Indeed, Mr Speaker, in West Africa, it has been worsened by the Ebola threat to which the Hon Minster acknowledged that many of the economies would not do well because of the associated health problems in those areas.
Mr Speaker, it is important that there were a number of policy decisions that contributed to the depreciation of the cedi. I also heard arguments about it against other major currencies of 31 per cent. Those decisions have since been reversed and the cedi is showing strength against major currencies.
Mr Speaker, during the presentation of the Budget Statement, our Hon Collea- gues opposite -- how I wish that tomorrow, they would be bold and courageous to show the same placards in red: “Reduce petroleum prices”, on the
assumption that prices of petrol were lower in the world market.
Mr Speaker, they will not have the courage to say same, that “increase petrol prices” if the prices were increased. They will not do so. Mr Speaker, let them undertake to do same tomorrow in the unlikely event that prices go up.
Mr Speaker, never in our country's history have we dealt head-on with a problem of Government continuing to subsidise budget arising out of expenditure management in respect of petroleum. Never!
But under the Hon Minister for Finance, we have made some fundamental gains, and part of the reason, which they know -- Mr Speaker, to remind him, it was the same Hon Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, former Minister of State who raised the question here when the Hon Abu Jinapor came to answer a Question.
Mr Speaker, I beg to quote him with your permission; he asked
“Is he aware that Government owed BBC GH¢ 400 million and some US$ 200 million?”
Mr Speaker, precisely, this is the reason Government is taking advantage of the prices in the world market, to deal with a subsidy challenge for the economy of Ghana. [Hear! Hear!]-- That is why Government would not immediately reduce prices of petroleum products. This is because if we did, we would lose the opportunity to correct some of the threats that would imbalance the economy.
Mr Speaker, I add, the theme for the Budget Statement is “…Securing the Bright Medium Term Prospects …” is to admit that on many of the macro targets, we have not met them. But it is a commitment by Government to honour them in order to correct the short-term challenge, which is both fiscal and budget deficits. That is the candidness of the Hon Minister for Finance. He intends to correct the fiscal challenges in the short-term in order that he can secure the long-term.
Mr Speaker, I can go on and on. It is also remarkable to note that for the first time in our country's history, prices of cocoa were adjusted upwards and the producer price went above 62.74 per cent for 2014 and 2015.
Indeed, Mr Speaker, to quote the exact figures for 2014 and 2015 for the cocoa farmer, this is about the best Budget Statement ever presented. [Hear! Hear!] This is because we are preserving for the cocoa farmer -- Since when have we adjusted cocoa prices the way he did with the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD)? Show me when. Mr Speaker, today, cocoa prices in Ghana are as competitive as those in Ivory Coast or even better.
Mr Speaker, it explains our commitment to the “Better Ghana Agenda” ably being pursued by the Hon Minister for Finance.
Mr Speaker, we also, in this Budget Statement, have said that we would mitigate through some social interven- tions which were mentioned by the Hon Minister for Finance. I think that we ought to support this.
Let me conclude, finally, Mr Speaker, once again, on expanding revenue and the objection by the Minority. Mr Speaker, my Hon Colleagues know that for fiscal prudence, we have two options. We either look at revenue or fiscal discipline in terms of public expenditure management.
Let me assure him that the Minister for Finance and Government, through the Ghana Integrated Financial Management and Information System (GIFMIS), is improving public financial management. Indeed, there would be an improved payroll management, which would assure the very problem that he pointed out in his debate.
It would mean that we would tighten controls of payroll management and deal with the undeserving who may be on the payroll; that would be done and I give him the assurance. We would honour our obligations per the law.
Mr Speaker, I also heard him eloquently quote the law. Mr Speaker, it is not in my character to keep reminding him, because I do not look backwards; that is past. But he knows that he supervised re-aligning the budget. He did so because of the contemporary challenges that confronted him. As the Minister for Finance, he had to realign for the payment of Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) and payment of the District Assemblies Common Fund some years ago.