Update: Mid-year budget review: Our debt has increased by 1,154% under two NDC gov’ts

Finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta is presenting government’s mid-year budget review as required by the Public Financial Management Act 921 passed in 2016.

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Some 800 buses to be acquired to improve public transportation. Tema-Akosombo railway to be completed by mid-2020.

Too many Power Purchase Agreements beyond government’s needs were signed by the previous government which this government is reviewing.

School Feeding Program covers 1,671,777 children in 216 districts and employs over 4,700 caterers.

Some 149m cedis has been budgeted as allowance for health trainees in 2017. NHIS is under-restructuring. Some 56million paid to LEAP beneficiaries as at July 2016

He stresses that free SHS is ready for those who pass BECE and will enjoy the intervention for the entire duration of the program. 30% of SHS placements will be reserved for public Junior High Schools.

Cocoa output has declined to around 800,000 tonnes per annum over five years. Government wants to hit 1million tonnes. Mass cocoa spraying exercise which will include private sector participation and cocoa rehabilitation plans are strategies government will adopt to boost production.

Fall armyworm reported in April affected maize and cow pea most severely. 74,000 litres of chemicals were procured to address the situation.

185,00 farmers registered against a target of about 200,000. Some 56,000 bags of improved seeds of maize and rice were distributed to the farmers across the regions. Fertilisers have been subsidized.

Government to bring to parliament an amendment to PFMA to limit fiscal deficit to 3.5% in any fiscal year.

Nominal GDP has also been revised as has non-oil tax revenue: Corporate income tax, import taxes collection revised downwards.

Revision of fiscal deficit from 6.5 to 6.3% of GDP.

Free SHS, School Feeding, Planting for Food and Jobs, NHIS will be protected from cuts.

Chosen debt management strategy: Borrow at minimum cost to reduce re-financing risk and reprofile debts which does not increase the debt stock, he points out.

He goes over government’s macro-economic targets for 2017 and says interventions is working and in some cases exceeding expectations.

GDP by first quarter 6.6% against 4.4 same time last year.

Fiscal deficit: 2.7% compared to 4% compared to 2016. BoG cut policy rate by 21%

Gross international reserves is 3.4months equivalent to 2.8months as at last year first quarter. Interest rates have gone down by more than 500 basis points because of conssitent fall in headline inflation.

Average interest rate 16.81% to about 12% in June 2017.  Ongoing investigations has unearthed massive under-declaration at the ports.

Gov’t is clearing arrears and investigating it in an audit expected to end October.

The Akufo-Addo government is not daunted by this state of affairs.

He says Ghana’s debt has ballooned from 5.9bn cedis in 2008 to 122.3 billion cedis at the end of 2016. A 1154% percentage increase, he says and adds this debt burden will hang around government’s neck for long.

He lists a number of taxes abolished by the government in its ‘Asempa’ budget. The review will revise the budget and present key highlights of the 2017 budget performance.

He refers to the Bible as his source of support in carrying out his work.  He refers to a quote by Methodist Reverend in a 1897 edition of the Gold Coast Methodist Times that ‘we have seized to be a thinking nation” and that ‘we talk too much and think too little’.

He says there is a need to re-examine the nation’s value system to exalt the place of deep reflection over issues before speaking.

He conveys the President’s good wishes. He says the President is strongly committed to addressing the economic challenges just as he is tackling ‘galamsey’.

Small hurdle

Minority leader Haruna Iddrisu wants to know if the minister is in the House to read a statement or present a review of the budget as stated in Section 28 of the PFMA. He has suggested the minister ought to come by a motion.

Majority leader Osei-Kyei Mensah Bonsu is up explaining, this is the first time the Section in the Act is being used after it was passed in 2016.

He says the minister is coming by way of “information transmission”. He says a motion is not required if the minister is in the House to give information.

Haruna Iddrisu okays the Majority leader’s view to allow the Finance minister to proceed.

Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon Prof. Mike Oquaye reads the Standing Order to allow the Finance minister to proceed

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