The Minority side in Parliament, has left many Ghanaians more confused for not being consistent in its decisions about the controversial 2022 budget and financial policy statement.
The 137 Members of Parliament (MPs) on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) had rejected the 2022 budget in its entirety, but had been in committee meetings throughout last week approving estimates of the same rejected budget, leaving many confused.
The November 26, 2021, decision of the 137 NDC MPs, was hailed by Ghanaians who had been unhappy with the worsening economic situation, growing unemployment figures and the opulence of the Akufo-Addo government in the face of excessive taxes, but the joy that greeted the rejection of the 2022 Budget, especially the 1.75% E-levy, has since been met with series of indecision on the part of the Minority.
The latest is the passage of “the Appropriation Bill for 2022, to cater for ordinary government business for 2022” after taking into consideration concessions and modifications to the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy.
The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, has explained that “the Minority group’s action compelled an engagement with the finance minister who have since made all concessions but one (The Killer E-Levy) on behalf of the President. He has written officially to parliament to modify the initial budget statement to reflect these concessions”.
On Tuesday, November 30, 2021, the Majority which had walked out of the House during the previous sitting, voted in favour of the 2022 Budget Statement, overturning the earlier rejection of the budget by the House.
The approval of the budget was undertaken by the 138 members of the Majority, including the First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei-Owusu, who presided over proceedings in the absence of the minority 137 MPs.
The minority MPs, despite promising to safeguard the interest of Ghanaians, shockingly did not show up in the Chamber on the day, and reports have since been out that some MPs, including Sarah Adwoa Safo of the Dome Kwabenya Constituency in Accra on the Majority side was impersonated that day and had the NDC MPs showed up in the House, they would have noticed that incident which has criminal implications.
The Minority side, at a Press Conference after the Majority overturned its decision which had vowed to push for voting on every nagging issue in the House, in its latest statement, appears more indecisive on the controversial E-Levy matter, although government is not ready to listen to any dissenting opinion, including reducing the percentage if not scrap it all together.
A couple of MPs on the side of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) are not in the country, and the 137 NDC MPs, have the numbers in Parliament to push for a head count and torpedo the E-Levy, but the Minority led by Haruna Iddrisu, James Klutse Avedzi and Mutaka Mohammed, opted to hide behind adjectives; “the Killer E-Levy”.
The Minority’s latest press statement issued Saturday, December 18, and titled “Developments Regarding 2022 Budget Consideration” stated that “the killer E-Levy bill has yet to be considered by Parliament. For the avoidance of doubt the Minority continues its opposition to the e-levy”.
The interesting twist to the minority statement is that it sets the tone for the Akufo-Addo government to go into private negotiations with it or sound the alarm bells to marshal its 138 numbers to have “the Killer E-Levy” foisted on Ghanaians.
The statement had said that “the minority group in parliament, have since the beginning of this parliament demonstrated fidelity to the collective aspirations of the people of this country and most importantly to the constitution of the republic. In commitment to these democratic tenets, the group on some occasions, have been the subject of attacks by otherwise concerned members of its own political party”. It is therefore without basis for anyone to suggest that this minority group seeks to obstruct government business at the least opportunity.
“On the contrary, we have at every instance demonstrated commitment to good governance, the 1992 constitution and the standing orders of parliament. An objective overview of the group’s stance on the current budget amplifies our fidelity to the national interest.
“Right after the Minister for Finance presented the government’s budget on behalf of the President, the minority group through its leadership indicated its opposition to aspects of the budget and called for a review, failure of which would compel the minority to reject the budget. Consistent with this call for a review which were not heeded to, the minority got the required votes to reject the budget policy on the 26th of November 2021.
“The Majority responded to this lawful rejection with an irregular and illegal procedure purporting to rescind the earlier rejection and the nation looked on as they debased, in their usual fashion, democratic tenets.
“The minority’s efforts to reverse such rape of the constitution and gross disrespect of parliament’s standing orders were frustrated by an extremely partisan majority group and 1st Deputy Speaker.
“Nonetheless the Minority group’s action compelled an engagement with the finance minister who have since made all concessions but one (The Killer E-Levy) on behalf of the President. He has written officially to parliament to modify the initial budget statement to reflect these concessions.
“Taking into consideration these concessions and modifications to the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy, the Minority have since examined the sector ministries estimates, but remain vehemently opposed to that which the government remains adamant to withdraw, the killer E-Levy of 1.75%, which undoubtedly will subject Ghanaians to immense financial pressure and further thwart our nation’s ease of doing business and digitization drive.
“The Appropriation Bill for 2021 to cater for ordinary government business for 2022 has just been passed. The killer E-Levy bill has yet to be considered by Parliament. For the avoidance of doubt the Minority continues its opposition to the e-levy.
“We in the Minority remain committed to exploring lawful and democratic means of getting the government to abandon this insensitive, obnoxious and regressive tax. Absolutely nothing can be more Ghanaian and progressive at this stage, than a demand that Government consider the economic challenges of the ordinary Ghanaian in rolling out taxes.
“We shall continue to hold government accountable and do so in the best interest of this country at all times.
Days before this statement, the same the Minority Leader, had said his side will readily accept a reduction of the proposed e-levy to 1percent from 1.75percent, adding this is for the good of the country.
Shortly after this, the NDC through its Director of Communications, Sammy Gyamfi, issued a statement discrediting Mr Iddrisu’s claims.
The NDC statement was followed by another one from Muntaka Mohammed Mubarak, the Minority Chief Whip, denouncing Haruna’s decision.
Alhassan Bashir Fuseini, popularly known as Alhaji A.B.A Fuseini, the MP for Sagnarigu Constituency also rejected Haruna’s position as that of the Minority.
Former MP for Kumbungu, Ras Mubarak, also heavily criticised the Minority Leader for his new position on the E-levy proposal in the 2022 budget statement.
Mr Iddrisu at the 10th-anniversary launch of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications in Accra on Thursday, December 2, 2021, stated that “A week ago, we said no, we won’t accept e-levy but having listened to officials in government, including the Minister of Finance, I am convinced to accept a departure from my original no to accepting a one percent e-levy.”
Pegging the e-levy at one percent was a great contribution to fiscal consolidation and would ensure the economy did not collapse going forward, he said explaining that the digital economy was doing well and had facilitated a revolution in financial inclusion, hence it was unwise to overburden the telecommunications sector.
“We are not against it, but we want it fixed at one percent. We fear for double taxation because we already have the Communication Services Tax,” he said.
The Tamale Central legislator initially disagreed with the deduction fee for business transactions not exceeding the GH¢100.00 threshold a day and called for it to be pegged at GH¢500.00. But in a similar vein, he suggested that the money be pegged at GH¢300.00 after revising his notes.
Mr Iddrisu, said Ghanaians needed to pay taxes to help develop the country, but not one that would further put constraints on their tight purse.
But reacting to his comments in a post on Facebook, Ras Mubarak said “He’s completely lost the plot. It is no longer the views of experts like Kwame Pianim, Terkper, Ato Forson, Nii Moi Thompson, & others that matter but that of the Finance Minister, who’s run the economy to the ground. What a joke. What have they done with taxes collected already?
“In case the Minority Leader hasn’t been reading the Auditor General’s report, over 1.2billion cedis disappeared into thin air due to procurement irregularities and no one has been held responsible. There’s wanton dissipation of public funds and you want them to take more from the people albeit 1% and waste it as we’ve seen in 5 years? This is nothing short of a betrayal of the people’s cause.
“It’s the sort of shifty attitude and dangerous flip flopping that make the public feel NDC and NPP are the same.”