The Minority in Parliament, has descended heavily on the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, over the government’s austerity measures announced yesterday to address the current economic challenges.
While, Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu feels Mr Ofori-Atta has lost touch with reality and insisted that the current challenges are more about cost of living and doing business than anything else, Member of Parliament (MP) for Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam, Cassiel Ato Forson, has described the new measures as cosmetic and empty.
The much-awaited press conference by the Finance Minister on the economic difficulty the country is experiencing, came on yesterday without any significant sacrifices.
The announced reviews on many social interventions, including the Free SHS policy, did not happen although many government payments, such as statutory, are in huge arrears.
Ken Ofori-Atta, had announced a 10 percent cut on discretionary spending, 50 percent cut on fuel coupon allocation to government appointees, complete moratorium on the purchase on imported vehicles, complete moratorium on foreign travels except with prior approval, elimination of ghost names from payrolls, 30 percent pay cuts for ministers and Chief Executives Officers of State-owned Enterprises and moratorium on new public sector institutions by the end of April, 2022.
But the Tamale South Member of Parliament, said Mr Ofori-Atta’s proffered solutions without parliamentary approval, will be difficult to implement.
Haruna Iddrisu, told journalists a few minutes after the Finance Minister’s address yesterday “We do not find his proposed measures adequate enough.”
“We need certainty and clarity. If you had an expenditure approval of GH¢145 billion, we expect that you tell us that I want to cut GH¢45 billion out of the GH¢145 [billion] and we know that this is your commitment.
“Twenty percent of this, 10% of that, we are still not certain how much expenditure cut he intends to undertake. More importantly, he’s announced a number of revenue measures.”
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP, says he is surprised by the seeming review of the 2022 budget statement by the Finance Minister outside the precincts of Parliament.
“It is only proper that whatever measures he intends to take and will take will be brought before the august House for us to help him tighten and implement austerity measures to save an economy which is in dire straits.”
Cassiel Ato Forson, explained what he meant by Ken Ofori Atta’s measures being cosmetic and empty.
He said the government just placed a moratorium on new loans, and cut 2022 foreign financed projects by at least 50 per cent.
In a tweet reacting to the new measures announced by Mr Ofori-Atta on Thursday March 24, Mr Ato Forson, who is a former Deputy Minister of Finance said “The fiscal measures announced today are just cosmetic and Empty. It will further erode confidence in the economy. Govt should: 1. place a moratorium on new loans 2. cut 2022 foreign financed projects by at least 50%! 3. And deliver on promise to review all flagship programs!”
Mr Ofori-Atta, announced that with immediate effect, the Government has imposed a complete moratorium on the purchase of imported vehicles for the rest of the year.
He said this will affect all new orders, especially 4-wheel drives.
“With immediate effect, Government has imposed a complete moratorium on the purchase of imported vehicles for the rest of the year. This will affect all new orders, especially 4-wheel drives. We will ensure that the overall effect is to reduce total vehicle purchases by the public sector by at least 50 percent for the period,” he said.
“Again, with immediate effect Government has imposed a moratorium on all foreign travels, except pre-approved critical/statutory travels; Government will conclude on-going measures to eliminate “ghost” workers from the Government payroll by end December 2022;
“Discretionary spending is to be further cut by an additional 10%. The Ministry of Finance is currently meeting with MDAs to review their spending plans for the rest of the three (3) quarters to achieve the discretionary expenditure cuts; ii. these times call for very efficient use of energy resources.
“In line with this, there will be a 50% cut in fuel coupon allocations for all political appointees and Heads of government institutions, including SOEs, effective 1st April 2022,” he added.
The Minority, also contested the position of government not to roll back on any of the flagship programmes, including the Free Senior High School Programme, in order to save the economy from further plummeting.
The caucus said there must be a national conversation on the Free SHS policy.
“We think there must be a national conversation on the future of education in our country,” Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu stated on Thursday, March 24 in reaction to the Minister of Finance’s announcement that government will not review the Free SHS policy.
“There must be because we shudder [and] have course to believe that we are investing in literacy and numeracy and not human capital.
“It is only in Ghana that at the basic level everybody passes. That cannot be competitive and that cannot make our products competitive in the world tomorrow.”
During his earlier address on austerity measures adopted by the government to tackle the economic challenges, Mr Ofori-Atta, stressed that President Nana Akufo-Addo harbours no intentions to scrap Free SHS.
“Let me say this, President Akufo-Addo has absolutely no intention to roll back on any of the major policies like the Free SHS,” he said.
“We see education as the best enabler for sustainable growth to ensure transformation. We will do more to improve on it for it to serve better our children.”
There was an earlier debate on a review of the policy after the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, in an interview with an Accra-based radio station, had hinted that one of the fallouts from last week’s Cabinet retreat was to have a review of all of government’s 16 flagship programmes including Free SHS.
But with the announcement by Mr Ofori-Atta, they will continue to be in place.
Other measures were announced by the Finance Minister in the effort to salvage the economic downturn.
Among these are banning foreign travels for public officers unless it is utterly necessary and pre-approved, cutting fuel coupons down to 50 percent for government appointees and not establishing any new public institutions.