The Minority caucus in Parliament has predicted that, the 2018 would be a difficult year for Ghanaians as all indicated pointed out to despite lip-serves assurances by government of better times ahead.
According to the National Democratic Congress(NDC) minority, claims by President Nana Akufo-Addo that the 2018 budget would motivate the private sector to create more employment opportunities, are mirages since evidence on the grounds run contrary to the projections by government.
At a roundtable discussing ahead of Wednesday’s budget presentation by the Minister for Finance, Mr Ken Ofori Atta in Accra yesterday, Minority spokesperson on finance, Hon Cassiel Ato Forson said the private sector is so distressed such that it could not deliver the jobs government is hoping for.
“We believe that the 2018 budget won’t create jobs. How can you create jobs when commercial banks are in a big distress? the local banks don’t have the liquidity to lend to the private sector to create jobs. The budget deficit in IMF’s article four is projected to be 3.8%, so ladies and gentlemen, next year, let us be assured that there is going to be severe austerity and hardships, in fact there will be “Ahonkyere” equivalent to 1983,” he said.
While calling for accountability in the manner in which over GHC177 million was spent on the issuance of the energy sector bond, which was poorly patronized, the Minority caucus accused the government of introducing hidden taxes after announcing a reduction or in some cases, a complete removal of some taxes in the 2017 budget.
Government in the 2017 budget announced the scrapping of some 11 taxes it termed as ‘nuisance’ explaining that the move would lessen the burden on consumers and businesses and boost the private sector which is the engine of growth.
The abolished taxes included the one percent Special Import Levy, 17.5 percent VAT/NHIL on financial services, 17.5 percent VAT/NHIL on selected imported medicines that were not produced locally, import duties on raw materials and machinery for production within the context of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) Protocol and 17.5 percent VAT/NHIL on domestic airline tickets.
The rest were the 5 percent VAT/NHIL on Real Estate sales, Excise duty on petroleum, Special Petroleum tax rate from 17.5 percent to 15 percent, duties on the importation of spare parts, levies imposed on ‘Kayayei’ and a taxation on the gains from the realisation of securities listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange or publicly held securities approved by the SEC.
But Mr Ato Forson said, Ghanaians are not seeing the impact of the tax reforms because government clandestinely introduced new taxes.
“It is clear that the NPP government policy that profess to shift the focus of the Ghanaian economy from taxation to production as was stated in the 2017 budget statement was reckless, regressive and backfiring.This is because they have resulted in various tax evasion and non-compliance in VAT revenues and shortfalls in revenue performance.”
“Despite the hike, the 2percent component which is still active and contrary to the NPP manifesto promise as well as the impression created in the 2017 budget, may I take this opportunity to remind the NPP that under the original sunset plan the 2percent component is expected to expire in December 2017.
“We are therefore calling on the government and the Minister for finance to effect the removal of the 2percent component of the special import levy in the impending 2018 budget,”the Minority Spokesperson on Finance stated.
He also accused Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia of lying in his claim that revenue collection at the ports shot up as a result of the introduction of the paperless port system and questioned the veracity of the vice president’s claims.
Quoting the Vice President to buttress the Minority concerns, Mr Ato Forson said: “We are told by the vice president of the republic on the September 12 that Customs revenue at the ports had increased by 56 percent after the implementation of the paperless system. Unfortunately, and surprisingly, the claim has proven to be untrue.”
He stated that as at September 30 customs revenue was projected to be over GHS1.92billon but the actual outturn was GHS1.179billion representing a deviation of GHS12.8million an equivalent of 1.1percent.
This he asked, “So how can this be an increase of 56 percent?” he asked, saying “unfortunately, another untruth.”
The Minority also raised concern about what they described as, “huge gap” that had emerged between projected tax revenue and on what had actually been the collected revealing that a shortfall of about GHS3billion in revenue was recorded in the third quarter of this year.
The revenue shortfall, Ato Forson who is also MP for Ajumako Enyan Essiam said, has severely compromised the government’s ability to meet critical expenditure and commitment without heavy borrowing, and the underperformance is to exaggeration, over-ambitious revenue which was not accompanied by “practical measures” to achieve them.
“We expect the government to learn from this practice of over projection of taxes and tax revenue because of their desire to fund campaign promises,” he noted.
He stressed that, “This poor performance which is self-inflicted should, however, not become a pretext for government to impose additional nuisance taxes that will further burden Ghanaians especially the poor.”
The Minority therefore demanded from the Finance Minister to provide updates on the current status of expenditure allocation to atimulus package to distress industries, Planting for food and jobs which appears not to have yielded any tangible dividends except a weak response to the devastating army worm attack which we fear could affect food security.
The Minority also expressed hope of the budget to have support to small businesses in rural and deprived areas, Entrepreneurship development, the Zongo development fund and the One district, one factory.
The Minority leader Haruna Iddrisu who also spoke at the programme called on the media to hold the government to account as it was done to the erstwhile government led by John Mahama.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/ Felix Engsalige Nyaaba