General News of Saturday, 4 March 2017
The Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Parliament has described the maiden budget of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government of President Akufo-Addo as a populist budget full of deceptions.
Leading the Minority to discredit the 2017 budget of the government at a press conference yesterday, the minority leader, Haruna Iddrisu, chided the NPP administration for lying about its free SHS, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the country’s energy crisis, gross international reserves and the economy in general, as captured in the budget presented on Thursday by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta.
He said President Akufo-Addo said at Okuapeman Senior High School at Akropong-Akuapem in the Eastern Region recently that Senior High School education would be free for all students while day students would also be fed daily, but the 2017 budget was emphatic that the programme is for only first-year students, who would be admitted in the 2017/2018 academic year.
“We were expecting the budget to tell us that GH¢3.6 billion has been budgeted to cater for all senior high school students in the country estimated to be 840,000 but to our utter surprise, the budget said only first year students in the 2017/2018 academic year totaling 467,692 will benefit,” he said.
He said the budget presented by the Finance Minister on Thursday was also silent on the promise to feed all day students once a day.
The minority leader said that after President Akufo-Addo had trumpeted vigorously in opposition that he was going to strengthen the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and make it work again, the budget presented showed that the statutory fund for NHIS had been slashed.
“During our time we budgeted GH¢1.7 billion for NHIS and we thought funds for the NHIS should have been increased,” Haruna Iddrisu said.
The minority leader said that President Akufo-Addo promised to pay all arrears owed contractors in the first 100 days, but that promise was not captured in the budget.
Haruna Iddrisu claimed the president also promised to reduce corporate tax from 25% to 20% but it was not captured in the budget.
He said the president promised to remove import duties on raw materials and machinery for production and also reduce drivers’ insurance levies and cost of the license but nothing was seen in the budget with regard to that
“The president also promised to reduce electricity tariffs and transportation fares but this was missing in the budget,” he noted.
According to the minority, the inability of the government to fulfill the plethora of ‘sweet’ promises is a betrayal of the trust of significant sections of the Ghanaian people who may have been affected by these issues and may have taken a chance to bank their hopes on this government.
“The Finance Minister failed to outline clear policies to address this important issue afflicting the economy today which is the near-uncontrollable fall of the Ghana cedi that is considered the worst performing currency in the world,” he articulated.
He said the tax reliefs given by the government would cripple the economy because the expected revenue that would have to accrue in 2017 would not be realized and that would also affect government’s expenditure.