Dominic Nitiwul and Fifi Kwetey
‘For the first time, they will really see what the people of Ghana are capable of. We have always been trying to keep this country at peace and we’ve always been trying to keep this country up.’ These were the exact words of the Deputy Minority Leader, Dominic Nitiwul, when the issue about the proposed use of the ‘Heritage Fund’ came up for discussion on Monday.
For a person in his capacity to issue a threat of such grave magnitude, it is an indication of the seriousness attached to the proposal by the General Secretary of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), Johnson Asiedu Nketia, for an amendment of the law that established the Ghana Heritage Fund from the country’s oil proceeds.
Asiedu Nketia’s argument has been that, ‘In this current situation that we find ourselves, it doesn’t make economic sense to be keeping any money called Heritage Funds’ while questioning the rationale behind borrowing from international financing institutions and countries ‘at a rate of about five percent, eight percent and so on, when our own money is being kept by somebody. It doesn’t make sense.’
For him, it does not make sense for government to be keeping an estimated at $120million in an offshore account when the country is smarting under economic hardship arising out of lack of funds in the national kitty.
However, sources say the reason for resorting to the Heritage Fund is because Ghana is losing is creditworthiness following the downgrading of the country by rating agencies such as Fitch, Standard and Poor’s as well as Moody among others as a result of the bad management of the economy.
Ghana’s debt profile stands at GH¢56billion which is more than 60 percent of GDP.
The Deputy Minority Leader in Parliament has indicated their preparedness to kick against any such proposal that is brought before the House and have since dared the ruling NDC to bring it on.
Mr Nitiwul who spoke on Accra-based Citi FM said the proposal was unreasonable and therefore shot it down, while asking government to consider other options.
‘They (referring to government and the NDC) shouldn’t think that the people of Ghana don’t know what they are about and let nobody take us for granted that you can just do anything,’ he cautioned.
He stressed the belief that Ghana still has enough money for which reason there was no need to ‘touch our heritage fund. It must be there; it must be protected.’
Instead, the Deputy Minority leader made a sarcastic suggestion that if government believes ‘the economy is so run down that we have to go and take everything we have, the best solution is for them to leave government to enable people who are better managers to govern the country.’
Act 815 which established the Ghana Heritage Fund spells out the objectives of the Fund, to among others, provide ‘an endowment to support development for future generations when the petroleum reserves have been depleted; and (b) receive excess petroleum revenue.’
This provision of the Act is part of reasons why the Minority Members of Parliament have kicked against the proposal of the NDC under the pretext of salvaging the ailing economy.
‘The Fund receives a percentage of petroleum revenue which shall be determined by Parliament as savings for the purpose while Parliament may by a resolution supported by the votes of a majority of members of Parliament at intervals of fifteen years from the date of commencement of the Act, review the restriction on transfers from the Ghana Heritage Fund and authorize a transfer of a portion of the accrued interest on the Ghana Heritage Fund into any other Fund established by or under the Act.’
Interestingly, the Minister of State in charge of Finance and Allied Institutions, Fiifi Kwetey, supports the call for an amendment to the Act that established the Fund.
According to him, the creation of the Fund ‘was the most nonsensical thing that can be done. It’s just absolutely nonsense and I’ve maintained that position throughout.’
But Mr Nitiwul said, ‘I don’t think the NDC will be brave enough or they will muster courage to bring that matter to Parliament for us to spend time on. I don’t think so or to change the law,’ adding that any such thing would be met with stiff opposition.
The NDC government is currently unable to pay statutory funds including GETFund, District Assemblies Common Fund, Health Insurance Levy, Road Funds, Stool Lands among others, all running into several millions of Cedis.
The IMF team which visited the country early this year and met President John Mahama and his economic team, including the Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, as well as civil society organizations and other stakeholders, warned of a possible shutdown of the Ghanaian economy if the country did not come for bailout.
Strangely, since Ghana joined the league of oil producers, there is nothing to show for the over $1.5billion windfall accrued from the country’s share of the Jubilee Fields.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu
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