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The 2018 Budget Does Not Offer Any Hope For Ghanaians - Minority   
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Haruna Iddrisu
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The Minority in Parliament has described the 2018 budget and economic policy statement presented by the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, as an empty and poorly packaged product that cannot address the country's socio-economic challenges.

It said the budget, which it christened 'Wahala' (hardship) and 419 (deceitful) budget, contained inaccurate data and unrealistic macroeconomic targets for 2018.

Moments after the presentation of the budget to Parliament Wednesday, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Idrissu, and the Ranking Member on the Finance Committee and Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Mr Cassiel Ato Forson, told Graphic Online that they were disappointed in the budget as it it did not give any hope for Ghanaians in terms of growth of economy, job creation and alleviating their hardships.

Minority Leader questions economic indicators

Mr Iddrisu rejected the suggestion of the Finance Minister that the government had turned round the country's economy.

"If the Ghanaian economy in its current state is a turn around economy, then the battle is indeed the Lord's. It certainly cannot be," he said.

Mr Idrissu said the Finance Minister referenced June, August, October, September without any projection for the rest of the month, which had skewed the budget as a half-year budget.

"Therefore, even debt at a percentage of GDP, we know is higher than 68.5 per cent. Because he is using up to September which does not envisage the months thereafter, you will not have accurate and reliable statistics," he said.

On the proposal to create 100,000 jobs under the National Brigade programme, the Minority Leader said the government claimed that it had a challenge with the wage bill and was now considering adding 100,000 jobs under the programme.

He said although the intervention was positive, adding 100,000 to the current 650,000 government workforce would bring the total workforce to 750,000.

That, he said, was against the general agreement that the economy needed to be downsized.

Reliable electricity

The Minority Leader faulted the Finance Minister for stating that the government had provided reliable electricity, because it rather inherited reliable power from the Mahama administration.

"He should have said that we had inherited reliable electricity because power outages or 'dumsor' had ended before they came to power. What have they invested in the energy sector that must be hailed for ending dumsor. Let us Know what their specific investments in those areas were," he said.

Mr Idrissu said contrary to the claim in the budget for job creation, the Minority did not see any indication of government's ability to create jobs.

He rejected the claim that the government had delivered on its campaign promises of spearheading one district, one factory; one village, one dam; free senior high school (SHS) education policy and $1 million per constituency had not been fulfilled.

"The budget in summary is a shop list of unrealisable promises and pledges. Their economic competence is more at play when they are in opposition than the reality in government. There will be 'Wahala', hardship in the country. That is what we are summing up," he said.

Wrong product

Mr Forson on his part urged Ghanaians not to look at the package and conclude that the budget was a good product, because the promises "are not supported by the numbers and Ghanaians will end the year 2018 without seeing anything tangible."

He said if it was true that the government had turned around the economy, the implementation of National Fiscal Stabilisation Levy, the Special Import Levy, which were all enacted for the purposes of stabilising the economy should have been suspended.

"In 2013 when the National Fiscal Stabilisation Levy was introduced, it was because the economy experienced some setbacks and was supposed to be there as a temporal tax. Today the state is telling us that in as much as they have turned around the economy that tax handle is staying. This is the economy that is turned around, I am very disappointed," he said.

Mr Forson said the revenue underperformed by 9.3 per cent this year, and indicated that it was the worst in the history of Ghana.

He said revenue underperformed because the projections were unrealistic.

He said the Finance Minister had also over estimated the revenue for 2018 "and so we will end another year with the revenue not being able to achieve."

Mr Forson said the projection to achieve 6.3 per cent fiscal deficit by the end of 2017 was not achievable.

"My projection is that the fiscal deficit is going to be 7.3 per cent at the minimum by the end of the year 2017. It is going to affect the primary surplus and is going to eat into a deficit of 0.1 per cent," he said.

Mr Forson said the Finance Minister decided to stay away from mentioning the debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio for the end of 2017.

He said in adding the GHc2 billion debt that Ghanians would pay as a result of the Capital Bank/UT Bank takeover and the energy sector debt, the debt to GDP was going to hit 76 per cent by the end of 2017.

He said the positive outlooks of inflation and interest rates were as a result of what the steady decline in inflation and reduction in interest rates that the government inherited from the Mahama administration.

"The numbers are cosmetic. By the end of the year, they will be exposed big time. By the time that Ghana Statistical Service comes with the full numbers, the total situation of Ghanaian economy in terms of growth, this government will be exposed.

"Based on what I have seen I am not impressed, not encouraged, I am worried as a Ghanaian and I can assure you that this is a bad product that has been wrongly packaged for the purposes of politics," he said.

Source: Daily Graphic

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