It’s Team B Budget

President John Atta Mills’ Budget Statement and Economic Policy for 2010 has been described by the Minority in Parliament as a rehashed document, uninspiring and nothing new to give hope to poverty-stricken Ghanaians. They as well labeled the whole statement a ‘Team ‘B’ budget. Immediately after the two-hour budget presentation by the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, on the floor of Parliament yesterday, members from the Minority side who had labeled last year’s budget as ‘Sakawa’, raised high fliers with different inscriptions such ‘Team ‘B’ Budget’, ‘Sakawa 2’ ‘Nko Yie’, ‘Go Slow’ and ‘Sakawa 2 Eko Nyaa’. Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, described the reading of the Budget by Dr. Duffuor as “lethargic presentation”, in an apparent show of displeasure towards the Majority Leader, Alban Bagbin, who had quoted copiously from the Standing Orders of the House, which prevents members from debating or commenting on the Budget immediately after the presentation. Virtually rubbishing the content of the budget, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who is also the Member of Parliament for Suame in the Ashanti Region, said while the budget was being read, the Majority Leader “looked morose and melancholic”, trying to make or “configure something out of nothing”. Earlier, members of the Minority with their hands on their heads, described President Mills’ Economic Policy as a killer budget, wailing in chorus, “Yewuoo”, “Enua na eda honu, Yankase obeku yen?”- meaning “we are dead! It is very clear; didn’t we say he (Mills) will kill us?” However, in an obvious show of approval and concurrence to President Mills’ Economic Policy for next year, members from the Majority side also displayed their leaflets describing the budget statement as “Growth and Stability in the right direction”. Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, MP for Old Tafo in the Ashanti Region and former Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, has asked Ghanaians to tighten their belts, warning that there are hard times ahead. In an interview with Daily Guide, Dr. Akoto Osei said government had not given any indication of spending in the areas that would expand the economy and create jobs for the people. Government, he pointed out, was rather introducing more taxes on goods and services, particularly with the restoration of duties on imported rice, wheat, yellow maize and vegetable oil. Dr. Akoto Osei explained that restoring taxes on these commodities would automatically increase their prices for the ordinary Ghanaian, as the country was not yet producing enough for local consumption. According to him, government had found itself in this predicament because of its programmes with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which only champions stabilization of the economy and not expenditure on growth areas. Presenting highlights of the budget for the 2010 fiscal year, the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Duffour, said spending by government from the Consolidated Fund on pro-poor activities was estimated at GH¢2.3 billion, reflecting an increase of 28 percent over the projected end year figure of GH¢1.8 billion. The amount, he noted, would go to support basic education, primary healthcare, poverty-focused agriculture, provision of rural water, construction of feeder roads and rural electrification. Announcing an amount of GH¢25.9 million to support electricity consumption by poor households, popularly known as the Electricity Lifeline Payments, the Minister noted that for safety net programmes, GH¢41.5million had been provided by the government from the Consolidated Fund. Planned HIPC Funds for fiscal year 2010, he disclosed, would amount to GH¢261.6million, of which GH¢52.3 million had been allocated for domestic interest payments, with the remaining GH¢168.9million for sectoral programmes.