The Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah has said he does not expect Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta to announce any new taxes in the 2020 budget to be presented next week Wednesday.
According to the New Juaben South MP, the Akufo-Addo administration is a caring government and, thus, will not seek to burden Ghanaians with new taxes.
Asked if he will be surprised to hear Mr Ofori-Atta announce new taxes in the 2020 budget, Dr Assibey-Yeboah said: “God forbid! By Wednesday, we will know but I don’t think new taxes will be introduced. This is a listening-government and I don’t think that any new taxes have been programmed in the budget”.
Dr Assibey-Yeboah was addressing journalists on Thursday in Parliament ahead of the 2020 budget presentation.
Capping and Taxes
He also asked the Finance Minister to consider excluding earmarked funds such as the National Health Insurance Fund and the Road Fund from the capping Act.
This, according to Dr Assibey-Yeboah, will address the financial challenges facing the National Health Insurance Scheme.
A similar move for the Road Fund, he argued, will help fix roads in deplorable conditions.
“For me, personally, I want to see the budget address issues relating to our roads, health insurance. Those are the two key issues that I want to see tackled. Left to me alone, the Road Fund, the National Health Insurance Fund should not be capped for 2020.
“It will be huge if the government decided not to cap the Road Fund and also the National Health Insurance Fund. That will free up a lot of resources for these two agencies. Every budget cannot solve all the problems so for 2020 focus on roads and the health sector”, he said.
Touching on the caution by the Trades Union Congress for the government not to fall into the usual election-year budget overruns, the Finance Committee Chairman referred to the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which was passed by parliament to keep deficits below 5%, as a check on the government.
He, however, disputed the notion that every election-year experiences huge deficits.
According to him, in 2004, President John Kufuor’s government recorded only a 2.2% deficit.
“Why wouldn’t anybody want to adhere to an Act of Parliament? The Fiscal Responsibility Act is clear. It says that the deficit shall not exceed 5% in any given year. There are sanctions in the law. The law says that if you exceed that target, then the Minister of Finance should be censured. Censuring the Minister of Finance means that Parliament has lost confidence in him. He cannot appear before the house. If a minister is censured, essentially, he is fired”.
Again, on the revenue targets which have been missed for the past 3 years, Dr Assibey-Yeboah attributed the development to ambitious targets set by government.
He said there have been year-on-year increases in revenue for the past 3 years.
“By and large, revenues have increased year-on-year except that the targets have not been met. But you will have to factor in the fact that the targets were ambitious. And that’s what everybody will do. If you’re a Finance Minister and you’re dealing with the revenue authority, you set ambitious targets for them. So, to the extent that revenues are increasing year-on-year, I think they are doing fine but we are just not meeting the targets. Are these targets realistic targets? What goes into the target-setting? So, these are some of the issues we will attempt to address when we meet with them”.