The 2018 budget, which remained a subject of controversy among the Legislators since the Minister for Finance ,Ken Ofori Atta, laid the financial policy document before parliament on November 15, this year, is with full of big lies and inconsistency, Hon Eric Opoku has said.
According to the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for Asunafo South constituency in the Brong Ahafo Region, the budget which has been described by the governing party as “Adwuma” budget lacks credibility on the face and must be treated as concocted document to deceive Ghanaians.
Mr Opoku made these comments to THE REPUBLIC after he took his turn on the floor of parliament to contribute to the debate on the 2018 budget in parliament yesterday.
The controversies trailing the 2018 budget started during the first debate when Minority Ranking on Finance, Hon Cassiel Ato Forson raised concerns on the budgetary allocation to the presidency.
Mr Ato Forson in the debate called for the withdrawal of the entire budget from parliament for the proper correction of what he described as “incredible figures” in the budget are been revised at the back door for parliamentary approvals.
The 2018 budget quoted GHS1.9 billion cedis as budgetary allocation to the office of presidency and government machinery and another GHS6 million to the office of the Senior Minister, within the same administrative jurisdiction.
The agriculture sector including its ministry budgetary allocation is purged at abot a little over GHS 2.2 million and some other ministries with their agencies also receiving less than two million cedis in the 2018 budget.
However, taking his turn on the most controversial debate, Hon Eric Opoku , Ranking member on Food , Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs committee of parliament said, the budget is full of lies, inconsistency and unpardonable errors and ought to be withdrawn for correction before approval.
He said, going through the budget statement, one is seized with a number of unbelievable figures put together as realistic figures, adding, “these figures are concocted figures that the Finance Minister and for that matter the government put together as economic policy.”
Mr Opoku argued that, the budget failed woefully to address the challenges in the agriculture sector, pointing that, “the agriculture sector productivity is declining” despite the touted government Planting for Food and Jobs Programme.
Citing several inconsistent figures in the budget to buttress his debate, the Minority Ranking member on Agriculture said, the NDC government led by John Dramani Mahama left behind a resilient economy with strong growth in the agriculture sector.
The agriculture sector, he noted was performing positively with an average growth rate of about 4.5%, but the sector declined within the 10 months of the New Patriotic Party ( NPP) government to 3.8%, saying, ” this is as a result of mismanagement and improper implementation of policies.”
He called for the withdrawal, correction, and resubmission of the 2018 budget on the based that, “it is full of inconsistency and unpardonable figures on one page to another , which do not reflect what the Minister read to parliament.”
For instance, Mr Opoku said, in paragraph 413 of the budget statement, the Finance Minister said, government has introduced artificial programme to increase cocoa production from 450kg per hector to more than 1,300 kg per hector which means an increment of 188% in cocoa production for 2018.
However, para 403 in the same budget statement, the Minister said the cocoa sector in 2018 would be decline from 969,000 metric tones to 850,000mt production on average.
Again, the Asunafo South lawmaker said, para 789 of the budget statement said, the government had distributed 100,000mt of subsidized fertilizer to farmers, while para 388, also said,the government had distributed 121,000mt of subsidized fertilizer to farmers.
Additionally, Mr Opoku argued that, in Para 388 of the 2018 budget statement, the government claimed to have recruited 3,230, youth under the planting for food and jobs programme, 2,160 been graduates from Universities, 170 been youth and 822 youth as Agric-extension officers.
This, he asked so what are the difference between the youth and young graduates from our universities?, stressing that, such inconsistency, in his view are all concocted figures meant to deceive Ghanaians into believing that our youth are been employed but in reality, it is the contrary.
Touching on the fisheries sector, Mr Opoku said, fish production in the country has declined badly this year, 2017, from the average of 289,000mt in 2016, the time the NDV was leaving office to 203,000 to as at October, 2017.
He said the fishing industry has declined to negative (-17%) and attributed it t bad governance and visionless policies initiated by the current government.
“Mr Speaker, Ghana consumes over 950,000 metric tons of fish annually, currently imports over 60 percent of its fish, and in 2017 the country imported over $400 million worth of fish as against $135 million dollars worth of fish in 2016.”
“Mr Speaker, I am afraid that by the end of year 2017, Ghana will be importing more than $400 million dollars worth of fish.”
“Mr Speaker, this shows that our fishing industry is declining and we need to wake up, this government need to work beyond political rhetoric,” the former Brong Ahafo Regional Minister stated.
He added that the declining records in the fishing sector with over $400 million worth of importation, simply meant that, the government is giving out employment opportunities to other nations youth.
There has also been reports that the fishing sector has recorded over 200 cases of premix fuel diversion within the last 10 months under the current administration and the incidents appeared not to ending anytime soon.
This, again Mr Opoku said, the 200 cases recorded was as result of the NPP government penchant of channeling every national policy and programme to party loyalties and aparachies instead of people with the requisite experience to handle such policies.
He averred that, unlike the NPP, the NDC government allowed the fisher folks and persons within the industry to handle the premix fuel, for which there was a mechanism in tracking the distribution.
He noted that the absence of mechanism in the current situation, granted the leave for party members to engaged in the distributing and took the opportunity to divert them.
Mr Opoku also expressed shocked that the acronym ABFA which is commonly known in the financial policy document as ” Annual Budget Funds Amount” has been captured by the current government under Ken Ofori Atta to be “Access Base Farmers Association”, describing it as the most reckless and incompetent government ever.
He however urged government to heed to the Minority calls to give much attention to the agriculture sector, adding that, the nation wheels of progress depend largely on the agriculture sector and that the budget allocation to the sector is inadequate.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/Felix Engsalige Nyaaba