Chairman of opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the Ashanti region, Bernard Antwi Boasiako, has admonished the Mahama-led administration to put in place a policy that will offer assistance to well-meaning religious groups from both the Christian and Islamic sects in Ghana, to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youth before considering instituting a tax regime against them.
Chairman Wontumi as he is affectionately called, re-iterated that apart from the broader mandate of religious groups to bring salvation to the people, it is strategically positioned to create job opportunities for the citizenry to complement government’s efforts in that direction, but this will require support from the government of the day.
With such a policy in place, the NPP chairman noted that government will be justified in taxing their activities since they will be profitably-oriented.
The regional chairman’s preposition was in reaction to a recent debate in some political quarters that government should tax the various religious bodies in the country as part of efforts to broaden the tax net and generate more revenue for the country’s development needs.
Expatiating more on his admonishment, the NPP regional chairman described as a wrong move any attempt to tax religious bodies in their current state, adding that the little income generated by these religious bodies largely come from the very poor in society mostly unemployed, in the form of collections, tithes and other special contributions.
These people, he noted, go there to find solace and spiritual upliftment with the hope of receiving divine intervention.
The little contributions which they have made are used to implement pro-poor programmes in health; water and sanitation etc., to the larger benefit of the majority poor in society.
Taxing the religious organisations therefore will mean indirectly passing the burden onto the needy majority who are mostly present in churches and mosques, he added.
Pitching his argument against the population distribution of Ghana, Mr. Boasiako noted that available statistics has shown that out of a potentially employable active labour force of about 18 million out of the total 26 million Ghanaian populace, only about 10 million are gainfully employed from both formal and informal sectors, thus leaving a whopping 8 million jobless.
He is however convinced that with such a deliberate policy of assisting viable religious groups who have clear-cut business ideas to go into serious job creation activities in trade, construction, industry, commerce etc., the 8 million unemployment gap could be narrowed, thus giving more jobs to the people and making them (religious organisations) and the individual beneficiaries taxable.
Chairman Wontumi said anything far from this will mean putting the tax burden of religious bodies indirectly on the jobless and poor congregation, since the religious bodies will eventually pay these taxes from the contributions of the poor masses.
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