Hullabaloo in Parliament & matters arising over 2022 Budget

Parliament of Ghana
Parliament of Ghana.

By Charles Neequaye, Former Editor, Ghanaian Times.

Gradually, Ghana is on the verge of entrenching proper democracy and good governance and that is healthy for development and progress. The laws of this country, particularly those related to parliamentary procedures seem to be biting and working effectively due to the hung nature (137-137) in which our parliament is constituted at the moment between the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).

According to the country’s largest circulating and leading newspaper, the Daily Graphic of Saturday, November 27, 2021, for the first time under the fourth republic, the government Budget statement and Economic Policy for 2022, which was presented to Parliament by the Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, on November 17, 2021 for debate and approval by members was shelved on Friday, November 26, 2021 by the House. This means that the Finance Minister may have to revise his Budget and present it before the House,

Debate on the budget was characterized by funfare and drama, as the Majority group for the first time, staged a walkout after the Speaker, Alban Bagbin had ordered ”lobbyists” to exit the Chamber of Parliament.

The Speaker’s directive, came after the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak had prayed the Speaker to order out of the chamber, Ministers of State who are not MPs prior to the vote by division.

Although the MPs left the Chamber, the Majority protested against the presence of the General Secretary of the Opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Johnson Asiedu Nketiah who was then seated comfortably in the public gallery in the Chamber.

The agitation by the Majority members as reported in the Daily Graphic, stemmed from the fact that the Speaker had earlier threatened to direct the Marshalls of Parliament to drive out Ministers of State who were in the Chamber and are not Parliamentarians.

In the Speaker’s view, the Ministers in question were not required to take part in the vote by division, and therefore, needed to leave the Chamber. Parliament had earlier, through a voice vote, rejected a request by the Finance Minister to meet the leadership of the House before the approval of the 2022 Budget. That scenario of events which unfolded in the Chamber as presented by the paper, was so dramatic, interesting and eventful to say the least.

Never has this country witnessed such a gymnastic display in parliament under the fourth republican era. These walkouts in previous parliaments, were often engineered by the Minority caucus but this time round it was the Majority side that took the initiative to walk out. This presupposes that Ghana’s Parliament has now come of age and is no longer the rubber stamp that it used to be in the past and we need to commend ourselves for such a development. Perhaps this healthy situation is as a result of the Speaker coming from the opposing side of the House and also the hung nature of Parliament in which either side can sail through when it comes to voting on a decision in the House.

It is interesting to point out that Speaker Bagbin has stood on his grounds and remained firm and resolute when it comes to his ruling on most of the thorny issues in Parliament that needs to be amended. He has remained resolute in the handling of issues among members in parliament irrespective of party affiliation.

Indeed, he is a force to reckon with and speaks his mind no matter how bitter or palatable his decisions have been to members. There have been few occasions in which his own party members have found him so difficult to manage and had revolted against him. It is a fact that the current budget as it stands now is fraught with some strange taxes, levies and negative administrative policies which if care is not taken, will impose severe hardships on the economy and affect Ghanaians in general who are already suffering as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. For instance, the introduction of a 1.75 % levy on electronic transactions including mobile money payment, is an issue which needs a careful reconsideration by the government. Tax and economic experts in the country have analyzed the situation and considered this particular tax as double taxation for businesses and individuals wishing to pay their taxes through mobile money transactions. According to them, with this new tax, there is a high possibility that businesses would have to be ready to pay additional tax on their tax should they consider mobile money as a payment option.

The budget per se is not totally bad, it has the tendency to solve some of our economic problems and bring sanity into the system. However, those taxes that tend to inflict further hardship on the people and other negative administrative policies as contained in the budget need to be re-examined and dealt with so that the country can move forward in an accelerated manner.

Let us not allow politics of equalization which has no bearing on the economy but only aims at worsening the plight of the ordinary and suffering Ghanaians and impoverishing them to derail our economic progress and advancement.

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