NEWS COMMENTARY ON SECTIONS OF THE 2019 BUDGET STATEMENT
The 2019 budget is the third financial statement and economic policy of the NPP administration since the party took over power in 2017. The budgets were christened variedly. The first was dubbed ”sowing the seeds for growth and jobs” while the second one was themed ”putting Ghana back to work” or Adwuma budget. This year Government titled the budget; A stronger economy for jobs and prosperity. This year’s budget revealed a number of socio-economic issues as government promises to continue efforts aimed at making the lives of Ghanaians better. It is pleasing to the ear to hear the finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta announce that government has paid all the National Health Insurance Scheme arrears accumulated since 2014. This will bring a great relief to the NHIA as it has been wobbling because of lack of funds to pay service providers and to undertake other operations. The sustainability of the NHIS and its funding remain unresolved. Payment of arrears is just a tiny albatross lifted off the shoulders of the Scheme. It is important to remind Government of the need to find lasting solutions to the funding challenges bedeviling the Scheme. This is a social intervention programme that has attracted health service providers from across Africa who visited Ghana just to study our scheme for implementation in their countries. Getting the NHIS back on its feet is a must.
The Finance Minister also touched on the Flagship programmes of government. On planting for Food and Jobs, government asserts that the programme is yielding results. We must applaud government if indeed the programme is helping our farmers to produce more. The question on the minds of many is, how the programme is reducing the importation of food stuff, fish and livestock into the country since it was rolled out. Testimonies on the ground regarding the programme varied, as some farmers claimed they are yet to benefit from the programme while others are of the view that the inputs from the programme are inadequate. Some however lauded government for coming to their aid with the programme. The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto early this year announced that the programme has in its first year alone, created some 745 thousand jobs. He mentioned input supply and distribution of surplus food resulting from the programme as areas where the jobs were created. Controversial as the figures sound in the ears of opponents it is vital to encourage the Ministry to do more to cover a lot more farmers to increase yield.
It is equally worth commending government for setting up the Ghana Commodity Exchange to connect markets to the producers and offer other opportunities to the productive sector. Another thing that government should be hailed for is the fact that government has facilitated the settlement of all claims by DKM Customers. This is good for customers who were traumatised in 2016 when the Micro-finance company DKM failed to pay customers their deposits. This DKM saga assumed political dimension and featured greatly in the 2016 elections. It is essential that government and the bank of Ghana have finally gotten a closure to the scandal. It is also reassuring for the Finance Minister to tell the lawmakers and by extension the populace that government through the Bank of Ghana will ensure that thorough investigation is conducted into the collapse of the seven banks. Many have yearned for justice to be done in this matter and so we urge the Bank of Ghana to expedite the investigations for the nation to put the issue to rest and take steps to strengthen the banking sector. One bold step that some economists and experts have praised government for is the decision not to continue with the International Monetary Fund IMF, programme which was inherited from the previous administration. This decision as bold as it is, must be backed by actions that will not drawback the gains made whiles on the programme. Government must develop a pragmatic programme of action aimed at enhancing mobilisation of adequate domestic revenues, blocking revenue leakages, tackling corruption and reduce wastage of national resources. We urge all Ghanaisns to critically digest the budget statement and demand the fulfillment of the goodies promised in the 2019 budget.
BY: DOMINIC HLORDZI, A JOURNALIST.