Members of Parliament on the side of the Majority New Patriotic Party (NPP) have been labeled as running away from the government decision to impose a 1.75% levy on all electronic financial transactions on the citizenry.
The possibility of losing their seats at the party’s primaries as a result of passing the controversial levy, has gotten the NPP MPs uncomfortable, because many people have spoken against the levy with Ken Ofori-Atta and colleagues at the Finance Ministry being the only ones justifying it.
Sylvester Mensah, a former MP for DadeKotopon constituency in the Greater Accra Region, a leading member of the opposition National Democratic Congress, government is deliberately delaying in re-submitting the controversial Electronic Transactions Levy (E-Levy) bill to parliament.
According to Mr Mensah, the delay in the resubmission of the bill is due to the government’s failure in mobilizing numbers to vote in favour of the bill in parliament.
Being one of the important businesses in parliament before the Christmas break, it was expected that the resubmission of the E-Levy bill which has attracted fierce resistance from the Minority side of parliament will be the first thing the house would address when it reconvened on Tuesday.
However, the consideration of the bill which seeks to place a 1.75 levy on all electronic transactions has been shelved to a week after the recommencement of parliament business.
Already, the NPP MP for Nhyiaeso, Dr Stephen Amoah, has courted social media ire, after he made comments to the effect that the majority group in parliament, will pass the Electronic Transactions Bill (E-levy) come what may.
In an interview with Accra-based TV3, the MP, reiterates the need for the E-levy and slams the Minority – who are doggedly opposed to it – for doing so just for political reasons.
“We will pass it, we, we will pass it at the right time, they can’t do anything. We are in government. If they claim they want to make us unpopular, why won’t they stop? Because they know this is going to transform and change the lives of Ghanaians.”
“They know this is going to reverse the consequences of the COVID-19, they know this is going to put our fiscal space in the right perspective, and they are afraid that Ghanaians will continue to build their goodwill and confidence in this government,” he stated.
But for some Twitter users, his views were not as problematic as the posture that he kept in defending the bill that as sharply divided Parliament as it has public opinion and for which the government has started stakeholder consultations ahead of resubmission of the bill next week.
In a Twitter post, the former Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Insurance Scheme notes that the delay by the majority side in presenting the government’s bill to parliament is because of futile efforts in getting members of parliament to support the bill, even in the block of the majority.
“NPP’s Parliamentary majority group is again delaying the re-introduction of the E-levy bill/motion in the house because they don’t have the numbers.
They’ve been struggling to get all 138 MPs without success,” he wrote.
Mr. Mensah alleged that some majority MPs have refused to support the bill by not presenting themselves for voting, adding that the Speaker of Parliament has been kept in wait for the submission of the controversial bill.
“Some members have refused to be whipped in line to present themselves to be counted. We’re watching the diversionary consultations and town hall meetings intended to hide the NPP’s internal frustrations.
Meanwhile, the Rt Hon Speaker has also been waiting,” he said. According to the government, the E-Levy as a revenue mobilization source is to help the government access the needed funding to expedite development across the country. However, the bill has courted negative response from the majority side of parliament and a significant portion of the Ghanaian population.
The government in its bid to have a public acceptance of the bill has scheduled a series of town hall meetings across the country. According to the Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, the town hall meeting will help the government sensitize and educate the citizenry about the importance and need for the E-Levy. Debate on the E-Levy has led to multiple instances of altercations between the majority and minority side of parliament which has on some occasions escalated into a full-blown brawl.
Meanwhile, despite the Nhyiaeso MP’s arrogant postuting, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta has been having meetings with the Minority MPs on the controversial E-Levy.
Reports from one of such meetings held yesterday are that it ended inconclusively.
The government side led by the Finance Minister, maintained the1.75% rate of the levy will not change.
The position of the Finance Minister, according to Starr News, got the Minority to question the essence of the engagement in the first place.
The Minority side was led by its leader Haruna Iddrisu, Chief whip Muntaka Mubarak and other leaders.
Conspicuously missing however was Minority Spokesperson on Finance and ranking member for the finance committee Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson.
The former deputy Minister is being prosecuted for causing financial loss to the state over the purchase of some ambulances in 2017 under the Mahama administration.
He has attributed his prosecution to his stiff opposition to the government’s new tax measures.
However, in a statement the Attorney General’s department said the claims of Mr. Ato Forson are “laden with factual misrepresentations and calculated at scandalizing the criminal proceedings pending in the High Court against the Member of Parliament and exposing the Attorney-General to prejudice and hatred”.