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Business News Thu, 3 Oct 2019

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Free SHS Financing: Over-reliance on oil cash bad – PIAC boss

The instability in crude oil prices makes it dangerous for government to rely on oil revenue alone to finance the free senior high school (SHS) programme, Dr Steve Manteaw, Chairman of the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC), has said.

Although Dr Manteaw supports the use of oil cash in educating Ghanaian children, he asked the government to look for other sources of financing for the project in order not to be hit by surprises when prices of crude oil drop on the market.

President Nana Addo Addo Dankwa Akufo-, when launching the free SHS programme at the West African Senior High School (WASS) in 2017 said the oil revenue was going to be used in financing the programme.

He noted that: “We are investing revenues from oil in one of the most ambitious social programmes in our country’s history – i.e. the Free Senior High School policy. In the 2018 budget, GH¢455.9million of petroleum revenues was allocated to the Free SHS programme”.

According to him, the Free SHS is ensuring that the country’s oil revenues are being equitably distributed to the people, and not ending up in the pockets of a few.

To that end, in 2018, a total of GH¢414 million, which represented 98.75 per cent of the annual budget funding amount (ABFA) disbursed to the education priority areas, was used to finance the free SHS programme.

But speaking at the closing ceremony of a three-day training programme for journalists on the natural resources sector policy and regulatory framework in Accra, Dr Manteaw said: “I am not saying we should not use oil revenue to finance the free SHS but we do not have to rely too heavily on it because the price of crude oil is very volatile to put your hopes on it.”

Supporting his point that relying on one source of funding for the project is bad, Dr Manteaw cited Uganda as one African country that relied solely on donor pledges to fund free secondary school education.

He said : “When that happens, the rich in society began to take their children out of public secondary schools to the private international schools. So now, secondary schools in Uganda have become the ‘cyto’ that we have in our primary schools.

“So if we are not careful, that is what we are going to do to our secondary schools. So now what is going to happen is that those who made these bad policies for our education will take their children to expensive private schools and leave the poor with a broken down schools,” he argued.

Meanwhile a recent list of projects to be financed by the ABFA released by the Ministry of Finance has shown that the government has completely removed the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme from the list of projects and policies financed directly from the oil cash-funded Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA), according to report by the B&FT.

While in 2018 ABFA allocation to Physical Infrastructure and Service Delivery in Education overshadowed allocations to other priority areas, such as agriculture and service delivery in health, there is a complete cut of ABFA funding for education in 2019.

For instance, out of the GH¢1.546.38 billion approved to be spent as ABFA in the year 2018, education alone received over GH¢417 million.

But in a list released by the Ministry of Finance on project that will be funded by ABFA this year, the Ministry of Special Project Development received the highest funding of GH¢652m.

Other sectors which caught government’s attention include the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development.

Source: Laud Business

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