CONTRIBUTION BY THE HON MINORITY LEADER AND MEBMER OF PARLIAMENT FOR TAMALE SOUTH TO THE DEBATE ON THE MESSAGE ON THE STATE OF THE NATION WHICH HE DELIVERED TO PARLIAMENT ON THURSDAY, 21ST FEBRUARY 2019 – ON THE FLOOR OF PARLIAMENT OF GHANA ON 5TH MARCH, 2019
Mr Speaker, I am most grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion That this honourable House thanks H.E. the President for the Message on the State of the Nation which he delivered to Parliament on Thursday, 21st February 2019.
Mr Speaker, in doing so, I would like to walk the House through the President’s Message and point out a few issues.
I would like to start from the petroleum sector. The President took some time in his Address to remind the House on who discovered oil and in what quantities. One may ask, is that what Ghanaians are interested in? The good people of Ghana rather want to know how the petroleum resources are utilised. How does the Government ensure the judicious use of the oil resources for the better the lot of the Ghanaian people? As at now, the NPP Government is spending the Annual Budgeting Funding Amount (ABFA) on consumption related expenditure as against capital expenditure. That is the best way to optimise the use of our petroleum revenue.
Mr Speaker, on the energy sector, in spite of the legacy which led to the introduction of the Energy Sector Levy Act (ESLA), the Government is still accumulating more debt in the energy sector.
Still on energy, the NDC Government left rural electrification at 72 per cent. What is the percentage of coverage of rural electrification now under this NPP Government? We need to now.
Mr Speaker, the President wants us to applaud him for inaugurating the Fiscal Responsibility Council. As long as the Council is not a creation of statute, it will be difficult to enforce its decisions. I, personally, look forward to the day, Hon Members of the ruling party would join their Colleagues in opposition to sanction a Minister of Finance based on the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Law.
On IMF, Mr Speaker, beyond exiting the IMF programme, the President must demonstrate that his Government is able to consolidate the gains and maintain fiscal prudence and discipline in the wake of the epileptic fall the cedis is currently suffering. What prudent measures are being taken to address the fall of the cedi? The fall of the cedi will make our bonds and the servicing of existing debts more expensive. Besides, the business community is affected by fall of the cedi and this will be passed on to the poor Ghanaian consumer.
Mr Speaker, on inflation, the President cleverly selected data in the last six years. Otherwise, exceeding the data to cover four extra years would have shown that inflation was 7.1% in 2012; 7.7% in 2011 and 6.7% in 2010. Obviously, these rates of inflation are far better than the President’s January figure of 9%.
Mr Speaker, the President lamented on the tax exemptions. The President indicated that in 2010 tax exempted was 0.6% of GDP [Though the 2019 Budget had it to be 0.9% of GDP]. It is my expectations that the President would take a decisive decision on this such that going into the future there will be no or minimal request for tax waivers and exemptions.
On Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the President has to align budget allocations and releases to reflect his commitment to the achieving the SDGs. Furthermore, the President has to present a clear blueprint to Parliament on his Ghana-beyond-Aid agenda, especially, on how his vision can guide the achievement of the SDGs.
Mr Speaker, the President talked about the digitisation of the country’s ports. But he found it expedient not to comment on UNIPASS impasse, so I would also leave it there.
On infrastructure, the President, indicated that his Government would continue with the affordable housing in some parts of the country including Ho. Even though I am not sure if, currently, there is an affordable housing project in Ho, it is gratifying to note that the Government is committed to continuing with the affordable housing projects.
Mr Speaker, on 1D1F, beyond the contradictory figures, we need to see the factories.
Mr Speaker, Ghanaians are suffering job loses especially in the banking and mining sectors. There is still growing unemployment in the country. Our nurses are still waiting for their appointments. Fortunately, there are a number of vacancies available including the yet to be inaugurated hospitals that the NDC Government bequeathed to the NPP. NABCO workers – payment to youth in forestry are in arrears.
On National Identification, Mr Speaker, how much are we spending on the Ghana Card? Is $42 per person, a prudent way of spending our scarce resources?
Mr Speaker, interestingly, this time around, the President stayed clear of mentioning the national debt. We need to know, the current debt stock. How much has the NPP Government borrowed so far?
Strangely, apart from a rising wage bill, there is a general decline in the public investment. These have serious implications on jobs.
On security, the President mentioned a number of security operations but failed to commend on kidnappings and murders.
Mr Speaker, the President ended with a call on the two major parties to work together to disband political vigilantism. I wish the President had given clear directions, at least, to his own party and then request other political parties, who may have such groups to follow suit. Political vigilantism does not only pose a security challenge but is a major threat to Ghana’s fledgling democracy.
Mr Speaker, I thank you very much for the opportunity.