Remove ‘killer’ taxes – Minority demands

The Minority in Parliament is demanding an immediate reversal in the new taxes announced by the Finance Minister Monday.

Ken Ofori-Atta in his 2019 mid-year budget review proposed an increment in Energy Sector levies and the Communication Service Tax.

Mr Ofori-Atta wants Parliament to approve a GHp 20 per litre for petrol and diesel and GHp 8 per kg for LPG.This pushes the prices of petrol and diesel up by some GHp 90 per gallon.

He also proposed a 3% increment in the Communication Services Tax, from 6% to 9%.

The Minority, who had prior to the budget presentation warned against any such increments, have criticised government for refusing to heed to their caution.

“If these increases (petrol, diesel and LPG) create frustration and Ghanaians wish to vent through phone calls or on social media, the Mid-year budget has made that expensive as well, following the imposition of a 50% increase in the Communication Service Tax from 6% to 9%.

“These measures will send shock waves through many households and businesses as this will only further compound the excruciating hardships Ghanaians are already going through,” Minority Spokesperson on Finance Ato Forson said at a press conference Tuesday.

In his view, the increments will add on to a raft of taxes imposed by President Akufo-Addo despite his promise not to do so in opposition, some of which he claimed to include a 5% backdoor increase in VAT couched as NHIL and GETFund Levies.

Borrowing

The NDC MPs have accused government of “cosmetically” posting a positive primary balance for two consecutive years at a time when the public debt has ballooned.

Mr. Ofori-Atta presented the mid-year budget review in Parliament Monday

Mr Ato Forson is projecting that based on what he describes as government’s appetite for borrowing, the public debt could reach some ¢220 billion by the end of the year, representing 65% of GDP.

“This would mean that in three years, President Akufo-Addo would have added GHS 100 billion to the public debt. We wish to stress that this only represents what has been added since 2017. In all, President Akufo-Addo has borrowed about ¢160 billion (not what is added to the public debt) since 2017 with part of it used for debt reprofiling.

“The public debt would exceed the projected ¢220 billion, once draw-down begins for a number of loans approved by Parliament. This rapid increase in the public debt level means that we have reached a point of debt unsustainability, a fact confirmed by the World Bank Country Director,” he added.

This development, the Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam MP, indicated, is at variance with what the President and his party told the people of Ghana in opposition.

They created the impression that they could govern the country without borrowing and

that even if they borrowed at all, the funds would solely be channeled into capital investments, he said.

“After adding ¢84 billion to the public debt, President Akufo-Addo cannot point to any significant capital investments made over the last three years. Almost all of the borrowed funds have gone into consumption related expenditure.”

For the Minority, the mid-year budget shows clearly the public finance is in a dire state and the resort to additional tax measures is an indication for what they believe are troubling times ahead.

The populist policies adopted by President Akufo-Addo, in their view, have come full cycle and are throwing all the gains made from the fiscal consolidation prior to the coming into office of the NPP government, out of gear.

“It has become obvious that the NPP has no intention of keeping their promises to Ghanaians when it comes to borrowing and the public debt, the imposition taxes, fuel price adjustments and the resolution of the general hardships facing the people.

“The mid-year budget presented by the Finance Minister only offers gloom and portend very difficult times for all Ghanaians. There is, therefore, the need for the Akufo-Addo government to change course or they will plunge the economy into much bigger challenges,” Mr Forson said.

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