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E-Levy: Include Social Media businesses

E-Levy: Include Social Media businesses

Considering the enormity of our development challenges, an E-Levy of 6.9 billion cedis annually is a necessary evil. The narrative should have been straightforward in the budget presented to parliament last year by Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta. The controversy that has surrounded the E-Levy, which has culminated in the government’s town hall meetings, is compelling the administration to come clean on the real intentions behind the push for the passage of the E-Levy. The Roads Minister was heard loud and clear on the floor of Parliament that his sector alone owes contractors about 12 billion cedis.

The Finance Minister in Ho at the Town Hall Meeting the other time stated that the E-Levy is needed to enable government to raise the much needed revenue from the bonds market. What’s worrying was the initial denial that government was not going to securitize or collaterise the E-Levy. What must be made clear to all and sundry is that if the government securitized the E levy, it may be able to raise money on the bonds market and invest in the economy. The Road Fund, GETFund and ESLA have already been collateralized and how much have been raised since then? Many Ghanaians will not forget how the Mahama administration was constantly and regularly scolded for collaterising the Road Fund for a loan.

The current Road Minister, Kwesi Amoako Atta, on assuming office, kept reminding Ghanaians that not much is being done in the road sector because the government was getting nothing from the fund. This is because it had been collateralized for a loan by the previous administration. The question is what has become of the money raised from the collateralized funds and have they really been used to address the purpose for which they were set up? Due to the lack of infrastructure because of the free SHS, the government introduced the double-track system in 2017 and it is expected to end this year.

The Infrastructure deficit at the tertiary level is still with us and at the basic level the least said the better. At the moment, the government is building STEM and Model Schools across the country. The question is how well has the government been able to address challenges in the education sector such that new models are being rolled out?A major concern of critics of the E-Levy is accountability. Critics are not clear of exactly what the billions of dollars of the Euro bonds, securitised funds and other loans contracted have been utilized. For example, the GETFund was collateralized to raise 1.5 billion dollars in three years, that’s 500 million dollars each year. But there are still challenges with education infrastructure.

According to the Health Ministry, it spent 32 million cedis on conferences during the height of the covid pandemic. It also spent an undisclosed amount to feed almost two million Ghanaians during the period. The number of people and the amount said to have been spent have raised doubts and mistrust, fueling the resistance to the E-Levy. The rejection of the Minority’s motion for a bi-partisan probe into Covid-19 expenditure by the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Joe Osei- Wusu, deepened the suspicion that the government has something to hide. The motion came on the heels of the revelation by the World Bank Country Director that it supported Ghana’s Covid-19 fight with 430 million dollars and not the 100 million dollars the government had reported.

The road toll which we have been told generated only 78 million cedis annually was unilaterally abolished by the Road Minister in spite of the existence of the Road Toll Act. At least 78 million cedis could have done a lot especially now that the country’s fiscal position is not encouraging.

Government must tone down the excuse that our current economic predicament was mainly as a result of the outbreak of Covid-19. The World Bank Country Director has stated that our sad situation began in 2019. In any case, the government as a result of Covid-19 also had access to billions and millions of dollars and cedis from the IMF, World Bank, EU, donations into the Covid- 19 fund and access to 250 million dollars from the United States.

The new E-Levy when it is finally presented in parliament must focus on individuals, celebrities, companies and other small businesses making so much money on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook among other social media platforms. Also, certain government institutions including the allocation of 3 billion cedis to the office of government machinery must be reduced drastically and the number of staff there cut down to show leadership by example.

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