VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS AND THE OFFICIAL REPORT
Hon Members, Correc- tion of Votes and Proceedings of Friday, 28th July, 2017. Pages 1 . . . 15
Mr Speaker, I have been trying to catch your attention since you got to page 10 of the Votes and Proceedings. I would like to indicate that in the fourth paragraph of page 10, you added that you would be inviting the relevant authorities to your office. That consequential order has been omitted and I would like to draw the attention of the Table Office to that. Mr Speaker, I am grateful.
Thank you very much. Any further corrections? Hon Members, the Votes and Pro- ceedings of Friday, 28th July, 2017, as corrected is hereby accepted as the true record of proceedings. The Official Report dated Tuesday, 25th July, 2017. Any corrections?
Hon Members, there is an indication that H. E. the Vice President will join this Sitting. Hon Members, we shall vary the order of Business on the Order Paper and move on to the Order Paper Addendum. Before the Commencement of Public Business. Hon Members, item numbered 1 -- Statement by the Hon Minister for Finance on the mid-year fiscal policy review of the 2017 Budget. Yes, Hon Deputy Majority Leader?
Order! Yes, Hon Minister for Finance, you may make your Statement. 1. 25 p. m.
Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. Mr Speaker, I note that you have invited the Hon Minister for Finance, reference the Order Paper Addendum, which reads; and with your permission I quote: “Statement by the Minister for Finance on the mid-year fiscal policy review of the 2017 Budget Statement and Economic Policy.”. Mr Speaker, I am holding with me here, the Public Financial Management Act of 2016, Act 921 and it provides in section 28, and with your indulgence, I quote: “The Minister shall not later than the 31st of July of each financial year prepare and submit to Parliament a mid-year fiscal…”.
Hon Minority Leader, please state the appropriate sections before you can --
Mr Speaker, I am referring to the Public Financial Management Act, 2016, (Act 921), section 28, subsection (1) which says that: “The Minister shall not later than the 31st of July of each financial year prepare and submit to Parliament a mid-year fiscal policy review.”
Hon Members, order!
Mr Speaker, I would want to know whether it is a Statement within the remit of section 28 of the Public Financial Management Act, or we are contemplating him further on article 179 (8) of the Constitution. Mr Speaker, we would want to follow him through to know whether it is a Statement of purpose to the House to apprise us of development, but not a review of a policy which was approved by a Motion by this House. I just thought that we should be guided. Mr Speaker, our understanding would be that the Hon Minister is not requesting this House for any action, decision or a review of a policy, but a Statement to the House on his performance so far. Mr Speaker, I so submit.
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, this indeed, is the first time that the Hon Minister for Finance is coming under the Public Financial Management Act to present a mid-year review to this House.
Hon Members, a point has been made and another argument is being made. So, shall we listen or not?
Mr Speaker, mid-year reviews that we have had related to a review of the performance of the economy under the ambit of a budget that would have been approved by this House. Mr Speaker, usually, and indeed, every time we have had a review, it had come concomitantly with a Supplementary Budget. Now, the Supplementary Budget requires a decision to be made on it; that is why we have come by way of a Motion. Mr Speaker, this is because at the end of the day, a Question would have to be put, and a determination would have to be made by this House. That is why it is required to come under a Motion. Mr Speaker, in this case, the difference is that the Hon Minister is coming by way of information transmission -- [Interruptions] -- and to the extent -- [Interruption] — Hon Members, patience ! patience! Mr Speaker, the section 28 (1) that my Hon Colleague quoted, I would want to say that section 29 (2) also provides that the mid-year fiscal policy review shall include the following information, and it lists (a), (b), (c), (d), and in (e), it says that where necessary, plans for submitting a proposed Supplementary Budget for approval by Parliament. Mr Speaker, it says that the Supplemen- tary Budget would require approval and a Question would have to be put on it, but to the extent that approval would not be sought for information transmission, the Hon Minister is not required to come under a Motion.
Hon Minority Leader, do you intend any further comment?
Mr Speaker, I have heard the Hon Majority Leader state empha- tically that it is one of information provision to the Parliament of Ghana. Mr Speaker, with there being no requirement for Parliament to take any action other than to listen and probably with your leave, comment on it, we are good to go. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Hon Members, Standing Order 70 (2) states that: “A Minister of State may make an announcement or a statement of government policy. Any such announcement or statement should be limited to facts which it is deemed necessary to make known to the House and should not be designed to provoke debate at this stage.” It goes on to say: “Any Member may comment briefly, subject to the same limitation.” Hon Members, this is not mutually exclusive at all of the Financial Management Act, 2016 or the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. It is well within the remit of an Hon Minister of State responsible for Finance. Hon Minister, you may proceed.
Mr Speaker, in accordance with section 28 of the Public Financial Management Act of 2016, (Act 921), I stand before this august House to present a mid-year fiscal policy review of the 2017 Budget. Mr Speaker, the 2017 Mid-Year Review is the first under the Public Financial Management Act of 2016, (Act 921). Mr Speaker, before I proceed to make this presentation, I wish to convey our heartfelt appreciation to this august House on behalf of the President, His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, for the cooperation and support of Hon Members in the management of the economy for the past few months. Mr Speaker, it is our expectation that we would continue to strengthen this relationship towards the achievement of our collective development goals. He is just as vigorous to go into battle as he has exemplified in the galamsey battle to rid our dear country of galamsey, filth and corruption. I bring to this august House the President's strong greetings and that you continue to join him in the Lord's battle to bring progress and prosperity to all Ghanaians. Mr Speaker, the Lord has been merciful to us as a nation and every morning I acknowledge the Lord but our burden is heavy and I ask for His favour and say like Moses, “Remember Lord, that this nation is your people.” I believe, Mr Speaker, that we can all testify that our nation has indeed come very far from the cloud of despondency and head hanging to a renewed spirit of optimism and confidence, even in these six months, under the bold and focussed leadership of President Akufo-Addo. Mr Speaker, I am indeed blessed at this time to be the Hon Minister for Finance of our great Republic. I have no doubt that President Akufo-Addo's Administration will transform our nation and conjure a result with the greatest economic prosperity for all of our people. As I sit in my office, I worry about our courage to face the truth, but if we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind or Ghana, whom then shall we serve? So, we need to work harder consciously and face some truths as a collective body. I read about a Methodist Rev. Attoh- Ahuma, 1863 to 1921 -- [Interruption] -- the author of “The Gold Coast Nation and National Consciousness”. He wrote in the Gold Coast Methodist Times in 1897 the following and I quote, with your permmssion: “As a people, we have ceased to be a thinking nation. Our forebears, with all their limitations and disadvantages had occasion to originate ideas and to contrive in their own order. They sowed incorruptible thought seeds and we are reaping a rich harvest today though for the most part, we are scarcely conscious of the debt we owe them.
Our national lives is semi-paralysed; our mental machinery is dislocated; the inevitable consequence being speaking generally, the resultant production of a race of men and women who think too little and talk too much.” It is time, Mr Speaker, to be a national conversation of our values, our citizen- hood and in particular, our collective responsibility to protect the public purse. It is only when each of us as a citizen protects the Republic that these seeds for growth and jobs being sown by President Akufo-Addo, will continue to yield a hundred fold and more. The national conversation of a thinking nation; a nation that is slow to talk but quick to listen should begin now. M r S p e a k e r , o n 2 nd March, 2017, I stood before this Honourable House to present to you the President's first Budget Statement -- the Asempa Budget -- [Interruption] -- which brought hope back to Ghanaians and sowed the seeds for growth, prosperity and jobs. After the approval of the Budget on 31st March, 2017, we went to work “in a hurry” to deliver on the first important job of bringing back stability and pre- dictability into the economy. So far, Mr Speaker, this has been reasonably achieved. Typical of the strengthening per- formance is the fact that for the first six months of the new Akufo-Addo's Government, both the fiscal deficit and primary balance out-performed their targets. The exchange rate is stabilising; inflationary pressures have eased and interest rates are trending downwards. Progressively, confidence is being restored in the economy and we are confident that this positive trend would be sustained in the months and years ahead. Achieving macro-economic stability is not an end in itself. What it has done, however, is to provide the country, especially the private sector, with the platform to grow the economy, create jobs and improve income for workers. Mr Speaker, through the cooperation of this august House, for which we are very grateful, we passed the Income Tax (Amendment) Act, of 2017, (Act 941); the Customs and Excise Petroleum Taxes and Petroleum Related Levels Repeal Act 2017, (Act 943); the Special Import Levy (Amendment) Act of 2017, (Act 944); Energy Sector Levies (Amendment) Act of 2017, Act 946; Value Added Tax (Amendment) Act of 2017, (Act 948) and the Earmarked Funds Capping and Realignment Act, 2017, (Act 947); Special Petroleum Tax (Amendment) Act, 2017, (Act 949) and Customs (Amendment) Act, 2017, (Act 949). This is an incredible amount of work and we thank Hon Members for this. Mr Speaker, as a result and in fulfilment of the President's promise, Government has abolished the one per cent Special Import Levy which was imposed mainly on imported raw materials and machinery; abolished the 17.5 per cent VAT/NHIL on financial services; abolished the 17.5 per cent VAT/NHIL imposed on airline ticket; abolished the excise duty on petroleum to reduce the excess burden on final customers. It also reduced the Special Petroleum Tax from 17.5 to 15 per cent to mitigate the excess burden on final consumers; abolished the five per cent VAT flat rate on the sale of real estate; abolished import duty on spare parts; exempted from tax the gains from realisation of securities listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange. Government also reviewed the ESLA to reduce the cost of power and reduce the National Electrification Scheme Levy from five to three per cent and the Public Lighting Levy from five to two per cent; replaced the 17.5 per cent standard rate with the three per cent flat VAT/NHIL rate for supplies by both retailers and sellers and cap funds to 25 per cent of tax revenue. Mr Speaker, with this background and in accordance with the Public Financial Management Act, my presentation of this mid-year fiscal policy review will focus on the following broad thematic areas: Overview of recent macro-economic development; Update of macro-economic forecast contained in the 2017 Budget; Analysis of the total revenue expenditure and financing per- formance; Presentation of a revised 2017 macro fiscal framework and implication of the revised budget outlook for the medium term fiscal and expenditure framework and key highlights of 2017 Budget implementation. Update on macro-economic develop- ment in 2017 Mr Speaker, in the 2017 Budget, we provided information on macro fiscal developments for the 2016 fiscal year. We, however, now have an updated information which has resulted in the revision of some of the macro fiscal variables of 2016. The services sector which though was a best growth performer in 2016, recorded a growth of barely 5.7 per cent, followed by the agriculture sector growing at 3.0 per cent and the industry sector, which contracted by 1.4 per cent. Mr Speaker, the economy we inherited was severely impaired. Mr Speaker, on the fiscal front, updated information shows that at the end, the 2016 fiscal deficit was worse than previously estimated at 9.3 per cent of GDP, compared to the provisional figure of 8.7 per cent of GDP on cash basis at the time of presenting the 2017 Budget. These represent the worse performance since the record deficit of 2012, essentially questioning where progress was made over the previous four years to get the economy going. The deficit on commitment basis is now at 10.9 per cent of GDP, rising up from the 10.3 per cent previously reported. This revision has been occasioned by the reversal of interest payments on non- marketable instruments that fell due at the end of 2016 but recorded as part of 2017 flows as well as the revision of the 2016 GDP by the GSS in April 2017.
The debt servicing payments arising from this legacy of debt accumulation amounts to some 45 per cent of total domestic revenue. Unfortunately, our economy would have to live with this burden for some time as we make efforts to repair the damage. The revised 2016 nominal GDP of GH¢167.3 billion puts the public debt to GDP ratio at 73.1 per cent of GDP, against the 72.5 per cent reported in the 2017 Budget presented to this House earlier this year. Mr Speaker, we inherited a weak economy characterised by -- [Inter- ruption.] -- High fiscal deficit, 9.3 per cent of GDP on a cash basis against the then target of five per cent on cash basis. Mr Speaker, a primary deficit of 1.4 per cent of GDP against the target surplus of 1.2 per cent; a high debt to GDP ratio, 73.1 per cent of GDP; high inflation, 15.4 per cent; low credit to the private sector, high interest rate; ninety-one (91) days Treasury Bill (T-Bill) rate of 16.4 per cent with domestic revenue mobilisation; lowest turnout reserves of 2.8 months of import cover. Policy reversals including some unconstrained expenditure, GH¢7 billion of our outstanding commitments and undischarged obligations and weak economic growth of 3.5 per cent; which is the lowest in fifteen years. Mr Speaker, to put the performance of the economy of the first half of 2017 into perspective, it would be useful to remind ourselves of the macro-economic targets we set for ourselves for the 2017 fiscal year, based on the overall macro- economic objectives of Government. Consistent of our medium term development priorities, the macro- economic framework for 2017 aims at ensuring macro-economic stability, shifting the focus of economic management from taxation to production, protecting the preferential option for the poor and making the machinery of Government work to deliver the benefits of progress for all Ghanaians. Anchored on the medium term macro- economic framework, the specific macro- economic targets set for 2017 were as follows: Overall GDP Growth rate of 6.3 per cent; non-oil GDP growth rate of 4.6 per cent; end-year inflation rate of 11.2 per cent; average inflation rate of 12.4; overall fiscal deficit of 6.5 per cent of GDP; the primary surplus of 0.4 per cent of GDP and gross foreign assets to cover at least, three months of imports of goods and services. Mr Speaker, development from January up to June 2017 indicate that the President's policies and programmes are yielding the expected results and in some cases, exceeding expectations. The GDP for the first quarter of 2017 grew by 6.6 per cent against 4.4 per cent for the same period in 2016. Inflation reduced to 12.1 per cent at the end of June, 2017 from 15.4 per cent at end of December, The fiscal deficit as a percentage of GDP for the period, January to June, 2017, was 2.7 per cent compared to a deficit of 4.0 per cent over the same period in 2016. The primary surplus for January to June, 2016 was 0.6 per cent of GDP compared to a deficit of 1.3 per cent over the same period in 2016. And the Gross International Reserves at the end of June, 2017 was US$5.9billion, equivalent of 3.4 months of import cover up from US$4.9billion at the end of December, 2016, equivalent to 2.8 months of import cover. Mr Speaker, interests rates have responded to Government's economic policies and are now trending downwards. The Bank of Ghana reduced its monitoring policy rate (MPR) by 450 basis points from January to July, 2017; 200 basis points from 25.5 per cent to 23.5 per cent in March, 2017 by 100 basis points in May to 22.5 per cent and further by 150 basis points to 21 per cent in July, 2017. Mr Speaker, the trend of lower interest rates we see is in direct response to the equally consistent decline in headline inflation and inflation expectations, and the general improvements in the macro- economic fundamentals. In response, the average interest rate on the 91 days T-Bill has declined since December, 2016 from 16.81 per cent to 12.10 per cent in June, 2017, while the rates on the 182 days T-Bill rate fell from 18.5 per cent in December, 2016 to 13.28 in June, 2017. Mr Speaker, fiscal policy in the 2017 Budget was designed to restore confidence in the economy, ensure fiscal and debt sustainability and promote overall macro-economic stability. Preliminary fiscal data for the period indicates that the overall fiscal deficit was 2.7 per cent of GDP, against a target of 3.5 per cent. The primary balance of the period was a surplus of 0.6 per cent of GDP against a targeted deficit of 0.01 per cent. The lower than programmed deficit resulted from both revenues and expenditures falling below their respective targets. Total revenue and grants fell below target by 14.9 per cent and total expenditure including the clearance of arrears was consequently aligned to match revenue inflows and thus it was below target by 16.7 per cent. Mr Speaker, total revenue and grants for the period amounted to GH¢17.5 billion, 8.6 per cent of GDP against a target of GH¢20.5 billion, 10.1 per cent of GDP. In nominal terms, the provisional outturn was 6.5 per cent higher than the outturn during the same period in 2016, as shown in Appendix Table 4. Ongoing investigations at the port have unearthed significant under- declaration amounting to short payments of some GH¢1.2 billion inclusive of penalty. We are determined to tackle that criminal culture and expect Compliance and Examination Officers to carry out their activities with diligence and honesty or face the consequences. Mr Speaker, capital expenditure amounted to GH¢2.4 billion, 1.2 per cent of GDP, 81.8 per cent of the period target of GH¢2.9 billion, 1.4 per cent of GDP. Foreign finance capital spending was however, higher than target due mainly to improved project loan disbursements.
Mr Speaker, at the end of 2016, new arrears of some GH¢5 billion had been accumulated, bringing the total arrears that should be cleared to GH¢7 billion. As I indicated in the 2017 Budget Statement, we are undertaking an audit of these arrears which is expected to be completed by October 2017, striving to eliminate all Government arrears by the end of 2019, following the outcome of an audit of the outstanding commitments generated at the end of 2016 and institute stringent measures that would prevent the accumulation of new ones. To this end, the clearance of arrears would be expedited in the second half of the year to ensure that the risk that these arrears posed especially to our financial sector, is minimised. The audit is expected to be completed in October 2017. Mr Speaker, the cash fiscal deficit of GH¢5.6 billion, 2.7 per cent of GDP, compared to GH¢6.7 billion, four per cent of GDP, was recorded in the same period in 2016. This was financed mainly from domestic sources and included a draw down on Government deposits with the Bank of Ghana. Total net domestic financing amounted to GH¢5.5 billion, while net foreign financing amounted to GH¢76.8 million. Mr Speaker, the primary balance recorded a surplus of 0.6 per cent of GDP against a target deficit of 0.01 per cent, an indication that our fiscal effort is on track. This should ensure a lower rate of debt accumulation. Mr Speaker, the petroleum receipts in the first half of 2017 amounted to US$277.79 million, compared to the year end projection of US$515.57 million. The revenue accrued from Ghana Group's first and second Tweneboa Enyenra Ntomme (TEN) liftings as well as the 35th to 37th Jubilee Field liftings, the proceeds for the first 10 th and 35 th Jubilee liftings undertaken in December 2016 were achieved in the first quarter of 2017. Mr Speaker, in nominal terms, the gross public debt stock stood at the provisional figure of US$138,531,700 billion as at the end of June 2017. The stock comprises external and domestic debt of GH¢74.6 billion and GH¢63.9 billion respectively. Mr Speaker, contrary to the annual average rate of data accumulation of 36.7 per cent per annum over the last eight years, the rate of accumulation over the last six months is only about 13.3 per cent. This signifies an important shift, indicating Government's seriousness to bringing our debt situation under control. Mr Speaker, as at the end of March 2017, the debt to GDP ratio was estimated to be 70.9 per cent and given the current trend, we expect the ratio to be around 71 per cent by the end of the year, once all the effects of this year's debt re-profiling have materialised. Mr Speaker, it is important to note that while we do not expect the debt re- profiling to add to the existing stock of debt, it is expected however, that the stock of debt should increase marginally by the originally programmed net financing of this year's budget deficit. Mr Speaker, the medium term debt management strategy for 2017/2019 is in fulfillment of section 59 of the Public Financial Management Act of 2016, Act 921 and it is the first to be prepared under the Act. Mr Speaker, the chosen strategy is in line with the debt management objectives of borrowing at a minimum cost and maintaining a prudent degree of risk, while helping to develop the domestic capital market. It envisages increased interest by non- resident investors in the domestic bond market. Government intends to lower borrowing costs, minimise the growth of short-term domestic debt and lengthen the maturity profile of domestic debt under the re-profiling programme. It remains our expectation, Mr Speaker, that this august House especially, would be united in supporting Government's efforts to re-profile a significant portion of our national debt stock. Mr Speaker, we are also tackling the huge pile up of arrears in the energy sector which continues to impact negatively on our economy. It stifles the capacity of players in the power sector to keep our lights on, denies the banks liquidity and in all, frustrates economic activity and growth. That was why streamlining the energy sector legacy debt was made a priority policy initiative in the 2017 Budget Statement. As indicated, revenue streams from the Energy Sector Levies Act (ESLA) would be used to ensure certainty of cash flows for the payment of all corresponding debts. Mr Speaker, in this regard, two joint lead managers have been appointed to establish a special purpose vehicle to issue a domestic medium to long term energy bond by securitising the ESLA receivables. Mr Speaker, since the presentation and approval of the 2017 Budget Statement and Economic Policy by this august House in March this year, there have been some developments, both externally and domestically, which have necessitated a revision in the 2017 fiscal framework consistent with section 28 (2) (d) of the Public Financial Management (PFM) Act, we present the revised Budget for the rest of the 2017 fiscal year. The revised assumptions for the 2017 Mid-Year Review relates specifically to non-oil tax revenues and non-oil related expenditures. Mr Speaker, following the performance of non-oil tax revenue for the first six months of the year, the assumptions underline the projections for some tax types, namely corporate income tax, import VAT and import duty are being revised. Together, these amount to some GH¢1.5 billion, 0.7 per cent of GDP. Mr Speaker, to ensure that we do not compromise our fiscal consolidation, objectives and targets, expenditures are planned to match the downward revision in revenues. The downward revision in revenues and expenditure as well as reclassification of inflows from the sale of shares have resulted in the revision of the fiscal deficit target from 6.5 per cent of GDP to 6.3 per cent. These revisions are consistent with our fiscal and debt sustainability objectives. Mr Speaker, be mindful of the high debt burden which has arisen largely because of high fiscal deficits in the past. The revision of the fiscal deficit further demonstrates our commitment to fiscal discipline.
Mr Speaker, going forward, we would strengthen the implementation of revenue measures to ensure that we meet our revised revenue targets. To ensure that the fiscal objectives and targets are not compromised, we would make the necessary downward adjustments to discretionary expenditure in the event that we are not able to meet our revenue targets. Mr Speaker, total revenue and grant has been revised downwards by 0.9 per cent of GDP, from GH¢44.5 billion to GH¢43.1 billion. As earlier stated, the revision to total revenues and grants emanates from revisions made to corporate income tax, import VAT, import duty as well as a reclassification of expected non-tax revenue inflows from the sale of Government shares of 500 million as findings. Mr Speaker, total expenditure has also been revised downwards by 1.1 per cent of GDP from GH¢58.1 billion to GH¢55.9 billion as shown in the appendix Table 5. The key revisions to expenditure include 0.4 per cent of GDP, adjustment to goods and services of GH¢867, 0.3 per cent of GDP, reduction in total transfers to other government units which comprise statutory and Earmarked Funds of GH¢543.2 million and 0.3 per cent of GDP at GH¢683 million adjustment to capital expenditure. Mr Speaker, despite the measures that have been taken to ensure that we maintain fiscal discipline, Government would remain strongly committed to investing in infrastructure, growing the economy and delivering social services to our people through strategic allocation and efficient use of resources. Our social welfare programmes such as the free Mr Speaker, following these adjust- ments, the overall fiscal balance is expected to improve from a deficit of GH¢13.2 billion, 6.5 per cent of GDP, to GH¢12.8 billion, which is 6.3 per cent of GDP. The total financing of the deficit would comprise a net foreign re-payment of GH¢1.3 billion, while net domestic financing would amount to GH¢14.1 billion. The result in primary balance from the adjustment in revenues, expenditures and financing is a primary surplus equivalent to 0.2 per cent of GDP. Mr Speaker, even though the projected real GDP growth of 6.3 per cent for 2017 has not been revised, the nominal GDP has been revised downwards from GH¢203.4 billion to GH¢202.01 billion which reflects mainly the revision of the deflator downwards. Mr Speaker, based on the above considerations, the revised macro- economic targets are summarised below. Overall GDP growth rate is maintained at 6.3 per cent, with nominal GDP revised slightly to GH¢202 billion from the original projection of GH¢203.41 billion. Non-oil growth rate maintained at 4.6 per cent -- end of year inflation rate is maintained at 11.2 per cent, overall fiscal deficit has been revised downwards from 6.5 per cent of GDP to 6.3 per cent of GDP. Primary balance has been revised from a surplus of 0.4 per cent of GDP to a surplus of 0.2 per cent of GDP and gross foreign assets to cover, at least, three months of imports, and goods and services remain the same as originally programmed. Mr Speaker, these revisions are consistent with government's reslove to grow the economy and create jobs while maintaining macro-economic stability through fiscal discipline and prudent economic policies. We would strengthen our collaboration with the private sector to address issues such as taxes, energy and cost of credit that impede their growth and expansion. Mr Speaker, as a demonstration of our commitment to fiscal discipline, Government has taken a decision to introduce a numerical fiscal role to guide the implementation of fiscal policy. In this regard, we would bring to this House an amendment to the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act to limit the fiscal deficit within a range of three per cent to five per cent of GDP for any fiscal year. Mr Speaker, please, permit me to provide you with updates on imple- mentation of some of the major programmes for the 2017 fiscal year. Mr Speaker, in fulfilment of our promise to Ghanaians, we launched the Planting for Food and Jobs Programme to increase production, ensure food security as well as create jobs. As at June 2017, about 185, 907 farmers out of a total of 200,000 farmers targeted for the June 2017 cropping season were registered. The farmers were provided with seeds, fertilizers, and extension services to improve their yields. During the same period, a total of 56,028 bags of improved seeds of maize, rice, soya bean and sorghum as well as 22, 900 sachets of onion, tomatoes and pepper have been distributed to beneficiary farmers across the 10 regions of Ghana. Fertilizer has also been provided at a subsidised rate -- [Interruption] -- of 50 per cent to participating farmers. I am happy to announce that the report we are receiving suggests that the fertilizer is getting to its intended beneficiaries and at a reduced price. Beneficiary farmers pay 25 per cent of the subsidised price before collection and 25 per cent of the subsidised price before collection and harvest. Mr Speaker, as at June 2017, a total of 61, 568 metric tonnes out of 156,000 metric tonnes, three million bags were supplied which represented 39.4 per cent of the target. Distribution of fertilizer is ongoing, especially in the three Northern Regions. Mr Speaker, a total of 822 agriculture extension personnel trained by the Agricultural Colleges who had been unemployed were recruited and posted to 187 districts across the 10 regions of the country. Mr Speaker, the incidence of the Fall Army worm invasion which was first reported in April 2016, posed a challenge to increase food production. A total of 112,000 hectares of groups were infested, out of which 14,411 hectares were severely affected. The most affected crops were maize and cowpea. Government responded by setting up a national task force and sub-committees to create awareness and take steps to control the spread of the menace. Over
74,000 litres of various chemicals were procured and distributed to all the 216 districts in the country to control the infestation. Farmers are educated on early detection of the fall armyworm invasion. Mr Speaker, the President's commit- ment to supporting farmers to feed the country and improve their own lives is very much on course. Mr Speaker, Ghana's cocoa output, which was over one million tonnes in 2010 and 2011 crop year, has declined to an average figure of 830,000 tonnes per- annum in the past five years. It is the objective of Government to reverse this declining trend and to increase production to more than one million tonnes per annum within the next four years. Mr Speaker, in this regard, COCOBOD has rolled out the artificial pollination programmes which are aimed at increasing productivity of cocoa farmers from an average yield of 450 kg per hectare to over a 1000 kg per hectare. COCOBOD has trained and deployed 10,000 hand pollinators to assist farmers. It is projected that 24,000 hectares, would be pollinated in 2017 with an expected increase to 30,000 hectares in the next three years. Mr Speaker, in light of the estimated 22 per cent of the country's current cocoa tree sub classified as over aged, moribund or Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD) infection, COCOBOD with support from government, has continued the cocoa rehabilitation programme. Mr Speaker, COCOBOD has also reformed the mass cocoa spraying exercise to involve greater private sector participation and farmer ownership. Mr Speaker, Ghana and la Cote d'Ivoire produce about 60 per cent of the world's cocoa and face common challenges in production and marketing of the beans to which either of the individual country specific solutions are not sufficient to remedy. Mr Speaker, under the determined leadership of H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his Ivorian counterpart, H.E. Alassane Outtara, the Ghana-la Cote d'Ivoire cooperation has been renewed and energised, leading to a meeting in April in Abidjan, followed up by a second meeting in Accra in June 2017. The meetings have set out the framework of the cooperation and worked out details of its implementation. The implementation decisions and initial successes so far include a common strategy, anti-smuggling initiative, a funding arrangement to undertake critical projects in both countries, increasing the use of cocoa butter equivalence and formation of a new producer organisation. Education Mr Speaker, a Ghanaian student is eligible to benefit from the Free SHS Policy — [Hear! Hear!] — if he or she writes the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) from 2017 and he or she is placed by the Computerised School Selection and Placement System into a publicly funded second cycle institution. Beneficiaries of this government scholarship will enjoy for a period of three years. Foreigners are excluded from the Free SHS Programme. Mr Speaker, to ensure that the poor and the vulnerable are not left behind, students from disadvantaged back- grounds would be considered for placement. To prepare them adequately for a successful SHS programme, special in- school tuition would be provided for them. Mr Speaker, additionally, thirty per cent of vacancies in elite schools would be reserved for students from public Junior High Schools. Mr Speaker, government is taking the necessary steps to ensure that the quality of education is not compromised as a result of the implementation of the Free SHS Programme. In this regard, a number of interventions have been outlined as part of the implementation programme. Notable among them are the following: Provision of four core text books for all first year students Rationalisation of teacher deploy- ment and training at the SHS level Optimisation of instruction time by extending the school day as well as the number of instructional days Establishment of robust school inspection and accountability systems, and Health The Ministry of Health has made provision for GH¢149 million to pay for the four months ending December, 2017. This would enable the health trainees concentrate on their education, reduce hardships especially on students from vulnerable and poor families and avoid disruptions in the schools curriculum systems. Restructuring of the National Health Insurance Scheme Mr Speaker, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has undergone several changes since its inception. At the time this Government took office, the Scheme was facing challenges in claims management. E-Claims Delays in processing of claims, coupled with other challenges and administration of the management of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA). The Government promised to restructure NHIS and make it more efficient and effective. Mr Speaker, a committee has been put in place to review the report and put together a plan for restructuring the scheme. LEAP Implementation Mr Speaker, presently, the LEAP programme has 203,000 households in all the 216 districts of the ten regions of Ghana. Out of the 203,000 beneficiary households, 193,920 beneficiaries are registered and receive payments on the E-zwich platform operated by the Ghana Inter-Bank Payment and Settlement System. The remaining beneficiary households are in the process of being registered onto the E-zwich platform. Total payments made from 30th January to 31st July, 2017 is GH¢56,307,670. Mr Speaker, the government is currently working on a productive and financial inclusion strategy to facilitate the graduation of LEAP beneficiaries from cash transfer programmes.
School Feeding Programme Mr Speaker, the concept of the programme is to provide children in selected public kindergartens and primary schools in deprived areas of the country with one hot nutritious meal per school day, using locally grown foodstuffs. The immediate objectives of the programme are as follows: Increasing school enrolment, attendance and retention Reduce hunger and malnutrition and Boost domestic food production The long term objective is to contribute to poverty reduction and food security in Ghana. Mr Speaker, currently, the programme feeds 1,671,777 children in 5,530 schools in all 216 districts and provides employment for over 4,730 caterers. Energy Mr Speaker, the Energy Sector, particularly the electricity sub-sector has been a major challenge to the growth of the economy in the past years before we took over the administration of the country. The difficulties and unstable elec- tricity supply had created significant constraints on industrial production and socio-economic activities in the country. Besides stabilising the electricity supply, government has made significant progress with respect to the interventions that were promised in the 2017 Budget Statement. Mr Speaker, government has taken steps to deal with the financial difficulties in the sector. Cabinet has approved the implementation of the Cash-Waterfall mechanism, which together with the Energy Legacy Debt Restructuring Programme is intended to resolve the perennial cash flow difficulties in the Energy Sector. Steps are being taken to implement the Cash-Waterfall manage- ment immediately. Mr Speaker, we inherited a power sector which had contracted so many Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) well beyond the demand of the country, which had the potential to exacerbate the already dire financial crisis in the sector. As promised by H.E. the President in the 2017 State of the Nation Address, Cabinet is deliberating the strategic paper submitted by the Ministry of Energy towards rationalising the PPAs to ensure least cost power generation capacity additions. Mr Speaker, on the regulatory front, Cabinet has approved the establishment of the Electricity Market Oversight Panel (EMOP). EMOP has been provided under the Electricity Regulations, L.I. (1937), but has not seen the light of day since 2008. The EMOP is to be inaugurated in August 2017 to begin implementation of its mandate. Mr Speaker, one key intervention that Government promised in the 2017 Budget was the restructuring of the Volta River Authority (VRA), to bring about increased operational efficiency and private sector investment in the power sector. Government has approved the VRA restructuring agenda submitted by the Ministry to Cabinet, and processes towards the implementation of the restructuring agenda had begun under the coordination of the Ministry of Finance. Mr Speaker, in the renewable energy front, government has given approval to Bui Power to collaborate with Sinohydro to construct the 250 megawatts solar power facility to operate as a hybrid electricity generation source to complement the hydro-electricity, so that Bui Power Plant can enhance its electricity generation capacity during off-peak periods. Mr Speaker, in 2017, we inherited from the previous Government, Liquefied natural gas supply contracts that were mispriced. Prices were higher than indigenous sources of gas and in some cases, higher than the crude oil. It was designed through this place. We have restructured and renegotiated the terms of energy supplies such that the price is now below that of indigenous gas and guaranteed for the long term to be below that of alternative fuels such as light crude oil. Mr Speaker, our successful rene- gotiations of these energy contracts will resolve in saving close to a billion US dollars. These initiatives are aimed at achieving reduction in the per kilowatt price of electricity for industry and households. Mr Speaker, as part of Government's effort to improve public mass transportation, the Ministry of Finance initiated processes for the acquisition of buses for the two public bus companies. The objective is to improve the current bus fleet of Metro Mass Transit Limited and Intercity State Transport Corporation (Intercity STC). In all, a total of 800 buses would be acquired, which includes 200 compressed natural gas and 500 diesel buses for Metro Mass Transit Limited and the remaining 100 buses for Intercity STC. Railway Development Mr Speaker, the establishment of the Ministry of Railway Development was to address what the President has continuously described as one of the greatest tragedies of our post-colonial developments. From the colonial legacy of 947 kilometres at Independence, rarely 30 per cent was operational in January 2017. The renewed interest that has been generated in the sector by over 200 companies, both local and foreign, expressing interest in participating in the redevelopment of the rail sector more than justifies the wisdom in setting up a Ministry to focus on the redevelopment of the sector. Mr Speaker, Tema to Akosombo railway line has commenced and it is projected to be completed by mid-2020. On the Eastern Railway Line, a feasibility study is ready to trigger a procurement process. On the central spine, we have commenced the process of procuring a consultant to undertake the feasibility study. Roads and Highways Mr Speaker, the Ministry maintained its focus on routine and periodic maintenance activities to protect the huge investments made by Government in the provision of the road sector. As of the end of June 2017, routine maintenance had been undertaken on 6,233 kilometres, 52 per cent of the approved work plan of the trunk roads; 8,899 kilometres representing 39 per cent of the approved work plan on the feeder road network and 6,000 kilometres, which forms 59 per cent of the approved work plan on the urban road network.
Mr Speaker, within the same period, periodic maintenance activities com- prising re-gravelling, spot improve-ment and resealing works have been carried out on 100 kilometres of the approved work plan and 180 kilometres on the trunk, feeder and urban road networks, respectively. Periodic maintenance activities on the urban roads were mostly focused on resealing and asphalt overlay, which saw 100 kilometres of road asphalted in MMDAs such as Tema and Accra. Mr Speaker, the minor rehabilitation work covering minor upgrading and the construction of culverts and drainage systems have been carried out. The Mankessim - Abura - Dunkwa; Nkawkaw - New Abirim, Kpone Katamanso and Gulf City Area; 3rd Ringroad in Tamale, asphaltic overlay of 50 kilometres of road, Ayifua area roads and Kpemnyo - Hegbe Feeder Roads Phase two, Anyinaso - Damenyin phase one have been 100 per cent completed. Mr Speaker, the development activities undertaken including rehabilitation, reconstruction and construction of bridges and upgrading the details of progress on some of the projects are shown below. In Nsawam-Apedwa Road, Tafo- Boguso, Agona Junction-Elubo, Ayam- fora-Asawinso, Wa, Kasoa Interchange and ancillary dualisation of Ho main roads, construction of Ho bypass, Bolgatanga - Bawku Pomaton, Nkwanta - Oti - Damanko; Nkwanta - Oti - Damanko 50 kilometres extra and Berekum - Siakwa. Mr Speaker, the Ministry's Public Private Partnership (PPP) for the financing and construction and management of road infrastructure is progressing steadily. Currently, the pre-feasibility study of the Accra - Takoradi Project is being updated, while that of Accra - Tema is almost completed. Water and Sanitation Mr Speaker, Government has secured a US$48.85 million loan from the Africa Development Bank to improve sanitation conditions in the Greater Accra Region in a five-year project. Government is also focused on delivering improved sanitation for all, consisting the Sustainable Development Goal 6 through its key initiative such as ‘Water for All' and ‘Toilets for all.' A sector-wise strategic plan has been completed, setting a road map on how to address the constraints confronting the sector and how to overcome them. CombatingGalamsey (Illicit mining) Mr Speaker, the previous piecemeal attempt of solving the challenge of illicit mining in the country has not seen any significant result. The Government has therefore put together a five-year project called Multilateral Mining Integration Project. This would address the problem over a five-year period, creating about 500,000 job opportunities in phases. Training 100,000 small scale miners, reclaiming 7,140 kilometres of total landsides in Ghana, phosphating of 2,500 kilometres, build skills for employment, create 100,000 jobs and create 20,000 acres of oil palm plantation. Mr Speaker, currently, Government has constituted a seven-member ministerial team to provide a medium term solution. Government has already disbursed GH¢56 million to an emergency programme. Most of the degraded areas have been tested for mercury levels and are ready for reclamation. Over 3,000 floating platforms on most of the rivers in Ashanti, Eastern, Central, Western and Brong Ahafo Regions have been removed from those rivers. More than 300 earthmoving equipment have also been taken off the sites. Our rivers are showing signs of improvement, thereby returning our treatment plants back to work. Youth Employment Agency (YEA) Mr Speaker, the Agency with approximately 52,000 beneficiaries has since June this year introduced beneficiary time chits to address the practice whereby beneficiaries are paid without any records of work done. The Agency is ensuring value for money, protecting the public purse and efficiency and has increased the beneficiary's monitoring assistants from 256 to 600. Mr Speaker, the Agency has started the project to recruit about 60,000 unemployed youth under the following modules: Youth in Security, Youth in Afforestation, Youth in Graduate Internship, Youth in Paid Internship and Youth in Sanitation. Establishment of the Zongo Development Fund Mr Speaker, broad consultations with relevant stakeholders were undertaken towards the establishment of the Zongo Development Fund. A total of 3,548 stakeholders, including Hon Members of Parliament, development partners, traditional rulers, youth leaders, MMDAs and representatives of political parties were consulted. Cabinet has granted the approval for the policy and the Bill would be submitted to Parliament before the end of the year. Mr Speaker, work has started on a number of initiatives in the 2017 Budget Statement to empower the private sector. After years of unstable power supply termed dumsor, and macroeconomic instability, businesses, especially the manufacturing sector were negatively impacted. As part of the response, a quick disbursing stimulus fund has been created to support these trails of viable companies. To date, over 350 applications have been received, out of which 80 applications have been selected for support in the first phase of the programme. The second phase of the exercise is ready to commence. Mr Speaker, under the Government's Industrial Transformation Agenda, the implementation of the “One District, One Factory” initiative has commenced. A programme implementation framework which sets the modalities of implemen- tation has been prepared. To date, the technical support group for the programme has already reviewed 234 businesses for the “One District One Factory” initiative. About 59 per cent of these applications are from the manufacturing sector, while 33 per cent are from the agribusiness sector. It is envisaged that more than 50 districts will start actual implementation of the enterprises by the end of the year, with the potential to generate about 80,000 direct and indirect jobs. Mr Speaker, in order to improve the business environment to make the country an attractive destination for investments, and make Ghana the most
business friendly nation in Africa, a comprehensive programme for business regulatory reform has been launched. This includes the following: a) Reforms aimed at improving Ghana's rankings on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index b) Establish an electronic register for business regulations c) Conduct a rolling review of business regulations to ensure real time response to regulatory reform d) Design targeted regulatory reliefs for SMEs in order to reduce entry barriers for young entrepreneurs and start-ups and e) Establish Regulatory Reform Units (RRU) within MDAs to conduct Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIA). This will lead to the creation of a permanent system of quality control for the introduction of new business regulations. National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP) Mr Speaker, His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has launched the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP) to support start-up and early-stage businesses with a seed-capital financing of the Ghana cedi equivalent of US$10million. The NEIP will include business development services, incubator hubs and business accelerator services. Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme (IPEP) Mr Speaker, the promise to tackle infrastructural challenges at the constituency level, especially in rural and deprived communities, is very much on course. The Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme will deliver the One District One Factory; One Village, One Dam; Small Business Development; Agricultural Infrastructure; “Water for All” Projects and Sanitation Projects. Other constituency-based infras- tructure projects, including culverts, school buildings and Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) compounds will also be funded under the IPEP. Establishment of the Development Authorities Mr Speaker, we commenced the process to establish the development authorities to ensure that the IPEP and other local initiatives are implemented in a well-coordinated manner. Mr Speaker, the Ministry has set up a committee to carry out an extensive study and recommend legislative reviews necessary to ensure the election of our MMDCEs. A roadmap has been developed to guide the legislative reviews and stakeholder consultation toward election of MMDCEs. His Excellency, the President also announced during the orientation of MMDCEs, that the appointment of the current MMDCEs was the last in Ghana. Mr Speaker, progress has been made on all three components aimed at formalising the economy. These are the National Digital Property Addressing System, the National Identification Scheme, and Interoperability of Banking and Mobile Communication platforms. Various technical committees were constituted to prepare a roadmap for the implementation of these projects, subsequent to which service providers have been, or are being selected. Government is on course to completing the National Digital Property Addressing System upon which the issuance of National Identity Cards will commence in October, 2017. The Interoperability project is also scheduled for completion by the end of 2017. Mr Speaker, our commitment is to implement reforms to strengthen the pensions and insurance industry to ensure the availability of cheaper long term capital to the private sector. Over the past six months, we have finalised the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, which aims at increasing access to finance from the current national average of 58 per cent to 75 per cent by 2023. We are also working to commit 20 per cent of the proceeds of the G20 Compact with Africa to strengthen the financial sector, focusing on venture capital financing and support for small and medium scale industries. Mr Speaker, as of April 2017, the banking sector comprised 33 universal banks with a combined network of 1,377 branches across the country. Despite the strong performance of the banking sector for the first four months of the year, as evidenced by the improved performance in asset growth, the sector is still threatened by the high Non-Performing Loans (NPL). We are, however, confident that with the planned issuance of the energy sector bond in the coming months, the NPL ratio will improve significantly and with increased liquidity, our banks will be in a better position to deliver cheaper credit to the private sector. Over the past six months, we have started the process of lengthening and normalising the yield curve, lowering benchmark interest rates and pursuing macroeconomic stability, to position the capital market for growth. Specifically, government introduced the 15-year fixed benchmark bond aimed at lengthening the maturity profile of the domestic debt, and more importantly, to serve as a reference benchmark for pricing of corporate issuance. Activities in the secondary market on the Ghana Fixed Income Market (GFIM) have been very encouraging, with about 21 corporate bonds having liquidity premium decline from 2.48 bps in April 2016 to 1.46 bps in April 2017. Interest rates are on the decline, especially on short-term instruments and contributing to the normalisation of the yield curve. The Equity Capital Market also recorded an encouraging performance for the first half of the year. The Ghana Stock Exchange Composite Index closed at 1,964.55 points in June 2017 from 1,689.1 points in December, 2016, a 16.3 per cent up to date. Total market capitalisation increased to GH¢59.457 billion in June from GH¢52 billion in December, 2016. Mr Speaker, total assets of the insurance industry stood at about GH3.64 billion at the end of March 2017, as against GH¢3.49 billion in December, 2016. In line with the 2017 Budget Statement, we have started the process for the Ministries of Finance and Employment and Labour Relations to co-supervise the National Pensions Regulatory Authority. This is an important step towards streamlining the regulations of the pensions and insurance industry. Mr Speaker, in April 2017, workers who had failed to biometrically register with SSNIT had their salaries suspended. Preparatory works are also on-going to interface the Government payroll with SSNIT biometric database as well as register the Government CAP 30 workers on the SSNIT Biometric database before the end of the year. In order to implement the Treasury Single Account (TSA) in compliance with provisions in the PFMA, a liquidity impact assessment of the closure of accounts with commercial banks was completed and the impact found to be minimal. We have therefore begun the process to close all GOG Bank accounts with commercial banks and transfer balances to the central bank. Closed accounts at commercial banks currently stand at 1,985 and the remaining 2,015 accounts are expected to be closed by September, 2017. Wage negotiations Mr Speaker, in the spirit of completing the 2018 wage negotiations by the end of April 2017, as required by the PFM Act, we are glad to inform the House that through the tireless effort of the National Tripartite Committee (NTC), comprising Organised Labour Associations, Employers' Associations and Government, the 2018 National Daily Minimum Wage was determined. Mr Speaker, with your permission, we would like to use the occasion to express our deepest appreciation to Organised Labour and Employers' Associations for their effective collaboration with the Government to conclude wage negotia- tions for 2018 way ahead of the preparation of the 2018 Budget Statement. This development would certainly enhance the predictability of the fiscal impact of wage adjustment on the Budget Statement. Mr Speaker, we have also agreed to begin a national conversation with labour to improve social contracts with Government, and bring productivity as the key variable for labour negotiations. Mr Speaker, as part of the Govern- ment's plan to attract foreign investment, the Government has co-signed a number of double taxation agreements with countries, including Mauritius, Morocco, Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Singapore. Already, we are seeing positive signs of greater investor interest from these countries. Mr Speaker, improved development cooperation -- the Government, over the past six months, has taken deliberate steps to re-engage and repair our relationship with our development partners to facilitate development cooperation. We have institutionalised new engagement modalities and platforms to ensure more open and transparent dialogue. This has led to a restoration of confidence in and support for economic development agenda. We are witnessing increased financial support and commitment to ourdevelopment programmes. Mr Speaker, given that the economic performance was off-track in 2016 and the IMF programme was severely com- promised, we expect to complete the programme through our budget cycle of January 2018 through to December 2018 to ensure that we meet the programme objectives and targets. It is our expectation that the IMF Board would meet in August, 2017 to improve the fourth review of the programme. Mr Speaker, another milestone was our successful enrolment as a G20 Africa Compact country. Under the compact, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Germany, which would trigger a disbursement of 119 million. The proposed focal sectors of engagement with Germany are renewable energy, complemented by technical and vocational training and the financial sector. Mr Speaker, we have signalled to the market that going forward, our strategy is to tap into non-debt structured financing deals that bring private capitals into major infrastructural projects. A key example is the integrated aluminium deals cham- Mr Speaker, we would use this strategy to finance major infrastructural projects, including the construction of the eastern and central rail lines and the extension of rails to Paga. Mr Speaker, that was why in the first half of the year, our focus was to stabilise the economy and re-establish the principles of good economic governance. We want to provide good economic environment for businesses in particular, and to get Ghana working again. I am happy that the economy is now stable. [Hear! Hear!] Inflation is trending downwards, the cedi has stabilised, interest rates are lower and there is a general feeling of optimism and hope. That general feeling must be truly felt in the pockets and homes of the people. In 1969, our Prime Minister, Prof. Busia, insisted and I beg to quote, with your kind permission: “The yardstick by which our success or failure should be judged must be the condition of the human
being himself. The Government is ready to be judged by the standard of living Ghanaians are able to enjoy and by the degree or cooperation, harmony and brotherliness in our community life as a nation.” Mr Speaker, we are putting in place measures to strengthen revenue performance to enable us achieve our objectives. In the spirit of prudent economic management, we have revised our expenditures, while ensuring that we do not compromise on the promises we made to Ghanaians. Mr Speaker, I take this opportunity, as I conclude, to celebrate with this august House and our nation, that on 4th August, 2017, which is this Friday, it would be the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the United Gold Coast Convention in Saltpond, which was led by two great men, Paa Grant and Dr J. B. Danquah. Mr Speaker, it is time to reconnect with total commitment to realising the dreams of those illustrious sons. We have the strength and the prayers of a hopeful nation to fulfil our manifest destiny. It is time for all of us to take our “Nehemiah” roles and rebuild both the physical and moral walls of our nation and ourselves. As Paa Grant said at the launch of the UGCC in Saltpond that day, and with your permission, I beg to quote: Mr Speaker, I so present and accordingly inform this august House to take note of the revisions of the Mid-year Fiscal Policy of the 2017 Budget.
Hon Members, Standing Order 70 provides that at this stage, an Hon Member may make comments briefly. A comment -- Hon Members! I am reading from our Standing Orders so that we proceed within the appropriate parameters. An Hon Member may make a Hon Members, Order! Order! I want us to proceed on our own ground rules so that there is no commotion. Simple. Hon Members, Order! The Leaders have agreed on five from each side, including Leadership. Since we have one hour for the brief presentations, it means, each side would have half an hour and it also means that every Hon Member would speak for five minutes and Leaders for 10 minutes.
Hon Ato Forson? Hon Minority Leader, it would come to your turn.
Mr Speaker, if you would indulge me, the Hon Ato Forson who is our Hon Ranking Member on the economy and matters of finance, would start, but while I agree with you that Leadership agreed to five Hon Members, including the Leader to contribute, we did not agree on time even though, at your pleasure, you have -- [Interruption.] Mr Speaker, we did not --
Hon Minority Leader, I am afraid you are out of order. I did not --[Uproar!]. I did not say that we have agreed on time, I said we have agreed on the number of people who would talk and that in view of the fact that we have an hour, it would be so shared. Hon Minority Leader, you may give me your formula to apportion the time, as each side of the House has equal 30 minutes. Please, give me your formula and let us proceed.
Mr Speaker, I do not intend to question your ruling and guidance but may I make a request, that in respect of the Hon Ranking Member, you allow him 10 minutes. This is because in the spirit of fairness, we have listened to the Hon Minister for Finance for an hour or more and it is only appropriate that you give us an opportunity to respond to him. So, for the Hon Ranking Member, 10 minutes, the Leaders, 15 minutes then the rest, we could manage within five minutes.
Mr Speaker, the guidance that you usually give us when a Statement is made, and we have to comment, we operate within one hour in commenting on Statements. That is what directive you have given to us. I think that it is very fair.
“Mr Speaker shall be responsible for the … rules of debate, …” Mr Speaker, even though, this is a Statement and we are commenting on that, you are solely responsible for guiding this House and that is what people should understand. Mr Speaker, let nobody think that anybody is afraid of comments and it should be stressed that the opportunity offered at this time is not to provoke a debate, as our Standing Orders provide. Mr Speaker, that is by Standing Order 70 (2) - the language and tenet of that construction is plain to everybody, unless people would want to reinvent the wheel.
Hon Ato Forson? We shall operate upon the parameters that I have set out.
Hon Member, before you contribute--
Mr Speaker, before I contribute to the Statement, it is important that I make this point. All of us seek to deepen the democracy of this country and it is important that we do not set certain precedents that would haunt all of us. Mr Speaker, let me say that by preventing the Minority side to debate a major economic policy of government, it is a sad day for our democracy and this should not be allowed to go. Clearly, this is not coming on the back of an information - it is a major revision and I would make do, based on the information that we heard.
Hon Member, there are so many parliamentary vehicles to be applied lawfully to revisit even today's matter. So, apply them. You may make a full Statement on the matter or you may ask the Hon Minister Questions. I am showing you some of the possibilities. You may ask the Hon Minister Questions and you may make a Statement. Hon Member, nothing prevents you if you want to make a Statement for 30 minutes. There are a number of parliamentary mechanisms for doing things rightly. According to the rules, we have one hour and so take your half, which is 30 minutes of the one hour and you may want to apply other mechanisms which are legitimate and parliamentary. You do not have to be told this. Please contribute.
Mr Speaker, thank you. Mr Speaker, having said that, I would make do with the information presented by the Hon Minister for Finance. Mr Speaker, I am making a statement on a copy of document that I just received and some of my Hon Colleagues who would be contributing to the Statement do not even have copies of the Statement. Mr Speaker, based on the information that we have heard today and the document that I have just been given, I rise to say that unfortunately, the Budget has been revised from the ‘Asempa Budget' to ‘Asem Bone Budget'. [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, I say this because it is bad news for this country. Mr Speaker, let me make reference to certain statements - if we check page 51, under Tax Revenue. From the 2017 Budget Statement, the tax revenue was projected to be GH¢34.3 billion. Quarter one and quarter two of the 2017 progamme said that we are going to rake in tax of GH¢15.7 billion as per the tax projection but to date the outturn is GH¢13.6 billion. Mr Speaker, what this simply means is that the Government has failed clearly to achieve the revenue target. Mr Speaker, you would also notice that the programme for non-tax revenue as projected was that the outturn from first quarter to second quarter would be GH¢2.7 billion but the outturn is GH¢2.1 billion. Mr Speaker, this is another cut. Clearly, what this means is that there is a shortfall of almost GH¢600 million. Mr Speaker, if you put the two together - tax revenue and non-tax revenue - the shortfall so far is GH¢2.7 billion. Mr Speaker, let me take you to Expenditure; and I say that this is ‘Asem Bone Budget' because if you look carefully at the Expenditure on page 52 -- inasmuch as we have paid workers, we are cutting goods and services budget by GH¢600 million. What this means is that we pay workers to sit at government offices but they would not have tools to work with. Mr Speaker, we are not giving Government offices the opportunity to get the necessary tools to work -- we are cutting down their budgets. Clearly, Capital Expenditure is another worrying one -- under the first quarter and second quarter, the programme was GH¢2.9 billion, but the outturn is GH¢2.4 million. Mr Speaker, what this simply means is that we are not paying the contractors who are working on our capital projects. There is a shortfall of about GH¢600 million. Mr Speaker, let me also say that I am not surprised that the outturn of first quarter and second quarter from the projection actually out performed. I am not surprised, because the numbers that are being shown to us are cosmetic. We are accumulating arrears and failing to pay the people and failing to pay contractors. Mr Speaker, this is artificially compressed and again --
Hon Member, thank you very much.
Order! Hon Assibey-Yeboah, you have five minutes.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement. Mr Speaker, the then Minister for Finance was here last year to present to this House a mid-year budget review and supplementary estimates for the fiscal year 2016.
Hon Member you have one minute more.
Mr Speaker, instead of a revised higher deficit target, the Hon Minister has revised the deficit downward, from 6.5 per cent to 6.3 per cent --
Thank you very much, Hon Member. Hon Adongo?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker --
Hon Members, order! There would be no interruptions so that everyone can take his or her five minutes.
Thank you very much, for the opportunity. Today, we are being told that when a head of family fails to raise the revenue to feed his children and they sleep with hunger, we should praise him for it. They are supposed to raise revenue and provide services. They have failed, and they say we should clap for them. Mr Speaker, it is only under this Government that they bring a Budget that is approved on the 31st of March and by the 1st of April they take credit for January, February and March. Mr Speaker, we are told that we are re- profiling our debt and therefore, our debt would not go up. Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would like to read the monetary policy committee's own report for July. The Bank of Ghana's monetary policy committee indicates that the reason for Ghana's growth of debt from GH¢122 billion to GH¢137 billion, and I quote; “is as a result of the issuance of long dated domestic bonds”. Mr Speaker, gross international reserves mean nothing if you do not compare it to depreciation of the cedi. It is meant to provide a cushion for your currency. In the same period last year, our cedi depreciated by 0.04 per cent. Now, dipped by 2.5 per cent, so when you depreciate your cedi by 2.5 per cent, it is better than 0.04 per cent. Where do you get that economics? Mr Speaker, we keep being told that former President Kufuor left Ghana GH¢9.6 billion of public debt. I fear for the scholars of finance and economy when we make this statement. Where in the world do we use nominal values that have stood for over 10 years to calculate present value? These are things that our students of finance are learning. We need to understand that when you begin to factor in the time value of money, GH¢9.6 billion cannot be the same. The reality is also that, as per Bank of Ghana's own economic and financial data released, Ghana's economy benefitted tremendously from oil. Whereas last year, at the same time, we did only GH¢400 million by President John Dramani Mahama's effort, we did GH¢1.2 billion of oil. Again, at the same time last year, while we did GH¢2 billion for gold export, we have done GH¢3 billion, an additional GH¢1 billion. Tell me, what did His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and my brother His Excellency the Vice President do to ensure that oil grew and gold export increased? Nothing. Is it One Village One Dam? Is it One District One Factory? Is it the fall army worm? So, at the end of the day, they are taking credit when they are yet to be on their feet. Mr Speaker, this economy is on life support and any attempt to do propaganda with our economy will continue to expose us.
Hon Daniel Aboagye -- [Uproar.] Order! Part of the time is going. 3. 25 p. m.
Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement by the Hon Minister. Mr Speaker, I am told that --
Hon Members, those who love to make debates chaotic should advise themselves. Hon Member, you may continue.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I am told that today's mid- year budget review is different because targets are met, and in some cases, they exceeded. Mr Speaker, in many cases, the targets are exceeded, and I would want to give you one example.
Mr Speaker, fiscal deficit in 2016 for the same period was about four per cent of GDP. Our target was 3.5 per cent and the actual achievement for the period under consideration is 2.7 per cent of GDP. What can they say about this? [Hear! Hear!]. Mr Speaker, let me just take us back a little on some of the things that our friends on the other side of the House do not understand. Mr Speaker, we took this country from on position of crises and we made sure that we had a clear vision to solve the problems of this country. Mr Speaker, the strategy to achieve this was to create an enabling environment for the private sector to do well.
Hon Member, please, take your seat for the time being. Hon Members, interested Ghanaians are in the Gallery and they deserve to hear what is happening in Parliament. Hon Members, when we have time allocated, the least we can do by way of decency is to let every Hon Member from any side make his or her contribution, but one would want to ask that if there is an obvious attempt to prevent others from being heard, then what should I do in order to ensure that proper debate takes place? Hon Member, you may continue.
Mr Speaker, this Budget is not “asem bone Budget”, it is rather an “asem papa Budget”. Mr Speaker, when there is a reduction in the expenditure, I believe what the Hon Minister has done is to be truthful to Ghanaians, especially when there is revenue fall. Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister re- aligned the expenditure to match it, just to show responsible economic ma- nagement.
And in conclusion?
Mr Speaker, I would want to say that some of the reasons that have accounted for what we see today, are because of prudent economic policies -- improved fiscal discipline and competent management team in the driving seat. [Hear! Hear!] Mr Speaker, I believe sincerely that Ghana's good days are just ahead, and this is just the beginning of great things to come. I believe that Ghana is going to work again. Mr Speaker, thank you very much.
Hon Fifi Kwetey? [Interruption]--
Hon Members, order!
Hon Members, order! Hon Members, let us listen. Yes, Hon Fifi Kwetey?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to make a few comments on the Statement that has been made by the Hon Minister for Finance. Mr Speaker, to begin with, we need to be grateful that today we have an opposition, responsible enough not to even question the credibility of the Ghana Statistical Service that had provided a lot of these figures today. That actually is a positive departure from what we used to have in the past. Mr Speaker, I have heard the Hon Minister for Finance speak eloquently about the very competent manner in which he and his team have managed the economy. Mr Speaker, when he reaches the moment where he is able to grow the economy of Ghana to, at least, 14 per cent, then he can come for some praises.
Mr Speaker, I also overheard the Hon Minister say that he inherited a very weak economy, but that is always very debatable. Mr Speaker, if somebody met 18 per cent inflation in 2009 and the Hon Minister meets an inflation that is 15.4 per cent, which is declining downward, then he obviously should know that he is inheriting a much better economy than what somebody inherited before him. Mr Speaker, if somebody dealt with Treasury Bill rate of about 25 per cent in 2009 and he actually met it at 16 per cent, then for the Hon Minister to be talking about a weak economy, he obviously is not being very truthful. Mr Speaker, it is therefore important for some of these facts to be stated clearly, in order for us to be able to have a very good debate. Mr Speaker, the bottom line has to do with the fact that the major things that they promised to the people of Ghana, nothing has been heard so far. Cost of living to the people of Ghana is most important, but what is really happening today? Nothing much.
Mr Speaker, they talk about jobs. We should talk about a situation where the people of Ghana can talk positively about jobs but really, all that he spoke about are declining indicators that are getting better and better, but the jobs for the young people of Ghana today are not available. [Interruption.] They cannot even talk with any hope about jobs. So, it is important for us to hasten very slowly in order to be able to know exactly where this country is going. Mr Speaker, the final thing I would say is that, for all that the Hon Minister has boasted about, the revenue performance clearly shows that we did not really see any creativity by way of revenue policies. Otherwise, he should not have talked about missing revenue targets today and we are now talking about exactly the same problem that we used to have in the past. Mr Speaker, it is important for the Hon Minister to hasten slowly because the journey is very long and reality will soon dawn.
Order! Hon Fifi Kwetey, thank you for keeping within the time and Hon Members, thank you for allowing him to speak. Hon Kwaku Kwarteng?
Mr Speaker, Hon Kwaku Kwarteng has ceded his -- [Interruption.]
Order! The only person who can tell the Hon Member on her feet to sit at this stage is the Hon Majority Leader who has given me his list. Please, let us know what we are about in this House. Hon Member, if you are so appointed by the Hon Majority Leader to speak, please, proceed.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement read by my Hon Minister. Mr Speaker, the Minority said they inherited an import cover of 1.8 months and GH¢9.5 billion debt. We inherited 2.8 import cover and a whopping GH¢122 billion debt. So, Mr Speaker, things cannot be the same. This Government has done so much in these six months -- [Interruption] -- So, I believe we should let the world know that in six months, we have made significant strides. Mr Speaker, like my Hon Colleague said, we believe in cutting our coat according to our cloth. [Hear! Hear!] That is why we have reduced expenditure by GH¢2.2 billion and revenue by GH¢1.4 billion. Mr Speaker, gone are the days when Government would borrow excessively and recklessly without any precaution, especially, on recurrent expenditures. [Interruption] This Government is not going to do that and this has been stated clearly in the Statement read by my Hon Minister. Mr Speaker, it is true that we have cut expenditures and revenues, but I would want to let this House and the whole of Ghana know that our flagship programmes like the free SHS, the NHIS and -- [Interruption] the school feeding programme are not going to be touched; they are going to be protected. We are only cutting our coat according to our cloth. Mr Speaker, during the 2016 mid-year review, if you would permit me, I would read paragraph 232 under “Job Creation/ Youth Employment Initiative”.
“Government has over the medium term embarked on a number of projects to create more jobs for Ghanaians”.
One minute more.
He went on and on and said: “The President recently com- missioned the Komenda Sugar Factory to help create employment …” Mr Speaker, we all know what happened to the Komenda Sugar Factory in less than two months. Mr Speaker, again in paragraph 234 of the same mid-year review, the Hon
Thank you very much, Hon Member.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement made by the Hon Minister for Finance on the mid-year fiscal policy review. Mr Speaker, we have been talking about debt. The Government says they are borrowing. Now, there is a new word for it; “leveraging” which they claim is not borrowing. Mr Speaker, if you take it by months, that is GH¢3 billion; if you take it by the year, that is GH¢36 billion. By 2020 when this Government leaves office, the debt would be a GH¢140 billion. I heard the Hon Deputy Minister say a whopping GH¢122 billion. They would leave office by borrowing GH¢140 billion which is over and above the whopping GH¢122 billion, if they go by the rate at which they are going. Mr Speaker, my Hon Friend, Hon Ato Forson, talked about cosmetic figures. Mr Speaker, it is hard to believe that this Government is not meeting its targets, yet, they claim that the GDP in nominal terms will go to GH¢202 billion. Mr Speaker, I would want somebody to work out this mathematics for me. How can the Government get 67.5 as debt to GDP ratio? Mr Speaker, this Government is cooking figures for us. This is a House of record -- [Interruption.] I will prove it. Mr Speaker, if you have a debt of GH¢137.5 billion and you are claiming that you are getting a debt to GDP of 67.5 — What is their GDP? Mr Speaker, this Government is basically not achieving its target. It is downsizing the things that they said they would do. They are not paying for capital expenditure and they are not paying any money. They are paying for goods and services; yet, they claim that they would achieve what they promised - - [Interruption.] -- 3. 45 p. m.
Mr Speaker, I am tempted to educate some of my Hon Colleagues -- [Interruption.]-- My good Hon Friend just said that he could not do the maths. He talked about debt being at GH¢137 billion. How did we get 68 per cent? Mr Speaker, if he can take his calculator, 137.5 divided by 202.8, what is it? [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, he is a good man, he went to a good school, Harvard, so, I expect more out of him. Mr Speaker, the truth must be told. On what the Hon Minister said — he used the phrase, ‘cooking figures', I do not expect a former Hon Minister to use those words. If he does not believe the figures, he should say so. He is talking about cooking figures -- [Interruption] -- Hon Fiifi Kwetey said they inherited inflation of 18 per cent and it went to 15 per cent. Mr Speaker, I want to remind him, maybe, he is too young -- [Interruption]-- Mr Speaker, not too long ago, when NPP came to power, inflation was 41 per cent, not 18 per cent.
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister said he was going to abolish the Special Import Levy, did he abolish it or not? He was going to abolish VAT on financial services, did he abolish it or not? He was going to abolish excise duty on petroleum duties, did he not abolish it? Mr Speaker, he was going to reduce VAT on real estate, did he do that? Mr Speaker, Ghana is working again. - [Hear! Hear!]- Mr Speaker, why do I say that? Mr Speaker, not too long ago, Fitch rated Ghana as outlook B negative. As soon as the Hon Minister gave his speech, guess what happened, it turned to B positive outlook. [Interruption.]--
inflation is coming down; the deficit, which was at 9.3 per cent is now coming down to 6.5 per cent; interest rates are going down; the trade balance is positive. Mr Speaker, the primary balance is in the surplus. Mr Speaker, Ghana is working again [Hear! Hear!!] -- Mr Speaker, the reason Ghana is working again is because we have people who would admit the truth when they see it, unlike those folks when they are not meeting their targets, they start cooking up — Mr Speaker, sorry — making up. Mr Speaker, on the way forward, the Hon Minister has outlined the policies that are going to generate employment. The Youth Employment Agency, within the next month, is going to hire sixty thousand people.
And in conclusion?
Mr Speaker, I think Hon Colleagues on the other side should admit that what we came to meet was messy, but because we are all patriotic Ghanaians, we want to be looking forward. When you look forward, the confidence in Ghana comes up. There is no more dumsor, what else do you want? Interest rates are going down. What else do you want? This is because it is good for you and me, that Ghana begins work again. I thank you. -- [Hear! Hear!!] --
Hon Minority Leader, you have 10 minutes. No interruptions.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement made by the Hon Minister for Finance. Mr Speaker, but let me, for the record, raise two pertinent procedural issues to guide this House for tomorrow.
“Mr Speaker, since the presentation and approval of the 2017 Budget Statement and Economic Policy by this august House in March, 2017, there have been some developments both external and domestically, which have necessitated a revision in the 2017 framework.” Mr Speaker, how can he do this revision without an action of Parliament? It does not lie within his hands.
“To ensure that we do not compromise our fiscal consolidation objectives, and targets, expenditures are planned to align the downward revision in revenues.” He cannot re-align expenditures and revenue without parliamentary approval. But the more important message is this: “The downward revision in revenues and expenditures as well as re-classification of inflows from the sale of shares have resulted in the revision of the fiscal deficit target from 6.5 per cent of GDP to 6.3 per cent of GDP.” On whose authority can the Hon Minister revise that? Have you forgotten? Can the Hon Minister for Finance just by a Statement come and announce to the Parliament of Ghana that he is revising the deficit from 6.5 per cent to 6.3 per cent? -- [Interruption] -- So, as far as we are concerned, what was approved in the Appropriation Act, we expect him that at the end of 2017, he would report back to this House on 6.5 per cent. This is because we are not involved in any process where he wants to report on 6.3 per cent. No! He must come back to this House. It does not lie within him to revise the target, suo moto, on his own. That is wrong. Mr Speaker, I refer to page 38. Mr Speaker, again, Standing Order 70, on Statements says that there should be no debates, yet, his own Statement, was pregnant with matters of debate and we are constrained from returning same issues to him. Mr Speaker, on wage negotiations, when the Hon Minister started, for once, I thought it was a Methodist Bishop, until I refused to sing the hymn with him. He said that on wage negotiations, he had been able to increase it by 11 per cent for 2018. I had the privilege to chair the Tripartite Committee and supervise this negotiation. In 2016, Government increased basic pay by 12 per cent. The Hon Minister has done 11 per cent and he says hallelujah, we should sing for him. Even with increasing cost of living, the increase was at 11 per cent. Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister in his Statement also referenced bauxite, and the fact that they are leveraging it. I am happy he is sitting with the Hon Senior Minister, who at the Stock Exchange in London said and I would quote him, so that he and the Vice President would know. He said and I quote: “The Chinese have agreed to lend US$10 billion to US$15 billion for bauxite and other projects.” The Vice President said that it is not a loan, so borrowing US$10 million to US$15 million -- was not a loan? [Laughter] Whatever it is, Ghana's mineral resources would be used as collateral and there would be the need for the Hon Minister to come for parliamentary processes and approval. This is a Government which demonised borrowing, yet was in China and the domestic market to borrow. The US$15
Mr Speaker, this is a Government which demonised borrowing, said that it was wrong to borrow and said that there was money here. Apart from walking in the corridors of China with a calabash begging for money to borrow - Mr Speaker, listen to what the Hon Minister said, and I quote from paragraph 60 on Debt Management Strategy: “Mr Speaker, the Medium-Term Debt Management Strategy (MTDS) for 2017-2019 is in fulfilment of Section 59 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921)…” In this respect, the superiority of debt management of the past Mahama Administration which passed the Public Financial Management Act is clear; he referred to that Act as a superior debt management strategy.
Mr Speaker, in conclusion, second and third year Senior High School students and allowances for nurses and teachers are waiting for the Hon Minister. He should not come through a Statement. He should pay the outstanding allowances of nurses and teachers and make sure that there is equity for every
Thank you very much, Hon Minority Leader. In view of the business before the House and the time at present, I order that Sitting be extended beyond the regular hours. Hon Majority Leader?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. It is important, once again, to restate the issue about whether we would have required a Motion to debate the Mid-Year Review or not. At the very outset, we laid this matter to rest. Mr Speaker, whenever we have had a Mid-Year Review, it has always come with Supplementary Estimates. The Supple- mentary Estimates would require Parliament to take a decision on them. At the end of it all, Mr Speaker, would put a Question. Our Standing Orders define Question to mean: “except in respect of the question time or period; and a question of privileges means a proposal presented to Parliament or a Committee thereof by the Speaker or Chairman for consideration and decision or disposal in some manner” Mr Speaker, which aspect of this Statement that has been transmitted to us requires this Parliament to make a decision? I cannot understand. We are being told that, to the extent that he mentioned the word “revision”, he should still have come by a Motion. If Ministers for Finance come to this House to tell us that GDP would grow at seven per cent and later, reality checks indicate that it cannot grow at seven per cent but can only grow at five per cent, would that require the Hon Minister to come to this House to seek approval? What kind of rationalisation is this? Mr Speaker, if we had to review downwards -- Let us not forget that in the Budget that was presented to us, the Appropriation Act allows the Hon Minister to spend up to a ceiling. If it goes beyond that, he requires parliamentary approval. If he does not and confines himself, he does not require any approval of this House. So, if Hon Members are talking about it being brought for Parliament to make a decision on, I fail to see what is involved in that. Mr Speaker, the theme of the Budget that came to us was “Sowing the Seeds for Growth and Jobs”. In other words, mid-year into the rolling out of that Budget, we should begin to question ourselves where we were and whether we are making progress in all areas and all fours. If we are not making progress, then perhaps, with introspection, we then might have to change our steps. Where were we as a nation before the Hon Minister came to this House? The question to ask ourselves is whether there was high fiscal deficit of 9.3 per cent of GDP on cash basis, as against five per cent on cash basis, at the end 2016? Is that the case? Mr Speaker, there was a primary deficit of 1.4 per cent of GDP against a target surplus of 1.2 per cent. Is that the case? There was high debt to GDP ratio amounting to 73.1 per cent of GDP. Is that true? Inflation registered at the end year at 15.4 per cent. Is that the case? There was low credit to the private sector and high interest rates. Indeed, 91 Day Treasury Bill rate was 16.4 per cent. There was weak domestic revenue, mobilisation, low external reserves of 2.8 months of import cover and policy reversals, including some unconstrained expenditure amounting to GH¢7.7 billion. Mr Speaker, today half year, where are we? Overall GDP growth rate of 6.3 per cent -- The GDP growth rate for the first quarter of 2017 was 6.6 per cent against 4.4 per cent for the same period in 2016. Is that a positive or negative growth? Inflation reduced to 12.1 per cent at the end of June 2017, from 15.4 per cent in December 2016. True or false? Interest rates are on the decline. Mr Speaker, the 91 Day Treasury Bill rates have reduced from 16.4 per cent to 12.08 per cent. Is it true or false? [Interruption.] -- And would that suggest to anybody that we are making significant progress in the management of the economy? Mr Speaker, the fiscal deficit, the primary surplus and the gross international reserves all register positively on the radar of our economic management and people say that nothing has been done. Mr Speaker, we are told that the figures have been cooked. It is the Ghana Statistical Service that produces these figures. If, indeed --
Hon Majority Leader, and in conclusion?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Minority Leader spoke for eight minutes and I have spoken for just six minutes [Interruption.]
Hon Majority Leader, please, continue and conclude.
Mr Speaker, I would not challenge that but indeed, the agenda for development is on course and we are told of the NHIS, the LEAP, the MASLOC, the School Feeding, Planting for Food and Jobs and fertilizers and seedlings have been supplied at a subsidised rate of 50 per cent. Mr Speaker, two years ago, government intended to give the fertilizers to farmers free of charge. That in principle was good, except that the farmers did not receive them. When we went to Goaso, the farmers implored upon us, that even if they were to buy, they were prepared to but the policy of giving it to them at no cost hurt them because they were not supplied with the products. Today, at 50 per cent, all of them - those who intend and desire to buy have them. That is the difference in policy. Mr Speaker, 822 Agriculture Extension Officers have been posted to the fields to positively affect agriculture. We are told that before the introduction of the 822 to
the fields, the ones that had some more years to serve had only four years. What it means is that, four years from now, if we do not recruit Agriculture Extension Officers, those of them would have all retired.
Hon Majority Leader, your final words.
Mr Speaker, there is something positive and the people of this country have seen good signals - - [Interruption] -- and certainly by the close of the year, they would live to see the good dividends from the Budget Statement that was read by the Hon Minister for Finance. Mr Speaker, so, this indeed, is a veritable asempapapaa Budget Statement [Hear! Hear!] -- Mr Speaker, I thank you very much.
Hon Minister, you may have the last word. [Pause] -- Do you have any concluding remarks?
Mr Speaker, I truly would want to thank Hon Members for this very vigorous exchange of ideas -- and lots of very important comments which the Ministry would take on board. It is an important week for the nation -- one of unity, and we shall work together to make this country great again. Mr Speaker, I thank you very much. [Hear! Hear!] --
Hon Members, if there is even a scintilla of lingering doubt, let it be clear once again, that the process this morning is very appropriate. It is essentially informative, does not seek any parliamentary approval or essentially a budgetary statement or imposition of tax or any such matter, which falls exclusively in the bosom of the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana. Hon Minister, thank you very much. [Hear! Hear!] -- Hon Minister, thank you for attending upon the House and making this Statement. You are entitled to leave.
Hon Majority Leader, I am inclined to let us end the proceedings for today. I do not need any Motion, but I am inclined to ask if there is any particular matter you would want to bring to the attention of the House.
Mr Speaker, that is so. Mr Speaker, the Hon Attorney-General and Minister for Justice is in the House and there are some other Hon Ministers who are with us to present Bills to the House; and that is in respect of item numbered 6 on the original Order Paper. Mr Speaker, I would want to crave the indulgence of Hon Members to allow us do items numbered 5 and 6. -- [Pause] --
Hon Members, we would take item numbered 2 on the Order Paper Addendum -- Presentation and First Reading of Bills -- Zongo Development Fund Bill, 2017. Hon Minister for Inner-City and Zongo Development?
BILLS -- FIRST READING
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, respectfully, this is a fund that would be created and indeed, the Committee that is responsible should be the Finance Committee. If the Local Government Committee has to be added, may be, the leadership could join them, but the central Committee to deal with it is the Finance Committee.
Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Mr Speaker, I believe if the Hon Majority Leader would just respect your directive, the better,. If it goes to the joint committee -- Zongo Development Fund Bill will affect the development of District Assemblies. It is not for nothing that the name came in earlier with inner cities and now being dedicated to the Zongo — Mr Speaker, I have always said that the work of Parliament is at the level of the committee and so the two committees can examine it and report back.
Hon Members, we would refer it to the two committees as a joint committee. Hon Members, we would then move to item numbered 5 on the original Order Paper — Presentation of Papers. Item numbered 5 (a).
The Paper has been presented and it is referred to the Committee on Judiciary. Hon Members, item numbered 5(b). Mr Iddrisu Yes, Mr Speaker, if I heard you right, the referral on the Budget Performance Report in respect of the Office of the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, rightly should be a referral to the Committee on Constitu- tional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and not the Committee on Judiciary.
Mr Speaker, we were conferring among ourselves and I believe it should rather go to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Hon Minority Leader, are we ad idem?
Mr Speaker, yes — For referral to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, if you so direct.
Hon Majority Leader, are you in agreement?
Mr Speaker, the Committee that oversees the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General is the committee that it should be referred to and I believe that is the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. If indeed that is the case, then the referral should go to that Committee.
It is so referred accordingly. Referred to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Hon Members, item 5 (b) — By the Chairman of the committee. Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu — rose —
Yes, Hon Majority Leader?
Mr Speaker, the Hon Chairman of the Committee indicated to me that the report would be ready tomorrow and not today.
Very well. Any other matter?
Mr Speaker, we are at item numbered 6 on the original Order Paper, on page 3.
Hon Members, First Reading of Bills. BILLS — FIRST READING Office of the Special Prosecutor Bill, 2017 AN ACT to establish the Office of the Special Prosecutor as a specialised agency to investigate specific cases of corruption involving public officers and politically-exposed persons in the performance of their functions as well as persons in the private sector implicated in the commission of corruption, prosecute these offences on the authority of the Attorney-General and provide for related matters. Presented by the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice (Ms Gloria Akuffo). Read the First time; referred to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Hon Members, item numbered 6(c) — Northern Development Authority Bill, 2017. BILLS — FIRST READING Northern Development Authority Bill, 2017 AN ACT to establish the Northern Development Authority to provide a framework for the accelerated economic and social developments of the Northern Development Zone and for related matters. Presented by the Minister for Special Development Initiative (Mrs Mavis Hawa Koomson). Read the First time; referred to the joint Committee on Local Government and Rural Development and Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises.
Hon Members, item numbered 6(d). BILLS — FIRST READING Middle Belt Development Authority Bill, 2017 AN ACT to establish the Middle Belt Development Authority to provide a framework for the accelerated economic and social development of the middle belt development zone and for related matters Presented by the Minister for Special Development Initiative (Mrs Mavis Hawa Koomson). Read the First time; referred to the joint Committee on Local Government and Rural Development and Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises.
Hon Members, item 6(e). BILLS — FIRST READING Coastal Belt Development Authority Bill, 2017 AN ACT to establish the Coastal Belt Development Authority to provide the framework for accelerated economic and social development of the coastal development zone and for related matters. Presented by the Minister for Special Development Initiative (Mrs Mavis Hawa Koomson). Read the First time; referred to the joint Committee on Local Government and Rural Development and Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises.
Mr Speaker, with respect to the last three referrals, what I do recollect is that, when we came to dealing with Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), the referral was to the Committee on Finance and the Committee on Poverty Reduction Strategy. I believe when we came to deal with the Savana Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), that Bill was also referred to the Committee on Finance and the Committee on Poverty Reduction Strategy. In the circumstance, if we would have to add the two committees, the joint committee would become too bloated. And so, I am thinking of maybe, just adding the leadership of the Committee on Finance and the Committee on Poverty Reduction Strategy to be the referrals.
So, we add the Committee on Finance.
Mr Speaker, you added the Committee on Finance to the referrals — Just the leadership and not the entirety of the Committee. Mr Speaker, so I would rather suggest that this Bill g is referred to the Committee on Poverty Reduction Strategy, Finance and Employment, Social Welfare and State enterprises. This is because at the end of the day, there is going to be a creature of State enterprise. So, the Committees on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises, Finance and Poverty Reduction Strategy should play a part. Mr Speaker, but I would want a situation where we would have a central Committee which would be the Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises and the leadership of the Committee on Poverty Reduction Strategy and Finance could join.
Yes, Hon Minority Leader?
Very well. The main Committee should be Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises and then we should add leadership of the Finance Committee --
Unless the Finance Committee does not want to be added, the leadership of the Finance Committee is hereby added.
Yes, Chairman of the Committee?
Mr Speaker, I believe the proper referral should go to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Committee. We are setting up a development Authority to look at development issues; central to that is poverty reduction. So, the main Committee should be the Poverty Reduction Strategy Committee. It is all right if you would want to add the leadership of other Committees. Mr Speaker, we have done this before when we were setting up the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) and the Millennium Development Authority. This Bill is coming along the same lines as SADA and so I believe it should go to Poverty Reduction Strategy Committee and maybe, you could add the leaders of the aforementioned Committees.
Mr Speaker, first of all, I disagree with the Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee when he says that it is about the same as SADA. If it were the same, we would maintain the same name; it is certainly not the same. [Laughter.] Mr Speaker, we need a Committee that would be charged with the responsibility of overseeing those outfits. They are State creatures. So, they would come under Standing Order 184 which reads: “The Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises, composed of twenty Members, shall review and study on a continuing basis the operation of State Enterprises with a view to determining their economy and efficiency and also deal with matters relating to Employment and Social Welfare generally.” Mr Speaker, so the central Committee must be the Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises. Mr Speaker, I am happy you are adding the leadership of the Committees on Finance and Poverty Reduction Strategy.
I believe we can bring this to rest by adding leadership of the Finance Committee. Hon Majority Leader, if there is nothing untoward, I would adjourn.
Mr Speaker, the day is well spent. Mr Speaker, just for the avoidance of doubt, it is important to state that when the SADA Bill came, it went to the Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises. The Chairman of that Committee at the time was the late Hon Hayibor. He chaired that Committee and the leadership of the Committee on Finance joined them. So, what my Hon Colleague stated is a factual inaccuracy. Mr Speaker, we can adjourn.
Mr Speaker, I believe we can adjourn. Thank you.
The House was adjourned at 4.30 p.m. till Tuesday, 1st August, 2017, at 10.00 a.m.