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How Ofori-Atta ‘evaded’ 3 ‘strong’ anti-E-levy questions at Townhall meeting

Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta

Fri, 28 Jan 2022 Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Government holds townhall meeting on E-levy

Speakers tout benefits of E-levy to country's development

Participants demand accountability post passage of bill


The government on Thursday January 27, 2022 organized a townhall meeting on the controversial electronic transaction levy (E-levy).

Prominent amongst key personalities who graced the occasion included Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, Minister for Communication and Digitalization, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister for Information, Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah and Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin.

The townhall meeting according to government was to afford it the opportunity to explain the essence of the E-levy as well as take feedback and inputs from relevant stakeholders on the levy which has since its announcement in the 2022 budget statement sharply divided public opinion.

Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful was the first to be invited to deliver her presentation. She underscored the need for the bill to be passed whiles additionally dismissing fears that the levy will cause a decline in the usage of the electronic platforms.

She added that the country needed to also begin financing her own development and desist from excessive borrowing.

Next was Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin who in a presentation delivered in Fante buttressed the points raised by Ursula.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta took his turn next to make a presentation in which he reiterated his position for the E-levy to be passed s a means of roping in more tax payers while also breaking free from the shackles of borrowing.

When these presentations were done, the public was invited to ask questions. Most people who agreed to pay the E-levy, however, raised concerns about accountability and how the communication of the policy has gone.

When it seemed most attendees were in favor of the bill, a student who gave his name as Benjamin Darko stepped up and asked three questions whose responses have been transcribed below;

The first question is how do we categorize the E-levy…is it another income tax, capital tax, sales tax, a payment tax or all of the above? However one avoids this tax when they opt for cash payment.

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The second one was, corruption is a major problem that only receives lip service in Ghana. The Auditor-General indicates that about 12 billion Ghana cedis remains unaccounted for over the last few years whiles E-levy rakes in 6.9 billion ... so why are we not going after the monies that have been lost due to corrupt acts?

The third question: proceeds from E-levy are pegged towards roads and transportation development, youth employment, security and the growth of IT infrastructure etc…the question is what happened to previously earmarked levies such as Communication Service tax, sanitation levy, ESLA etc …how have they improved their earmarked sectors. What is the guarantee that E-levy will be used for its intended purpose?

Benjamin Darko was stopped in his tracks when he was attempting to ask his fourth question by Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta in answering the question did not expressly address them individually or give clear-cut answers but rather narrated how government coffers were looking like after being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also alluded to the fact the economy was moving towards the digital space thus government ought to find innovative ways to derive revenue from the convenient platform.

Below is a full transcription of Ken Ofori-Atta’s response

"Benjamin, the issue for me is that we should really think holistically. Benjamin, you had a question about what type of tax it is…whether it is income, capital or whatever it is and then the last two years corruption and then the Auditor-General report [which I addressed moments ago] and then the proceeds from other earmarked funds and you said what type of guarantee response do we have. I think those are all fair questions but honestly, if you look at the enormity of the problems that we have, we have to move to another level and I think you need to concede that the economy is changing towards virtual economy…e-commerce economy and that tax handle should be brought into our arsenal of taxes that are required.

Guarantees that we have was what somebody suggested that we have this quarterly reporting mechanism and that will help and it's helpful for all sort of things. The way you spoke English, I imagine that you are also quite familiar with our macro-fiscal numbers so when you talk about other earmarked numbers and you know that we are running a budget deficit. You know the impact of the COVID was literally 25 billion…how does an economy support that kind of contraction? You also know that compared to other West African or African countries, Ghana was even at this point able to take a positive growth rate.

You know what we did during the COVID times that no other African country did. We have about 300,000 people that died on the continent and Ghana's was 1,379 so you need to give credit where credit is due and be able to advise yourself as to the integrity of the numbers and what that means to you when you are doing your analysis. Where there is praise, there should be.

View their Timepaths below:



Source: www.ghanaweb.com
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