Editorial: Today’s budget should address public concerns

November 17, 2021 By 0 Comments

The Caretaker Finance Minister, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, concluding the presentation of the 2021 budget statement and economic policy in Parliament described it as a landmark budget that recounted the nation’s experience in the most difficult combination of health and economic crises ever encountered.

He said that the indicators clearly demonstrated that Ghana had weathered the storm and was ready to take off.

According to him, that had been accomplished through the decisive leadership of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the strong partnership with Parliament, the cooperation with Faith-Based Organisations and other stakeholders, buttressed by the resilience built in the first three years of the President’s administration.

This assuring statement came from the government to the people of Ghana, even though the budget introduced some new taxes, including the sanitation levy on fuel.

However, it is refreshing to recall that the 2021 mid-year budget review as presented by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, in July this year, did not require supplementary funds.

It goes to affirm the earlier assertion in the 2021 budget statement that the indicators clearly demonstrated that the nation had weathered the storm and was ready to take off.

That notwithstanding, recent public outcry do not support the position of the 2021 budget and we would expect that the 2022 fiscal policy to address those concerns.

The banter between the government and the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, whose President had come out to criticise the government, is a testament that not everyone is feeling the supposed good economy.

Today, citizens and not spectators want answers to the fuel hikes. Justifiable as the hikes may be, heartwarming reasons would calm nerves and ginger citizens to rally behind the government. This concern must not be taken as usual propaganda, knowing that it affects every facet of the economy.

The Chronicle, sometime last week, carried a story on a stakeholder forum held in Accra, ahead of today’s budget, during which a call was made for citizens to cooperate with the government on the fuel hikes.

No less a person than the General Secretary of the Ghana Road Transport Coordinating Council, Emmanuel Ohene Yeboah, noted that though Ghanaians are bearing the brunt of the hike in prices of petroleum products, due to the increment in crude oil prices on the international market, the government also needs revenue to develop the country.

As a result of this, any attempt to remove taxes on petroleum products in the country to help bring down the prices at the pumps will affect the development agenda of the country, he added.

Mr. Yeboah said his position notwithstanding, he still thinks that some of the taxes on petroleum products have “outlived their usefulness” and must be removed to ease the burden on Ghanaians.

The issue of unemployment, which spans governments, cannot be overemphasised.

It must be acknowledged that the Akufo-Addo led administration’s industrialization drive through the One District One Factory, for instance, is a step in the right direction which promises a long term solution to job creation.

Regardless of that policy, what other steps is the 2022 budget taking to address the concerns about job creation?

It comes as good news that the Nation Builders’ Corps Trainees, who hitherto were asked to proceed on leave, having completed their programme, were asked to remain at post for plans of permanent jobs.

This paper had been told that forty-seven thousand out of the one hundred thousand had been retained before the directive to proceed on leave.

We have also been told that another set of one hundred thousand trainees would be engaged next year. The budget today, we were informed, would give further details.

For us at The Chronicle, it is our hope that the news coming from the quarters of NABCO, as far as job creation is concerned is just the tip of the iceberg.

Further, in the spirit of expecting today’s budget to address concerns that have been raised, we take solace from an assurance from a government official that the budget would address concerns, and for that, we “take a chill pill.”

The Director of Communications at the Presidency, Eugene Arhin, at a press briefing last Thursday, said “Everybody in Ghana acknowledges that there are hardships, even the President himself has acknowledged it that is why every effort is being put in place to make sure that these hardships are relieved.

“And I will just suggest that the former President [John Mahama] should take a chill pill and wait and see how best the budget would address the concerns of the average Ghanaian.”