15 November 2018

Ghana: Finance Minister Presents 2019 Budget Today

Photo: Govt of Ghana
Parliament

The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta will today present to Parliament the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of government for the 2019 fiscal year.

This is in accordance with Article 179 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, which enjoined the Finance Minister to present government's fiscal policy statement to Parliament.

Article 179 (1) states "The President shall cause to be prepared and laid before Parliament at least one month before the end of the financial year, estimates of the revenues and expenditures of the Government of Ghana for the following financial year."

This year's budget would be the third under President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo's administration and would be the first budget not under the supervision of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), after the country went to the IMF in 2016 for an extended credit facility of more than $918 million to shore up the economy.

Though the Ghanaian Times is not privy to the 2019 budget statement and policy statement and its theme, it is believed the theme of the budget would be centered on hope, bringing prosperity to Ghanaians.

The budget is expected to come out with tax measures, incentives and initiatives which would improve the lives of the citizens and bring relief to them and consolidate the macroeconomic gains the government had achieved for the past two years.

Indeed some economists and tax experts have urged government to initiate strategies in the 2019 budget and economic policy to raise revenue locally, instead of borrowing, to finance its developmental projects.

According to them, government did not have enough fiscal space to continue to borrow to finance its numerous economic and social intervention programmes.

The experts say unbridled borrowing could create debt-stress for the country and erode the macroeconomic gains achieved for the past two years and throw the economy out of gear.

To this end, the economist and tax experts were urging the government to block the leakages and loopholes and the tax administration system to raise more revenue.

They averred that the country could raise financial resources locally if illicit financial flows, tax fraud were curbed and tax exemptions and holidays given to companies were also reviewed.

But encouragingly, the government has promised that the 2019 budget would be "a budget of hope."

The President, Nana Akufo-Addo has indicated that the 2019 budget would "reflect the hope Ghanaians have in the government and the future of the country and that "there was no reason for the people of Ghana to be poor because God had endowed Ghanaians with everything."

The Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah is also reported to have said that "the 2019 budget is designed to bring more relief, hope and improvement in the standard of living of our people."

"The Minister of Finance will demonstrate to Ghanaians what, as we exit the IMF programme, the Akufo-Addo administration intends to do to maintain the fiscal discipline, which has been restored, increase liquidity in the Ghanaian economy and sustain heightened growth."

But the Minority in Parliament in preview of the 2019 budget had predicted worse economic conditions next year.

According to the Minority Spokesperson, Casiel Ato Baah Forson "factors on the ground do not give the slightest clue that there would be economic turn-around in 2019"and"the prevailing hardship will persist and may even get worse."

Meanwhile Abigail Annoh and David Takyi, report that a cross section of Ghanaians have asked the government to give true meaning to its promise of providing hope in the upcoming budget to help ease the tough economic burden on citizens.

President Akufo-Addo while inducting into office six new ministers last Thursday gave the indication that the 2019 budget would "reflect the hope Ghanaians have in the government and the future of the country".

"There was no reason for the people of Ghana to be poor because God had endowed Ghanaians with everything, and if we put it together properly, we should be a wealthy and developed nation that is the vision that is animating me," he said.

But in separate interviews on their expectations ahead of the budget reading tomorrow, some Ghanaians who were pessimistic about the 'hope' the President alluded to, only wished the budget reduced the "hardship" in the country.

Interacting with spare parts dealers at Abossey Okai yesterday, the traders who were mostly apathetic prayed they were able to stay in business to fend for their families.

"We do not care what will be read in the budget because politicians keep lying to us. Import duties are still high and the taxes keep increasing contrary to the promises made to us.

"We just pray to God to keep our business running to take care of our children and family because if we rely on what they tell us, we would have committed suicide by now," a trader who gave his name as Prince lamented.

Mr Clement Boateng, chairman of the Abossey Okai Spare Parts Dealers Association, who shared similar sentiments, hoped the Government came up with concrete measures to stablise the exchange rate.

He added that the "Finance Minister must also come out with steps to address the crisis in the banking sector among others to put the country on a sustainable path."

Mr Boateng further anticipated that the budget captures clear indicators to make the country's digitisation drive much achievable.

To Mr Evans Buckman, an entrepreneur, "the budget must look at road infrastructure development in the country because the rate at which accidents are claiming the lives of Ghanaians because of the poor nature of our road is sickening."

"I also expect to hear that more funds have been allocated to the rail sector to improve the transport network system. Since they came into office they have talked extensively about the rail sector but little has been done," he said.

The business man also called for the reduction of "high utility bills in the country."

The issue of high unemployment and "ridiculous" fuel prices was what 29-year- old, Isaac Obiri, prayed the government took steps to address in the budget reading.

The graduate who had resorted to taxi driving to make ends meet after fruitless search for a job observed that "thing are slow, nothing is going on now. The youth still don't have jobs though they promised to create jobs.

"We are suffering and the little money you manage to raise has little value because things are expensive now. I hope this budget does something better about the unemployment situation."

Madam Irene Adukpo, a teacher on her part obviously wished more attention was paid to improving infrastructure in the educational sector.

"For me, I am concerned about the education sector, particularly the Free SHS policy. I think the budget should look at funds to provide more facilities and infrastructure to accommodate the students and pay teachers to improve quality teaching and learning in the schools.

"I am also expecting that the health sector is also looked at so patients can be well catered for when they visit the hospitals," the teacher stated.

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