The Minister for Finance, Mr Ken Ofori Atta, briefing the Finance Committee after presenting the statement on the Contingency Fund which has been credited with US$ 290 million from the Stabilisation Fund to fight COVID-19, said it is to cushion businesses and vulnerable households with social interventions.
The briefing was to convince the committee on the need to accept his proposal before presenting their report to the House for a resolution or otherwise on the issue.
However, before the Minister kick-started the briefing, John Abu Jinapor, a member of the committee, asked the permission for the Minority on the committee to be given some time to study the content of the statement to enable them ask the needed relevant questions, since the amount involved was gargantuan.
When the Finance Minister finally had the opportunity to address the committee on return of the Minority members, he said the main objective of the additional funding in support of the COVID-19 mitigation endeavour was to spend about GH¢1.2 billion from which GH¢600 million would be given as loans to small-scale businesses to cushion them from the fallout of the economic impact as a result of the COVID-19.
He said about GH¢280 million would be committed to cushion vulnerable households from the supply of free food to water and sanitation.
Mr Atta said the rest of the money would be used to support frontline health service workers with the provision of adequate personal protective equipment, waiver of taxes on their salaries, and also, the 50 per cent increase on their basic salaries.
He urged the committee to work expeditiously on the statement and come out with a report to meet the expectation of the House for approval.
The Finance Minister before meeting with the Finance Committee had earlier made submission to the House based on the statement before the Speaker referred it to the committee, and the House was suspended awaiting their report.
However, the Minority at a press conference said there was the need for the Finance Minister to come clear with some of the estimated expenditures the money would be spent on.
Speaking to the issue, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu said the GH¢40 million to be spent in providing hot meals for households should be made clear as to the beneficiary households, whilst the GH¢200 million on water and sanitation has not been very well clarified in the statement.
He said in as much as the Minority would agree for such expenditures, it should be made clear; the charge must not be led by party members, but should be by people with national character.
He said the President has arrogated to himself the powers of parliament by waiving taxes on the personal income taxes of frontline health workers; however, Article 174 of the 1992 Constitution gave that power to parliament.
Mr Iddrisu said though the country was in trying times, that did not mean respect should not be given to due process in governing the country, adding that there was the need not to use the pandemic as a cover up to create dictators.
He said the government needed to also add free electricity to the free packages to save the citizenry from undue hardship, since people were at home not working such that when their power went out, it would be difficult to buy another credit.