Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta
The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, who presented the 2018 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the government to Parliament yesterday, announced that the budget is geared towards creating tens of thousands of jobs for the teeming unemployed graduates and school leavers, thereby creating wealth for the people.
The budget, which is christened “Edwuma” (literally meaning Job Budget), has the main theme, “Putting Ghana Back To Work,” but the opposition National Democratic Party (NDC) in parliament, apparently dazed by the pro-poor fiscal statement and its progressiveness, described the budget as “419,” which was intended to deceive Ghanaians.
The minister said GH¢600 million had been budgeted for the establishment of the Nation Builders’ Corps – which will create 100,000 jobs for all unemployed graduates who would be given specialized training for recruitment into special programmes such as ‘Teach Ghana,’ ‘Clean Ghana,’ ‘Heal Ghana,’ ‘Feed Ghana’ and ‘Revenue Ghana.’
Mr Ken Ofori-Atta noted that the 2017 budget was basically to stabilize the economy and create the necessary fiscal environment for economic growth.
According to him, the previous NDC government left a whopping debt of GH¢123.2 billion, which almost grounded the economy; but the NPP government had been able to pay GH¢2.3 billion, paving the way for massive injection of financial resources into the economy to create jobs and bring the needed relief to Ghanaians
“The Nation Builders’ Corps Initiative, meant to provide jobs for unemployed graduates, will be a major government initiative to address livelihood empowerment and graduate unemployment to solve economic and social problems,” he said, adding that it would help enhance service delivery in health, education, agriculture, sanitation and revenue mobilization and collection.
He added that the government had budgeted GH¢1.2 billion for the implementation of the Northern Development Authority, Middle Development Authority and the Coastal Development Authority, which would not only create additional jobs, but also help accelerate development across the country, especially in deprived areas.
Mr Ofori-Atta further disclosed that the 2018 budget had allocated GH¢2 million to each of the 216 districts for the implementation of the “one district, one factory” policy of the government.
He charged the local authorities, together with the private sector, to take advantage of the funds to feed into the policy.
He said under the “one district, one factory’ policy, 191 projects have so far been appraised and selected for implementation.
According to the minister, 104 companies would be operating in the agribusiness sector, 20 in the meat and poultry sector, 40 in the construction and building materials sub-sector and the 27 in the cosmetics and pharmaceuticals sector.
Mr Ofori-Atta stated that GH¢8 billion had been budgeted for infrastructural development through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) for the development of the railway system, including the Western, Eastern, Central Railway Line, Accra and Kumasi City Lines, while $2 billion had been allocated for the Integrated Bauxite Aluminum exploration, which would come with a number of job opportunities.
The finance minister also announced that as a way of putting more money into people’s pockets, the government had decided to review electricity tariffs downward between 11% and 24%
He said residential and non-residential users would get 13% reduction in electricity tariffs while big companies would get up to 24% reduction.
“Government in 2018 will work towards keeping the lights on at affordable rates to consumers, particularly industries and small businesses through reform and policy interventions over a two-year period,” he asserted, adding that the existing 4-tier tariffs classification of residential consumers would be collapsed into Lifeline and Non-Life in phases and that the government would forward its recommendations to the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) to consider and operationalize them.
He said the ‘Free Senior High School’ policy would be expanded in 2018 and that an amount of GH¢1.2 billion has been set aside for its successful implementation to bring more relief to parents.
Mr Ofori-Atta asserted that more teacher and nursing trainees would also benefit from the restoration of the allowances in 2018.
He said the NPP government did not overspend but lived within its 2017 budget with a surplus of GH¢379.3 billion, adding that international foreign reserves had been increased to cover four months for the first time in so many years.
“Mr Speaker, President Nana Akufo-Addo is a man of action. We promised to implement ‘Free SHS’ policy and we have delivered. We promised to restore nursing and teacher trainee allowances and we have delivered, we promised to end ‘dumsor’ and we have delivered. We promised to reduce fertilizer prices by 50% and we have delivered. We promised to establish Zongo and Inner City Development Ministry, we have delivered. We promised to increase allowances for peacekeeping from $31 to $35. We promised to increase DACF for people with disabilities from 2% to 3% and we have delivered,” the minister prided, to a thunderous ‘hear, hear’ from the majority (NPP) members, while the minority sat quietly.
The debate on the budget is scheduled for Tuesday, November 21, 2017.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr