The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, has rallied parliamentarians to constructively engage and throw their weight behind the measures outlined in the 2024 Budget.
He said as they had done in the past, the House was once again being called upon to support and pass, on time, the proposed measures in the 2024 Budget, which he described as the “most crucial executive policy tool”.
“There are seasons to fight, tear down, break down, and idle about. And there are seasons to rebuild, push forward, hold-up energies and lend support”.
“This is the season to gather around, constructively engage and make manifest the destiny of our great nation,” Mr Ofori-Atta said, using various figures of speech to court the support of the lawmakers to approve the crucial 2024 Budget.
He was addressing the opening of the post-budget workshop in Parliament last Saturday which was chaired by the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin.
The two-day event is to provide an opportunity for MPs to understand the policy underpinnings of the budget and their implications as well as scrutinise the government’s financial estimates and economic policy for the 2024 fiscal year during the debate.
The finance minister said the 2024 budget was the most crucial executive policy tool, because it provided a pathway for economic recovery and the nation’s future.
“It reflects our collective aspirations, our challenges, and the pathways we choose to navigate through them” and, therefore, reminded Parliamentarians of the immense responsibility that rested upon their shoulders.
Mr Ofori-Atta further explained that the 2024 budget was prepared, recognising the 2024 elections, the implementation of IMF-Supported Post-COVID-19 Programme for Economic Growth (PC-PEG), the Debt Restructuring Programme, the security considerations, the government’s growth strategy, and leveraging climate financing to support the growth strategy.
“In that regard, Mr Speaker, our discussions today are pivotal, as they are not merely about the allocation of resources, but more so about the values that underpin our decisions to provide opportunities, create jobs, and improve the well-being of our people,” Mr Ofori-Atta said.
He, therefore, urged lawmakers to consider the budget with a sense of purpose and a vision for the greater good of the nation, particularly for schoolchildren, teachers, mothers, farmers and fisherfolks.
“Mr Speaker, this budget is crucial for our people. Last two years, we had some challenges and the experience was not so good. Last year, we came through and achieved a crucial victory for the Republic when we moved forward with the budget,” he said.
Mr Ofori-Atta said the tasks ahead were demanding, but together, with diligence and determination, the lofty goals contained in the budget could be achieved.
“Mr Speaker, for us to move forward on this path towards stability and growth, we need the House and your partnership to get measures outlined across this budget through and in quick order”.
He added: “As we delve into the intricacies of this budget, I only ask that we be guided by a commitment to fairness, to sustainability, and to the unwavering pursuit of prosperity for each and every citizen.”
Forging ahead together
Mr Ofori-Atta maintained that the road ahead was fraught with uncertainties – global economic shifts, emerging societal needs, and the ever-present challenge of balancing growth with stability as well as equity to promote positive social mobility for all.
He, however, expressed the confidence that with collective wisdom, insight and the unwavering support for the 2024 budget from the legislators, “we can chart a course that is both pragmatic and visionary”.
“In the spirit of collaborative governance, I ask that we engage in this workshop with an open mind, a critical eye, and a heart attuned to the needs of those we are here to serve.
“Together, we must forge ahead on a growth path that is robust, responsive and reflective of the great nation we are all privileged to represent now,” Mr Ofori Atta said.
On the provision of roads, including the clearance of road arrears in the budget, the minister said the government wanted to demonstrate its resolve to build a robust infrastructure network.
“On statutory funds, we have budgeted for arrears clearance and should support this and ensure that we catch up on our District Assemblies Common Fund, Social Security and National Insurance Trust, National Insurance Scheme, Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) and Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme (IPEP) arrears,” he added.
The Speaker said Parliament, as the custodian of the national purse, legislated and passed an act to allow the government to tax the people.
Hence, Mr Bagbin said it was on the authority of Parliament that the government taxed people.
“Therefore, whatever is received by government becomes our possession for and on behalf of the people. The government cannot spend or touch the taxes of the people without the approval of Parliament again,” he said.
The Speaker added that “you are to be held accountable for how that money is expended”.
Mr Bagbin also urged MPs to lead the transformational change Ghanaians were looking for to improve the economy and their welfare.
He said as duty bearers, they must be mindful of the new dispensation where the trust gap between leaders and the people were closed.
“We cannot have that transformational change, if we keep doing the same thing. It is our duty to strive to improve the welfare of our people and even though we see this as the usual business of Parliament, this time around it is more critical than before,” he said.
Mr Bagbin cited the conduct of Afrobarometer survey by CDD-Ghana in July last year which gave an unpleasant image about Parliament.
“There is a clear indication that there was a trust deficit in our democratic institutions and I think, as politicians, we should take these findings seriously and do a few things to try and close the trust gap between our people and us as leaders of the country.
“We should not be heard to be saying something and to be doing something else,” the Speaker said.
The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said the budget was the most important developmental policy tool of the government as it elaborated on the priorities of the nation in the eyes of the government.
“As the people’s representatives, it behoves us to ensure that the budget optimally matches the nation’s needs with the available resources. The budget affects all of us,” he said.
The Minority Leader, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, said the budget being the first since the government signed onto the IMF programme, coupled with upcoming 2024 general election, there was the need for Parliament to scrutinise it with an eagle’s eye.
That, he said, would ensure that the government spent within the allowable fiscal space.