Accra, Feb. 17, GNA - Mr Edward Kareweh, a Trade Unionist, on Tuesday said the income tax relief granted workers in the 2004 Budget was grossly inadequate to motivate them and improve their purchasing power.
He said the provision of a little over 2,000 cedis as tax relief for a monthly salary of 540,000 for the large number of Ghanaians, and 6,500 cedis for Ghanaian workers, who earned about 1.8 million cedis, was "a non-starter" in improving the well being of Ghanaians.
Mr Kareweh, who is the Head of Industrial Relations of the General Agricultural Workers Union, made the observations at a public forum on the 2004 Budget Statement.
The Centre for Budget Advocacy of the Integrated Social Development Centre, a civil society group, in collaboration with Save the Children-UK, a non-governmental body, organized the forum in Accra to solicit views on the 2004 Budget.
Mr Kareweh said the tax relief was too small in ratio to workers' dependants and added that Ghanaians would rather welcome a policy that respected the right to form unions and the provision of decent health and safe environment at workplaces, citing the "inhuman treatment" some Ghanaians had undergone at the hands of foreign private firm owners where there were no unions.
He said workers would wish for a policy that compelled the employer to use the process of collective bargaining to negotiate for improved conditions of service.
Mr Kareweh said the 2004 Budget was good in as much as it reinforced the liberalization of the economy, and promoted private sector led growth.
He indicated that putting emphasis on state deregulation by and large favoured foreign investment and reduced the participation of local industries.
Mr Kareweh said the Corporate Income Tax relief to 'top notch companies" whose risks were very minimal as provided in the Budget would rather serve strong companies more compared to small-scale businesses which needed the support to grow and become competitive.
Mr Seidu Adamu, NDC MP for Bibiani Anhwiaso Bekwai, said the control over inflation was not well consolidated.
He said it was better for the Government to concentrate on starting and completing development projects "one at a time", rather than to scatter them.
Mr Adamu said the Treasury bill rate was recording negative real interest rate of five percent and pointed out that investors were redeeming their Treasury bills to purchase foreign currencies. This practice, he said, encouraged black marketing leading to the depreciation of the cedi.
Mr Charles Appiagyei, President of the Ghana Federation of the Disabled, noted with appreciation the mentioning of the Disability Bill in the Budget.
He, however, said people with disability would not benefit much from the Budget unless disability perspectives were factored into the implementation strategies.
Mr Kwaku Darko Aferi, Head of Public Affairs of the TUC, welcomed the zero increase in the prices of petroleum products. Mr K. B. Asante, a Retired Educationist and Social Commentator, who chaired the forum, said economic strategies, must address the fundamental problems rather than symptoms.
On the privatisation of strategic state institutions like the Ghana Commercial Bank, Mr Asante called for the removal and replacement of the boards or management of such institutions if they were found to be inefficient rather than wholesale privatisation in favour of foreigners.