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Sunday, February 25, 2024

2024 Budget Approved; Ayes – 138, Nays – 136

Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu

 

Parliament yesterday approved the Government’s 2024 Budget and Economic Policy with overwhelming Majority Caucus support, despite the Minority Caucus’ hardline stance to reject it.

The NPP Majority voted 138-136 to pass the budget, paving the way for the House to work on various estimates for the government’s Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).

The budget was originally scheduled to be approved on November 29, 2023 by the lawmakers, but the members of the Majority staged a walkout, accusing the House Speaker, Alban S.K. Bagbin of playing time for the Minority members.

The point of contention was on the headcount and the manner in which the Speaker had wanted to carry it out.

The protest came after the opposition parliamentarians called for a headcount to curtail approval of the 2024 Budget by a voice vote.

Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu told the media that members of his side felt they could not stay in the chamber when the Speaker decided to deprive them of the chance to have the budget approved by the House.

According to him, five members of the Minority namely Mahama Ayariga (Bawku Central), Samuel Nartey George (Ningo-Prampram), Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings (Korle  Klottey), Emmanuel Kwadwo Agyekum (Nkoranza South) and James Gyakye Quayson (Assin North) were absent from the chamber and Speaker Bagbin decided to play time for their return.

“Take the headcount and he was delaying. What was happening was that there were five members of the Minority who were not there. So all that he was doing was to play for time to enable them to come to the chamber. That is all that it is,” the Majority Leader asserted.

The debate on the budget had concluded with the submissions of both the Minority Leader and Majority Leader when the incident happened.

“When we finished, what was to be done was for the Speaker to put the question. We raised issues initially about the procedure.

“And as you heard the Deputy Majority Leader. He said to the Speaker that after putting the question on declaring the results, if a member wanted to challenge he would have to come with a challenge first,” he recounted.

Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanuel Kofi Buah just got up and said that on account of Order 113(2) he was inviting the Speaker to do a headcount.

“That wasn’t a challenge. That was the issue the Deputy Majority Leader (Afenyo-Markin) raised. Along the line as they travelled, the Speaker said he made a declaration expressing an opinion that he thought the ayes have it,” he said.

“So the member could challenge. You were all there. We heard the Speaker loud and clear. Why should a Speaker bid such a hasty retreat from what he has said?

“He said to us that he thought the ayes have it. I think the ayes have it. That is how Speakers make pronouncement and determination. If he is convinced and persuaded, he says the ayes have it,” he intimated.

He continued, “In this case, he said the ayes have it. Then you have a Speaker making a sudden U-turn to say that no, he did not add that the ayes have it; he just expressed an opinion.”

“That is most unfortunate. So we think that the proper thing should be done so we raised these preliminary issues.

“However, when the dust settled we said okay, let’s take the vote, because he was insisting on the headcount and we said that we were available.

“Take the headcount and he was delaying. What was happening was that there were five members of the Minority who were not there.

“So all that he was doing was to play for time to enable them to come to the chamber. That is all that it is,” he stressed.

“All that the Speaker was doing was to play for time to enable them to find a way to enter the Chamber. What kind of thing is that? For about 30 minutes he was not doing anything. What is the import of it?

“And now he says that we should get up and go and write our names and vote. That is a division. Did Armah Kofi Buah call for a division? He said he was calling for headcount.

“Now the Speaker wants to inject himself in and said it is a division. What kind of attitude is this? That is why we left the chamber for him to let him do his own thing,” the Majority Leader indicated.

Headcount Arrest

At yesterday’s sitting, MP for Essikado-Ketan, Joe Ghartey, attempted to arrest the headcount, citing the constitutional breach in the exercise.

But this was parried by the Speaker who insisted that the process ought to continue.

In the event, the number game then began to play out in the near-hung Parliament, with each side of the aisle mobilising its members for the headcount.

The arithmetic presented a conundrum: who would win – Majority and Minority, but the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) prevailed with all its lawmakers voting en-bloc for the budget.

By Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House

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