Useless annual budget vox pop by Ghanaian Media!

Western Togoland Vox.png File photo: A citizen sharing his thoughts on an issue

Fri, 12 Mar 2021 Source: Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako

I hate rituals, especially those that are performed by people who don’t even know why they do it or how such rituals benefit anybody. One such ritual is the annual budget Vox Pop served on morning breakfast shows across the country prior to and post-presentation of the Annual Budget to Parliament. The media creates the impression that ordinary citizens are being involved in the economic governance of Ghana by giving them a voice in terms of their expectations from the Budget and then whether or not those expectations were met after the budget has been presented. A useless exercise; absolutely useless and self-serving.

It is clear that, over the years, by the time the ordinary person is informed by the media about the budget and asked for their input, the budget would have been prepared already and no major policy change will happen on the morning of the budget presentation simply because a few citizens expressed their opinions through a morning show Vox Pop! And certainly, whatever their opinions of the budget are following its presentation, especially if they are asked only to talk about their happiness or otherwise with the budget that has just been presented, I think that exercise only serves as a minor feedback that doesn’t really change much – even debates of the budget in Parliament often do not significantly change policy direction of the ruling government. It is important for the media to know exactly when input of ordinary citizens into the budget is needed.

The Budget Process

The Ministry of Finance released a statement on 21 August 2020 requesting for input into the 2021-2024 budget, asking for inputs to be “submitted electronically to bdru@mofep.gov.gh latest by Tuesday, 25th August 2020”. Below is part of the said request:

“The Ministry of Finance (MoF) is in the process of preparing the 2021-2024 Budget Statement and Economic Policy. Taking cognisance of the fact that 2020 is an election year, a draft Budget Statement and Economic Policy will be prepared whilst a three months’ expenditure in advance of appropriation will be presented to Parliament by November 2020. The Ministry will however present the full Budget Statement and Estimate in the first quarter of 2021. In this regard, the MoF requests inputs and written memoranda from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Faith Bzased Organizations (FBOs), Social Partners and the General Public, for consideration into the 2021 National Budget. This call is part of the several initiatives of Government to demonstrate its responsiveness to the needs of the Ghanaian citizenry. It is also to deepen citizens’ participation and involvement in the budget process. This is to assist Government to implement inclusive policies.”

What was the Ghanaian media doing from August 21-25, 2020? Did they know inputs from ordinary citizens into the budget was important? Why didn’t they spend that whole week assembling inputs from a cross-section of ordinary Ghanaians and submit same to the Ministry of Finance on their behalf? What does a Vox Pop on the day of the budget presentation achieve, short of creating soundbites for the media itself?

This article is not intended to disrespect the media, but rather to focus their minds toward using their platforms to get citizens involved more meaningfully in the development process, rather than merely creating soundbites.

Columnist: Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako