General News Thu, 16 Feb 2017

Heritage Fund to pay for free SHS is below the belt - Cletus Avoka

Former Majority leader Cletus Avoka has expressed disappointment in the NPP government's plan to fund a campaign promise to provide free education by using oil revenue legally reserved for future generations.

The former MP for Zebilla in the Upper East Region told Joy FM's Super Morning Show Thursday, the funding plan violates the Petroleum Revenue Management Act which established how Ghana is to use its revenue accrued from exhaustible oil resources.

Under the law, three funds were created to receive revenue from oil. There is the Ghana Infrastructure andInvestment Fund (GIIF) which was created in 2015 and Ghana Stabilisation Fund and Ghana Heritage Fund created in 2011.

The heritage fund gets eight percent of Ghana’s crude oil revenue and is estimated to have accrued US$262.57 million as at December, 2016.

The Heritage Fund prescribes that the Fund be untouched for at least 15 years as the current generation of Ghanaians saves wealth to bequeath to the next generation.

Hardly six years into the operation of the fund, a barely nine-week old NPP government has set its eyes on using it to fund a social intervention program known as free SHS.

Free SHS, a campaign promise of the NPP since 2012, is to absorb five items on the bill of second cycle students starting from September 2017. It will cost GHC2.6billion in its first year of operation, governement has said.

Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Maafo hinted the Heritage fund is going to be the likely source of funding for the project which has gained lots of political attention since 2012.

But Cletus Avoka says with the futuristic aim of the Heritage Fund in mind, 'there should be no consideration or talk" of using the fund for free SHS. He said Parliament made 'wide-ranging', 'painstaking' 'exhaustive', national discussion and international consultation before the law was passed.

For the NPP to turn around and consider the Heritage Fund is therefore ' in bad taste'. It is 'hitting Ghanaians below the belt', he said because all along the NPP government had created the impression to Ghanaians that it has creative ideas on how it would fund its campaign promises.

He recalled the NPP promised to plug loopholes in the financial system which is leading to corruption as means to funding the flagship educational policy. The former Majority leader said the NPP promised to fight off the payments of dubious judgement debts which was associated with the NDC.

The NPP boasted it had 'financial wizards' who know the 'ways and means' of finding money for its campaign pledges.

If the NPP had simply told Ghanaians it wants to use the Heritage Fund to fund free SHS, "Ghanaians would have known how to vote", he said.

Source: Myjoyonline.com
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