A former Deputy Finance Minister in the erstwhile John Mahama-led administration, Mona Quartey has sharply contrasted claims by her party that the 2017 Budget Statement presented by Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta was deceptive.
Mr Ofori Atta on Thursday, March 3, presented the first Budget Statement of the President Akufo-Addo and his New Patriotic Party (NPP) government announcing the abolition of the 1% special import levy; market tolls for Kayayei; the 17.5% VAT/NHIL on financial services; 17.5% VAT/NHIL on domestic airline tickets; 5% VAT/NHIL on real estate sales; import levies on spare parts; and replacing the 17.5% VAT/NHIL with 3% flat rate for traders.
Presenting what he described as the 'Asempa' Budget, he also announced the allocation of GHC 400 million cedis for the implementation of a comprehensive free public SHS programme, starting with the 2017/2018 academic year; the allocation of the equivalent of $1million each of the 275 constituencies in the country; the allocation of 219.5million cedis as seed money to set up a Zongo Development Fund and the restoration of allowances for teacher and nursing trainees.
While some experts, traders and sections of the general public have widely commended government for the budget, there have been quite a number of criticisms too especially from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) who have described the budget as deceptive.
General Secretary of the NDC, John Asiedu Nketia, moments after the budget was read, described it as one of deception because the NPP had failed to indicate additional sources of funding but was only realigning existing resources for their outlandish projects contrary to their promise of securing separate funding for the projects.
"Government is just reducing the common fund and GETFund in order to be able to fulfil its one million dollars to each constituency promise. This is pure 'sakawa'. This is a 419 budget. On the face of it, the budget seems sweet but it contains bitter pills. There are hard times ahead for all of us and we should brace ourselves", he said in an interview on Asempa FM.
The Minority in Parliament, at a press conference on Friday, upheld what has become the party's position on the budget saying it was a manifestation of “monumental deception”.
Addressing the press, Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu, said the 2017 Budget Statement was not specific or failed to address a number of issues despite a promise by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in the State of the Nation Address, to address details of how to deliver on promises made during the electioneering.
These include the absolute free senior high school for continuing students rather than fresh entrants next September, payment of all contractors owed within the 100 days of the Akufo-Addo Government, ending April 17, 2017; and the “One Dam, One Village,” in the over 6,000 villages in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions, among others.
“We are now aware that they are only targeting new entrants to senior high schools and not every student. That raises questions of equity, it raises questions of fairness, aside the fact they are going to disappoint the youngsters”, he said, adding that given the indications from the budget, “what the NPP has proposed in the budget is progressively free senior school under a different name. We find this to be an iniquity and unacceptable.”
But referring to the 2017 Budget Statement as one with some hope, Mrs Quartey stated that it could be described as 'populist' at worse but it was not deceptive.
‘Well, I don’t think that the budget is deceptive, if its populist, I agree with that, in terms of deceptive no. I think that this budget thus seeks to press on, but I'm just saying it must be realistic. It’s a little hollow on the actual strategy in increasing revenue and expenditure control and has a number of contradictions,’ she stated in an interview on Kumasi-based Ultimate FM.
The former deputy minister who expressed optimism about the budget achieving fiscal consolidation and subsequent growth further praised for setting up the Zongo Development Fund (ZDF) and Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication which she described as a build up on the policies of the Mahama-led administration.
She, however, agreed with her party's position that the high number of tax cuts would affect government revenues negatively and may create a backlash.
‘We may see a midyear review that may backtrack on some of the things the minister mentioned especially in the area of revenue. Clearly they are building on some of the things former President Mahama’s government begun. I think that in trying to fulfil promises or meet expectations, they threw in some initiatives that are not useful. And may rather create a backlash on some of the tax cuts or abolishing certain taxes… In the short time they will find out that they will need that revenue, but how do you go back? I would say managing expectation is very important for us to be able to achieve our medium term strategy. There is nothing new in the budget expect that throwing up promises to make people feel good, it is a feel good budget. There weren’t much new initiatives, especially in the area of expenditure control,’ she said.