Blows Over Budget

Parliament was thrown into confusion yesterday when the Minority members, for over three hours, vehemently opposed and prevented the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning from making a statement regarding the much publicised budget review.

The minister had been scheduled to move a motion on a revised budget for 2015 by the Business Committee of Parliament, but he came to the House to plead that he be allowed to read what he termed as ‘fiscal prudence statement’ relating to the effect of the low crude oil prices on the Ghanaian economy, especially on expenditure, and the urgent need for the government to implement radical measures to increase revenue mobilisation by way of taxing.

The Majority Leader, Alban Bagbin and Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, appealed to the Minority to allow the Finance Minister to make the statement, despite the advertised motion to present a revised budget. But the Minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) members vehemently opposed the move by beating their tables, forcing the speaker to suspend proceedings to allow for a committee to deliberate on the issue, which took over three hours before sitting resumed.

The majority leader said that even though it was initially advertised that the minister would move a motion which would allow for debate and eventual approval, a communication from him (minister) had intimated that the ministry intended to make a policy statement which would not be subjected to debate and approval.

He therefore went to the minority leader’s office to discuss the issue with him so that the Order Paper could be changed.

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the Minority Leader, said the majority leader indeed came to his office to inform him that the finance minister would rather read a statement on the economy and present the budget review.

‘Mr Speaker, my colleague majority leader was in my office to only inform me about the minister coming to make a statement and that he did not discuss any issue about why the business on the Order Paper could be changed,’ Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu averred.

The Minority members, in unison, supported the position of their leader and shouted ‘No! No! No!’ amid beating of the tables and creating a chaotic scene, which made the speaker to indicate that he would ask the Marshall – a parliamentary ‘policeman’ – to come and sack the Minority MPs from the chamber for the excessive noise they were making.

The speaker, who could not contain the noise, abruptly suspended sitting to allow both sides of the house to meet in a committee to discuss the standoff and how to resolve it.

After sitting had resumed, the minority leader argued strongly that the motion was needed to be able to question any changes being proposed, but the speaker, making reference to proceedings in 1999, 2002 and 2007, said ministers of finance at that time were allowed to make similar statements after which comments were taken from members.

He therefore directed that the minister of finance be allowed to read the statement, even though the Minority members were reluctant.

The NPP MP for Nabdam, Boniface Gambila Adagbila, told this paper that the government decided to change the budget review into a policy statement because the Minority had commented on that in its ‘True State of the Nation’ address and therefore going ahead to present a budget review would be politically suicidal for the government.

By Thomas Fosu Jnr

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