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IMANI Demands Roadmap . . . On Project Implementation
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The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta, would, this morning, present the first national budget of the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo-led administration, to inform Ghanaians about the estimated expenditures and revenues, as well as the financial plans of the government for the 2017 fiscal year.

But, even before the budget is presented, policy think tank IMANI Ghana has fired some questions at the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration.

According to the African second most influential think tank, it would present its preliminary assessment of the budget after the Finance Minister has completed his work tomorrow.

In its six-page document, captioned “IMANI’s 2017 Pre-budget Litmus Test for Government”, the policy think tank fired questions on energy, economy, education, health and infrastructure (railways, roads, aviation, science & technology, water, sanitation and communications).

On energy, IMANI Ghana wanted to know if the budget would highlight strategies for ensuring transparency in the pricing of power, and provide appropriate timelines for implementing the strategies, to avoid further burdening of the private sector and its consequential job losses.

It stated: “As at December 2016, total power sector debt stood at US$2.4bn. Given the current rate of the energy sector levy (GHp41/litre on petrol/diesel and Ghp37/litre on LPG), and projected consumption of petroleum products in Ghana for 2017 (5,125,694,000 litres and 436,102,800 litres respectively, for petrol/diesel and LPG), the expected revenue from the energy sector levy per annum is approximately GH¢2.26bn (USD$0.497bn).

“This means that it will take approximately 5 years to clear power sector debts, all other things being equal. In the light of this, what viable fiscal policy is the government going to consider? Reduce the levies or maintain them as it battles public debts and supply of power simultaneously?”

The policy think tank further wanted to know what measures government would put in place to incentivise further exploration and production, as well as fast track the passage of requisite laws accompanying the petroleum exploration and production bill, in this era, where several companies have exploration licenses, but are failing to meet their minimum work obligation?

Touching on infrastructure, IMANI pointed out that President Akufo-Addo has announced the start of construction works on the Takoradi to Paga railway project this year, which, according to him, will connect the Eastern and Western corridors.

“The government will require an estimated $3.9 billion investment for such a grand project. However, from 2012 to 2016, the total budget allocation to the Ministry of Transport to execute all its projects in the aviation, railways, maritime and road management sub sectors was only GH¢701,988,756 ($175m).

“In 2015, GH¢41.8 million ($10.5m) was spent on redevelopment and construction of railway lines, railway stations, and the supply of rolling stock,” it said, wanting to know how government is going to fund the project.

The policy think tank further wished to know what innovative funding sources government is putting in place in today’s budget to sustain programmes in the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) sector, because, according to it, danger is looming in the WASH sector of the economy.

Furthermore, IMANI Ghana, which has in recent times stepped up its monitoring and criticism of governments, noted; “The budget of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing is heavily donor-funded. In the last 4 years, the budget allocation to the Ministry was about 2 billion cedis.

“Out of this amount, internally generated funds contributed just about 1%. In 2015, the total revised budget for the Ministry Water Resources, Works and Housing (MWRWH) was GH¢329,245,957 – out of this amount 75.5% was donor-funded, Government of Ghana contributed only 3.4%. 21.1% came from Annual Budget Fund Allocation (ABFA), while Internal Generated Fund (IGF) was only 1.2%.

“With the ABFA likely to be channeled to fund the blanket free SHS policy this year, what innovative funding sources will be available in the upcoming budget to sustain programmes in the WASH sector?”

Given the fact that Ghana has dropped 13 places in the global competitiveness index over the last five years, and the fact that in the 2016/2017 ranking, the country placed 114 out of 138 countries, IMANI wants to know whether indicators in today’s budget would help improve Ghana’s global competitiveness.

Continuing, the policy think tank queried; “Over the past 5 years, revenue collection, on average, has been about 6% below target. How do the persistent deficits in revenue affect Ghana’s credibility on the global financial market, given that about 42% of budget deficit is foreign financed?

“Ghana is currently ranked 108 out of 190 countries, based on the conduciveness of its business environment. It is of little wonder that FDI has fallen by 52.5% between 2012 and 2015.

“Can the ‘one district one factory’, and the idea of a private sector-led economy, be feasible in such an environment?

“What initiatives will be outlined in the March, 2017 budget to improve the regulatory environment in Ghana?”

On education and health, IMANI indicated that taking into consideration the fact that the core element of the NPP’s education programme is “free education for all Ghanaian children up to Senior High School”, and the fact that the government intends to rely on oil money to fund the programme, what will be the sustainable funding scheme for the Free SHS policy, in light of how unpredictable oil revenues can be?

Source: The Chronicle

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