General News of Monday, 13 March 2017
The Minority in Parliament last Thursday criticised the government for allocating GH¢1.5 billion in the 2017 budget to the presidency, describing it as too high and unprecedented.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who led the onslaught, said the GH¢1.5 billion was higher than the accumulated budgetary allocations to the presidency from 2012 to 2015, which amounted to GH¢1.3 billion.
Contributing to the debate on the budget statement and economic policy for the 2017 financial year, he said the GH¢1.5 billion allocation to the presidency was higher than the budget allocations to 27 ministries.
Mr Ablakwa mentioned that the allocation was worrying as it was unprecedented in the history of the country.
Majority defends allocation
But the Majority in Parliament dismissed the suggestion that the GH¢1.5 billion allocation to the presidency was too high.
The MP for Old Tafo and Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, who first mounted the defence, said there were several ministries under the office of government machinery whose allocations were part of the GH¢1.5 billion.
He said the consideration should be on the out-turn of the allocation, saying: “It is the out-turn that matters.”
Dr Anthony Akoto Osei mentioned that there was an instance when the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government overspent its budget for the presidency by GH¢600 million.
The MP for Effutu, Mr Alexander Afenyo-Markin, also indicated that the GH¢1.5 billion allocation to the presidency included allocations for one district, one factory, small businesses development and the Zongo Development Fund.
Therefore, he said, the money had specific projects to cater for and that it was not to be spent by anybody.
Free SHS education contest
Mr Ablakwa, who is a former Deputy Minister of Education, said the decision of the government to start the free senior high school (SHS) education policy with only fresh students indicated that the policy would be rolled out in a progressive manner just as the NDC proposed.
He added that it was a worry to most parents that continuing students would not benefit from the free SHS beginning from the 2017/2018 academic year, adding that: “It is a betrayal of trust.”
Besides, Mr Ablakwa said the GH¢400 million allocated for the free SHS policy was woefully inadequate.
But Mr Afenyo-Markin said the Free SHS education would take off smoothly from September 2017.
He added that the government had demonstrated it was capable of implementing it for all Ghanaians.
The MP for Wenchi and Minister for Planning, Prof. George Gyan-Baffour, said the budget was couched to encourage and support the private sector to grow and be the engine of growth.
That, he said, was consistent with the philosophy of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to make the private sector the engine of growth.
Prof. Gyan-Baffour said the removal of nuisance taxes and the offer of stimulus package for businesses “will allow the private sector to have more fuel to drive their engine”.
The MP for Asunafo South, Mr Eric Opoku, faulted the government for failing to establish a Cashew Marketing Board to promote the sale of cashew as promised before the 2016 general election.
Besides, he said despite the substantial allocation that the government had made in the agricultural sector, the sector was projected to decline in growth this year.