General News of Saturday, 18 February 2017
Using the Heritage Fund to invest in government’s free Senior High School policy would be in line with the purpose for setting up the fund, the Minister of Information, Mustapha Hamid has said.
The Information Minister was justifying a suggestion by the Senior Minister Yaw Osafo-Maafo to the effect that, government would consider reviewing the Petroleum Revenue Management Act to allow for the use of the Heritage Fund to finance the free SHS policy.
The proposal by Mr Osafo-Maafo attracted some criticism and was followed by the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta refuting the suggestion and saying “we are financing the Free SHS education without looking at the Heritage Fund.”
Despite the contrasting remarks from the two ministers, Mr. Hamid insists that there was no contradiction from government.
“The reason why I say there is no contradiction is that from 2008 when President Akufo-Addo mooted the idea of Free SHS, he said that he wanted to use the oil money to fund free SHS.”
He explained President Akufo-Addo’s reasoning saying: “in his [President Akufo-Addo’s] view, oil resources run out, but if you have an educated population, you have quality human resource, that is not a resource that runs out.
Indeed he has said consistently that countries like Singapore, Malaysia have all gotten to where they are because of education.” “He believed at the time that every citizen of Ghana should have the benefit of the oil money. Now how are you going to have the benefit of the oil money? You are going to have the benefit of the oil money if it is put directly to your benefit in educating you,” Mr. Hamid explained.
He spoke further of President Akufo-Addo’s vision of democratising wealth in the country “by ensuring that every child who goes to secondary school will go on the benefit of the oil money.”
“Now the Heritage fund is oil money. The stabilisation fund is oil money. Whatever components of the oil money we have divided into segments is still oil money,” Mr. Hamid asserted.
Section 10 (1) of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011 (Act 815), established the Heritage Fund, which is to serve as an endowment for future generations, and which cannot be touched unless after 15 years of its establishment.
With this in mind, Mr. Hamid surmised that if government was to spend the Heritage fund on the free SHS policy, it would not fall foul of the spirit behind the act.
“You are looking in the next 10 or 20 years to have an entirely educated population and once you do that, your future is guaranteed. Whichever way you look at it, spending oil money on education is guaranteeing the future which is the purpose of the Heritage Fund. Heritage means the future and you are educating your future population.”