18 July 2013

Ghana: Use of Collective Funds for Parochial Interest

Photo: UN-HABITAT / Julius Mwelu
A young boy vending wares in Accra.


Since Finance Minister Seth Terkper delivered the 2013 Budget and disclosed that the estimated budget deficit of GH¢8.7 billion was overshot by 100%, Ghanaians have been wondering where the money went to.

Now a Minister of State for Allied and Financial Matters at the Presidency, Mr. Fifi Kwartey, has explained that the NDC government followed the usual practice by governments in power in election years to keep life cozy for the electorate, in order not to antagonise them to vote for the opposition.

According to him, the government 'did what it had to do in an election year', or words to that effect.

He reportedly queried his interviewer whether he had seen a government in this country which has had the courage to pass on increases in the prices of petroleum products to the public in an an election year?

Implied in that question is the claim that such over expenditure in election years had happened before the Atta Mills administration, would occur in this Mahama administration, and governments that would come after it.

However, it seems improbable that all the GH¢8.7 billion had been 'blown' on fuel subsidies for the people. So, how much exactly was spent on fuel subsidies, and where is the full list of other expenditure heads?

Were they the agencies in the office of government machinery?

While we await answers to the above queries, we would like to turn our minds to the issue of massive deficit spending in election years. It has become such a canker that it needs to be addressed urgently.

It has imposed a cyclical three-year fiscal stability and one-year instability on the economy that has our trading partners and Ghanaians equally worried.

Officials of the Bretton Wood institutions repeatedly warn and cajole Ghanaian governments, in the run up to our elections, to put a tight rein on expenditures. But such calls have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears. All that they are interested in is, as it has been characterised by the media, "buy" the vote of Ghanaians to stay in power.

But the only free lunches in the world can be found in prison yards across the globe. Look at what Ghanaians are enduring now under the whip of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other donor agencies:

Tax on cutlasses, tax on fishing nets, tax on outboard motors, tax on talk time (?), taxes everywhere, and multiple increases in prices of petroleum products within months! The notch on the belt of the average Ghanaian is on the first bone-crunching hole.

Must we forever cut our nose to spite our face every four years, just because a group wants to remain in power willy-nilly?

The Chronicle advocates that we set a limit on how much free bonto money can be dissipated by the government in each election year. Given the disruptive effect of petroleum price increases on the generality of Ghanaians, and the possibility of it afflicting different parties in power, maybe we should continue to subsidise them in election years.

But such frills as computers and cars for a select few should come from the purse of the parties or candidates proffering them.

Let's show some prudence in the use of national resources for our personal or parochial gain.

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