Tough Times, But We Can Brave It
The Finance Minister, Mr Seth Terkper, yesterday presented the 2013 Budget and Economic Policy Statement of the government to Parliament, in which he highlighted steps planned to sustain confidence in the national economy .Every year, the government, as required by law, presents its plans to the elected representatives of the people who then vet the plans for approval.
Again, by law, the government cannot spend any money without approval from Parliament because the House holds the purse strings of the Executive.
In addition, the government cannot impose any tax or grant tax exemptions without the approval of the Legislature. All loan agreements between the government and other countries and donors must be approved by Parliament.
This year’s budget has been presented to Parliament at a time the country is going through difficult times. Coming on the heels of very keenly contested elections, the expectations of the new government are quite huge, as the electorate look up to their new leaders to fix the challenges facing our society.
Therefore, the government has had to use the budget to address those critical challenges, including the adoption of austere measures to put the economy on an even keel.
Even before the end of the year, the government was suffocating under heavy fuel subsidies. We know that our governments have always stayed away from removing petrol subsidies to avoid being accused of being insensitive to the plight of the ordinary people.
But the government was bold to call on the people to bite the bullet by removing subsidies on petroleum products with the 15 to 50 per cent upward adjustment in the prices of fuel.
Presently, the country is battling a major power crisis that subjects many consumers to outages every other day and sometimes for days.
As if that is not enough, water is also being rationed in parts of Accra, while in other areas the people contend with erratic water supply.
Frankly speaking, all is not well with the country because besides the water and power challenges, the labour front is boiling with agitation for improved salaries and wages.
The President, in his State of the Nation Address, bemoaned the situation where about two-thirds of national revenue is used to pay wages and salaries, leaving a small percentage for national development, a situation that has largely arisen out of the implementation of the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS).
Unfortunately, the country faces these challenges at a time many people are making demands for better amenities that will help improve their lifestyles.
The country has to contend with the development gaps in the areas of education, health and road infrastructure. While we are on our knees with bowls in hand begging for support, we are unable to mobilise the necessary revenue to meet our needs.
Perhaps the government should look again at the dual nature of our economy where only the formal sector contributes towards tax revenue through the pay as you earn (PAYE) system.
The informal sector is huge and employs majority of income earners but, apart from the rates that they pay to district assemblies, these income earners do not pay taxes to the government.
The Daily Graphic thinks that if we do not review our approach to revenue mobilisation by roping in all income earners, then the government will find it difficult to meet its obligations.
We are lucky to have a tax expert as our Finance Minister and we look up to him restructure our tax system to compel all income earners to contribute to the national coffers.
The task ahead is arduous and the road to economic recovery will be long, but with prudent management of the economy and the preparedness of the government to share the country’s burden equally among the people, there will be light at the end of the tunnel.