General News of Sun, 26 Nov 201774

Afenyo-Markin pushes for ‘Free SHS Tax’ on Ghanaians

New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Effutu, Alex Afenyo Markin, has said that government could consider taxing Ghanaians in order to accrue funds to finance its flagship free Senior High School (SHS) policy.

According to him, sustaining the policy was so crucial that risking the ire of Ghanaians by imposing a special tax to fund it will not be out of order.

“We want to sustain the policy. The policy is at a cost to the state. If it means that at a point, some taxation should be imposed to sustain it, it wouldn’t be far-fetched. If I get any opportunity in government circles, I will suggest it,” the legislator said on Eyewitness News on Friday.

The implementation of the Free SHS policy has come under fire from members of the opposition who have pointed at the challenges faced by the government as a sign that the programme was ill-fated.

A former Deputy Education Minister and NDC MO for North Tongu, said the amount allocated for the policy in the 2018 budget, is woefully inadequate.

But Afenyo Markin believes that, with more investment needed in providing infrastructure for the schools across the country, funds accrued from a special tax for the Free SHS policy could complement the sector’s budgetary allocation.

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“The focus now should be expanding infrastructure and making facilities available. And even if it means government taking the bold step to tax Ghanaians for the purpose of financing or making sufficient resources available for the sustenance of the Free SHS, that bold decision should be taken,” he said.

‘Pleased with voluntary fund’

The government announced that it would set up a fund to receive voluntary contributions from individuals to support the implementation of the free SHS programme and the educational sector as a whole.

However, this plan has been criticized by the Minority who believe this is an indication that government does not have the funds to properly implement its much-touted programme.

The Member of Parliament for the North Tongu Constituency, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, said the government cannot afford to rely on voluntary contributions to fund education, particularly free SHS, as projections for those funds may not materialize.

“No country runs public education on just voluntary funds. What if the Fund is not considered attractive and you don’t really get as much as you are expecting.

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We can’t leave the destiny of our children’s quality education to just a voluntary fund where we don’t really know the projections. You cannot just depend on voluntary funds, you can’t run education that way. You need a concrete plan and you need a well-defined funding source. It’s clear that government is struggling to fund it and struggling to identify a clear funding source,” he had said.

While acknowledging that the critics of the fund had a right to make their opinions heard, Afenyo-Markin noted that, other countries that had implemented free education successfully had received contributions from the general populace.

“I was pleased when the Finance Minister suggested that they had made available a fund where there could be voluntary funds. People have criticized it and it’s their right to do so.

In other democracies that Free SHS seems to have been implemented, in a way, the citizens have made their contributions”.

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