Parliament on Tuesday approved the 2011 budget amidst strong arguments from both sides of the divide over whether it was a budget of hope for Ghanaians or a source of hardship.
The Minority side saw the budget as one that would bestow hardship on Ghanaians citing unprecedented tax levels against the background of the promises made by the National Democratic Congress NDC) Government before it assumed the reign of government in 2008.
The Majority on the other hand, described the budget as carrying hope of accelerated growth that would generate a lot of revenues to turn the turbines of government machinery into sustainable development.
The Majority and the Minority leaders, who reviewed the budget prior to its approval on the floor of the House in Accra, did not depart from such point of views.
Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the Minority Leader, said the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, were better managers of the economy than the NDC given the growth rate of 4.1 per cent the NDC Government recorded.
He said, besides introducing new taxes, they had also been increased in 2011 budget, and noted that road toll, electricity tariff, school fees, gift taxes, among others had been raised.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu wondered if the private sector was seen as the engine of growth, given the many tax burdens.
He said the NDC’s promise that the School Feeding Programme would be nationwide within two years of their administration, had not been fulfilled.
The Minority Leader questioned the rationale in including the oil revenue in the budget, since the Revenue Management Bill, had not been passed.
He said if Parliament eventually disagreed, “We (Minority) will stop them”.
On the oil production, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said Government must come out clear on the amount of barrels to be produced daily, and the bench mark price.
He said the NDC promised GH¢200 million for the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), but had so far made released only GH¢25 million.
Mr Cletus Avoka, the Majority Leader, described the budget as a “balanced budget”, which all Ghanaians including civil society organizations and economic think tanks had given a thumb up to.
He said the Minority had a culture of organizing press conferences on budget anytime it was read, but were silence this time because they had nothing to say.
“Silence,” he said “means consent.”
Mr Avoka said agriculture had been given serious priority in the 2011 budget, which Government would promote diversified agric mechanizations in all districts including a buffer stock system to store excess produce for hard days.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwabena Duffuor expressed appreciation to all members of the House for their comments on the budget as well as other stakeholders including the Parliamentary Centre and the Canadian Development Agency (CIDA) for their support.
He said very soon two other bills, Petroleum Commission and Petroleum Exploration and Production bills would be put before the House for the purpose of transparent management of petroleum in Ghana.
He said the budget was very creative, adding that the NDC government had used its ingenuity to manage the economy without declaring it Highly Indebted Poor Country.