MR FIRST DEPUTY SPEAKER
VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, we shall commence with the Correction of the Votes and Proceedings of Tuesday, 7th March, 2017.
[No correction was made to the Votes and Proceedings of Tuesday, 7th March, 2017.]
[No correction was made to the Official Report of Thursday, 27 th February, 2017.]
Hon Members, item numbered 3 on the Order Paper.
Mr Speaker, it is a great honour and privilege for me to be given the opportunity to address this august House of Parliament on the occasion of the celebration of International Women's Day (IWD). March 8th is a very auspicious day, preserved and reserved to honour the lives and aspirations of more than half of human kind -- women. First celebrated formally in 1914, IWD has been observed as a day to celebrate the social, political and cultural achievements of women. It has also been observed as a call to action towards the achievement of gender parity and the total elimination of all obstacles impeding the attainment of gender equality and female empowerment. Mr Speaker, the global slogan for 2017 Campaign is “Be Bold for Change”. The United Nations (UN) global theme for this year's celebration focuses on “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50:50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality”. We in Ghana, however, have varied this theme slightly to take cognisance of our peculiar challenges and also address our special national aspirations. Consequently, the theme for the 2017 IWD in Ghana is “Economic Empowerment of Rural Women: A Tool for Sustainable Development in a Changing WorId of Work”. On the occasion of IWD, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) wishes to congratulate all Ghanaians, especially Ghanaian women, for the giant strides that we have made over the last few years to improve the socio-economic and cultural standing of women in Ghana. We commend all women, mothers, wives, sisters and daughters for achieving unimaginable successes despite the odds at workplaces, in homes, in schools, at religious places, among others. Mr Speaker, in Ghana, women have made a lot of progress in some areas. Mrs Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo was the first female Speaker who served her term creditably. Today, we have a female Chief Justice who is proceeding on retirement after administering the third (3rd) estate of the realm, with great skill and admirable professionalism over a number of years. We have a female Chairman of the Electoral Commission who superin- tended over the recent successful and peaceful election in our country. We have the unprecedented first female Chief of Staff, Hon Mrs Akosua Frema Osei-Opare, who has settled into office and is coordinating the complex administrative machinery of our Government smoothly and brilliantly; first female Hon Deputy Majority Leader, Hon Adwoa Safo; and first female Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama. We have several notable women in Government, business, commerce, industry and academia managing sophisticated enterprises flawlessly and profitably. Under the able leadership of H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, our Government has begun the appointment of women from the ranks of the numerous qualified and professional Ghanaian women to public offices towards the fulfilment of the minimum of 30 per cent of all political appointments being women. Mr Speaker, there is no doubt what- soever that 2017 marks the dawn of the rising Ghanaian woman. However, we still have a long journey to travel and several obstacles to traverse. In spite of the huge strides in the upliftment of women in Ghana, it is an undisputable fact that Ghanaian women, like the majority of women in the developing world, suffer from discrimination, destitution, under- representation and marginalisation. Indeed, women still constitute a large proportion of the under-privileged, the destitute and the marginalised in Ghana. In spite of our giant strides, women still constitute less than 20 per cent of Parliament, even though as voters, women constitute almost 52 per cent of the electorate. Women are under- represented on Boards and Commissions and are even fewer in the upper echelons of academia, the security services and industry. Conversely, women are over- represented in all the indices of poverty, disease and illiteracy. The fact that a preponderance of kayayei are women is the most graphic indicator of the plight of women in Ghana. Our achievements notwithstanding, we still have institutions like the National House of Chiefs which has no space for women chiefs or queenmothers. Women are still traded like cattle under the guise of child marriage in several Ghanaian communities. Teenage girls
barely into puberty are sold off to grown up men, old enough to be their fathers or grandfathers as wives. Such unfortunate girls never reach adulthood before they are cruelly thrust into marriage and childbirth. Since their frail bodies are not fully developed, they suffer horrendous injuries during childbirth, resulting in the condition called obstetric fistula or even death. The Bill on concubinage is to ensure that widows, common law wives and their children are protected from hunger, disease and homelessness. It is our collective shame that in this modern era, women who are passing through natural hormonal changes because of menopause are hounded from their matrimonial homes and villages and are forced to seek refuge in so called “witches' camps”. In spite of our much vaunted claim to being a society that is governed by rule of law, we have been powerless to protect these women from the gratuitous violations of their inalienable rights as first class citizens of the Republic of Ghana. Mr Speaker, the IWD 2017 must be our wake-up call to intensify the fight for the empowerment of women. In the words of the foremost living Ghanaian, Mr Kofi Annan, “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”. That is why this government is prioritising programmes to empower and uplift women and families through alleviating the burden of taxation on vulnerable and marginalised women like the kayayei. Additionally, we believe in reducing the burden of financing education on families, so we are also extending the school feeding programme by adding 1.3 million children. We are also extending the Ghana Household Registry to all regions, and intensifying the LEAP Programme to cover many more vulnerable Ghanaians, a large proportion of whom are women in the twilight of life. Our Free SHS Programme will invariably empower women because research has shown that whenever a family's domestic budget is stretched, the first victim whose education is sacrificed is the girl-child. It is important that we reflect on this profound statement by Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani Nobel Prize Winner, who said that, “We cannot succeed when half of us (women) are held back”. In addition, I will ensure that the draft Affirmative Action Bill is finalised and brought before this House. The draft Affirmative Action Bill seeks to promote gender equality in all spheres of our national development. When there is gender inequality in a nation, it is like our men are running with one leg while the other leg is tied up behind them (the women are the other leg, and the time has come to untie that leg). However, to promote development, we need both legs representing male and female, to run the course of life and to win. The role of women in national development is not in competition with men, but complementary to men. This is what the proposed draft Affirmative Action Bill seeks to promote. In honour of this year's celebration of IWD, we would encourage our Parliament to pass the Affirmative Action Bill into Law now, and not in 10 years time. No woman can wait. Mr Speaker recently, we saw and heard about unspeakable and undignified acts of brutality and cruelty against two women -- the Kumasi female victim who was molested for alleged stealing, and the Marwako pepper incident. These harrowing and inhuman incidents affect Ghanaian women negatively. It is very disturbing that the Marwako incident is coming at a time when the theme for the celebration is about the “changing world of work for women”. These humiliating and dangerous violent acts against women must be prevented. The MoGCSP will collaborate with stakeholders to prevent it through dialogue and aggressive advocacy. This is the reality of the existence for many of our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. Being Hon Members, we trust you will join us to condemn these heinous acts against daughters of Ghana, and support us to ensure that the perpetrators are properly sanctioned as prescribed by the laws of Ghana. We need to restore, protect and promote the dignity of women, for “the empowerment of women constitutes the empowerment of our community” (Kimberly Crensaw) Mr Speaker, as Ghana celebrates its 60th Independence Anniversary, we wish to remind this august House that the Anniversary coincides with the IWD. We need to take stock of women's achievements by respecting their rights. This should be a collective national and individual responsibility. An agenda for action and a social contract between sons and daughters of Ghana our motherland to end all abuses and discrimination against women and also ensure an inclusive society. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection would like to inform all Ghanaian women to imbibe and own the global campaign theme: “Be Bold for Change”. We urge all our daughters to be firm, courageous, brave and tenacious to challenge the biases and obstacles that confront, in particular, the rural woman in the changing world of work. And we call all our sons to be ambassadors of the “He for She” campaign. Mr Speaker, we ask that we will be led by your Hon Self and the men of this Parliament. Finally, Mr Speaker, I would wish to thank this gracious audience for according me your attention. We are acutely aware that we need the support and cooperation of the Hon Member of Parliament to achieve all the initiatives we are planning, in order to accelerate the empowerment and upliftment of women towards our goal of gender equality by 2030. In the words of the renowned Burmese female freedom fighter, politician and women's advocate, Aung San Suu Kyi, “The education and empowerment of women throughout the world cannot fail to result in a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful life for all.” Our own Kwegyir Aggrey also said, “When you educate a man you educate an individual but when you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” So, women must be bold for change, and leave nobody out. Long live women! Long live Ghana.
Before I recognise anybody for contribution, Hon Minister, you would take note that when you gave an Akan adage, Hon Members were murmuring -- Please, take your seat. It is the rule here, that when you communicate in a language other than English, you will translate that into English. So, I would want you to take that down. After the contributions, I will invite you to conclude and then you will give the translation to the benefit of Hon Members who do not understand the Akan Language.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute to the Statement ably made by the Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection. Mr Speaker, the Statement was made in commemoration of the International Women's Day, which has as its theme “Be Bold for Change”. In Ghana, we have got our own theme out of it, which is, “Economic Empowerment of the Rural Woman: A Tool for Development.” Mr Speaker, the International Women's Day was first celebrated in 1914. Eighty- one years down the line, that is 1995, the Beijing Conference gave more prominence to women. We have since been fighting; 22 years down the line, we are still on the struggle. Mr Speaker, you would agree with me that women are a force to reckon with. Based on that, our first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah made sure that ten (10) women were appointed into Parliament. This gave encouragement to a lot of women, who have since shown up, put up their best and tried as much as they could to be in decision-making, and to be in leadership. Mr Speaker, it is a fact that it is not an easy line to follow, but then we would want to state that we will not relent on our efforts in fighting for leadership and being in decision-making. Mr Speaker, before I continue, I would wish to congratulate all the women of the world, especially Africa and Ghana, for being women in the first place, for keeping it up as women, for living as women, working as women and making sure that the world continues to grow with the help and support for women. Without women, I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that no matter what, when and how we would want to put up issues, our economic dispensation will be a very difficult one. Society will not grow. This is because, at least, no matter how our men put it or struggle with us, we are those who carry the children for nine months and eventually give birth to them whether they are boys or girls. So, at least, we have that strength, that natural energy, that natural power, that chance and that opportunity given to us to give birth to children, both boys and girls, and help in bringing them up. Although at the end of the day, Mr Speaker, it is realised that we, women, are rather seen to be on the lower side when it comes to decision-making. Mr Speaker, in congratulating women, I would wish to congratulate the first 10 women who were appointed to Parliament, the former Rt Hon Speaker of Parliament, Mrs Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo, and our female Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. Mr Speaker, let me put on record and help straighten it up that the first female Minister for Local Government and Rural Development was Mrs Cecilia Johnson. Mr Speaker, today, we have a Chief of Staff who is a female. We cannot in any way underestimate that. We have done well, and we continue to do well. Mr Speaker, the first chairperson as member of the Council of State was also Mrs Cecilia Johnson. We congratulate her. We have our own Sister in this House, Hon Sarah Adwoa Safo, who is the Hon Deputy Majority Leader; congratulations. I would wish to congratulate all the Hon Ministers who are women, and also to say that more grease to their elbows. Mr Speaker, competence is one of the things that has been used against women. I have oftentimes asked myself the question; how many women have not contested in the primaries in all political parties in this country, and have not lost in the primaries and in the general elections? What has happened? Why are we told that we do not have the women, when we have them out there? We have them trying and struggling. We have them there putting all the efforts, and yet we say that we do not have the women. Mr Speaker, I wish to state that we should be given that encouragement, opportunity, that chance, and be allowed to show how best we can lead and contribute to decision making. Mr Speaker, we are in no way trying to take up the issue of what men can do, but we are saying, and I would continue to say, that what men can do, women can do and do it even better. Mr Speaker, if we go into politics and we want to talk about it, I would want to state that politics is not an issue that any woman should be allowed to be pushed down, not to be allowed to show what she can do in the political arena — this is because, politics starts even in the bedroom. Mr Speaker, I would want to say that, as a woman, one has all the opportunities to come out to fight for women. In this country, we have more than 51 per cent of our population being women and yet, in this House, today, we have only 37 women out of 275 Hon Members of Parliament. The question is; what is the problem? We should not run away from the fact that some of us have a pull down attitude of our colleague women. Why do we pull our colleague women down? We should know and believe that it is better that one's colleague woman is in Leadership or decision-making, and that, one would find it very easy to approach her. Mr Speaker, it brings me to the fact that we need to support the girl-child and the woman at the grassroots, give them education, let them understand — Let us empower them economically. Let them know that the girl is not meant for the kitchen, neither is she a child-producing machine nor somebody who should be left at the house. Mr Speaker, we should be given the opportunity. Somewhere in the Budget Statement, I read, where the Hon Minister for Finance stated -- In the State of the Nation Address (SONA), I have read the portion where the President has promised to help in the area of affirmative action.
Thank you, Hon Ranking Member. Let me advise, that there would not be many more opportunities. There are two contributions from either side of the House. So, I will recognise the women.
I see many men competing with the women even on their day — [Laughter.] Hon Members, today is the Women's Day and so, I would want to recognise the women.
Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute, and also add my voice to the Statement ably made by the Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection on today's important occasion. Mr Speaker, today is important because, worldwide, the day has been set aside to recognise the immense role played by women everywhere in the world. Mr Speaker, the international theme for the International Women's Day for this year is; “Be Bold for Change”. We all recognise that women have done a lot and have contributed to change in many ways. If we look at the contribution of women politically, socially and culturally, there are no questions to be asked. We have played our part. Apart from playing our part in those areas that I have just listed, women bring a lot of charm and love to homes, nurture children to become who they are today. Mr Speaker, you and I would not have been here today if it had not been for the effort of that woman. Some were very poor, but toiled day and night to make living easy for us, saw to it that we went to school, fed us and the entire family, and nurtured the entire family to the extent that we are all who we are today. Mr Speaker, most husbands and relatives would attest to the fact that without women, they would not be where they are today. Women have done a lot. What is needed now, is to move on and be bold. Mr Speaker, it is a truism that some women are not bold. The truth is that we have not taken the mantle that has been given to us sometimes by society. This leads many people to say that even when women are given the chance, they do not use it properly. Some attribute it to the fact that women are their own enemies. Today, I would boldly say that women are never their own enemies; we support each other wherever we find ourselves. It is socialisation that gives that impression. Whatever women do against other women are sometimes engineered by the very society in which we live. It is some men who may engineer a woman to stand against a woman when it comes to politicking. It is another man who would lead a woman to make adverse comments about another woman. So, I would like to take this opportunity to say that women are never their own enemies; we can never be our own enemies. Mr Speaker, I would also like to refer to Sustainable Development Goal 5, which calls for the gender equality of all women and also the need to empower girls. Those of us who have been blessed, it is our duty to ensure that we bring along other women and girls. If we are able or if we find ourselves in positions of leadership, we have to bring people along and that is a challenge to all of us. Being bold means being able to nurture other people, lead other people to reach the levels that you have reached yourself. Mr Speaker, I would also want to use this opportunity to say that boldness does not come on its own; it comes with an enabling environment. As we make appointments to political positions today, I use this opportunity to call on His Excellency the President to ensure that women gain the 30 per cent in public positions that he has set out himself to achieve under Affirmative Action. We can start it now while we wait for the Affirmative Action Bill. So, while the appointments are ongoing, it is my humble plea that His Excellency the President would take the inclusion of at least 30 per cent of women seriously; we look forward to that. Somebody once said in a place that the best man for a job is a woman. It means that we must endeavour to put women where they should be. Women have the power to change things and the ability to make things happen. So, please, let us give the chance to the women. I would conclude by saying that development is endangered if it is not gendered. So, let us make development engendered and then it would not be endangered. I wish all women, all my Hon Colleagues here, all wives, all friends, all men a very wonderful International Women's Day. I thank you for the opportunity.
Hon Members, order!
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to add one of the much oppressed voices on this topic before the House. Mr Speaker, I am the Deputy Ranking Member for the Gender and Children Committee of Parliament and I am very aware as a Deputy Ranking Member that men have a place in the lives of women to achieve this gender parity that we have been talking about. I think it is also important, as we look to these days that we honour women, that we reflect on some of the things that even women do to themselves, see how best we can support them when actually there are times that women make gains and women try to shoot them down. Mr Speaker, as we celebrate the achievements of women, we should also recognise that women are at times their own enemies in trying to achieve this gender parity that we are so much struggling to achieve. Mr Speaker, I am very humbled by the achievements made in the present Government during former President Mahama's time in terms of the appointments of women. I know for sure that women have a role to play in terms of development in this country and in the world at large. But for us to get there, we must acknowledge that women cannot do it alone. This is because we are not trying to substitute one type of oppression with the other. We need to engage and support ourselves and acknowledge that men are the problem as much as women are also their own enemy. We need to try as much as possible to support women to achieve their potential. In doing so, we must also recognise that men are available to support women and not to oppress them. I know for sure that whatever achievements women would want to make in this world cannot be done in isolation. I have formed what we call the Alliance for Gender Engagement in Africa. As a non-governmental organisation, it is meant to support young women, especially in my constituency, to understand the oppression that they go through as institutional and not just an oppression organised by men against women. Mr Speaker, this is said by women chiefs in Sierra Leone. So, we must not only look at gender problems as if they are located in the relationship between men and women. We must try to look at it as institutional and see how we can fight the institutions that oppress our sisters and not just an issue that is between men and women in terms of gender relationship. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I would encourage the Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection to, at least, become a social agent to support women who achieve public office through their own merit and she would get the support of all the men in this country.
Hon Members, I notice how this Statement has generated so much interest among the men.
Hon Minister for Inner Cities and Zongo Development, I would give you the opportunity as a special dispensation, but let me finish with the women. Hon Patricia Appiagyei?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I wish to add my voice to the Statement ably made by our Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection. Today is a very special day; a special day for women. I say so because right here in Parliament, this has been the year when we have had a very high number of women represented in the country. We were able to get more than 34 women into Parliament and this is something that is commendable. We must mention it here and now. It is not through affirmative action; it is through the efforts of our women themselves who had to go through the rigorous campaigning routine and withstand all kinds of abuse from men to achieve this increase in the number of women in Parliament. Mr Speaker, one of the things that I would want us to draw our attention to at this point in time is the fact that women have to pursue our own agenda. That is why this year, we have a theme which asks us to be bold to cause a change. What change are we talking about? We are talking about change in various sectors of our economy. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has indicated that we can only achieve gender parity in the year 2186. We are talking about over 150 years before we achieve this gender parity. This is because of the snail pace at which we pursue this agenda. It is no wonder that this year our theme is, “Be Bold and Cause a Change”. The boldness we are asking for lies squarely on the shoulders of our women who have achieved something in life; women who are skilful; women who have been educated to do the right things to promote gender issues in the country. What this boldness means is that, if each one of us is to pursue a program where we can adopt about 1-100 people to educate and encourage them to pursue a specific agenda in every sector of our life, we would have a propelled achievement. We are talking about the multiplier effect that we all know about. If each one of us is pursuing that -- I am not talking about only Hon Members of Parliament. I am also talking about women who are well educated and skilful in a way. If we challenge them and get each woman to pursue this agenda, I believe we would have a propelled rate of closing the parity gap. So, Mr Speaker, one thing that I would want us all to agree to, as was indicated by the Hon Adongo -- It is very important that our men support the women to achieve -- [Interruption.] Sorry, Hon Dakura. Yes, sorry. It is very important that our men support us in the pursuit of this agenda. It is critical. Let us take a typical case of our farming communities. If we look at the rural areas and our farming communities per se, what happens? If a woman supports a man to cultivate a farm, the woman does not have the largesse of enjoying the benefits of everything with the man. What happens is that after harvest, the woman is only given a little money to buy herself some clothing. It is about time the men amongst us championed this cause and let the rural men understand that, the farming is done jointly with the woman. Therefore, if they can assure the woman that they would give a certain percentage of that farm proceeds to them -- What we fail to realise is that women are very enterprising and as a result of that, we are able to even multiply whatever we have. If we want to enhance the prosperity of our family, we have to give a lot to the women to pursue that agenda for us. Hon Members, on this occasion, I take the opportunity to salute our older women. There are some women who have pursued this agenda right from day one. Some of them whom we can remember here in our Parliament is Hon Hawa Yakubu Ogede who was a very strong woman and promoted gender parity; Mrs Ocloo, an industrialist, also proved to every woman that what men can do we can also do. We still have women among us at this point in time who are also pursuing this agenda and we say kudos to all the women for every effort that has been made to ensure that we close the gender parity gap. Mr Speaker, with these few words, I say thank you for the opportunity to contribute.
Hon Members, I would come to Leadership but before that I would want to give a special dispensation to the Hon Minister for Inner City and Zongo Development.
Mr Speaker, I associate myself with the Statement made by the Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection.
Hon Minister, address the Chair and continue. [Pause]
On a point of order.
Yes, Hon Ayariga, what --
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister said he is representing Zongo women but there is an Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection and she is representing all women including Zongo women. So, why is he carving out a jurisdiction for himself and denying the Hon Minister her right to represent the Zongo women?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Ayariga represents his constituents. He floated on the wings of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to be in this House -- he represents his constituents. The President could also say that he represents the entirety of the country, it is the same manner and the same statement that he is making. Hear! Hear!
Mr Speaker --
Hon Members, I would not admit any more controversy. Could you please correct yourself and proceed?
Wonderful. Mr Speaker, I am a sub-set of the universal set of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. [Hear! Hear!] Mr Speaker, religiously, women are a fine by-product created out of the rib -- [Interruption.] --
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister for Inner City and Zongo Development is misleading this House on the issue that women are by-products of men. The most unfortunate thing is that -- Women can never be by-products, they have never been by-products and they would not be by-products. I refuse that and I would want that he withdraws because we all know that by-products are nothing -- sometimes or many a time -- to reckon with. We are women; we are not a waste and he should withdraw and apologise to all women.
Hon Minister, kindly withdraw and avoid any more controversial comments, please.
Mr Speaker, in the book of Genesis in the Bible, women were created out of the rib of a man. So, if I say that they were created out of the rib, are they not by-products? Mr Speaker, let me go ahead. I am celebrating --
Hon Minister, my ruling was that you withdraw the reference “by-product”.
Mr Speaker, I withdraw the word “by-product” but they were created out of the rib of a man. Do they agree? Wonderful. It is in the Qur'an that they were created out of man and today we celebrate them. This is because it is the same Qur'an which tells us that they were created out of us, that also tells us to celebrate, respect and love them three times more than - that is, 75 per cent of the love of a man must go to the woman. Yes, a man must love his mother three times because when somebody went to the Prophet to ask the Prophet that, between their mother and their father, whom should they love, the Prophet said, their mother. The second and third time, the Prophet said, their mother. This means the fourth time is their father. This means that 75 per cent of the love must go to their mother. Mr Speaker, I appreciate the theme which says one should be bold; we should be bold. This makes me to celebrate Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings for saying that one must be bold and that is one of the themes that helps women to understand that they need to be very bold. We have had women in this country who qualify for celebration; Mrs Esther Ocloo (Nkulenu), Susana Alhassan, Mrs Esi Sutherland-Addy are women we need to celebrate. They really put their lives down for this country and women have to be celebrated socially, economically, culturally and politically. This is because if one sees how women have suffered for us -- In fact, let me come back and say that but for women, I believe by now, men would have been sleeping because when we (men) were told not to eat the apple in the garden, it was the woman who enlightened us. [Interruption.] -- Would you challenge that? They agree to that one. Mr Speaker, visibility and awareness would help drive positive change in the lives of women. We need to help our young women who are coming up, especially, those in the rural areas. This is the time to give them the opportunity, gender parity and equality and let them have the opportunity to also come to this level. The epitome of what we are seeing in Parliament today is enough to tell us that women are really up to the task. I hope they would be up to the challenge. For the future, I expect that women would one day also come to lead the country as we have had in other places.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity. I would like to add my voice to the Statement on the floor of the House. Mr Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to salute all women nationwide, those in the markets, on the streets and in the farms, as well as those working hard to put food on our tables. Mr Speaker, it is a day to appreciate women, a day for the men to appreciate their wives. It is a day for the men to appreciate women in leadership. Mr Speaker, ‘behind every successful man, there is a woman'. I urge the men to go along with the women anytime they move -- As the saying goes, ‘if you educate a woman, you educate a nation'. So I would urge the nation to appreciate all women everywhere. Mr Speaker, if you give money to a woman, she would give you food; if you give her a house, she would give you a happy home and if you give a sperm to a woman, she would give you a baby. This shows how special a woman is. Mr Speaker, I would like to make an appeal to the Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection. She said that she is going to expand the Ghana School Feeding Programme to cover a number of school children in our communities; however, other women are crying that she is going to take them out of job -- that is the school feeding project. I would plead with the Hon Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection to expand it as she said, so that the women who are now applying would also get somewhere to work. Hon Minister, please we are all for you, so go along with all of us, do not discriminate, and make sure that all women under you are happy. Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity.
Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs?
Hon Members, there is too much noise in the Chamber. Order!
That is the end of the Statement. If the Hon Minister wants to -- Hon Minority Leader, do you want to say something on the Statement?
Mr Speaker, rightly so, if you would permit me.
Hon Minority Leader, I thought you had ceded your right to the Second Deputy Minority Whip, but I would recognise you.
Mr Speaker, I would endeavour to keep it brief, appreciating that you would want to dedicate today to the beginning of the debate on the Budget Statement and Financial Policy. Mr Speaker, in so doing, let me commend the Hon Member who made the Statement, Ghana's Minister responsible for women and children affairs. Indeed, when she used the words “be bold”, I was minded to ask her to pay royalties to Her Excellency Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings who used this in launching her new political career in aspiring to lead the country as a proud woman. For whatever reason it was, whether she succeeded or not, she has given an indication that what men could do, women could do better. However, Mr Speaker, in doing so, today must be a day dedicated to anti- sexism and it must be a day dedicated to anti-discrimination. In observing this day,
let us as a country accept that there are conscious and unconscious actions of both men and women and there are biases that affect the development of men, women and girls in our society. Therefore, we should endeavour to work to improve it. Mr Speaker, we must also make a pledge to pursue gender parity. Indeed, when the Hon Member mentioned that in the World Economic Forum, setting up a timetable of 2186 A.D. in the year of our Lord for the attainment of parity that was global. I am not even sure whether, with regard to Ghana, we might be able to achieve that particular request. Mr Speaker, in recognising that Ghana has made significant strides and women have made our country proud, if however, we have a Parliament today of two hundred and seventy-five Members of Parliament and only thirty-seven are women, it means that we could do better in terms of improving the representations of women at this level. I know that since the Fourth Republican Constitution, our Presidents have endeavoured to allow women to serve at the level of Cabinet Ministers, and many of them have distinguished themselves very credibly. Mr Speaker, what we require, which we would encourage the Hon Minister to do, is to come up with concrete, pragmatic action to improve the empowerment of rural women. We still have outstanding Domestic Workers Regulations to be done, which would deal with the problem that the Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs referred to; the abuse of Ghanaian women and Ghanaian girls abroad. One of the surest ways to improve and ensure dignity for them is to see to a regulation of the domestic workers, which guarantees their employment, dignity and what they would be able to earn. Mr Speaker, we are encouraged and we encourage her to do same with the Affirmative Action Bill. Let us see the Spousal Action Bill and the Intestate Successional Bill. What enthuses the representation of women at all levels of government, we should all support it. Mr Speaker, in conclusion, I would particularly dedicate today to Her Ladyship, the Chief Justice of Ghana, who undoubtedly and hierarchically, is the most superior woman serving in the high office of the Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana, who has dedicated long service to our Republic in administering justice impartially and fairly to all manner of persons; since I heard her say that. I believe we could dedicate today to her in order that we could mentor other young girls to look up to her type of person and many others, and to be inspired that there is a pride of place for the girl-child and women in our development. Mr Speaker, so, with these few comments, I once again like to commend the Hon Minister and to encourage her. Whether women could be used as vehicle for change, if it is possible, would depend upon women and policy actions and policy interventions that we all pursue. We would support her in that particular enterprise. Mr Speaker, I thank you.
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, in celebrating International Women's Day, I believe we should show gratitude to the Hon Minister responsible for women who has come to draw attention to what we ought to do as a nation. Mr Speaker, my contribution would just be for us to engage in some serious introspection. I would want to draw attention to some relevant provisions in our Constitution. Article 15 (1) of the Constitution provides, and with your permission, I beg to quote: “The dignity of all persons shall be inviolable.”
“No person shall be required to perform forced labour.”
“A person shall not be dis- criminated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed, or social or economic status.”
“Nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from enacting laws that are reasonably necessary to provide -- (a) for the implementation of policies and programmes aimed at redressing social, economic or educational imbalance in the Ghanaian society; (b) for matters relating to adoption, marriage divorce, burial, devolution of property on death or other matters personal law;”
“(1) A spouse shall not be deprived of a reasonable provision out of the estate of a spouse whether or not the spouse died having made a will. (2) Parliament shall, as soon as practicable after the coming into force of this Constitution, enact legislation regulating the pro- perty rights of spouses. Mr Speaker, we are still counting. So many years after the promulgation of this Constitution in 1992, article 22 (3) provides, and I beg to quote: “With a view to achieving the full realisation of the rights referred to in clause (2) of this article -- (a) spouses shall have equal access to property jointly acquired during marriage; (b) assets which are jointly acquired during marriage shall be distributed equitably between the spouses upon dissolution of the marriage.”
“All customary practices which dehumanise or are injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a person are prohibited.” Mr Speaker, the Constitution prohibits it.
“(1) Special care shall be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period before and after child- birth; and during those periods,
working mothers shall be accorded paid leave. (2) Facilities shall be provided for the care of children below school- going age to enable women, who have the traditional care for children, realise their full potential. Mr Speaker, these are constitutional imperatives. What have we done thus far, so many years after the coming into being of this Constitution? And what is Parliament doing? What is Parliament required to do that we have not done, pursuant to the achievement of these constitutional imperatives? Mr Speaker, I am done. I thank you for accommodating me.
Hon Minister, do you wish to conclude?
Mr Speaker, I wish to acknowledge and appreciate all the contributions of Hon Members of this august House. It shows the commitment of our Hon Members to the plight and the advancement of women. In my Statement, I used an Akan adage, and out of ignorance, I did not explain it in English. I apologise for that. I said, se obaa to tuo aa, etwere bema dan mu,” to wit, when a woman buys a gun, it is placed in the room of a man. Today, Ghana at 60 -- I am encouraging all daughters of Ghana to build their own homes, buy their own guns and keep them in their own homes. This is not to say that we are at war, because as God ordained it, we are the better half of the men. I conclude by thanking all of you. I invite and especially the women in Parliament, to a celebration at the Ministry of Gender as well as all ambassadors, the He for She campaign who are males, to come to our office tomorrow afternoon to celebrate today. I would also like to thank the young people of Ghana and to say to them that this is our time. Ghana at 60 cannot afford to leave any woman out. The negative cultural practices must be a thing of the past, and today's woman must indeed be bold to be able to complement the role of her sons and daughters. We must work for mother Ghana, side by side, and no longer women behind. Be bold for change, all of us. Thank you.
Hon Members, that is the end of Statements. We would go to item numbered 4 on the Order Paper, Motion. I invite Dr Assibey-Yeboah, the Hon Member for New Juaben South to begin.
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that this Honourable House approves the Financial Policy of the Government of Ghana for the year ending 31st December, 2017.
Mr Speaker, I rise to second the Motion that this House approves the Asempa Budget for the year ending 31st December, 2017. Mr Speaker, in presenting the State of the Nation Address on February 21, the President said on page 5, and with your permission, I beg to quote: “At the beginning of March, my Minister for Finance will come to this House to lay out in the national budget….”
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague just mentioned the Asempa Budget, but on this Order Paper, there is nothing here called the Asempa Budget.
Hon Member, proceed.
Eihh, Mr Speaker!
Mr Speaker, the President said on February 21, and with your permission, I read -- [Interruption.] “At the beginning of March, my Minister for Finance will come to this House to lay out in the national budget the details of our economic policy and the clear roadmap that we have laid out for taking the country out of its current predicament and onto a sustainable path of recovery, jobs creation and prosperity”. Mr Speaker, it is as if the President really knew what he had in store for us in the Budget Statement. The Hon Minister did exactly that. Mr Speaker, never before has a Budget Statement been read that resonates in Tudu. The Budget resonated in Abossey Okai. It resonated in Okaishie. It resonated in Kantamanto, Suame, Kokompe. It even resonated across the borders of this country. Mr Speaker, a Budget Statement is supposed to affect the lives of the citizenry. It is supposed to improve living standards. A Budget Statement is supposed to lower the cost of living. It is supposed to lower the cost of doing business. A Budget Statement is also supposed to create jobs. It is to spur economic growth. Mr Speaker, this Budget did exactly that -- [Hear! Hear!] -- The Budget affected households. It affected businesses and even Ghanaians in the diaspora. Mr Speaker, let me turn my attention to taxes. Whereas the previous Government imposed taxes on every conceivable item, this Government has abolished taxes wherever possible. Mr Speaker, clearly, the shifting focus from taxation to production was made evidently clear in the Budget Statement. Mr Speaker, under the National Democratic Congress (NDC), taxes were imposed on condoms; taxes were imposed on ambulances, bicycles, fertilizers, even on savings and investment and taxes were imposed on cutlasses. Mr Speaker, under the NDC, capital gains tax was increased, withholding tax was increased, a special imports levy was imposed, excise duty was imposed on petroleum. Mr Speaker, there was Value Added Tax (VAT) on financial services, there was VAT on real estate sales, VAT was even imposed on domestic airline tickets.
Mr Speaker, the excise duty on petroleum --
Mr Speaker, the duty on importation of spare parts --
Yaa mutu, it is gone.
Mr Speaker, that is not all.
Hon Member, let me announce that it has been agreed that lead persons would be allowed 20 minutes each.
Mr Speaker, that is not all. We also seek to do the following. We are going to reduce the special petroleum tax rate, the national electrification scheme levy and the public lightning levy. Mr Speaker, so whereas the NDC Government was in the business of increasing and imposing taxes, we are in the business of reducing taxes and abolishing same. Mr Speaker, but they would not be outdone, they were also in the abolishing business. They abolished teacher trainee allowances, they abolished nursing trainee allowances, and they cut research allowances for lecturers. Mr Speaker, I have good use of them --
Hon Minority Chief Whip?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, much as we were entreated by the Rt. Hon Speaker to allow the debate to flow, we the Whips do our best to make sure that we assist the Chair to maintain order, but I could hear from the other Side, the word: “yaa mutu”, which means “it is gone”, even though I know that with this Budget, the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) Government is “yaamutu”.
Hon Members, Order! I would entreat the Hon Chief Whip to assist the Chair by guiding himself and interventions by the rules. Thank you. Hon Member, continue.
Mr Speaker, in most cases, the lowering and imposition of taxes, only sought to kill jobs. This is because the NPP would reduce taxes and abolish many of them in 2017, it is projected that the economy would grow at 6.5 per cent, and that would be the first time in six years that we would have increased economic growth. Mr Speaker, clearly, this Government means business. I would turn my attention to the Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Project. This Budget seeks to use the resources of this country to build an inclusive economy, particularly, by improving basic infrastructure in the rural areas. Mr Speaker, in this Budget, it is projected that every Constituency would receive the equivalent of US$1 million. Many a time, somebody sits in Accra and decides the kind of development that we would need in our communities. I know the needs of the people of Nyamekrom and Adweso Aboagiri in Koforidua. What we do in this Budget is that, we are sending US$1 million to every Constituency. US$1 million would go to Tamale South, US$1 million would go to Ketu North, and US$1 million would also go to Bekwai, respectfully. Mr Speaker, the people of New Juaben South would also receive the equivalent of the US$1 million, so that we would decide that we need toilets, boreholes and the development we need in our areas. Mr Speaker, the US$1 million per Constituency would not occasion new taxes. This is money that already sits in Accra, and the people decide the kinds of developments that we need in our areas. Mr Speaker, in the Budget, there is a stimulus package for industry. The last time I heard of a stimulus package was from President Obama in the United States of America (US) in 2009.
Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I am compelled to speak, even though I respect the fact that we would want the debate to flow, but it is important that Hon Members are factual. My Hon Colleague just stated that the last time he heard of stimulus package was from the President Obama. Mr Speaker, in this House, President Mahama in his State of the Nation Address and in the Budget -- [Interruptions] -- If the Hon Member has cotton in his ears in this House, we would know, but for the records, stimulus packages have been reported to this House and industries, which includes the pharmaceutical companies, benefited from stimulus packages in this country. This is just for the records.
Hon Member, continue. I would recognise the time used in this one.
Mr Speaker, I can understand that the Hon Minority Leader is dazed. Mr Speaker, I said the last time I heard of a stimulus package was from President Obama's US$787 billion stimulus package in the USA, and the managers of our economy have found it wise to bring the stimulus package here in the Budget in Ghana. Mr Speaker, it is going to be technical and financial support to businesses in distress. In the Budget, GH¢ 219 million has been budgeted as stimulus package for ailing industries in this country. Mr Speaker, after the NPP exited Government in 2008, all Budgets -- [Interruption] -- Since 2009 mentioned the continuation of the National Identification Programme. It was one Committee after the other, directed at doing the National Identification Programme. Mr Speaker, for eight years, nothing happened. I would not call that incompetence. It might be misplaced priorities, I do not know, but for eight years, nothing happened with the National Identification Programme. Mr Speaker, in this Budget, and in this year, we would carry out the National Identification exercise, and not only that, a National Digital Addressing System (GPS) would also come on board. That is the way we formalise the economy. Mr Speaker, I could understand that perhaps the previous Government did not understand that doing the National Identification exercise would formalise the economy. If we formalise the economy, we increase revenue generation, and in so doing, the economy expands. Mr Speaker, this money would improve education, would improve health care and sanitation, it would support local businesses, and it would improve security in our zongos. GH¢ 219 million is dedicated to this. Mr Speaker, this is clearly a Budget for the future. It would restore macrostability. The deficit would come down, economic growth would go up, and inflation would come down. This Budget would restore macrostability. Mr Speaker, this Budget would create jobs. The “One Village, One Dam”, infrastructure for poverty eradication projects, and the One District, One Factory”, are all to create jobs. Mr Speaker, this Budget would grow businesses. We should go and ask those who benefit from the tax cuts, because this Budget would grow businesses, and would make Ghana work again. Mr Speaker, I thank you.
Hon Cassiel Ato Forson?
None [Pause] --
Hon Member, there is nobody on the floor for you to raise a point of order against, so regrettably, you have lost the opportunity. Hon Ato Forson?
education sector. Mr Speaker, he said in 2016, education is projected to grow by 7.9 per cent. In spite of the noise on free Senior High School, in spite of the amount of money going in there
Hon Member, “noise” is an unacceptable language.
Mr Speaker, I withdraw “noise”. In spite of the policy on free SHS, in spite of the amount of money going into free SHS, GDP growth on education is projected to fall from 7.9 to 6.7 per cent. Mr Speaker, this is going down. This comes from appendix 1A. -- [Interruption]
Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member is grossly misleading this House and indeed, the entire nation. I say so because all the figures that he quoted for 2016 are all provisional figures -- [Interruption] They are not the real growth figures. [Interruption.]
Hon Members, order!
Mr Speaker, may I urge that we are not in a market place. Can we listen?
Hon Queenstar Pokua Sawyerr, order!
We are not in a market place yet. Can we listen so we structure the debate? I believe it is going to be better for us. Mr Speaker, the way the Hon Member puts it -- He said that the GDP growth rate for education is going to fall from 7.9 to 6.7 per cent making an emphatic statement -- I am just saying that he should draw the distinction that, yes this is a provisional figure, this is the target, so that we follow him. That was all that I said.
Mr Speaker, I wish to borrow the words of the Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee that the Hon Majority Leader is dazed. Mr Speaker, I used the word “projected”. I never said they are actuals. The attention I tried to draw is that, I expected to see the impact of the so-called policies into the GDP projections. Mr Speaker, I do not see anything like that. Mr Speaker, these policies --
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member is a former Hon Deputy Minister for Finance. He knows very well that paying school fees is not what is being talked about there as educational services and that, there is no direct correlation between paying school fees and the growth that he talks about. He knows that. [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, he as a former Hon Deputy Minister should not grossly mislead this House. These are educational services. Is that not what he talks about? There are students here. We have to be very careful that we do not miseducate our students.
Mr Speaker, let me also say that, if Government is to spend in the education sector, I expect an impact at the growth sector. Mr Speaker, he is rather misleading the House. The reality he claims is rather misleading -- [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, the reality is that the health and social work sector is projected to decline from 10.8 to 5.3 per cent. That means it is going down. Mr Speaker, the very GDP growth that my Friends on the opposite side said is the worst in so many years -- Mr Speaker, the difference between the 2016 and 2017 projections is because of oil. Nothing has changed and they know they cannot take credit for the oil --
Hon Member for Effutu?
Hon Member, your point is well made.
Mr Speaker, I hope and pray that you are taking note of my time that has very much been disrupted.
Hon Ato Forson, this is a legitimate point.
Mr Speaker, I am only trying to draw attention to the fact that I have been interrupted a couple of times and I hope you are taking note of the time.
‘Sowing the Seed for Growth and Jobs”, I have not seen anything in this Budget that has sown a seed for growth and jobs. Mr Speaker, if we look at the very projections that this Budget has very much illustrated, I wish to say that, that seed is not a good seed; it is a wrong seed. It is a wrong seed that cannot provide jobs, it is a wrong seed that cannot give us the growth that we need. Mr Speaker, this cannot be a good seed and that seed needs to be changed. Mr Speaker, I would then turn my attention to the fiscal. I would take you to page 43 of the Budget Statement. Mr Speaker, at this stage, I would take you to the expenditure side. Let me commend the Hon Minister for Finance for a very bold step to reduce expenditure. But Mr Speaker, if we look at the expenditure category very critically, I personally have my doubt that this expenditure is achievable inasmuch as I commend him. Mr Speaker, I said this because if we look at expenditure line, item 1 on “Compensation of Employees”, the expenditure line item on compensation of employees is projected to drop from 8.4 per cent of GDP to 7.9 per cent of GDP, in spite of the fact that nurses and teacher
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, there are school kids in the gallery. [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, the Hon Ranking Member stated emphatically that because we are restoring nurses and teacher trainee allowances, there is no way that compensation of employees can come down. Nurses and teacher trainee allowances put together is 0.1 per cent of GDP and yet, they abolished them. Mr Speaker, GDP is increasing --
Hon Member, your point is well made. Hon Members, I was not at the Workshop but I am advised that we agreed that we would allow the debate to flow. When somebody is offering an opinion and you disagree with the opinion, you would respond when you get the opportunity. He started by saying that ‘in his view'. So, please, if he makes a factually incorrect statement, I would allow it. But please, let us allow our alternative views to be shared.
Mr Speaker, you would notice that grants to other government units is revised downwards from 5.1 per cent to 4.8 per cent of GDP. Mr Speaker, though in nominal terms, that amount is going up, I have my worry. My worry is when the Hon Minister appeared before this House to read the Budget, he was emphatic that inasmuch as he is going to cut the Statutory Funds, he is going to stay within the Constitution. Mr Speaker, clearly, from what I see in appendix 4 (b), Mr Speaker, the District Assembly Common Fund in the appendix 4 (b) is GH¢1.575 billion. I refer you to page 41, Table 15 of the Budget Statement. The Tax Revenue GH¢34.382 billion. The Constitution in article 252 (2) is emphatic. It stipulates: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, Parliament shall annually make provisions for the allocation of not less than five per cent of the total revenues of Ghana to the District Assemblies for development; and the amount shall be paid into the District Assemblies Common Fund in quarterly instalments.” Mr Speaker, a minimum of total Tax Revenue of GH¢34,382 billion is about GH¢1.71 billion. What they have projected here is GH¢1.575 billion. If you allocate GH¢1.572 billion, it is a clear breach of the Constitution. -- [Hear! Hear!] Mr Speaker, this side of the House would not be part to approve a Budget that seeks to breach the Constitution. We would not be part of it; the Constitution is emphatic.
Yes, Hon Member, he is disputing the facts.
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, because he has been in the Ministry for some time, I expect that - - [Interruption] -- Mr Speaker, the calculation he has just done is completely incorrect. In his own Budget, I can show it to him, what they did to net out some numbers -- [Interruption] -- Mr Speaker, let me remind him that when we take the Tax Revenue, we need to net out VAT Refunds, we need to net out GRA cost of collection, we need to net out royalties and then the figure you get is GH¢31.442 billion. Mr Speaker, GH¢1.575 billion divided by GH¢31.442 is 5.09 per cent. Thank you very much.
Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I would expect that my Hon Colleagues would be guided and in respect to your succinct ruling that you want this debate to flow, the Hon Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation can, through debate, monitor and evaluate what Hon Ato Forson is submitting. But as for the interjections, like you said, he would have his opportunity. He is stating the facts as he believes in and I would urge -- [Interruptions] -- Mr Speaker, we are not in any Court where anybody rules over facts. They have their facts, he referred to a document, and it did not come from his head. He quoted from the Constitution. So, Mr Speaker, I respect the position you have adopted but it appears that the continuing interruption may mar the beauty of the debate. Thank you.
On a point of Order. The law said what he said but there is an explanation. The interpretation allows you to net out all that he said. So, what they have been doing in the Ministry of Finance since 2009 which he should know is that, when you take the Tax Revenue, you take off royalties from oil, the company tax from oil, the VAT Refund and then you take GRA cost of collecting the money. So, when you do it that way, what you have is GH¢31.44 billion and the percentage of that is more than five per cent. So, there is no illegality in any form. What he said is not true. He is misleading the House and there is no illegality that has been committed.
Hon Members, the point is well made. You would take note that before you come to the conclusion of 51 per cent, certain expenses should be taken. In your debate, you declined to affirm it and that is all they are drawing your attention to. Now, you may proceed.
Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would refer you to article 252 (1) of the Constitution. It stipulates that; “There shall be a fund to be known as the District Assemblies Common Fund.”
Mr Speaker, article 252 (2) stipulates that; “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, Parliament shall annually make provision for the allocation of not less than five per cent of the total revenues of Ghana to the District Assemblies for development; and the amount shall be paid into the District Assemblies Common Fund in quarterly instalments.” Mr Speaker, the emphasis is on “total revenues of Ghana”, the rendition of the Constitution says “total revenues”. I am making reference to “total revenues”. He is making reference to some clause and where they have to deduct something from it. This is the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. This was what I swore to uphold. Mr Speaker, I go on to say that the Ghana Infrastructure and Investment Fund -- this Budget seeks to give them zero allocation. Not 25 per cent of Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) and not two and a half per cent of Value Added Tax (VAT). Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) has been revised downwards to GH¢790 million from more than GH¢1 billion. The question I ask myself is what is going to happen to the numerous schools under trees? What is going to happen to the numerous community day secondary schools that the GETFund is constructing? What is going to happen to our citizens who are studying abroad under scholarships? Mr Speaker, I move away from expenditure and go to revenue.
Hon Member, I allowed you five minutes more, take note.
Mr Speaker, in going to tax revenue, I have seen here on table 15, page 41, that tax revenue is projected to increase from 15.2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 16.9 per cent of GDP. I beg to say that this is overly ambitious. I want to be on record that I have cautioned against this. Without any tax measure, you are projecting to increase tax revenue by 1.7 per cent of GDP? Mr Speaker, you know that compliance is not quantified. They are projecting to increase tax revenue by 1.7 per cent of GDP. Clearly, I have my doubts that this revenue target would be achieved. From taxes on international trade alone, apart from the fact that they are saying that spare parts are going to receive some tax reliefs, one per cent of special import levy is going to be removed and taxes would be exempted on certain pharmaceutical products, he is projecting that tax revenue coming from taxes on international trade is going to increase by approximately 1.1 per cent of GDP. Mr Speaker, how can this happen? He said that we are going to see an increase by 61.1 per cent. How can you increase international trade taxes by 61.1 per cent without any tax measure? This is overly ambitious and I want to caution that these assumptions are not feasible. The deficit is going to balloon and be above the 6.5 per cent target. This is because the tax revenue as projected is not feasible, the expenditure measures as is very elaborated are artificially compressed. For that matter, I project that the deficit would be in excess of 6.5 million. Mr Speaker, I so support the Motion. Thank you.
Hon Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah. [Interruption.] Hon Members, Order!
Mr Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the 2017 Budget. My wish is that the debate on the Budget would not be a debate about the marginal percentiles but a debate about what the policy implication of what each benchmark is, what the policy recommendation is and whether that policy recommendation works. This is because we can spend the whole day here debating whether some deficit is 8.9 per cent or 9 per cent. At the end of the day, it is what the policy implication is that matters. Mr Speaker, I would like to refer you to paragraph 5 of the Budget where the Minister for Finance builds the Budget by first identifying five major challenges that we have as a country. First, the considerable debt overhang and rising interest payments, expenditure overruns and accumulated arrears, revenue underperformance, growth which is falling and limited capital investments, all of which he proceeds to tackle. In my view, a debate on the Budget is about whether these problems are true and whether these solutions work. At this stage, we are debating policy and not even the fiscal tables. I would want to draw attention to a few of the issues that my Hon Good Friend Hon Ato Forson talked about. He talked about growth in this year's Budget being a bit lower among other things and their estimated growth from previous years. He points to agriculture. (Page 157 of the fiscal table, so, appendix 1A). In 2016, the projected outturn was 3.6 per cent. In 2017, the projected outturn or estimate is 3.5 per cent. My Hon Good Friend makes the argument that something abominable is happening. My mind goes back to previous debates that have taken place in this House, especially just about a week ago, when we were debating the State of the Nation Address. Mr Speaker, again, I take you to page 11 of this particular Budget, which traces the GDP growth rate from 2008 to 2016. At the time when the rates were picking or actually dropping in 2011 from, 14.0 per cent to 9.3 per cent to 7.3 per cent, our Hon Friends on the other side told us that all growth is growth and that once the base has increased, if there is a little growth, there is growth. It is amazing that today, a 3.5 per cent growth on the previous year's base figure is something abominable. I would not spend too much time on that. Again, staying with agriculture in appendix 1A. My Hon Good Friend Hon Ato Forson, does not go into the details but takes the aggregate. For the benefit of this debate, I would go into the details. Crops are expected to grow from 3.3 per cent to 3.4 per cent. That is not a reduction. Cocoa, for example is expected to grow
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, the Hon Colleague is misleading the House. This is because he was emphatic to say that reports he saw indicated clearly that first quarter every year, the cedi depreciates around 5 per cent. That cannot be correct. I say on authority that the first quarter of last year, the cedi did not depreciate by 5 per cent. [Hear! Hear!]
Mr Speaker, I would share with my dear Friend on the other side of the aisle the report I talked about. I said that “on the average, the cedi depreciates by about 5 per cent in the first quarter of every year”. My Good Friend on the other side of the aisle knows exactly why. This is because in the last quarter of the previous year, as people mobilise to import and in the first quarter of the new year as multinationals mobilise to repatriate their profits, there is a decline. In the year 2000 by this time, the cedi had depreciated by 18 per cent. In 2009; it depreciated by 11 per cent; in 2014, it depreciated by 17 per cent and in 2015, it depreciated by another 14 per cent by this time. Mr Speaker, this year as of now, and in their own press conference, they talked about a 6 per cent reduction and I have suggested that the average over the years for quarter one, is about 5 per cent. Nothing untoward has happened. Mr Speaker, my fear is that, in our bid to meet our own exigencies, we may set a lot of panic in the system and I believe that we should stay away from that.
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, I have listened to the Hon Member and I am very interested in what he said. But he is misleading the House and so, I would want to refer him to paragraphs 89 and 90 on page 17 of the 2017 Budget Statement.
89. “Mr Speaker, in the currency market, the Ghana cedi remained relatively stable against the major currencies, on account of tighter monetary policy and improved foreign exchange inflows. However, the foreign exchange market witnessed some volatility in the run-up to the December elections, as demand pressures mounted”. 90. “The Ghana cedi recorded a cumulative depreciation of 9.6 percent and 5.3 per cent against the US dollar and the Euro, respectively but appreciated by 10.0 percent against the Pound Sterling in the interbank market in 2016…” Mr Speaker, in 2016, the cedi depreciated against the US dollar and the Euro but appreciated against the pound sterling. But in the first two months of 2017, the cedi depreciated against the dollar by 6 per cent.
Hon Member, if you had followed as you said -- you only repeated what he said that, “every first quarter of the year, on the average, it depreciates by about 5 per cent”. Hon Member, please, continue.
Mr Speaker, I am grateful, and I am grateful to my Senior for his attempt to intervene but unfortunatly, no new data was supplied. Mr Speaker, as I wrap up my contribution to this debate, I would want to focus on two areas. One, is the suggestion that the --
Mr Speaker, I would do well to wrap up in the period. Mr Speaker, the first issue has to do with the argument that many of the tax cut, which we believe would bring relieve to the business community and actually stimulate growth, are interpreted to be tax cuts that would rather stimulate imports. That cannot be further from the truth. If we look at the taxes that we hope to cut on financial services, on kayayei, on raw materials and on many things, these cannot be taxes that stimulate importation. Indeed, these are taxes, which when they are cut would take away the burden on the private sector to enable them push a bit more, be a lot more productive, make profit and then pay income taxes at the end. Mr Speaker, as I conclude, I was excited to see in this Budget Statement a national entrepreneurial innovative programme that the President and the Hon Minister for Finance would want to roll out. It is a major thing which if it is done -- in addition to some of the previous measures that have been implemented as a nation, it would help to boost the culture of entrepreneurship and also funding for entrepreneurship to allow young business people excel. This is a good Budget Statement and my prayer is that we all support it so that the benefit would accrue to the people of Ghana. Mr Speaker, I thank you.
Hon Fifi Fiavi Franklin Kwetey?
Hon Member, there is a point of order, so let me listen to him.
On a point of order. Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member just mentioned that Government is removing taxes on raw materials. In fact, in this country, our mainstay -- [Interruption] -- he said it. The major preoccupation is agriculture. We are not removing taxes on agricultural raw materials. We are not doing that -- [Interruption] -- it is zero.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, my good Friend on the other side did not hear what I said. I said, that the NPP, in its Manifesto, promised to remove duties on raw materials. I would have wished that they walk that promise in this Budget, unfortunately, it has not been done. That, in my view, is a worry in terms of their quest for industrialisation. Mr Speaker, another major bottleneck for the productive sector, for industry and also for large part of the agricultural sector, has been the issue of high cost of electricity. So, if the NPP, during its campaign, made such massive capital of the cost of electricity, and promised that they would remove Energy Sector Levy as a way of dealing with that, we would have thought that for a Government to talk a lot about changing the industrial sector of our country, and bring about unleashing of creating capacity and so on, it would have been a promise which would have been honoured. It is a shame and it is sad that the NPP, again, walked away from this important promise and failed to remove the Energy Sector Levy, which industry and the private sector obviously would have been happy to have. It is unfortunate that did not happen. Mr Speaker, I would like to say that the issues of the depreciation of the currency are issues --
Hon Member for New Juaben South?
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member is misleading the House. He indicated that the NPP said they will remove the Energy Sector Levies. Most of these Energy Sector Levies existed already. All that we did was that we consolidated them into one Act. So, nowhere did the NPP say that they will -- [Uproar] -- No! As a matter of fact, we have reduced the electrification levy, we have reduced street light -- [Interruption] -- Yes! So, we are fulfilling our promises to the Ghanaian people.
Hon Member, continue.
Mr Speaker, it is unfortunate that the Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee is running away from a major promise made by the NPP. Mr Speaker, when we talk about the reduction of duties on imports, I would want to link that with what is happening to the currency. It is true that historically, the currency has had difficulties. In the past, the currency in the first quarter has depreciated. That is true. But if the plan is to be able to bring about a changed economy, then they would have indicated that one of the things they would want to do is to bring measures that would consolidate the currency. If they open the flood gates to importation and in the process, they endanger the value of our currency, what they do is to create the problem of imported inflation into our country. That imported inflation will lead to high interest rates, erosion of income and it will bring about pressure on the productive capacity in our country. So, in the process, what they would have done is to handicap the productive capacity that they are supposed to be helping. So, we need to look at this whole policy again. If it were a promise made to segments that supported the NPP, we can appreciate that. But the national interest must be paramount. In the interest of industry and the agricultural sector, these two sectors that are the pivot of our productivity, it is important for us to look at the reduction of import levy. Mr Speaker, let me also say --
Hon Member, you have two minutes more.
Mr Speaker, let me also say, that in talking about one district, one factory — talk is easy. If it is simply an issue of putting money to go and set up industries or factories, it would be done. The problem of Ghana is not about the establishment of a factory. The problem of Ghana, is making sure that factories that are established are viable and sustainable. Our history shows that a lot of factories have been opened and closed. Mr Speaker, in fact, during the eight years that our Hon Friends were in power, they set up a number of business concerns — The Presidential Special Initiatives (PSI) brought a number of business concerns. What happened to them? Every single one of them collapsed. It tells us that it is not just an issue of establishing the factories. It is an issue of ensuring that the conditions that are in place would be made viable and sustainable; and that obviously is not the case. Mr Speaker, the final issue I would bring briefly, is the need for us to critically look at some of the promises that have been made, and the effect they may have on the Budget Statement. Specifically, I would want to talk about the free Senior High School (SHS).
Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute to the debate on the Budget Statement and the Economic Policy of the Government of Ghana for the 2017 financial year. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleagues can choose to call the Budget Statement, lofty and unachievable, but I believe it is down to earth and achievable. This Budget Statement seeks to among others: 1. Restore and sustain the macro- economic stability of our nation 2. Shift focus on the management of the economy from taxation to production; 3. Manage the economy competently; — [Hear! Hear!] and 4. Make government machinery work to deliver the benefit of progress for all Ghanaians. Mr Speaker, in contributing to the debate, I would like to touch on these three lines: 1. Review of the tax exemptions regime. 2. Realignment of the statutory funds; and 3. The creation of the Diaspora Fund. Mr Speaker, during the era of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Government, tax exemptions were a pain in the neck. About two per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — in monetary-terms, about GH¢4 billion - was given out as taxes. My Hon Colleagues are sitting here complaining about 0.1 per cent of GDP from the Teacher Training and
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleague is misleading the House with regard to tax exemptions granted by the previous Government. Tax exemptions were directly linked to specific projects, and they were all approved by this Honourable House. If they were not granted, the Government would have had to find money to add up to the grants that were given. So, she cannot say that the tax exemptions went down the drain. They went to reduce cost of projects, which were established in this country.
Hon Member, continue.
Mr Speaker, let me please refer you to paragraphs 937 and 938 of the 2016 Budget Statement. It stated that Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should not negotiate and conclude contracts that grant exemptions, but come through Parliament for approval for exemptions. Furthermore, the Budget Statement stated that the Government would consider replacing upfront exemptions with tax credit notes and treasury credit notes but these things were never done. It did not happen, and the nation lost a lot of money through these tax exemptions, even on commercial loans. Mr Speaker, this is a clear demonstration that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government seeks to give solutions to our problems and not just pay lip service to our problems.
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, the Hon Colleague is misleading the House. She is making sweeping statements about tax exemptions that are granted by this Honourable House. I believe that she ought to withdraw those comments and rephrase her position.
Hon Member, continue.
Mr Speaker, these are policies of our Government. Secondly, these would go a long way to block revenue leakages, and leave the Government with some money for national development. Mr Speaker, this is why Governments are elected. They are elected to solve problems, and not to whine about them. Mr Speaker, let me please turn my attention to the issue of the realignment of statutory funds. In paragraph 835 of the 2017 Budget Statement, it is indicated that Ghana spent 99.6 per cent of our total tax revenue on three main budgetary line items, including statutory funds. Mr Speaker, these funds include the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) and the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) that my Hon Colleagues were talking about. In 2016 alone, statutory funds consumed 33.5 per cent of our tax revenue. If we should allow this trend to continue, for 2017, all things being equal, we are going to consume 41 per cent of our total tax revenue, leaving no room for other important things that the nation needs to do. Mr Speaker, let me give a clear example of how the earmarking funds work. Earmarking is akin to a parent who saves money specifically to pay the fees of his child. This child gets sick, but the parent says this money is for school fees, so he or she is not going to use it to take care of the child's health. So, two things are going to happen here; it is either the health of the child deteriorates, or the parent would have to go and find money somewhere else to pay for the health care of the child. This is what earmarking does to our country. That is why we need to realign these statutory funds.
Hon Member, you have two minutes more.
Mr Speaker, we should all support the Government in its efforts to cap transfers to earmark funds at 25 per cent of tax revenue. We are not going against the Constitution; we are only helping our nation, Ghana. We are going to reduce dependence on loans if we go by this way. So, I believe all Hon Members and the whole House would support us to achieve this for Mother Ghana and not for our own self-interest. [Hear! Hear!] Mr Speaker, my last contribution would be on the creation of the Diaspora Fund. This can be found in paragraphs 879 to 880 of the Budget Statement. Once again, Mr Speaker, this current Government is leading with innovative ideas with spare growth and to turn the economy around. There is no gainsaying that people in the diaspora contribute significantly to the development of our nation. Their remittances alone in 2015, was estimated at US$2 billion -- this is according to the World Bank, Ghana Country Office.
Hon Member, wind up.
Mr Speaker, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo, in recognising their immense contribution, has moved the Diaspora Affairs Bureau from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Office of the President. [Hear! Hear!] [Interruption.] In addition to that -- [Interruption] - - Hon Members should listen to me. In addition to that, the Government in this Budget Statement, is creating a Diaspora Fund which would be tapped into national development. This would also be an important vehicle for the Government to access relatively cheaper funds so that we do not constantly depend on loans. Mr Speaker, I even urge the Government not to only tap into their Diaspora Fund, but to also tap into their expertise, experiences and their technical knowhow to help us develop this nation. In this era and age, they do not need to be here physically.
Hon Member, your time is up. Mr Isaac Adongo — rose --
Hon Isaac Adongo?
Mr Speaker, I thank you very much for the opportunity to contribute to the Budget Statement and the debate on the Government Financial Policy for 2017 -- [Interruption.]
Mr Speaker, today being World Women's Day, I thought you were going to do one woman, one contribution. [Laughter.]
Hon Members, order! Hon Anthony Akoto Osei, you are out of order. Hon Isaac Adongo, I am starting your time once more.
Mr Speaker, in the first place, I think we need to identify the three critical areas that the Hon Minister tried to use as the justification to take up the onslaught on the statutory funds. He did make those three items take about 99.6 per cent of total tax revenue. What that means is that once we grow the revenue, it would come down. The option is not to rob Peter to pay Paul; by basically taking moneys that are going to the districts anyway to fund education, healthcare and the district assemblies but turn it round and give it back to them in one million, one constituency.
Mr Speaker, again the fact is very clear that when the Hon Minister talks about rigidities, he identifies compensation as a major rigidity yet, we do not see any action bringing down those rigidities. He speaks about rigidities in terms of interest cost, yet we do not see any clear sign of those rigidities. In the end, the Hon Minister for Finance is rather going to create more rigidities by creating additional development authorities. Let us come to the micro economy; we have been told that this Budget Statement is to sow the seed for growth and jobs -- where are the growths going to come from? The annual growth figures for the Budget Statement of about 20 per cent is the worse since 2007. Again, they are only going to grow this economy by an additional GH¢20 billion. Let me show them how they are financing it. They are borrowing GH¢ 13 billion to finance a growth of GH¢20 billion. They are raising an additional revenue of GH¢12 billion, which is about 60 per cent of their additional growth to finance that growth. You are selling national assets of GH¢1.8 billion -- cumulatively, they are spending GH¢26.8 billion to deliver to the people of Ghana, GH¢20 billion -- [Uproar] [Laughter] Mr Speaker, we have been told that this Budget Statement is to move away from taxation to production. My big Brother, Hon Fifi Kwetey, has explained to us, and I know you heard that you cannot be seeking to grow the economy on the productive sector when we look up to importation of goods and services as our major source of revenue. We are only opening our borders in order to raise GH¢7 billion and not to protect local production. So, it is quite clear --
Yeboah — rose
Hon Member, hold on. Yes, Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member is misleading the House. He indicated that we are going to borrow GH¢13 billion to grow the economy by GH¢20 billion. They came to meet a debt of GH¢9.5 billion and the interest payment for 2017 alone exceeds the debt that they came to meet in 2009 -- ‘na who cause am?' Mr Speaker, interest payments alone for this year is GH¢13.9 billion. They came to meet a debt of GH¢ 9.5 billion, and they are proud of that.
Hon Member, continue.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, the obvious truth --
Mr Speaker, it is something very important. When we were on the other side of the aisle, I recall that during debates on the Budget Statement and economic policy, the now Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation never allowed debates to proceed if the Hon Minister for Finance or his Deputy was not in the Chamber. He never allowed debate to proceed. He insisted that we must always have the Hon Minister for Finance in the Chamber. Today, Mr Speaker, we do not have an Hon Deputy Minister for Finance, and the Hon Minister for Finance is conspicuously missing in the Chamber, and we are debating his Budget Statement. Day one of the debate on his Budget Statement, the Hon Minister for Finance is nowhere to be found.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister on his feet is not the Hon Minister for Finance. He is the Hon Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation. He cannot stand in for the Hon Minister for Finance. So, I insist that we have the Hon Minister for Finance sit in here and listen to us debate his Budget Statement given that he does not have a deputy.
Mr Speaker, at the pre-Sitting meeting, the Hon Minister for Finance had informed us that he had other responsibilities. -- [Uproar] Mr Speaker, I am sure the Minority does not want to listen to themselves alone. They have raised an issue and they expect a response. Would they want to listen to themselves only? I am sure that is not what they want to do. Mr Speaker, at the pre-Sitting meeting, the Hon Minister for Finance informed us that because of other responsibilities he was going to be with us for two hours. Unfortunately, when he came, we spent so long a time on the International Women's Day -- more than an hour of his time. So, when he stayed, he indicated that his time was up and that he wanted to exit. Mr Speaker, this was part of the pre- Sitting deliberation. Unfortunately, the Hon Minority Leader is not here. He would have attested to what I am saying. So, Mr Speaker, I believe on account of that, we can go forward.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. We have listened to the Hon Majority Leader give explanation to why the Hon Minister for Finance is not here.
So, Mr Speaker, I believe that the explanation was well communicated at the pre-Sitting meeting, but not to the House. So, the question raised by the Hon Member is appropriate. Now that we are getting the explanation, we hope that he would come back and listen to the debate so that he can take points on what Hon Members say.
Mr Speaker, respectfully, statements which serve the purpose of propaganda should not be made in this House. [Laughter.] We should be factual and truthful to each other. What he is saying is a palpable untruth, and it should not be accommodated in this House. [Laughter.] He knows what he saying is a monumental untruth. He should not do that because he is capable of doing better than that.
Yes, Hon Akoto Osei?
Mr Speaker, I believe it is important that when one wants to make an important point, he does not do it mischievously. I may agree with him that it is preferable to have the Hon Minister for Finance here but to say that I had the authority to stop proceedings is false. [Uproar.] Mr Speaker, a poor Member of Parliament for Old Tafo Constituency, I am not clothed with that power. There are students here. The impression should not be created that any Member of Parliament can usurp the authority of the Rt Hon Speaker. That is not good for the House. So, he should withdraw that because that is false.
Hon Members, I would want to be guided by the Leadership of the House. I have been glancing through the rules. Is there any rule that requires that the Hon Minister for Finance be here? [Uproar.]
Mr Speaker, the Budget Statement and Economic Policy is the President's document which is ferried into this House by the Hon Minister responsible for Finance and Economic Planning. It may be very good for purposes of enriching debate that the Hon Minister for Finance is in the Chamber. It is not all the submissions of Hon Members that may be discarded. There are some that would serve to enrich the document. So, if the Hon Minister for Finance is here, I believe, it is better for the conduct of Business in this House. Which is why we have always insisted that the Hon Ministers are available. Mr Speaker, but given the current circumstances -- we are looking at a situation in 2009 when there were no Hon Deputy Ministers -- if the Hon Minister for Finance had to do other things, would we pin him down in this House? In this case, I believe, the biblical injunction that the law was made for man and not man for the law could serve our purpose -- [Uproar.] So, Mr Speaker, I believe we can go on.
Yes, Hon Avedzi?
Mr Speaker, the Motion we are debating was moved by the Hon Minister for Finance. [Hear! Hear!] This is his Motion. So, it is appropriate that he sits in and listens to the contributions from Hon Members, so that he can use it whenever he is winding up the debate. Mr Speaker, based on the explanation given by the Hon Majority Leader, we would accept and continue the debate but we are sending a signal that from tomorrow, he must sit here from the start to the end of the debate.
Mr Speaker, I think the issues must be clear to us. Now, this document is not that of the Hon Minister for Finance. It is the document of the President. [Interruption] Mr Speaker, I will urge my Hon Colleagues not to be listening to themselves. When they make a point, they should have the patience to listen to the other side of the House. The Budget Statement and Economic Policy is that of the President and not the Minister for Finance. It is not the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Minister for Finance. It is that of the President. It is only brought to this House by the Hon Minister for Finance. Mr Speaker, the former Hon Deputy Attorney-General and Minister for Justice is so confused. Let him show me where in the Constitution I am wrong by this submission. Mr Speaker, the point I am making is commonsensical, even though for reasons of convenience we have always said - and I am adding to that, that; it is best for Hon Minister to create space for himself to be here. I agree, but for anybody to say that he should be here until the conclusion of the debate, I do not see the relevance in that statement; Parliament cannot pin him down to that. It does not lie in the mouth of my Hon Colleague to say that he should be here throughout the debate. He cannot --
Very well, I have listened to the Leadership. I hope to be directed to any provision in our Standing Orders or in the Constitution, which requires that the Hon Minister for Finance be here before the debate could continue, but my attention has not been drawn to any such provision. So, the debate would continue. Hon Member on his feet, please continue.
Mr Speaker, I was making the point that Ghana would be financing a growth of GH¢20 billion with GH¢26.8 billion. We are net off worse than we started.
I would also want to make the point that if one decides to grow the private sector and local manufacturing, but one creates unfair competition for them just because they want to raise moneys from international trade taxes, what one is simply doing is sowing the seed of import- driven petty trading, which cannot be for sowing the seeds of growth. Mr Speaker, it is very interesting that the Hon Majority Leader refers to this document as a document from the President, and I wholly agree. In the President's State of the Nation Address, he indicated that Ghana's total outstanding obligation and commitment, which engaged the whole of this country, was GH¢7 billion. Fast forward nine days later, the Hon Minister for Finance appears before this House and tells us that Ghana's total outstanding obligation is GH¢5 billion. Within nine days, where is the GH¢2 billion that the President referred to in this House? Let me move on and make a further point. They have indicated that they want to grow the economy by investing in infrastructure. Indeed, there is a project that has been nicely labelled “Infrastructure for Jobs”.
Mr Speaker, in monitoring the Hon Member, I could see that he is completely misleading this House [Laughter.] The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, never said all of Ghana's total commitments are GH ¢7 billion. He never said that. Mr Speaker, first of all, it is not true and the President cannot say that. They took our debts to GH¢122 billion, so how could the President say that all of our commitments are GH¢7 billion? It is not true. This is a House of records, let him show us. Mr Speaker, he should go on and debate, but he should not mislead this House.
Hon Member, do you have a copy of the State of the Nation Address for 2017?
Mr Speaker, yes. The State of the Nation Address is here -- page 5.
Please, refer to the specific area to address the matter.
Mr Speaker, page 5 of the State of the Nation Address says that outstanding obligation -- [Interruption.] It says that outstanding obligations and commitments amount to GH¢7billion, which by-passed public financial management system Mr Speaker, on page 21, paragraph 101 of the Budget Statement, it says outstanding obligation amounts to GH¢5million.
Hon Member, hold on. Let us resolve this issue of whether the President said our total debt is -- What you read said that the amount of money that was not captured - is that what you read? This is not the same thing as saying that that is the total budget. So, correct yourself and proceed. [Pause] -- For the records, you must correct yourself so that we could proceed.
Mr Speaker, the President says that the full facts of the situation have not been put before the Ghanaian people, and that the outstanding payments and commitments that circumvented the very public financial management system amounts to GH¢7billion. In the Budget Statement, the Hon Minister says on page 21, paragraph 101, that outstanding commitments and obligations amounts to GH¢5billion. It is the same figure. Where is the two billion?
Hon Member, if you would correct the records, let us have the records. The circumvented -- the two statements are not the same. You said what the President said in the State of the Nation Address says “circumvented”.
Mr Speaker, it is the same commitment the President was referring to. Mr Speaker, with your permission, if I could move on.
Hon Member, I want the records to be correct if we are talking about the same thing. If it is not --
Mr Speaker, it is the same figure and I am not withdrawing.
Hon Ato Forson, could you resume your seat and let us resolve this matter? If there is any information you would want to share, after I am clear as to what we are talking about, I would allow you. I would want to be sure whether we are talking about the same thing. If the State of the Nation Address said that some amount of money circumvented the public records, you are quoting a part of the Budget which does not use “circumvent”. I am not sure whether we are talking about the same, and that is what I would want the records to reflect.
Mr Speaker, the President made the point that he would have to find out some GH¢7 billion of arrears and outstanding payments that circumvented the very public financial management system that was put in place to prevent such occurrences. These expenditures are currently being audited, and that is the figure the Hon Minister is reporting to this House. He says that it is GH¢5 billion. Can I move on?
Which part of the Budget Statement? I would want to understand what you are saying? Which page of the Budget Statement are you quoting?
Mr Speaker, on infrastructure -- page 21, paragraph 101 of the Budget Statement.
Mr Speaker, for infrastructure, we have been told that there is a project, “Infrastructure for Jobs”; yet, infras- tructural expenditure declined from 4.6 to 3.5 per cent, but this figure does not even speak to the facts of what is the extent of reduction in capital expenditure. This nation is selling an asset of 1.8billion and investing it in consumption. If they considered that as an asset, they would have actually reduced capital expenditure by GH¢2.3 billion, which would bring our capital expenditure further down to 1.51 per cent. The lowest we could ever think about. This is the infrastructure for jobs that they are talking about. It is all because they have no choice and that is why they want to now hide behind US$1 million and come with an excuse of statutory funds in order to find money --
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, thank you. I am getting worried over a wrong analysis that is perpetuating the [Interruption] -- the Hon Member is misleading the House. He is using percentages Hon Members of the Minority side of the House have used earlier. I believe that this correction must be done before any one listening to us learn the wrong thing. The Hon Member made a statement -- I am citing just one because it has been consistent on their side of the House -- 4.6 per cent of GDP declining to 3.5 per cent of GDP. Any analyst would think of the size because it is possible that 3.5 per cent of the total could be higher in absolute terms than the 4.6 per cent and an analyst would speak from the view point of what we call “fact behind the figures.” Mr Speaker, if we listened to the Budget Statement -- something that says that “I would protect public purse”. It means that there is a lot of savings that would be done and so they should take that into their analysis else they would be misleading the House throughout the debate period. So, they should take note. Mr Speaker, thank you.
Hon Member, conclude.
Mr Speaker, let me indicate to my Hon Colleague that in absolute terms, the budget for infrastructure has declined from GH¢7.6 billion to GH¢7.1 billion. In percentages of GDP, it has declined further and in considering the fact that we are selling our national assets, which is not finding expression in capital expenditure, we are declining our capital expenditure by GH¢2.3 billion. That is a fact and you cannot take that away from me. Mr Speaker, in concluding, this Budget Statement is going to create an economy full of petty traders, an economy that would collapse the manufacturing sector, and at best, an economy that would export Ghanaian jobs abroad. That is the economy that we are going to inherit from the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Hon Kwaku Kwarteng.
Mr Speaker, thank you. Mr Speaker, the point has been made that we have run away from some of our manifesto commitments. We have four Budget Statements in our mandate and what we have sought to do is to, on one hand, deliver on our Manifesto commitments, and on the other hand, manage the economy properly and prudently. On behalf of the NPP Government, I assure this House that we would deliver on all manifesto commitments. Mr Speaker, again, we have been told that electricity is going to decline, expansion in education, real estates, et cetera. Mr Speaker, what we were not told was that overall, the rate at which the economy together with its jobs would expand is 6.3 per cent from a provisional 3.6 per cent in 2016. Again, we have been told by Hon Fifi Kwetey that the President promised to abolish the Energy Sector Levy --
Hon Member, hold on. In view of the time, I direct that we Sit outside the prescribed time.
Mr Speaker, Hon Fifi Kwetey has told this House that the NPP promised to abolish the Energy Sector Levy. Mr Speaker, it is important that it goes on record that there is no such thing as Energy Sector Levy. What we have is an Energy Sector Levies Act in which there are several tax lines. What we have done in this Budget Statement is to reduce the Special Petroleum Tax from 17.5 per cent to 15 per cent. Mr Speaker, but it is strange that on one hand they said that we are running away from our commitments and on the other hand we are told to deliver on our school feeding --
Hon Member, hold on. Hon John Jinapor?
Mr Speaker, thank you and with your permission, I would want to state that the Hon Member is misleading this House. He said that they have honoured what they promised the people of Ghana.
“The 2016 Policy Advisor and Chairman of the New Patriotic Party's Energy Committee, Mr Boakye Agyarko, has assured Ghanaians that the NPP government led by Nana Akufo- Addo will reduce the killer electricity tariffs slapped on [the people of Ghana by making it affordable.]”
Mr Speaker, he goes on to tell us what they will do to make it affordable.
Hon Member, what are you quoting from?
Mr Speaker, my source is Headline News -- Oman FM. The date is August 4th, -- Oman FM -- their own station. Mr Speaker, the date is August 4th, 2016, and the time was 7:15pm. Mr Speaker, if you would indulge me, I shall deliver not just the visual but the audio recording of that interview to the Table Office.
“Speaking on Oman FM's political analysis programme “Boiling Point” the former Vice President of the Bank of New York said the NPP's government would remove all the new levies being introduced by Mahama government.” Mr Speaker, the operational word is that they will remove all the levies. Have they removed all the levies? Mr Speaker, have they done that?
Mr Speaker, that which we call the Energy Sector Levies Act, the levies in there were not introduced by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Administration. What the Energy Sector Act did was to bring together these tax lines that existed in different legislations into the Energy Sector Levies Act. So my Hon Friend should be advised that it was not a tax they brought, and they cannot say that because they brought it, we must remove it. Mr Speaker, however, one of the things we have also heard today is that the good things we have promised the people of this country; the free Senior High School (SHS), the abolishing of tolls on kayayes and the many good things about which the people of this country are happy are not going to be financed by any new moneys. Mr Speaker, we have also been told that we seek to raise so much money and that is overambitious. Also, our expenditures have been underestimated, and for that reason, our Budget is not realistic and it is 419. I am happy they have been advised about the quotation in the Bible. Mr Speaker, there are a couple of things that we have done in this Budget. Firstly, we have planned in the strategies in the Budget to cut the waste and the corruption. Nobody has said that sole sourcing is unlawful. The Public Procurement Act indicates the special circumstances under which we are able to do sole sourcing -- international and domestic. Yet, what we have seen under the previous Administration, especially, has been the unbridled use of sole sourcing, even when there is no emergency. From the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange Project to the AMERI deal, to the Karpower deal, to the Kasoa Interchange Project, it has all been sole sourcing. What is this?
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, I am sure the Hon Colleague on the other side of the House is grossly misleading the House. Mr Speaker, when he uses the word “unbridle”, “unfettered”, it simply means that there is no ceiling or there is no cap; it is open-ended. He cannot use that to qualify the bidding processes that transpired under the Government. This is because they were just 8 per cent, if you look at the records on sole sourcing. This information has been made available. I believe my very good Friend, the Hon Kwarteng knows that. So if he should get up to describe it as unbridled, it is an abuse. I am sure the Hon Majority Leader whose diction is impeccable on this would agree with me that the use of that word is completely inappropriate in this context. So, Mr Speaker, he should revise and withdraw the word “unbridled” and qualify it appropriately.
Hon Member, please continue.
Mr Speaker, I would have wished that any Hon Member will get up to say that the projects that I have indicated were not procured through sole sourcing but competitive tendering. I would have withdrawn my statement, but as it stands, all these projects that should have gone through competitive tendering were procured through sole sourcing. What is this? Instead of Government putting out the projects it wanted to do, inviting different vendors to come and tell us how they would do it and how much they would charge so that we could make a decision, what the Government did was to enter into the office with just one vendor, lock the door, do their negotiations, and when they come out, they say this is what the vendor said he would charge. They tell the people of Ghana it is a good price.
Hon Kwarteng, hold on.
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, there is something that has been going on in the House for some time and I think we need to cure it. The Hon Majority Leader is an industry player; his profession is in the building environment. There are clear rules as to the circumstances under which a project could be procured through sole sourcing and they are laid down. I had hoped that my Brother could cite one and tell me that the description that has been given and approved by the professionals at the Public Procurement Agency was breached. Mr Speaker, for instance, the refurbishment of this Chamber qualifies under that because the developer is the same person who built this. So if we keep on making the public believe that there are a group of people in the country who flout procurement laws, it is wrong. The Jubilee House is a very good example; With Shapooji and Company that came from India, everybody could have said that the US$36 million that was mentioned in this House that was approved, the Public Procurement should have gone to open tender --
Hon Member, what is your point?
Mr Speaker, my point is that, we, including yourself, have been hearing that governments have been using sole sourcing in an unfettered manner, and there is no record of that. The Jubilee House was procured properly
Hon Members, order! So, what is your complaint?
My complaint is that --
He said that some projects were procured through sole sourcing. So, does it suggest that it is illegal? That is not what he said. He started by saying that nobody is saying that sole sourcing is illegal. So, he has not made any allegation of illegality. He has only suggested that it has a -- I do not think there is any point to be debated. Hon Member, please continue.
Mr Speaker, I have been invited to give specific examples. I believe I have.
Hon Kwaku Kwarteng --
I have to add that the Smarttys bus branding deal was another unlawful sole sourcing.
Hon Member for Obuase West, your contribution has been interjected. Looking at the record, you should have finished about three minutes ago. I am allowing you two minutes more. Please, speak to the issues.
Mr Speaker, I would be winding up, except to add that we have sought to realign some of our statutory funds; and one of them is the Internally Generated Funds (IGF). We are motivated in this by the fact that in the past, we had state agencies such as the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) and Ghana Revenue Authority that gave millions to a private person that printed just two thousand copies of presidential diaries. Per our strategies, if these agencies have money to give to a private man to print presidential diaries in exchange for --
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, the Hon Member referred to the Internally Generated Fund (IGF) as a statutory fund. The IGF is not a statutory fund, so he should correct himself for the record.
Mr Speaker, I would like to avert my Hon Friend's mind to the fact that the allocation to Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), the 3 per cent, is by law and that makes it statutory in nature. I would plead with him to take his time to read the law. He would understand what I am saying. Mr Speaker, my conclusion is this; in this Budget, not only have we sought to correct the wastage and the bad expenditure, we have also sought to grow the private sector as a way of creating jobs and letting the private sector contribute to the national purse. That is how we deal with the gap between our incomes and our expenditure.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute. I would acknowledge that the 2017 Budget Statement and Economic Policy acknowledged the addition of 800 megawatts of power generation in 2016, and further went forward to acknowledge that in the financial year --
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, I need your guidance. Earlier today, you gave us the impression that today being International Women's Day, you would give preference to women. I would like to know --
Hon Akoto Osei, you are out of order. I did not state anywhere that I would give preference to women in this debate. It was on the Statement that was on the floor at the time. Hon Dr Donkor, please continue.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I also acknowledge that in this year's Budget Statement, the Hon Minister for Finance acknowledged that 1200 megawatts of additional generation would come on board. Mr Speaker, these new additions, 800 megawatts in 2016 and 1,200 megawatts in 2017, arose out of approvals of this House. A power plant, except under emergency, takes an average of three years to come to fruition. Therefore, this House should be proud of itself in the approval of new power plants today which we can boast are on line or are coming on line in 2017. Mr Speaker, this Budget also recognises the hard work put in by the previous Administration in coming to this level where in two years, 2000 megawatts of additional generation, unprecedented in any period, has been added to the national generation base. Mr Speaker, while congratulating the Hon Minister for Finance and for that matter the Government, I would also draw the Hon Minister's attention to a continuous bottleneck in the power sector. It is the issue of fuel supply, the need to diversify fuel sources in the power sector. Mr Speaker, in its wisdom, this House also approved an alternate power fuel source and it is my prayer and wish that this House and the Government would ensure that in order to provide fuel supply security, all approvals made by this House would be implemented. Mr Speaker, I would draw your attention to the national electrification as captured on page 85 of the Budget Statement. I would want this House and the Government to commit to universal accessibility, which had been the policy of the previous Government. Mr Speaker, on page 85, the Budget Statement recognises that in 2016, national accessibility was brought to 83.24 per cent. However, the Budget is silent on the target for 2017. This House had been told in previous Budget Statements in previous years that we expect to attain universal accessibility, which is defined as 90 per cent or more. Mr Speaker, we would want a commitment from the Government that this Government would continue to increase accessibility and that, having access to power would be a major growth goal if Ghanaian industry is to improve.
Mr Speaker, let me just indicate to the Hon Minority Leader that this path that he wants to walk us on has been beaten before. Indeed, it is a dangerously outworn shibboleth. So, please, would he plough it back into the plough shed?
Hon Member on the floor, kindly continue. When a new issue arises, I would alert you.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would also touch on the commitment to local content in paragraph 801, page 137 of the Budget Statement. Mr Speaker, the Budget Statement mentions commitment to local content, but there are no new measures to improve the operation of local content in the country. Mr Speaker, for example, in the last Parliament, the Energy Commission Act was amended by this House to enable us operationalise proposals for an airline for local content in the power sector. I expect a commitment to local content in the power sector. Mr Speaker, if we are positioning ourselves as a major power hub for the sub-region, we should not just be trading in power but we should also be manufacturing the equipment needed in the power system. Mr Speaker, I would also want to draw your attention to a significant omission in the Budget Statement. On page 197, the Budget Statement stated that gas from the Sankofa-Gye Nyame (SGN) field would be delivered at US$9.8 per million British Thermal Units (BTU) as per the petroleum agreement. Mr Speaker, at the time the Sankofa- Gye Nyame Project was initiated, crude oil sold between US$80 and US$100 per barrel on the world market. Therefore, the projection of a project cost of US$7.9 billion was what was used. Mr Speaker, in the course of development, the price of crude oil tumbled and therefore, foreseeing this possibility, the Petroleum Agreement had a provision that would trigger a renegotiation should the price drop. Mr Speaker, I urge the Government to take advantage of this provision because at US$9.8, our industry would be totally uncompetitive. We cannot sell power in the sub-region above 12 cents per kilowatt hour. We must come together as a nation and apply the provisions that the negotiators of the Petroleum Agreement so wisely insisted on and get a gas price lower than US$9.8 per million BTU. Mr Speaker, if we do this, we would position ourselves as a major exporter of power. I would also want to look at optimising energy access as contained on page 149, paragraph 869 of the Budget Statement. Mr Speaker, I am very excited that the promise or the proposal to put the Ghana Grid Company Limited (GRIDCo) on the stock exchange, as contained in the State of the Nation Address has been dropped from the Budget Statement. Mr Speaker, I would want to applaud the Hon Minister for Finance and the Government, at least, for listening to professional technical opinion that GRIDCo is a strategic national asset and should not be subjected to the motive of profit. Mr Speaker, having said that, in hive of the thermal access of the Volta River Authority (VRA) to form the new entity, as contained in the Budget, we on the Minority side of the House would want to advise those who would operationalise this to understand and accept that we would hive off, not as a way to raise revenue for projects other than the energy sector. Whatever is realised should go into the building of the energy sector. It should go into making generation in Ghana a world class activity.
Hon Member, your time is up.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Issah Fuseini?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion. Mr Speaker, I do want to support the 2017 Budget Statement, rightly christened as “Asempa Budget”. Mr Speaker, what the 2017 Budget Statement seeks to do is to put Ghana back on the track of economic growth. From where we have come from, I would want to concentrate on a couple of indices in the past. Mr Speaker, I would talk on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Gross Domestic Product -- For a developing economy like Ghana, we expect that we grow exponentially. What happened in this economy over the last seven years has been a declining economy. Mr Speaker, in 2011, our economy grew by 11 per cent. Well, I would want the Hon Member to know that it grew under the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Government at that percentage. Since then, the rate of our economic growth has declined. Mr Speaker, in 2012, the economy grew by 9.3 per cent; in 2013, it grew by 7.3 per cent, in 2014, it grew by 4.0 per cent, and in 2015, it grew by 3.9 per cent. Mr Speaker, it goes to say that if Ghanaians had not made the decision for change and had continued with the status quo, our economy would have still been in a decline. It was projected that in 2016, the economy would grow by 3.6 per cent. Mr Speaker, in looking at the GDP, we could also look at various sectors of the economy. Let us concentrate on industry. Industry was projected to grow at the rate of 7.0 per cent in 2016, but industry ended up growing at negative 1.2 per cent.
sector of industry, which is the Mining and Quarry Industry, grew at negative 11.2 per cent. These are supposed to be the employment drivers in the economy. For a sector to grow by negative 11.2 per cent, it would drive us into a state of joblessness, because the sectors which are supposed
Hon Members, the Hon Second Deputy Speaker would take the Chair. 14. 32 p.m. --
[MR SECOND DEPUTY SPEAKER IN THE CHARI]
Hon Member, continue.
Mr Speaker, for a sector which is supposed to be a driver of employment in the economy to grow by negative 11.2 per cent that depicts a state of hopelessness.
Hon Member, just a minute. Yes, Hon Member?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I come on a point of order. Mr Speaker, the Hon Colleague is grossly misleading the House.
Hon Member, please, draw my attention to the Standing Order.
Mr Speaker, I come on Standing Order 91. The Hon Colleague is grossly misleading this House. I say this because -- [Interruption] --
Hon Member, please, draw my attention to the Standing Orders, where it is out of order to mislead the House.
Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to Standing Order 91 (1). Mr Speaker, the Hon Member misleads --
Hon Member, is it Standing Order 91 (1)?
Mr Speaker, 91 (a).
Standing Order 91 (a)?
Mr Speaker, I come under Standing Order 91(a), and with your permission, it says that --
Hon Member, Standing Order 91 what?
Mr Speaker, 91(a). Mr Speaker, I come on a point of order because the Hon Colleague is grossly misleading us. He is misleading us because he made reference to the fact that in 2016, the projected GDP for mining and quarry was negative 11 per cent. Mr Speaker, he went on to say that mining and quarry obviously was projected to grow by negative 11 per cent and for that matter employment generation at the time was bad. Mr Speaker, the very reason the mining and quarry he made reference to failed to perform was because the oil sector failed to grow by 13.39 per cent. Mr Speaker, as we speak, the very GDP that he makes reference to, in the 2017 projection -- Mr Speaker, the only thing that has changed is mining and quarry --
Hon Member, you are completely out of order. Hon Members, Standing Orders 91 and 92 are the ones under which you can come to interrupt an Hon Member on the floor. Standing Order 91 (a) is when there is disorder in the House and you would want to draw the attention of Mr Speaker to it. So, you come by Standing Order 91 (a) by raising a point of order. Standing Order 91 (b) is where it is a matter of privilege, a privilege that is granted Members of Parliament. That you would draw attention to that privilege. The privileges are different from your rights. Your immunities -- We are talking about privileges and so, you should go and look at them. Hon Members, the House has to be managed because we are debating a very important instrument of Government and we should be able to listen to each other. These Standing Orders are not for nothing and I would always insist we abide by them. So, Hon Member, you can continue.
Mr Speaker --
I recognise the Hon Majority Leader.
Mr Speaker, I thank you very much for letting us know. These are basic rudimentary things that MPs should know. Mr Speaker, when an Hon Member seeks to interject on a point of order, as you have said, it is for that Hon Member going forward, to draw attention to which Standing Order has been breached. The Hon Member has been on his feet -- I do not want to say he was fumbling but it was difficult for him to let us know which Standing Orders the Hon Member had breached.
Hon Majority Leader, this is applicable to both sides of the House; it is not to one side. Truly, when you refer to misleading the House, it is one of the instances cited for contempt or breach of privilege and the procedure is Standing Order 31. Hon Member, you may continue.
Respectfully, if I may. Rather, it is Standing Order 30, but I thought the referee would not become a coach. [Laughter.]
Hon Majority Leader, if the rules of the game are breached, the referee is at liberty to draw attention of the players to the breach of the rules. [Laughter.] Hon Member, you may continue.
Mr Speaker, I am back on GDP. I have actually traced the trend in our GDP growths over the last seven years. What is different with the 2017 Budget Statement, rightly quoting again the Asempa Budget, is that, for the first time in seven years, it sets out a path of growth.
Hon Member, just a minute. Yes, Hon Ato Forson?
Mr Speaker, I come under Standing Order 30 (f) --[Laughter.] Mr Speaker, this time I have come properly. With your permission, if I can speak.
Hon Member, you have compelled me to laugh. [Laughter.] Standing Order 30 (f) deals with issues of contempt of Parliament.
Mr Speaker, when the Hon Colleague spoke, he made reference to the fact that when they left office in 2009, they left a debt equivalent to -- In fact, he did not even use the word “equivalent”. He said they left a debt of GH¢9 billion, forgetting that that debt has a foreign component. Mr Speaker, that foreign component of GH¢9 billion is about US$5 billion. Mr Speaker, US$5 billion in today's terms cannot be GH¢9 billion as he talked about. It is very important that when we give out this information, we are careful as long as the present value is concerned. Mr Speaker, that is why I came under Standing Order 30 (f).
Hon Ato Forson, if your intention was to explain an issue that was on the floor, then you have to look at Standing Order 92 (1) (b) and there is a process you have to go through. This one, you are trying to expatiate, explain or elucidate an issue and that is where you go under Standing Order 92 (1) (b) and for that, there is a process. So, Hon Member, I will give you two more minutes to conclude. 2. 45 p. m.
Mr Speaker, I am still on the issue of debt. In 2016, we had to make interest payments of GH¢10.8 billion. This is relative to our debt level in 2009 which was GH¢10.8 billion and interest payment in 2016 relative to a total debt of GH¢9.5 billion in 2009. That is how low our economy looks. Mr Speaker, more frightening is the fact that, in 2017, our total interest payment is GHc13.3 billion. Mr Speaker, I did work on another statistics which showed the debt per capita. In a very simple language, it is our total debt of GH¢122 billion, divided by the population of Ghana. It tells us that every baby born in Ghana today, as soon as the baby cries on the first day of birth, that baby automatically owes GHc4, 500.00 -- [Interruption.]Mr Speaker, because of the trend in borrowing by Government, this actually crowded out the private sector and the private sector did not have the opportunity to borrow to invest in their businesses. This has led to us having an average lending rate of 32.1 per cent relative to 25.7 per cent in May, 2015. All these indices are saying that, it is very unsustainable the way the economy was being managed under the erstwhile NDC Government. What the Asempa Budget seeks to do, Mr Speaker --
Hon Member, please, conclude.
Mr Speaker, in conclusion, the policy actions set out in the Budget seek to fix the economy and change the narrative to put the economy back on the path of growth. We believe that this Budget sets out the stage to implement the economic transformation agenda outlined in the vision of His Excellency, President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo. Thank you.
Hon Members, regarding the list before me on the side of the Minority, we have Hon Ricketts-Hagan Kweku.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion on the floor moved by the Hon Minister for Finance and seconded by Hon Dr Assibey- Yeboah, to approve the 2017 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of His Excellency, the President of the Republic. Mr Speaker, in doing so, I first of all want to point out to my Hon Colleague who just spoke and made reference to the 2008 debt to GDP ratio of 32 per cent. My Hon Colleague was misleading the House. Mr Speaker, I have in my hands the 2009 Budget and with your permission, I read page 24 paragraph 94. “Madam Speaker, in 2008, gross public debt rose by about US$600 million --
Sorry, Hon Member, the Hon Majority Leader has been on his feet for some time now.
Mr Speaker, since my Hon Colleague is on the trajectory of misleading the House, may I draw his attention to the Motion before us? He is quoting a different Motion altogether. The Motion before us is here, and it is on the Order Paper. If he gets the Motion wrong, he may get the debate wrong. May he apply himself to the Motion before this House? [Interruption]-- He misquoted what is here. Mr Speaker, he is saying that the Motion is to approve the 2017 Budget Statement and the Asempa Budget. Mr Speaker, the Motion before us, as captured on the Order Paper, is that this House approves the Financial Policy of the Government of Ghana for the year ending of 31st December, 2017. That is the Motion before us. Mr Speaker, I am just indicating to him that this is not the Motion we have set out to debate and --
Hon Majority Leader, thank you for your guidance. Please, can you continue?
Hon Member, just a minute. Hon Member?
Mr Speaker, I start from Standing Order 91 (a) and then I go to Order 30 (f).
No. Hon Member, with the additional explanation by the Hon Majority Leader, that is not the course to chart. So if you do not have a point of order, kindly resume your seat.
Order 91 (a) fortified by Order 30 (f).
No. Please, Hon Member, continue with the submission. [Laughter.]
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The industrialisation policy has already started. It is not an initiative of this Government. Mr Speaker, I take you to page 79 of the 2017 Budget Statement, and I am making reference to paragraph 426; the industrial development pro- gramme, which is part of the industrialisation policy of the NDC Government. Mr Speaker, under that policy is the reason why the Komenda Sugar Factory was built. I read paragraph 426; “Mr Speaker, the Ministry commissioned the 1, 250 tonnes of cane per day (TCD) capacity Komenda Sugar Factory. A cane nursery was also established to supply cane seedlings to out- grower and nucleus farms within the catchment areas, to feed the factory. In 2017, the Ministry will facilitate the development of an irrigation project and sugarcane plantation”. Mr Speaker, with money that has already been approved by this House; GH¢24.5 million that was approved under the NDC Government. So, industriali- sation has already started. Now I want to look at the macroeconomics that this Budget Statement has presented. This Budget Statement is doing too many things in too short a time with very little money. I still fail to find where the money to do all these monumental expenditures, is going to come from. There is free Senior High School education; one district, one factory; one village, one dam and one constituency, one million dollars. I have found another one in the Budget Statement. On page 78, paragraph 417, and I read; “Mr Speaker, preparatory activities for the implementation of the National Export Strategy was completed and in 2017, the Ministry will roll out its district level component of the National Export Strategy to develop one export commodity in every district.” Mr Speaker, one district, one export commodity. [Laughter.] We do not know where that money is going to come from. This Budget Statement is simply not a Budget you can reconcile. It is simply an unrealistic Budget Statement. We all understand that we need to be ambitious in this country. We have been told we have to also be philosophical about the Budget Statement, but I want to remind my Hon Friends on the other side that we also have to be realistic. Mr Speaker, currently, Ghana is on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, trying to do fiscal consolidation. The yaa mutu macroeconomics that is presented by the Government is trying to do otherwise. They talk about fiscal stimulus. An economy that is undergoing fiscal consolidation is at the same time undergoing fiscal expansion. Mr Speaker, they are cutting taxes and hoping to raise GH¢44 billion in revenue in 2017. The tax component is about GH¢34 billion. Yet, they are cutting every tax under the sun and have not provided any means of expanding the tax base. All the things they are talking about are already in existence. The technology for Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) is already there. Yet, they are hoping to raise GH¢44 billion which is almost GH¢10 billion over the last revenue raised in 2016.
Hon Member, just a minute. I can see Hon Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah on his feet.
Mr Speaker, I come under Standing Order 91 (a).
Standing Order 91 (a)?
Yes, Mr Speaker. My Good Friend on the other side said emphatically that this Budget Statement tries to achieve fiscal consolidation.
What does Standing Order 91 (a) say?
It says; “Debates may be interrupted -- (a) by a point of order being raised;”
What is your understanding of that?
Mr Speaker, my understanding of it is that if an Hon Member is indulging in an act or stating a factual inaccuracy, I may be permitted under this to raise the point that he is breaching his privileges --
You are completely out of order. Please resume your seat. [Laughter.]
Mr Speaker, any Budget statement anywhere in the world that tries to cut taxes and at the same time raises expenditure is a fiscal expansion Budget Statement. The fiscal stimulus that this Government is talking about is pretty much not going to do anything to growth. The fiscal stimulus that this Government is talking about, which is not being funded properly in the Budget Statement, is simply going to lead us to a bigger deficit than they came to meet. Mr Speaker, the only way they can fund that deficit is to borrow. This is an NPP Government that when they were in opposition, were allergic to borrowing. So, I do not know how they are going to do it. The debt stock is obviously going to go up. It would lead to inflation and interest rates. This Budget would quite frankly hurt growth and not help it.
Hon Member, you have one more minute.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. They talk about a different philosophy, having a different economic management style from the NDC's as they put it. In the end, there is only one economic reality. This Budget is indeed a yaa mutu Budget Statement; it is an asem beba debi Budget Statement. [Laughter.] Literally meaning that we are opening ourselves up to serious risks in the future.
Hon Majority Leader, I have two lists here from the Majority caucus. I still have about four names from the Majority Side and they are on two papers. So I need your guidance as to who is in line now.
Mr Speaker, I guess we would take one more from either side and we can bring the curtains down today.
Why? Do you not have the men? [ Laughter.]
Do I call Hon William Owuraku Aidoo?
If you may call, we have Hon Kofi Okyere Agyekum, Member of Parliament for Fanteakwa South.
Hon Kofi Okyere Agyekum?
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Budget of President Nana Akufo-Addo. Mr Speaker, I would focus my attention on the job creation aspects of the Budget Statement. As aptly described by the theme, we are sowing the seeds for growth and jobs. Over the last few years, growth has been showing a downward trajectory. From 2008, growth has declined from 9.1 per cent to a provisional estimate of 3.6 per cent in 2016. As a result of that, jobs have declined and I can say that the lack of jobs and unemployment pose the greatest threat to our security at the moment. Mr Speaker, the lack of jobs has resulted in another great security threat to our country. I am talking about galamsey which has resulted in the degradation of our lands and the destruction of our forests and water bodies. Mr Speaker, the youth have no jobs and it is therefore difficult to preach to them about the danger in galamsey. The hungry man does not understand that galamsey is illegal. Mr Speaker, the Budget Statement in responding to these threats to our national security has rightly removed all the nuisance taxes that have hindered the growth of businesses, especially in the private sector. It is expected that the removal of taxes like the Value Added Tax (VAT) on financial services, the flat rate of 3 per cent for VAT and many other nuisance taxes would ensure that businesses would grow and create the needed jobs for our youth. Mr Speaker, in addition to that, the plan to ensure the development of enterprises would increase jobs that are available to our youth. Mr Speaker, I recall that in the three previous Budget Statements before this one, there were always plans to create 300,000 jobs since 2013 but none of them materialised. I believe that this plan therefore to develop entrepreneurship among our people and support businesses that are struggling -- [Interruption.] There is another plan to give stimulus package to businesses that are dying. This is because of the unfriendly business environment that has been witnessed over the few years like lack of power, high tariff rates and many others. Unfriendly developments have made it impossible for some businesses which hitherto were profitable to survive. The distressed business development programmes would bring back these businesses and create jobs for our people. Mr Speaker, the programme to build one village, one dam would revolutionise agriculture; it would create jobs for the people. I can imagine what an all year round agriculture as a result of the availability of water would do for the youth of this country, the income it would bring to the youth of this country and the tax revenue that it would bring to this country. Mr Speaker, the one district, one factory is clearly an attempt to make sure that this monumental increase in crop production results in further jobs in the factories. Apart from jobs in the factories, jobs would also be created in the value chain. There would be jobs in marketing, distributions and sales. Mr Speaker, that is not the only thing that would create jobs. The construction of the railway from Takoradi to Paga would create jobs in the construction itself, as well as in the numerous suppliers that would have to supply what the railway would need.
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, there is no construction of railways from Takoradi to Paga in the 2017 Budget Statement. There is no promise of that in the Budget Statement. No construction work has been mentioned in the 2017 Budget Statement.
Mr Speaker, the construction of the railways from Takoradi to Paga which would begin this year, would create jobs. [Interruption] - It is in the Budget Statement.
Where is it in the Budget, show us?
Hon Member, kindly draw the attention of your Hon Colleagues to the paragraph or page in the Budget Statement. It would just solve the problem and then you can continue.
Mr Speaker, it was clearly stated in the State of the Nation Address which was delivered by the President and I would provide the paragraph in the Budget Statement at the appropriate time. [Interruption] -- [Laughter.]
Hon Member, do you not have a copy of the Budget Statement with you?
Mr Speaker, I do not have a copy now, but I would provide the information later. [Interruption.]
So, all your submissions were based on -- please, you can provide it later on. Let us continue.
Mr Speaker, we would create 105,000 jobs under the Youth Employment Agency (YEA) programme [Interruption.] It is on page 152 of the Budget Statement. We would create jobs in the cocoa sector by re-habilitation, re- planting and mass spraying. Mr Speaker, the reverse in the growth of the economy -
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I heard Hon Colleagues say to the Hon Colleague on his feet, Hon Member for Fanteakwa South, when he mentioned the development of railways, that nothing was mentioned in the Budget Statement to that effect.
Hon Majority Leader, the Hon Member was emphatic on the word “construction” of railways from Takoradi to Paga. He was playing on the word “construction”.
Mr Speaker, “construction” can be subsumed in development. “Construction” is part of development and the word “development” is mentioned in paragraph 557 of the Budget Statement. So, for anybody to say that no mention has been made on “construction”, I do not understand.
Hon Majority Leader, paragraph 557 says; “The Central Spine stretches from Kumasi to Paga covering a distance of 700km. the corridor is a greenfield and will be developed in sections. The sections are Kumasi to Buipe and Buipe to Paga. A prefeasibility study was undertaken on the line and in 2017, Government will invite developers and source funding for the development”. So, is that the construction?
Yes, Mr Speaker,
All right, we can continue.
Mr Speaker, yes, so “construction” could begin in 2017. So, for anybody to pretend optical illusion [Interruption.] -- and say that he or she did not see this [Laughter.] --
Hon Majority Leader, are you not stretching the definition of construction too wide, when they are still to invite developers and source funding and that is already construction? You may be stretching the definition of construction too far.
Mr Speaker, respectfully, I chose my words carefully. I said construction could begin because it is part of development —
Could be realised —
Mr Speaker, I have not said, “could be realised'. Mr Speaker, respectfully, the Chair wants to import some words into my mouth. I said it could begin. It is completely different from saying that it could be realised. If it is “could be realised”, it may mean that the construction —
Hon Majority Leader, the word was used by the Hon Member on the floor and therefore, the objection was raised on the use of that word that there would be no construction this year. And so it is not coming from the one raising the point of order, but from the Hon Member who was on his feet. But you have explained it, that at least there was mention of it, and they admitted the pre-feasibility studies. It means that they would continue with feasibility studies, source funding and then invite developers this year. That is what paragraph 557 talks about. Hon Member, can you conclude? Because of the interventions, I will give you two minutes. I am not by this saying you should go and manufacture more ammunitions. If your ammunitions are finished, you are at liberty to end.
Mr Speaker, in my view, the growth in the economy, reversing the downward trend in the previous few years from 3.6 per cent to 6.3 per cent, would give the greatest impetus to jobs. Mr Kobena M. Woyome — rose --
Hon Member, they want to take a few seconds of your time again.
Mr Speaker, I come under Standing Order 92 (a) —
We do not have Standing Order 92 (a). [Uproar.]
Mr Speaker, Standing Order 92(1) (a) and (b), to elucidate some matters raised by the Hon Member —
Please, is it Standing Order 92(1) (a) or (b)?
Mr Speaker, Standing Order 92(1) (b).
All right, just a minute. Hon Member, are you prepared to yield to him?
Mr Speaker, no.
Please, can you continue with your contribution?
Mr Speaker, in concluding, this Budget would result in unprecedented increase in jobs and income for the youth as a result of the all- year round farming.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Budget Statement delivered by the Hon Minister for Finance, Mr Ken Ofori- Atta. Mr Speaker, let me state for a start that I am yet to lay hands on the report — [Interruption]—
Hon Member, please, what did you say? — [Laughter]
Mr Speaker, I was distracted. The Leadership was talking to me. I am sorry. But let me start all over again. Mr Speaker, what I said was that I am yet to sight the three reports that are supposed to have come with the Budget Statement, especially, the Petroleum Revenue Report, the 2016 Annual Debt Report, and the 2016 Energy Sector Levies Report. I believe it is important that we have those reports. When the Hon Minister spoke, he said that those Reports have been laid. We expect to have copies of that.
On a point of order! Mr Speaker, these Reports have been laid in the House. And so if he is unaware, he should say so. He should not create the impression that, even though it was spoken about, they have not been laid.
Hon Majority Leader, your line is very faint. We can hardly hear you from this side. There may be some problem —
Mr Speaker, it may be adjusted upwards — the levels may have to be increased. But I will check it.
But he is just drawing your attention to the fact that the Hon Minister has laid it and there is a process of getting copies across to the House. The process of laying is known to all of us.
Mr Speaker, I thought that was done. But if in his opinion it has not been done, I will cross- check. But I thought that they came alongside the presentation. But we will look at it.
This is administrative.
Mr Speaker, that is so.
Mr Speaker, that was the point made. I believe we need the report. Mr Speaker, what I started with was that, it was the excitement that led to the victory of the NPP and the coming into office of H.E Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo — [Interruption.] The hopes and aspirations of the people of Ghana was that, those key promises would be fulfilled and the signs would be shown in this Budget. Mr Speaker, when I listened to the presentation of the Budget, my interest was gauged on, firstly, looking at the key manifesto promises on whether or not, we could see clear indications as priorities that have been lined in this budget.
“The NPP will end dumsor in the short term through government liquidity injection, restructuring of debts, commitment for a reliable supply of fuel.” Mr Speaker, these investments, as we know, are very critical to some of the policy priorities that have been outlined; one district, one factory. Mr Speaker, I have gone through this Budget and I do not see the policies that would really address the issue of cost of electricity that the people of Ghana were so excited about. Mr Speaker, let me ask the question; how much has been allocated to the Energy Sector in this Budget? I take you to page 135, paragraph 792, and that is where I had my first shock. Mr Speaker, the expenditure for the Energy Sector in 2016 was GH¢238 million. Actual expenditure at the end of 2016 was GH¢201 million. The amount that went for — And I know Hon Members are very interested in the rural electrification. The amount that went to rural electrification was GH¢ 111 million. Speaker, the hopes and aspirations of the people of Ghana in 2017 -- Let us see the commitment of this new Government in 2017. Mr Speaker, in 2017, an amount of GH¢81 million is what has been allocated to the power sector out of which an amount of GH¢49 million would be spent on rural electrification. This is night and day; somebody should ask the question how we have moved accessibility from 80.5 per cent to 83.24 per cent? It is because of our focused investment. Access to electricity in rural villages which do not have access is not funny. We do not see that commitment here in this Budget Statement and the numbers are there to show for. Mr Speaker, I think we have talked a lot about the commitment stated here and I am quoting the NPP Manifesto, 2016: “Reduce taxes on electricity tariff to provide immediate relief to households and industry”. I would not create a controversy as I am not a Mathematician. But I got somebody to do the mathematics for me and clearly, the electricity levy that has been reduced from 5 per cent to 3 per cent on the poorest households is equivalent to GH¢0.84 pesewas. Is that the excitement that brought the NPP to power? Is that what the people of Ghana were yearning for? I do not think so but that is what we see in this Budget Statement. Mr Speaker, let me take you to other promises; on page 33 of the NPP Manifesto, 2016 states: “We will develop collaboration with the private sector in the Western Region into a required all service hub with a first class port”.
I can see the Hon Majority Deputy Whip on his feet.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Member himself does not know the mathematics and somebody worked it for him. How do we know the person had it right?
Hon Member, is it on a point of order?
Mr Speaker, on a point of order and correction. [Laughter]
Please, resume your seat.
Mr Speaker, we do not see that commitment in this Budget Statement for an oil and gas port. I am also yet to see the commitment on the relocation of Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) into the Western Region which is featured in this Budget Statement.
Mr Speaker, I would quote the Hon Agyeman-Manu, for example; it is the Official Report and the date was 23rd December, 2015 and it was on column 2348. I am quoting Hon Agyeman-Manu. This was in our effort to pass the energy sector levies and these are the contributions that came from the other end. “Mr Speaker, let me go back to the new levies that are being introduced to the petroleum price build-up. We still have debt recovery to make and we are talking about Tema Oil Refinery and Debt Recovery Levy. What I would conclude with is the fact that it looks like the Government does not want to feel us. We are paying so much for many things. We are now introducing new tariffs for 2016; we have already started. We are going to pay some extra levies on electricity and fuel consumption, how do they expect us to survive?” If I recall correctly, I was hearing Hon Members say “they are killing us”. Mr Speaker, but we need to do that. The Minister of Finance in this Budget clearly demonstrated to the people of Ghana that that bold decision that was not a political decision - there comes a time we do not need to make convenient political decisions; we need to make decisions that are good for this country. It was stated that 3.2 billion was what was realised from the sector levies. In fact, the projection was 3.2 billion and instead of the promise to scrap the levies, in this Budget, it has moved from that to consolidation of the levies. Thank you and welcome to the club -- but that is the reality. Mr Speaker, it was also variously stated that the energy sector is indebted but what was not stated was the foundation that has been laid. But nobody talked about the payments that had been made. Just last year alone, 2016, and I take you to the Budget Statement again; 187 million was paid to creditor banks for Tema Oil Refinery. 124 million was paid for fuel exchange under recoveries last year. Another 787.03 million was utilised for payment of utilities, almost a billion. Another 189.3 million payment was made for strategic stocks. Does this look like a Government that was not focused on dealing with energy sector debts? Mr Speaker, I think the Minister for Finance admitted again and I think that it has been stated that the focus on the Energy Sector was clear. Former President Mahama and his NDC Government infused 880 megawatts and a promise of additional 1,200 megawatts and it cannot be that those projects -- [Interruption] - we could share the 880 megawatts with you; I know that. But nobody here can challenge me AKSA, GPCC, those were NDC projects -- pure and simple. These are not projects that they initiated -- They would like to say that. They never initiated any of these projects.
Hon Member, you are addressing the Chair.
Mr Speaker, we passed Act 919 and because of that, we brought hope and transparency to the oil and gas sector. Why is it that we continue to have 6 billion investment, 7 billion investment in TEN and Sankofa fields. Just last month, we were bringing a new Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vehicle named by President Mahama after President J. A. Kufuor. Mr Speaker, as we talk about the energy sector, we also know that what is critical is the fuel stock. That is why we worked so hard in bringing indigenous gas. Today, we are proud that by 2018, this country would produce over 300 million standard cubic feet of gas; I am happy we laid that foundation for them. But there is still unfinished business in the petroleum sector, and I urge this new Government to focus on those and deal with them. We brought new regulations that accom- panied Act 919, we passed the Metering Regulation but outstanding regulations, Data Management Regulations must be worked on a passed quickly.
Hon Member, the issue of relevance is important here. I would want you to relate your submissions to the Budget Statement and Economic Policy. You have two more minutes.
Mr Speaker, I believe the issues I am raising are very important. Here, we are talking about empowering Ghanaians and creating jobs. In this Budget Statement, when I look at paragraph 80, we are talking about local content. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We passed the Local Content Act, L.I. 2204.
Mr Speaker, do you know what that has done for Ghanaians? It has empowered us. Let me give you the numbers as has been stated in this Budget Statement. It states in paragraph 480, page 88 that, in 2016 alone, Ghanaians were awarded contracts to the tune of US$221 million. This was an improvement from the 2015 contracts of US$128 million. Mr Speaker, I believe that the charge to this new Government is to follow the template of L.I. 2204 so that we do not reinvent the wheel in the local content we would want to do across board. It has already been done successfully. Mr Speaker, we note some of the challenges as has been stated in this Budget Statement with the turret and that explains why we did not get some of the projected numbers in terms of crude oil. It is important that we work aggressively to address they charges on the turret of the FPSO and Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) must do everything possible to exploit every loophole to cut cost. Mr Speaker, this Budget Statement, unfortunately, has dashed the hopes -
Hon Member, you may conclude.
Mr Speaker, I am concluding. To conclude, the proceeds of crude oil liftings as we know in 2016 was only US$207 million. It was stated in this Budget Statement that one of the areas of focus for the free Senior High School would be Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA). Mr Speaker, I believe that we would wait for the detailed discussions of the budget from the Ministry. But there is no reason for us to force ourselves on something that we cannot possibly do. I believe the best option is what we are already working on. Mr Speaker, I am very afraid that the numbers I have seen do not add up. As has been variously stated, we may have to come back to this House and somebody would say, ‘we told you so'. Mr Speaker, this Budget Statement and Economic Policy has unfortunately not given the hope --
Hon Member, your last word.
Mr Speaker, it has dashed the hopes and aspirations of the people of Ghana.
Your last word!
All the things that were said; the reason they won power --
That is the end. Hon Member, may you resume your seat.
We do not yet see the signs but we pray that it would happen. Thank you, Mr Speaker. [Hear! Hear!]
Hon Majority Leader, whither are we?
Mr Speaker, we agreed midway to cut the number of submissions and having travelled this far, I guess we can take a bow. Now, because the time is way beyond 2.00 o'clock. It is past three and it is approaching 4.00 o'clock. Mr Speaker, the power to adjourn now rests with you and we await your own decision. I guess we can take a bow and then reconvene tomorrow at 10 o'clock in the forenoon to continue the debate, when I do hope that it may not be necessary to take any Statements to free the space for a fuller fledged debate on the Budget Statement and Economic Policy. Mr Speaker, I thank you.
Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I do believe that we can bring the curtains to a close today at your pleasure. It was intended that, at least, we have eight persons speak on both sides of the House. It appears that we have been able to do six. I must also note that the Hon Majority Leader must also demonstrate that he is leader of Government Business. Tomorrow, we would not debate it if there is no representation from the Ministry of Finance. He must ensure that even if he would not get the Hon Minister for Finance tomorrow, he knows the aspiring Deputy Ministers. He should bring them to be part of this process. With that, Mr Speaker, we would be at your behest for an adjournment. Thank you.
Respectfully, Mr Speaker, I believe it is important to speak to the issue. At this time in 2009, when it was only Dr Duffuor who had been approved, most times, he was not with us.
Hon Majority Leader, are you addressing the Speaker or the Hon Minority Leader? If it
Mr Speaker, respectfully, because this point has been made on the floor, I thought it would be important to set the records straight. I am saying that in March, 2009 we had approved of only Dr Kwabena Duffuor as the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning. The Deputies had not been approved and because of the responsibilities entrusted on him, he was with us on a couple of occasions. The House did not insist at the time - In fact, thereafter in 2010 and 2011, we were insistent that, at least, the Deputies should join us. It was not so in 2009. So, for my Hon Colleagues to be insisting that the Hon Minister for Finance should be with us from the very onset of the debate and sit through till we conclude, certainly is far away from the world of reality. But we shall endeavour to get the Hon Minister for Finance and indeed other Ministers. Indeed Mr Speaker, we even had Cabinet meeting programmed for 11 o'clock today. I told the President that the Minister for Finance should be freed to be part of this. So, Mr Speaker, we would ensure that not only the Minister for Finance but as many Ministers as are possible join us in the debate. I believe that would enrich the debate that we have in this House.
Accordingly, the House stands adjourned till tomorrow, Thursday at 10.00 o'clock in the forenoon.
The House was adjourned at 3.42 p.m. till Thursday, 9th March, 2017 at 10.00 a.m.