The Minority in Parliament has described the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the government for the 2024 financial year as a “true definition of an empty budget.”
It said the budget was “cruel, insensitive and out of touch” with the reality of the ordinary Ghanaian and businesses who would rather be inflicted with more pains and with more “suffocating taxes”.
The Minority accused the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, and the members of the economic management team, led by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, of leaving behind a bankrupt economy.
“It is important for us to note that this government is leaving behind a default economy, a budget that is debt-riddled, an economy that is over-taxed and that has seen hyperinflation, high food inflation and high monetary policy rate,” it said.
Reacting to the presentation of the “Nkunim” budget statement by the minister of finance on the floor of Parliament yesterday, the Minority Leader, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, said “As if that is not enough, this government is leaving behind an economy with high lending rate, high unemployment rate, and a misery-indexed economy never witnessed in this Fourth Republic.”
“Mr Speaker, they are also leaving behind an economy where we are seeing massive and uncontrolled corruption, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
This is the legacy that they are leaving behind,” he said.
Dr Ato Forson noted that due to the poor management of the economy, the finance minister went to Parliament to read the budget alone.
He questioned why neither the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, nor the Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr Ernest Addison, accompany him to Parliament.
“But let me say they cannot abandon you; you did it with them and so they are faces of destruction and you are part of it. Bye Mr minister, bye NPP, as this is your scorecard,” he said.
Later at a press conference, Dr Ato Forson accused the finance minister of introducing more “suffocating” tax handles in the budget.
He mentioned the introduction of taxes worth GH¢11 billion, including the environmental excise tax, to cover plastic products and packaging, new tax on industrial and vehicle emission known as emission levy, and increased stamp duty.
“They have also informed us that they are going to modify the tax regime, which means that an informal income tax is going to go up, introduction of a new VAT flat rate to cover commercial properties, among others.
Responding, the Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, told the House that the Minority Leader was a deputy minister of finance when the economy was in its worst state under the previous regime.
He said it was the same Dr Ato Forson and his boss, the former finance minister, and their government, who without a COVID-19 pandemic, could not implement the Free Senior High School programme.
“Today, this government has implemented the Free SHS successfully and the figures bear us up as we have a transitioned enrolment rate of over 80 per cent as compared to 55 per cent during your era.
“And today because of the liberty of opposition, you are telling the honourable finance minister that he has underperformed when your own administration has the worst performance,” he said.
He said the previous government could not implement a single landing beach project, recollecting how the NDC government came to Parliament with a loan and later chickened out and resorted to capping.
“This government heard the cries of fishermen and we have constructed 12 landing beach sites,” he said, citing how the current government, which inherited ‘dumsor’, had reversed the challenge.
Meanwhile, the usual cacophony that climaxes the presentation of the annual budget, was in full display yesterday when the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, appeared before Parliament with the government’s Budget Statement and Economic Policy for the 2024 financial year.
With ceaseless chants from both sides of the political divide, amid the display of various inscriptions, members of the house gleefully registered their approval or disapproval of the budget.
The messages of the minority, among others, read: "family and friends budget, and corruption budget."
The majority also displayed ‘Nkunim’ (victory) budget, and budget for progress and prosperity, among others.
The noise became deafening each time either side raised a new song.
After about five minutes of merry-making, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin, stepped in to restore order and allow proceedings to resume.
Prior to the drama, the House was quiet as some MPs were seen sleeping or chatting among themselves.
After the finance minister’s presentation, the House came alive again when the Speaker asked the leaders of the two sides to make brief remarks.
However, the rise of Afenyo-Markin was met with shouts of: "we want Kyei, we want Kyei," by the minority side.
The protest was in apparent reference to the
Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, instead of Afenyo-Markin.
But Afenyo-Markin ignored them and went ahead to launch a personal attack on Dr Ato Forson, compelling the Speaker to call him to order.
Eventually, the Speaker adjourned sitting to today for debate on the budget statement to begin.