Parliament yesterday accepted the modification of the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the government.
The acceptance by the House followed the laying of the revised budget statement that contained key concessions that address the key concerns expressed by the public, the Minority in Parliament and employers over the 2022 budget.
The document also spells out the government’s intention to abandon the Agyapa Royalties transaction, an allocation of GH¢10 million for feasibility and engineering studies for coastal communities, including Keta and its environs that were recently affected by tidal waves, as well as incorporating correctional statements relating to Aker Energy, among other things.
The document, which was laid by a Clerk of Parliament, was presented to the Office of the Speaker of Parliament by the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, last Monday.
Laying not surprising
Soon after it was laid, the First Deputy Speaker, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, who presided over proceedings, drew the House’s attention to the fact that the Minister of Finance, when moving the motion on the budget on November 17, 2021, had asked the House to approve it subject to modification.
“Whether you call them concession or what, he is proposing modification and that is what is being laid to the House.
So it is not anything that is surprising to us,” he said.
He directed the modified policy statement, as tabled in the House, to be annexed to the original budget policy statement to allow the various committees to consider them during discussions on budget estimates.
But the Minority expressed strong reservation over the manner in which the revised budget document was laid in the House, arguing that the laying did not follow the proper parliamentary procedure.
The Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said while the Speaker communicated to the Clerk to lay the document, per the House’s practice and procedures, the Finance Minister or a minister of state or any of his deputies should have rather laid the document.
Proper laying done
Acknowledging the presence of Deputy ministers of Finance in the Chamber, the Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Alexander Afenyo-Markin, said since the budget document was addressed to the Speaker, it was appropriate for the Speaker to have the Clerk lay it.
He said he was happy that the Minister of Finance had addressed all the concerns raised by the Minority on tidal waves and the Keta Sea defence project.
“The minister has even assured us that he is going to continue with consultations and engagements.
We are of the view that the whole essence of democracy is not to shut the door but to open it for continuous engagement,” he said.
E-levy is punitive
Commenting on the document later, Mr Iddrisu said his side still stood opposed to the introduction of the 1.75 per cent electronic transaction (E-levy) by the government at all levels of the economy.
He said the E-levy was punitive, as it would inflict “hardship on the core poor” of Ghanaians and would undermine Ghana’s quest to grow a digital economy.
“Mr Speaker, we are guided by the public good and we think that money recoverable from the Auditor-General’s report can as well compensate for the imposition of the E-levy.
“So Mr Speaker, we on this side are unable to support the government in its quest to impose an E-levy at 1.75 per cent on MoMo and associated transactions, including remittances and banks’ transactions,” he said.
While admitting that there had been mutual engagements on vexed issues in the budget, Mr Iddrisu said regrettably the parties could not have “an agreement and consensus, as captured by the minister’s own statement, on the vexed matter of the E-levy”.
The NDC MP for Bawku Central, Mr Mahama Ayariga, said the Finance Minister moved a motion for the House to vote, adopting or rejecting the 2022 Budget statement.
“So if the Finance Minister is to change the policy statement or budget, he must come by another motion; he cannot just lay a paper here and that paper will have the effect of changing what we have already voted on,” he said.
He admitted that while the House would accept the laid document, the proper procedure must be followed in order for the House not to set a bad precedence.