi-based Media Practitioner and host of the Kapital Radio Morning show was also not happy with the government’s inability to initiate policies that would improve the lot of teachers, and general welfare of workers in the country, to reduce the rate of strikes in the public service.
On the issue of transport, Erastus said he was expecting the budget to touch on the Kumasi-Tarkwa road, which he said, was in such a deplorable state and needed to be repaired.
“I was also expecting the government to address the issue of building the capacity of the youth in the country and improve their skills towards job creation, I also wasn’t happy with the policy on education, I expected more comprehensive and innovative measures to address the current lapses in our educational system,” he bemoaned.
The Public Relations Officer of the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, Clement Kegeri, said he was generally impressed with the government’s fiscal policy, and believed it would go a long way to help accelerate growth and ensure job creation.
He said the government ought to be commended for the effort made to restore the economy back on track, and the stability achieved in the micro and macro aspects of the economy.
On security, Kegeri said the government had done enough to ensure peace and safety for Ghanaians, stressing, “Now, people can go about their normal activities, and be assured that they are safe; they can now sit in open places and chat over a bottle of beer, all because of the government’s ability to intensify security.”
From Tamale, Edmond Gyebi reports that the former Metropolitan Chief Executive (MCE) of Tamale and International Energy Consultant, Mohammed Adam Amin-Anta, has charged the Finance Minister, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, to come clear on how much money the government had projected for the implementation of the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA).
No money for SADA?
Mr. Adam Amin, who sees a lot of loopholes in the 2011 National Budget read on Thursday by the Finance Minister, said the government’s approach towards the implementation of the SADA did not show any sign of seriousness to push the SADA agenda through.
Speaking in an interview with The Chronicle, in reaction to the 2011 Budget Statement, the former Tamale Mayor maintained that the SADA’s vision would be effectively managed or meet its intended purpose if a “Special Tax” was introduced to finance its implementation, rather than financing it from the same meager national budget.
The SADA was established by the ruling government, under Article 805 of 2010, to bridge the development imbalance between the northern and southern sectors of the country.
According to Mr. Amin Adam, the SADA was a very laudable initiative, which he said, was one of the top development priorities of the immediate past New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, and therefore, encouraged the government to garner all the requisite resources to make it a success.
He indicated that the SADA initiative had now become a national development agenda, which would go a long way to reduce the sufferings of the people in the Upper East, Upper West, Northern, Brong Ahafo and Volta regions, which constituted the Northern Sector of Ghana.
These areas, he bemoaned, had suffered serious social, economic and infrastructural setbacks since the time of independence, with over 90% of their road networks completely inaccessible, poor drinking water, inadequate health and educational facilities, as well as a limited number of basic social amenities.
Energy sector needs massive improvement
On the other hand, Mr. Amin Adam, also a former Energy Advisor at the Office of the former President Agyekum Kufuor, touched on Ghana’s energy sector, which he indicated needed massive improvement.
He did not fully support the 2011 Budget, saying it did not have the tendency to address the needs of Ghanaians. “There is no clear policy as to how Ghana is going to integrate the oil industry with the rest of the economy. I don’t know whether in subsequent budgets, ambitious projects financed through the oil revenue would be undertaken in the Western Region or elsewhere in Ghana, to ensure the oil sector is integrated with the rest of the economy. For instance, the fertiliser factory that government says it is going to set up, and facilities to refine crude oil were not mentioned in the budget, and therefore, I doubt if the growth target can be achieved.”
Meanwhile, other members of the public, who spoke to The Chronicle in Tamale, especially at the Central Business District, said they expect the prices of commodities to drastically go down, and more businesses or employment opportunities created.
‘District Assembly Budget’
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Atwuma Mponua, Isaac Asiamah, in another interview with The Chronicle, described the 2011 Budget as a “District Assembly Budget,” which he said, had no hope for Ghanaians.
According to the MP, even though he was yet to make a comprehensive comment on the budget, he did not understand why the government, which had promised a ‘Better Ghana’ for Ghanaians, should construct only 65 boreholes nationwide in 2010.
Saying, I, as an MP, have singlehandly constructed close to 300 boreholes for my constituents.”
The Northern Regional Treasurer of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), Rashid Tanko Computer, on his part, described the budget as the hope of Ghanaians, and said the government’s ‘Better Ghana’ agenda was still on course.
It was funny, but that was the reality. Workers at the ministries in the Bolgatanga Municipality claim they were not aware that the Finance Minister, Dr. Kwabena Duffour, was to present the 2011 Budget Statement to Parliament yesterday, reports William N-lanjerborr Jalulah from Bolgatanga.
Their ignorance was exposed when this reporter visited their offices to solicit their views on the budget after it was presented by Dr. Duffour.
Some questions they posed back at this reporter were; “What budget are you talking about?” “When are they going to present the budget?” “Is it today the Finance Minister is presenting the budget?” and “What time did he present the budget”?
When they were told the budget had been presented, some of them claimed that the government did not give publicity to draw people’s attention before it was read. A female teacher, who did not want to be named, confessed, “In fact, I was not aware of the budget.”
Some of the people also said they did not have time to either listen to radio or watch TV, which were the only access to monitor the budget while it was being presented.
Meanwhile, a few people who said they could only listen to some aspects of the budget, because they did not have enough time, expressed mixed feelings.
While some described the budget as the “usual annual empty promises” which will not have any bearing on their lives, others said they were satisfied with it. A staff at the Regional Sports Council at the ministries said his expectations were on the Single Spine Salary Structure, which the Finance Minister touched on.
On agriculture, some were of the view that since the north had only one rainy season, the government should have focused on building more dams for irrigation purposes, support farmers with modern farming techniques, and modern mechanised equipment.
Road Construction is welcomed
Alfred Adams reports from Takoradi that the decision by the government to improve roads in the cocoa growing areas, as announced in the 2011 budget statement, has been wholeheartedly welcomed by the people of the Western Region.
A native of Bibiani Anwiaso Bekwai, Mr. Emmanuel Aidoo, who spoke to The Chronicle in an interview soon after the budget statement had been delivered, noted that the news was a welcome one, provided the promises would be fulfilled.
According to him, the same government promised to establish a cocoa processing factory at Sefwi Wiawso, but nothing had so far been done about it, and hoped that that this time round, the government would redeem her pledge, since people in the cocoa growing areas were really suffering.
The District Chief Executive for Enchi, Mr. Oscar Larbi, who also welcomed the announcement, expressed the hope that the move would become a reality.
He told this reporter that roads in the northern sector of the Western Region were in very deplorable states, “and as we speak now, a truck full of cocoa is locked up in Elubo, because of the bad nature of the road.”
He added, “road is a necessity, and we hope the government would help in improving our roads.” Even before the presentation of the budget, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Amenfi West, Mr. John Ngyetua, had expressed grave worry about the conditions of the road networks in his constituency.
Michael Boateng reports from Sunyani that the budget statement has sparked off heated debates in the township. Whilst a section of the people think there is nothing new in it, others also think otherwise.
Faustina Queensford Annor, a secondhand clothes dealer, noted that the previous budget made mention of a water supply system for Sunyani, but that promise has not been fulfilled. “We have been struggling for water for the past four days, therefore, it is our hope that the expansion project would soon be completed, as assured by the Minister in the budget statement,” Ms. Annor stressed.
Laar Osei, a resident of Fiapre, also noted that the provision of 20,000 boreholes, as stated by the Minister in the budget statement, was in order, as it would go a long way to help solve the water problem within Sunyani and its environs.
“Fipare has gained popularity because it is fast-growing due to the establishment of three universities, however, water has been a major problem, so we should benefit from the boreholes,” Osei appealed.
Mr. Francis Owusu-Ansah, Communications Director of the Living Grace Ministries, on his part, said he was expecting the budget to lay more emphasis on human resource development for the “Better Ghana Agenda” to be realised.
According to him, ICT training for teachers, particularly those at the basic and Junior High School levels, should have been prioritised, and that ICT should be studied right at the basic level and not at the secondary level.
He therefore, called on the government to make computers available to the school children, and not Members of Parliament.
Kwabena Opoku Agyemang Duku, a Business Executive, also noted that the completion of the Sunyani street lights programme was commendable, but the fact remains that the lights were not functioning at the moment.
According to him, the lights went off two days after it was commissioned, during the Brong-Ahafo@50 celebration last year.
He said the Kumasi-Techiman road had been resurfacing in every budget for the past five years, yet it had not been completed. He therefore, asked the government to stop feeding the public with lip service.
Some residents in the Central Region have reacted to the budget statement read by Dr. Kwabena Duffuor on the floor of Parliament on Thursday, describing it as having good projections, reports David Allan Paintsil from Cape Coast.
Mr. Samuel Antwi Tetteh, Regional Manager of the Ghanaian Times, said formerly when budgets were read, newspapers were sold with people buying in advance, because they wanted to know the policy of the government.
However, recent developments have shown that most budgets have become mere paper presentations, therefore, waning people’s interest in it.
To him, what was more important in the budget was the implementation of the single spine salary structure to benefit all government workers who are supposed to be rolled onto the scheme.
Mr. Antwi Tetteh said if the government was able to implement that alone, it would be enough for him and the entire working class in Ghana.
Mr. David Quarshie, a supervisor with Golden Panther Security in Cape Coast, said he was impressed with the money allocated to the various ministries and sectors, and that it would go a long way to stimulate economic development.
Madam Adjoa Essoun, a Secretary in Cape Coast, said she was happy when the Finance Minister announced to the legislators that the government would construct some fishing harbours in six communities in the country.
She said those in the Central Region would help stem the tide of poverty staring people in the fishing communities, which comples them to travel long distances to go fishing.
She appealed to the MPs to allow the Minister to speak during the budget in subsequent years, rather than interrupting him.
Kofi Boadu, a teacher, said roads to be constructed in cocoa growing areas was dear to his heart, and expressed the hope that the government would fulfill this pledge.
From Ho, correspondent Samuel Agbewode reports that the budget statement created heated arguments among sections of the public in the municipality.
Some of the people described the budget as a political gimmick, while others said it gave them hope for better days ahead.
The critics of the budget said they were tired of the government raising the hopes of the public without fulfilling them, as the current budget was not too different from the last one.
Speaking to The Chronicle at separate locations in the Ho township, the people said even though the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, had touched on vital areas of the economy, they doubted whether the goals he had set would be achievable.
Mr. Bernard Avorgah, a businessman, noted that even though the budget was one of the finest, he still had the feeling that the objectives set in it would not be achieved.
A teacher, who pleaded anonymity, said he was hopeful that the budget would bring change to the economy and help improve on the conditions of workers, because an improved economy could only be visible if conditions of workers improve.
A farmer, Mr. Henry Adigbo, said he was surprised to hear the Finance Minister stating that the Sogakope-Adidome-Ho Fume road had been completed, because since President Mills cut the sod for the second phase of the project at Mafi-Asiekpe in the North Tongu District, nothing more had been done about the road.