…Public workers get election-year surprises, road toll coming back
Ken Ofori-Atta, will today deliver the 2024 budget statement, which will turn out to be his final one since he took over the Finance and Economic Ministry in 2017, following the advent of the Akufo-Addo government in January of that year.
Although, Ghanaians are not expecting any surprises to mitigate their suffering and economic hardship, a statement by the Finance Ministry, described the budget as a crucial document to be presented by the Minister, adding it will throw further light on the performance of the economy, and efforts to boost the country’s productive capacity through the new growth strategy.
Yesterday, the government sprinkled election-year surprises on public sector workers by granting a 23 per cent salary increment for the year 2024.
The salary increment, will cover January to June 2024, while another increment of 2 per cent will be implemented between July to December 2024. The daily minimum wage also went up.
The Ministry, said the budget comes on the back of the successful first review of the 3-year programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The statement issued by the Finance Ministry yesterday Tuesday, November 14 said “The budget is crucial because it is developed to support the implementation of the IMF-backed post-COVID-19 programme of economic growth.
“It comes just after the successful first review of the three-year US43 billion IMF-ECF programme. “It will also heighten among others the performance of the economy, efforts to boost the productive capacity of the economy through the new growth strategy, fiscal measures, and debt management strategies to deepen stability and promote growth.”
The government is currently discussing with its external creditors for debt relief worth $10.5 billion.
The Finance Minister, earlier submitted proposals to its commercial creditors seeking a haircut of up to 40percent and additional debt rework with its bilateral creditors, including China and the Paris Club.
Ahead of today’s budget statement, a professor at the University of Ghana Business School, Lord Mensah, said he is expecting the 2024 budget to outline measures to deal with the high risk that the country has been pushed into.
Speaking on the TV3 Sunrise show on Tuesday, November 14, Prof Mensah, said “I am expecting a budget that will for the first time see a contingency because the risk that the country has been pushed into is very high.”
The salary increment was announced by the Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, Ignatious Baffuor Awuah in Accra, explained that the decision was arrived at taking into consideration the current economic situation in the country.
The Minister, also announced an increment in the daily minimum wage from GH¢14.88 to GH¢18.15.
He said “At the end of our negotiations at the tripartite level, we agreed that the minimum wage be reviewed upwards by 22 percent, from 14.88 Cedis to 18.15 Cedis.
“Subsequently, the public sector joint negotiations committee between all unions within the public space under the single spine and the government also entered into negotiations to determine the national base pay.
“I am happy to report to you that a few minutes after a very difficult meeting, taking the current state of the economy into consideration and also taking into consideration the agreement that as a nation we have with the IMF in making sure that we stay on course in achieving all the targets that we have set to achieve for ourselves, and to also get all the benchmarks right, we have concluded that the national based pay by increased by 23 per cent between January 1, 2024, to 31st June 2024 and subsequently an additional 2 per cent increment will be added to the 23 per cent making it 25 per cent from July to December 2024.”
The Traders Advocacy Group Ghana (TAGG) has called on the government to scrap unnecessary taxes, such as the COVID-19 levy and the network service charge.
“How can you charge me a network service charge?” asked David Kojo Amoateng, President of the Traders Advocacy Group Ghana. “The network charge is something that has to go.”
Mr Amoateng, also suggested that if the COVID-19 levy is not going to be removed, it should be renamed to address different concerns, such as dialysis, kidney, or cancer.
“We from the trading sector expect that even if the COVID levy will not go, maybe there will even change the name to dialysis, kidney or cancer,” he said on the Point of View on Monday, November 13.
Kenneth Thompson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Dalex Finance and Leasing Company Limited, has warned of a looming economic downturn in 2024 if the government continues its current pattern of ever-increasing and large expenditure.
“As a country, what we must focus on now is how to protect the poor,” Mr Thompson said in an interview with Umaru Sanda Amadu on Face to Face on Citi TV.
“If you talk about cutting expenditure, there’s a long list of things we can cut, but we need to protect the poor, and we need to focus on health, education, infrastructure, food, and everything else because we are in a very bad place.”
Another interest group, the Concerned Drivers Association of Ghana had also urged the government to reintroduce the collection of road tolls across the country in its 2024 budget scheduled to be presented to Parliament today.
The association also wants the government to prioritize the allocation of funds for the repair of dilapidated roads.
In an interview with Citi News, the public relations officer for the association, David Agboado, emphasized the need for the government to seriously address road infrastructure challenges.
He indicated that the reintroduction of road tolls would help the workers, most of whom were persons with disabilities.
Mr Agboado proposed a thorough reconsideration of the reintroduction of road tolls, suggesting that the generated revenue could be earmarked for much-needed road repairs.
“Our roads are very deplorable, and the government should fix them and bring back the toll service so that our physically challenged brothers and sisters will also get work to do and get proceeds to fix the roads.”
Another group of people expecting some relief from the government is the Akosombo Dam spillage victims.
A few days ago, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, indicated that long-term relief measures for the victims of the Akosombo Dam spillage will be taken into consideration during the formulation of the 2024 budget.
“We have mobilised a few things that we would like to share but I think we are also in the budget season and therefore it will not just be numbers that we are working on but true feelings in the field and therefore the need to look at these social interventions in a real way,” Mr. Ofori-Atta said after touring the affected communities a few days ago. “We will certainly give this an expression immediately and also in the budget.”