Mr. Cassiel Ato Forson, Ranking Member on Parliament’s Finance Committee, has described as empty, the Government’s Mid-Year Budget Review presented by Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta on Thursday.
“There’s nothing in it for Ghanaians to be happy about,” Mr. Forson said after the Minister had presented the budget review to the nation through Parliament, in Accra.
He said the government claimed to have spent GH¢11.1 billion to address challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic without giving a breakdown of expenditure.
“This is sad and unacceptable,” Mr. Forson added, saying, “we thought the Minister would have used this golden opportunity to provide us with some breakdown on what the GH¢11.1 billion was used for; unfortunately it is all Bible quotations and nothing in the mid-year budget statement.”
According to Mr Forson, in the 2020 budget, the Government informed the nation that it would borrow an additional GH¢18 billion, and wondered why that figure had shot up to GH¢44 billion this year.
This, the Ranking Member and former Deputy Finance Minister, said meant that by the end of 2020, Ghana’s public debt would be approximately GH¢280 billion from the GH¢120 billion they inherited, representing over 72 per cent of GDP.
He indicated that the Government intended to borrow an additional GH¢16 billion from the domestic market, describing the trend as scary.
Mr Forson also stated that despite the fact that the Multilateral lenders had decided to hold on to the country’s debts to be paid in 2020 till 2021, the Government had projected to spend another GH¢4.5 billion in addition to over GH¢20 billion as interest payments.
“You cannot as a government come to office with a public debt amounting to GH¢120 billion and increase it to GH¢280 billion with little to show, yet you have had resources in excess of GH¢350 billion and could not tell us anything, ”he added.
He also questioned the government’s intention to reduce the Communication Service Tax (CST) from 9 to 6 per cent, saying it was the same government which increased it in the first place.
He said the government’s rush to reduce the CST was informed by the promised made by former President John Mahama to abolish the tax when he assumed office.
Mr Daniel Okyem Aboagye, Member of Parliament (MP) for Bantama, in his response, debunked claims by the Minority that the Finance Minister was hiding figures from the mid-year review.
He said the Minister had been transparent in every aspect of the mid-year budget statement.
He said if members wanted clarification on issues relating to the mid-year budget, they could officially invite the Minister to the house.
“The NDC does not have any message for the people, they are just talking without providing alternatives,” he said.