Source: Kenneth Awotwe Darko/myjoyonline.com
Between an imminent crash of the economy and a desperate cry for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout, Ghana is at crossroads.
The steps government takes in the next few weeks regarding its expenditure and general economic management will greatly impact the fortunes of the citizenry going forward.
Amid all this is a budget that has been criticized as far as the 2023 expenditure lines are concerned.
Finance Minister has already touted the need to burden share while the government rallies support from industry to back its debt restructuring plan with the IMF to get the country’s finance back on track.
Amid all this, there is still a country to run, and day-to-day administration of both the public and private sectors.
The government in the budget statement outlined the imposition of some new taxes, an adjustment to the controversial E-Levy, and the potential return of the toll collection on major roads.
With regards to the government’s contribution, the Finance Minister said political appointees and heads of public offices will take a 50% cut on fuel allocation in addition to a ban on V8/V6s vehicle use except for cross-country trips.
The government has subsequently triggered modalities such as Domestic Debt Exchange which has faced strong resistance in the investor community locally.
But some experts question the commitment towards prudence in the wake of some allocations which they find questionable.
In the wake of the downturn, many are asking why the construction of the National Cathedral remains the subject of big-ticket spending in the spending plans of the government.
Already, some $339 million has been spent on the project, an edifice that President Akufo-Addo says is his personal pledge to God.
However, for a supposedly cash-strapped country seeking $3 billion in IMF support, one expenditure item in the 2023 budget statement is raising eyebrows.
Despite the predicament, the government per the 2023 budget statement intends to set aside ¢80 million for the Cathedral construction.
Ghanaians are taking a hit, reeling under the bitter consequences of excruciating debt which has sunk the economy to the lowest-ever point since the inception of the fourth republic.
That is why the allocation in next year’s budget is rubbing off wrongly on experts who are describing it as a vanity project.
The current economic crisis has affected all spheres of the lives of the citizenry including education, cost of living and water and sanitation.
However, some of these saw conspicuously lower resource allocations compared to the religious edifice which has already stalled due to inadequate funding and most recently, a $4.6 million lawsuit.
One such sector is water and Sanitation, which was assigned some GHs74 million in the 2023 statement.
The Student Loan Trust Fund is to receive just GHS3 million while GHS 2.4 million goes into the Plastic Waste Recycling Fund.
Green Ghana Project was allocated just GHS 2.5 million.
Meanwhile, calls from experts to cut down on the size of the NPP-led administration to save money is yet to be heeded.
Also, it remains to be seen how the development looks in the eyes of the investor community.
The budget was passed earlier this week with the Minority already lamenting unfair attacks suffered after the approval.
Although this does not mean an approval of the entire budget and the taxes introduced, a section of the public has criticized the NDC Minority for siding with the government to pass what they have described as an ‘austere budget’.
However, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu says the public should have faith in their side’s resolve to protect the public interest.
The roads in Ghana are a disaster to the point of just about being impassable. The Accra Regional Hospital has toilets in the patient’s washrooms that are broken and don’t even flush, unless a person pours a bucket of water in the bowl. The hospital has no sheets on the patient beds and has no blankets for patient’s use. There should never be a time, when public funds are used to build a church. Projects, such as a cathedral, need to be paid for with private contributions, not public money. The first priorities for spending in Ghana need to be on healthcare and healthcare facilities, infrastructure (roads and sanitation) and education. Not one cedi should be spent on any religious edifice.