A former Deputy Minister of Communications, Felix Kwakye-Ofosu, has questioned the basis of government’s decision to use part of Ghana’s oil revenue to finance the free senior high school policy started last year.
President Nana Akufo-Addo last Friday said it is most appropriate to use a part of the country’s oil revenue to fund the policy, which was rolled out last September to offer free education to persons who qualify into public senior high schools.
“We are using some of the income from our oil revenue to fund the programme. I believe strongly that this is the most equitable and transparent use of the oil revenue, instead of it finding its way into the pockets of politicians and bureaucrats,” he said.
Contributing to discussions on the matter on newspaper segment on TV3’s New Day Monday, Mr. Kwakye-Ofosu described the President’s comment as a mere rhetoric arguing that the cost of free SHS is more than revenue accruing from oil.
He said this clearly demonstrates that the government not certain of the source of funding for the programme because per the available figures, his comments do not seem feasible.
Mr Kwakye-Ofosu who served under the John Mahama government said even if government decides to use all the revenue accruing from Ghana’s oil, it will not be enough to fund even the first year of free SHS considering.
“They are implementing a programme that has a huge financial outlay. Last year alone or if you like, this year alone if you look at the budget statement that the minister of finance presented they need something in the region of GHS 1.6 billion to finance just the first years who are currently under the programme and then those who will come in in September this year.
“Our entire oil proceeds from 2016 was GHS 711 million. Indeed, we had projected to get about 1.4 billion but because of fluctuations in the oil prices we got GHS 711 million”, he stated.
The former Minister indicated that the current projection on oil revenue does not look promising to reach a double of what accrued in previous years, hence will definitely not be sufficient to fund Free SHS.
“I’m not sure in 2017 we got anything significantly different from that figure, so even if all that money was poured into Free SHS, it will be insufficient to take care of the first year students alone. The projections don’t show we are going to double oil production anytime soon”
He wondered how the President could use oil proceeds to fund the programme without recourse to the law, saying “the disbursement of oil revenue is regulated by law; the Petroleum Revenue Management Act”.
The law requires that 70% of oil revenue goes into funding the country’s annual budget, hence cannot all be dedicated to one item as the president seeks to do.
“The rest goes into a Heritage fund and the other goes into a Stabilization fund, those funds are regulated by law”.
In his estimation, anybody who reposes confidence in the words of the President on the matter will eventually be disappointed because it is not possible to fund Free SHS from oil money.
“If you put confidence in what the president said you will be left disappointed because first of all the money will not be sufficient to take care of the programme” he noted.