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Minority rebukes government for mismanaging economy
News Date: 28th February 2013

The Minority in Parliament on Wednesday chided government for "mismanaging" the economy in spite of the abundant resources at its disposal, thus making life unbearable for Ghanaians.

The caucus said that the evidence of the true state of the economy could be found in the "creeping despondency and mistrust accentuated by unbridled corruption" that has led to a sharp decline in the economic circumstances of the ordinary Ghanaian.

Presenting what they described as the "true State of the nation", ostensibly to counter the President's State of the Nation Address delivered in the legislature last Thursday, Minority leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said things were manifestly going wrong for the country and that government ought to acquaint itself with the overwhelming economic malaise.

"The true state of the economy can be found in our everyday lives; in the industries, in the markets, and in the streets. The cost of doing business has shot up, and so unemployment in both the formal and informal sectors is widespread.

"High cost of living is taking its toll on all of us, and justifiably, public sector workers are demanding pay rise from government. In brief, standards of living are falling, life is becoming unbearable, and our people are getting poorer".

"To put it simply, public financing are out of control and the economy is in trouble", he said.

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, surrounded by hordes of minority lawmakers, posited that the President's address on the State of the nation sounded more like he-President John Mahama- campaigning than proffering solutions to the country's myriad problems.

He said that economic and social indicators over the past four years, coupled with the unrelenting deficits in essential services and products nationwide signalled the "failure the government's activities and legislation".

The caucus pointed out that at the NPP left office in 2009 with a total public debt of GH¢9.5 billion and that within just four years of the NDC government assuming power, they had spiralled the country's debt to GH¢33.5 billion, excluding the 3.0 billion dollar Chinese loan, supposedly adding GHc24 billion to the country's liabilities, 55 percent of which was borrowed locally.

This they said meant that government had been competing with the private sector for money domestically; causing rising interest rates that made it harder for domestic businesses to borrow and create jobs, raising the unemployment bar higher.

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu recalled the NDC reproaching the NPP in 2009 for engaging in profligate spending that left them with an arrears of GH¢1.8 billion, juxtaposing it with the 2012 stock of arrears that stood GH¢5.4 billion, excluding amounts owed to several state institutions and road contractors, among others.

He said the government had engaged in unbridled overspending that had resulted in huge fiscal deficit and arrears leading to the downgrading of Ghana's credit rating from B+ stable to B+ negative by international credit rating agencies.

The Minority leader noted that the current government had been lucky with the windfalls of crude oil revenues that previous administrations did not have and the near-record high levels of prices of the country's major exports, saying the benefits drew no parallel with the present economic predicament of Ghana.

He said though government had borrowed much more money than all previous governments put together, there was very little to show for the huge debts the state was piling up.

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the state of food, agriculture and cocoa were in a deplorable situation even though the NDC promised to sufficiently modernise the sector to ensure food security for the people and dependable raw material source for industry.

He said the government had to act urgently to avoid Ghana falling into the Dutch Disease with the merging oil and gas industry.

The Minority described the current energy crisis as the most badly handled in the country's history, because it was not as a result of low water levels on the Akosombo as had happened previously, but a shortage of gas and financial difficulties of the Volta River Authority (VRA) that made it difficult to buy the required amounts of crude oil and diesel to their thermal units.

They said such factors were within control and should not have been allowed to bring the level of energy crisis the country was witnessing.

They said it was expedient that the VRA's liquidity was improved to enable that establishment to procure the alternative light crude oil to power those units whilst the country worked at getting a steady and cheaper supply of gas to feed these plants.

They stressed the need to salvage the energy sector to ensure that Ghana's middle income status was realised and maintained.

The caucus said the recent hikes in the prices of petroleum products in the country was hypocritical on the part of the NDC who had promised to drastically reduce the cost of those products, but had wreaked untold hardship on Ghanaian with the spiralling prices of the commodities and as well as utility rates.

They questioned why the removal of subsidy from the petroleum pricing formula was not subjected to nationwide discussion for the people to choose their priorities, alleging that there were muted discussions in the corridors of power on the privatisation of the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR).

They said government had exhibited not only bad faith and incompetence in the management of the petroleum sector and the associated price adjustment, but was also scheming to sell the Tema Oil Refinery to its business associates.

Touching on trade, industry and the tourism sectors, the minority said that as a result of the free fall of the cedi, many local traders had had difficulty keeping their shops because of their inability to protect their working capital.

They said the situation was compounded by the influx of foreigners, particularly Chinese, in the retail trade, resulting in most retailers operating at losses, with some folding their operations.

They said the huge price differentials between farm-gate and markets in urban centres and the ensuing huge cost of transportation from the escalating prices of petroleum products was negatively affecting internal trade.

The Minority indicated that the tourism sector had registered marginal growth in the past three years and that this pointed to the need to address difficulties in the sector that held promises for the economy.

They said the manufacturing sector had also not witnessed significant growth, attributing this to the inappropriate tariff regime instituted by government that does not allow for fair competition against imports and the ineffective border controls and loose inspection at the port that allows dumping of cheap goods on the local market especially from China.

Other factors that affected the sector include lack of access to credit; high interest rates; high utility cost and the persistent intermittent power outages.

On the road sector, the minority said the country had not felt the desired levels of service certain road were to provide for the growth of the nation's economy and poverty alleviation

Touching on education, they said, even though the present government continued with interventions started by the previous NPP administration to improve the sector like the capitation grant, school feeding programme, free exercise books, the eradication of schools under trees and the one lap-top per pupil project, it had failed in its promise to expand the school feeding programme to cover all primary schools countrywide.

On the health sector, they indicated that because of the pro-active interventions instituted during the NPP's tenure, like the implementations of the NHIS and the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the National Ambulance Service among others, had placed the country on a positive footing and improved access to healthcare.

According to them, these interventions had led to the NDC promising that within two years of assuming power they would reduce significantly child and maternal mortality, review the NHIS to provide coverage for basic healthcare and review the un-wieldy bureaucracy and palpable corruption of the Scheme.

They said government had reneged on its promise of one-time premium payment policy but urged an increase in the National Health Insurance Levy, adding that the “cash and carry” system was steadily creeping into the health insurance scheme.

On the housing sector, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the government had shown a lack of policy direction and strategy and no indication of sources of funding to solve the housing deficit of the country.

He said since the STX debacle, government had not recovered sufficiently to offer a fresh and better alternative to the housing problem till date and that the situation was gradually moving towards a crisis levels.

The minority regretted the current water crisis, saying government had failed to offer a solution to the issue, urging it to make the sector a priority to avert serious catastrophe associated with the lack of potable water.

Source: GNA

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