COMMENT: 'All Hands On Deck'
- The Clarion Call To Deal With The Current State Of The Economy.
Everything points to the fact that the economy is facing enormous challenges. The Minister of Finance Mr. Seth Tekper argues that ‘Ghana is not broke’, but everything points to an economy that needs help. The clarion call for us must be ‘all hands on deck’ especially now that the president is opposed to the ‘winner takes all syndrome’.
Everything points to the fact that all is not well with the economy. The huge government deficit apart; the nation is grappling with a huge wage bill and capital expenditure that have been growing year after year.
Yet government has vowed to build a number of Senior High schools, teacher Training Colleges and Universities, quite apart from infrastructural developments. As expected the government would go out there to look for money from internal and external sources to fulfill its ambition.
The current objective of government to cut down on capital expenditure, plug loop holes for ghost names on pay rolls, as well as the effort to put in place a code of conduct for government officials, is in order. If handled well, the steps might instill discipline and fiscal prudence needed to improve on accountability in governance. However government has to do more.
Currently the Auditor General’s report for 2011 on government expenditure is ‘mindboggling’. Alleged Embezzlements and diversion of funds perpetrated in government ministries and departments have got to a staggering C2bn cedis.
Although the government has ordered the attorney general to drag the culprits to court, some legal brains say that, that is wrong. They have opposed this step and said all such persons cited must be dragged first before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament in the hope that they would be able to explain queries by the Auditor General or agree to refund some amounts embezzled by them as per the audit report.
It is in order for government to call for drastic action to recover the embezzled cash but the government must continue to find ways to cut down expenditure of the executive arm of government especially on government appointees. The 2bn embezzled in government outfits if recovered will go a long way to finance pressing state expenditure that include legitimate salaries, foreign travels, huge electricity, water other governmental bills. Government must push on with it reforms. You’ll have our support.
Another worrisome issue is the illegal payments of judgment debt from tax payers especially to the ‘financial engineer’ Alfred Woyome who is required to ‘vomit’ 51 million dollars and Waterville and others who owe us refund of huge sums of judgment debts. These doubtful judgment debts if recovered would also go a long way to solve some of our financial needs for the construction of roads, schools and health centers among others.
In addition to this it is said that various organizations including government outfits owe Electricity Company about 400 million cedis at a time the World Bank says the company needs C60 million to be afloat in business.
As government is fighting to pay good salaries to teachers the intake of students in our universities will increase this year with the resultant requirement for increase in facilities such as classrooms, dormitories and halls of residence for the new students.
Apart From the need to expand facilities in the schools and colleges there is the need to provide additional teaching staff. All these require increase in monetary allocation from government.
Another painful experience regarding employment generation is that for some time now a considerable number of young people who were trained as nurses and agricultural extension officers have not been assigned duties by government. Currently we are running at a loss in our export of gold due to drop in the price of the commodity on the international market leading to cut back on 3000 employees in the gold industry.
Expenditure by government have been overshot by 20 per cent leading the minister of finance asking parliament to approve extra budgetary allocation to government ministries and other agencies.
Come to think of this. The nation now owes close to $37bn up from $9bn by 2008 excluding the Chinese 3bn loan. The government has got approval to go in for 1bn Eurobond to finance capital expenditure and infrastructural development.
There is nothing wrong with that except that all this will come to naught if we are not able to plug loop holes for bad expenditure that lead to increase in expenditure over and above budgetary allocations. We need to also work to block avenues through which government funds are embezzled through doubtful contracts.
We are still grappling with low electricity supply to our homes and industries as government is struggling to complete Work on the Bui Dam to increase power supply to the national electricity grid. The flow of Gas from the West Africa Gas Pipe Line in Nigeria is expected in Ghana by November to increase power for our industries and domestic uses. At least that is what we are made to believe.
INCREASE ON TAXES
The introduction of new taxes including talk tax to raise more revenue is receiving mixed reception. The proposed increase in electricity tariffs have incensed the people who feel that with their current levels of income they cannot bear anymore increases in taxes.
However the Finance Minister Seth Tekper said that Ghana will narrow its budget deficit this year by reducing fuel subsidies and earning more taxes from oil companies as crude production in the West African nation increases.
“We will reduce the subsidies on fuel to free resources for the budget,” he told reporters in Accra, the capital, yesterday. “We are currently discussing the level by which we should cut them.” This move is meant to help the nation out.
However various sections of the people including market women and business communities are also crying daily over fall in sale of their goods and poor business activities generally.
CRITICISM AND ADVICE
As expected the main opposition party New Patriotic Party NPP has criticized the government over its handling of the economy so far. The Trades Union Congress TUC on its part is calling for action by government to find solution to the problem of the economy. Some leading trade unionists and opinion leaders who mean Ghana well are calling for government to hold dialogue with the people to discuss the economy.
CALL FOR DIALOGUE
This call by the trade unionists is a step in the right direction, because as the representatives of the people, it is well placed to know how the people feel. We entreat the government to listen to their call and criticisms of the opposition in good faith and endeavor to enter into talk with the people over the economy. For it is true that while the government was elected to run the affairs of state the performance of the economy is a matter of concern to all of the people including Chiefs Workers, Farmers, Doctors, Engineers, Journalists, Drivers, Market Women, Laborers Etc.
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