Ranking Member of the Finance Committee in Parliament and Former Deputy Finance Minister, Dr. Casiel Ato Forson, has indicated that even though the 2021 budget presented to Parliament has been approved, the minority group is prepared to fully assess it based on merit and scrutinize the new taxes introduced by government.
This, he said, will determine whether the Minority will support or reject some of the new policies that government wishes to introduce.
“Yes, the taxes are in there, it is government policy; it is the responsibility of government to introduce policies that they deem fit.
“We also as the minority have a responsibility to either reject or approve them. Going forward, the taxes are yet to be brought to us to evaluate. We will evaluate them one by one, and if we believe that some of them are in good taste we will support them; and if we believe that others are not in good taste, we will oppose them.”
He said this in an interview with the media shortly after the budget was adopted by the House after it was put to a vote. After the voting, 137 MPs voted in favour of the budget, while 134 MPs voted against it.
Prior to the adoption, the Minority raised several concerns about some policies in the budget statement which included the introduction of some new taxes, as well as accusing government and the Finance Ministry of misreporting and misclassifying some government expenditure.
Earlier on Thursday, the Minority led by Haruna Iddrisu held a press conference to make their concerns known. According to them, the deficit as reported in the budget is understated.
“We note some misreporting, misclassifications and below the line treatment of some government expenditure which are deliberately misreported in order to project a good performance of the economy, when in fact the true situation is not so rosy.”
Also, the Minority expressed their dissatisfaction with the introduction of new taxes; arguing that businesses and individuals have suffered as a result of negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We note that for the 2019 fiscal year, government reported a fiscal deficit of 4.8% of GDP, while at the same time – as confirmed by the IMF in their April 2020 staff report – a fiscal deficit of 7.5% of GDP existed. This means an amount of about GH¢8.2billion was concealed from our expenditure framework. We demand that the fiscal deficit, including arrears for the year 2020, be corrected in the budget statement to reflect the actual figure of 17.5% of GDP.
“The fiscal deficit for the year 2020 of 13.8% of GDP as stated by the Ministry of Finance excludes an amount of GH¢6.2billion – being what government refers to as Energy sector payments. We demand the inclusion of Energy sector payments of GH¢6.2billion in the fiscal tables to reflect in the corresponding fiscal deficit.”
Amid some disagreements during a debate, the Speaker granted the Minority’s application for a headcount. After the voting, 137 MPs voted in favour of the budget while 134 voted against it.
Regarding budget estimates which are expected to be presented to the House this week, Dr. Ato Forson stated: “Do not let the vote cloud the achievement of today. We are going to evaluate estimate by estimate. We are going to exercise the authority to approve the budget.
“Parliament is the one that has the authority, it is only us that can appropriate resources to the Executive; and so if we think for any reason that the resources we are going to give to a state agency to perform a particular function is not going to be in the interest of the nation, we will object to it.”