10 January 2014

Ghana: The Finance Minister On the Ropes?

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It would appear that the integrity of the Finance Minister of the 6th Session of the Fourth Republic is increasingly coming under a question mark in recent times.

First, Mr. Seth Terkper reportedly claimed in his 2014 Budget Statement that the Chamber of Parliament had been expanded to accommodate the increment in the number of Parliamentarians from 230 to 275, when in fact no such expansion had taken place.

Next was a report that he had unilaterally ordered a stop to the work of a sub-committee put in place to reform and make the Single Spine Salary Structure sustainable, after a national forum on the sustainability of the SSSS in August 2012 at Ho.

The forum had been called, after President John Dramani Mahama's government had claimed that the SSSS was consuming 70 percent of our internally-generated funds, leaving virtually nothing for infrastructural projects.

And now some unnamed economists are reportedly supporting the claim of the 2012 NPP Vice-Presidential Candidate, Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia that the outlay required to sustain the SSSS cannot be more than 42 percent of our tax revenue.

Dr. Bawumia had made the claim last November, at the first anniversary memorial lecture of ex-President John Kufour's Vice-President, late Alhaji Aliu Mahama.

Is this your best, Mr. Terkper?

That cannot possibly be. Not for any economist described by The Economist of London as "canny", in its recent assessment of the economic prospects of Ghana for 2014.

The Chronicle thinks, however, that he may have a problem of being too trusting and takes everything reported to him outside his core function as true. There are people, who because they are truthful to a fault, tend to take anything they are told as gospel.

Take the issue of the expansion of the Chamber of Parliament. Parliament had programmed it for execution, but did not eventually get round to it. May be, because he had released the funds for the project, he assumed it had been done and captured it in his budget statement without first bothering to confirm it.

He could not deliberately have set out to deceive anyone as the media interpreted it to be. There is absolutely nothing he could have hoped to gain out of any such subterfuge.

On the Single Spine and its alleged voracious appetite or otherwise, The Chronicle's considered opinion is that it is time President Mahama or Mr. Terkper re-visited the issue.

Is it true, as some claim, that it is when the accumulated arrears are added to the core sum that the percentage tops 70?The two cannot be one and the same thing, even though they would be met from the same source. While the arrears would be cleared one day, the core figure for the SSSS would be for as long as the state of Ghana existed.

The Mahama administration needs to clear the air on this issue soonest. For it forms part of the anger of our donor partners and the reason for our recent credit-rating down grading.

The Chronicle thinks the NDC government must make this clarification now, before people start rumour mongering that 30 percent of our tax revenues are being deliberately diverted into private pockets.

A word to the wise... !

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