Ken Ofori-Atta: Is there ever a good time for new taxes?
The Finance Minister-designate, Ken Ofori-Atta, has responded to those opposing the proposed new taxes, whose arguments have mainly centered on the timing, asking if there was ever a good time to introduce levies.
Mr Ken Ofori-Atta was not sure anybody would answer in the affirmative that there is a good time for taxes, as such a time may or may not favor a section of the public.
Seeking to hold that portfolio for the second term, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, whose vetting was postponed due to post-COVID-19 complications, was addressing a series of questions from Parliament’s Appointments Committee, which grilled the Finance Minister-nominee yesterday.
Divergent views have been professed from various stakeholders since the government announced in this year’s budget statement it would introduce some taxes.
The six new taxes include tax on betting/gaming, a COVID-19 health levy of 1% on Value Added Tax (VAT) Flat Rate Scheme (VFRS), and a 1% on National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL), Energy Sector Recovery Levy of 20 pesewas per litre on fuel, review of road tolls, sanitation and pollution levy, and financial sector cleanup levy.
Before the Committee yesterday, the Finance Minister- nominee maintained the government’s position on the new taxes, vis-à-vis the time they are being introduced.
He said: “We have proposed a number of taxes that you [members of the Committee] are aware of that will affect petroleum, which will lead to revenue for a Delta Fund for Energy for capacity charges, because we continue to have a gap between what ECG should be paying and what the rates are.”
He described the new levies as a battle cry for the nation to grow, especially on the back of the devastating effects of the pandemic.
“The new taxes were a battle cry for us to come together to look at growth and transformation as supposed to bend our heads down because of COVID-19.
“We also have a huge sanitation problem and I think that is a health hazard for the days. We are moving forward and there is a battle cry for us to join hands towards growth and transformation.”
He continued: “The question is whether we can burden share and, therefore, move to stir the opportunity that will come. Is there ever a good time for taxes? I am not sure anybody will ever say that. Would we use taxes to enhance productivity and growth? I believe we will be able to do that.”
Regardless, Ken Ofori-Atta advocated the need for the country to move forward; the need to share the burden, and the need to create a society that will share the opportunity, going forward.
He opined that: “We need to create a society that we share the opportunities as we grow and also be able to share the burden,” he said, referring to the “WƆN YA WƆ HIƐƐ” budget.
The government has sought parliamentary approval for GH¢111.3 billion as total expenditures while expecting total revenues and grants of GH¢72.1 billion for the year.
The expenditure for 2021 is also 13 per cent higher than the GH¢98.1 billion approved by parliament for 2020.
Ghana Cares Obaatan pa
The Finance Minister-designate, Ken Ofori-Atta, at his vetting yesterday also said the Ghana Cares “Obaatan pa” programme will rebound and grow the country’s economy to up to 5%.
He said the government is rolling out recovery plans to salvage the economy from the adverse economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to him, the GH¢100 billion investment into the economy is meant to revitalize the economy, explaining that it is meant to provide the necessary support to businesses that have been dealt a blow by the global pandemic.
“Amidst a historic global recession, Ghana’s economy has shown resilience and robustness, outperforming its peers. Ghana Cares programme’s implementation will see growth rebound to 5% and that is why we are confident that we will emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic with a stronger and more resilient economy,” he said.
Banking Sector Cleanup
Meanwhile, the chair of the Appointments Committee, Joseph Osei Owusu did not permit questions on the banking sector clean-up.
His reason was that the House had been petitioned and would set up a committee to investigate the issue hence no need to prejudice the outcome of the investigation.
The Member of Parliament for the Madina Constituency, Francis-Xavier Sosu was blocked from doing that, and he agreed with the position of the chairman of the Committee.MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga submitted the petition on behalf of Dr Kwabena Duffour and Prince Kofi Amoabeng, owners of uniBank and UT bank respectively.