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Business News Mon, 31 Oct 2005

IDEG organises roundtable on budget

Accra, Oct. 31, GNA -The Minority Leader in Parliament, Mr. Alban Bagbin on Monday questioned the apparent multiple blueprints for Ghana's development, stressing the need for a clear-cut agenda that had adequate parliamentary input.

Quoting from the Senior Minister that the vision of the Government was to make the country a middle income nation by 2009, Mr. Bagbin mentioned other development targets such as Vision 2010, and currently the Millennium Development Goals of 2015, for which efforts were also being geared, and asked: "What is the vision for Ghana?" "I don't know, the vision of the country is not clear," he said, but added, "But I have a role to play."

Mr. Bagbin was speaking at a roundtable on "the role of parliament in macro-economic policy formulation in Ghana", organised by the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), a civil society and advocacy organisation, in collaboration with the African Capacity Building Foundation and Parliamentary Centre, in Accra.

Mr. Bagbin said Parliament had been "kept in the dark" for far too long, and had been tagged rubber stamp because policies had often been rushed and eventually received endorsement, and not expected to disprove policies.

The Minority Leader argued that, as elected representatives of the people, parliament, should ensure the interests of the people, the constituencies and the country prevailed rather than that of Government, adding that the policy formulation in Ghana was usually not receptive of parliamentary input.

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The Majority Leader, Mr Felix Owusu -Agyapong, regretted the lack of resources for Parliament in the discharge of its duties, stating that it depended on generosity to function.

Mr. Owusu-Agyapong said there was only one room available for a Parliamentary Committee, which comprised 18 people to meet, and suggested that the Public Accounts Committee should be empowered to perform its function effectively.

The Majority Leader however, said people voted the majority in parliament to prosecute its development plans contained in a party's manifesto, and it was natural for a government with majority in parliament to have its policies endorsed by Parliament. Citing the Minerals Bill and Long Term Savings Bill, Mr Owusu-Agyapong said it had not always been the case that policies had had the immediate approval of Parliament.

He called programme organisers to furnish the Leadership of the House early in advance with programmes that would involve Members of Parliament, so that enough arrangements could be made for invited MP's to have full benefit of the programmes.

The World Bank Country Director, Mats Karlsson said the Bank had made a budgetary support allocation of 300 million dollars on reaching of the HIPC completion point and called for the use of the instruments of transparency to ensure that public resources were used for result- oriented projects.

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Mr. Karlsson called for the strengthening of monitoring and evaluation standards, underlining the fact that the budget was an essential part of the task of Parliament.

The Ghana Country Director of the International Monetary Fund, Alphecca Muttardy, said Parliament in Sub Saharan Africa was in a strong position to boost growth to reduce poverty to increase the standard of living.

Prof. George Djan-Baafour, Deputy Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, listed macro-economic indicators as inflation, exchange, interest employment and growth rates.

He said Parliament must ensure that budgets were productive, enforce the Bank of Law to control the flow of liquidity, and also put a check on Government excessive expenditure and borrowing. Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey, Executive Director of IDEG, said the roundtable, which was attended by Parliamentarians, Development Partners, Civil Society Organisations was to solicit inputs towards the 2006 budget expected to be presented in November 2005.

Source: GNA