Business News of Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Parliament has approved the 2018 budget and financial policy statement of government, presented by Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to the House in November 2017.
The minority, who had expressed opposition to the budget statement since it was laid in Parliament, abstained from the vote.
The various committees in Parliament will now be tasked with assessing the estimates and allocations made to the various sectors in the budget.
Majority Leader, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, praised his colleagues from both sides of the House for subjecting the statement to intense scrutiny before it was passed.
“I want to show appreciation to my colleagues in the House, Majority and Minority for the scrutiny that they applied to the budget before us. We are going to deal with the estimates and I want to implore all my colleagues to be in attendance at all the committee meetings in order for us to be able to deal with the estimates that have been given to the various committees,” he said.
The minority had earlier called for the budget statement to be withdrawn, arguing that the government had reviewed some key economic targets without recourse to the House.
A former deputy Finance Minister, Cassiel Ato Forson, had said that “the minister responsible for finance cannot revise the expenditures and revenue without parliamentary resolution.”
He also said the government’s budgetary allocation for the Nation Builders’ Corps was “nothing to write home about.”
He also noted that the minority’s calculations indicated that each of the 100,000 youth to be recruited under the programme, would receive a little over GH¢400, which is woefully inadequate.
“Mr Speaker, the said graduates will not take home more than GHC400, this is dangerous. Mr Speaker, that GHC600,000 they intend to fund the programme with is not coming from the government of Ghana. It is going to be taken from the District Assembly Common Fund. You’re going to constrain the district assemblies just for the purpose of funding it. This, in my opinion, is an extension of the national service scheme,” he said.
However, the majority, unperturbed by the concerns that had been raised by their colleagues, dared the minority to go to court if they remain convinced that the 2018 budget breaches the laws of the country.
“When we pass an appropriation, we say that ‘spending not exceeding,’ meaning the Minister of Finance can spend up to the appropriation, so if he does not spend up to appropriation does he have to come back to Parliament? No! If it were the case that he exceeds the appropriation, then he has to come back to Parliament, but he has not exceeded the appropriation.
In the mid-year review on 31st July, we decided that it is a statement and should not come by way of motion, but if he [Ato Forson] is saying that it was unconstitutional and he has stayed all this while waiting for a budget before, then you are doing a disservice to the nation, and the proper forum to test that one is the Supreme Court,” the Chairman of Parliament’s Finance Committee, Dr Mark Assibey Yeboah, said at the time.