It was 2 o’clock in the morning of Sunday 9th January 2022 and I kept pondering as sleep seem to have abandoned me, and I thought to put this together and to share my views on some very important issues of interest.
Ghana has been under a certain leadership over the past 5 years. And throughout these years, some very significant happenings that no one would ever have thought would happen under the current President, His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo have happened.
I must state that it would be out of place to hold that since becoming president, nothing ever that he did was of relevance to this country. Committing to building the Obetsebi Roundabout which funds were secured for and designs undertaken by his predecessor, remains a good step. Completing the Pokuase Interchange, another project designed and funds secured for by his predecessor John Dramani Mahama remain some of his positives. Proceeding with the Tema Roundabout project, the Tema Akosombo railway line which he extended to Mpakadan, two significant projects initiated by his predecessor remain part of the goods in his books.
His factory per district, a dam per village, a hospital per district and one each in the newly created regions which have not seen any significant infrastructure improvement, the reason for their creation, remain positive except that their very delivery have been shrouded with slogans. The slogans have become louder than the actual work on the ground. As we speak, the dams have almost lost their relevance as they are unable to support dry season farming. Factories that have long existed, are those which significantly were said to have been invested in with some districts not hopeful of seeing anything near a factory as promised. General hospitals like that of La were pulled down under the pretext of reconstruction but three years on, nothing is happening at the project site. The high-sounding Agenda 111 has only been seen on paper without any real work on the ground, and substituted by yet another slogan.
Ghana, since 1992, committed to the implementation of free SHS at a certain time in the nation’s development. He brought it to fruition albeit with challenges because of the rush to implement the policy. Five years into its implementation, the challenges having to do with infrastructure remains unresolved resulting in the continuous implementation of the Double Track system. In addition, a new curriculum which was designed for schools two years on have still not resulting in textbooks printed for school children. Unfortunately, these issues have become sacred such that any attempt to speak about them appear as an attempt at killing a golden child.
It is important to emphasize that criticisms of a government is simply to cause government to reflect over its path and to see if it is exactly what it intends and how such its intentions are benefiting the people.
It must be stated on record also, that, in the history of this country, the current administration of the Akufo-Addo remains the most resourceful. His government has secured loans in excess of Ghc220 billion even after criticizing loans of a little over Ghc80 billion by 2016. With regards to domestic revenue, his government had access to over 450 billion in democratic tax revenues in less than a period of five years resulting from improved domestic tax system, increased revenue from crude exports as a result of two additional wells invested in and brought on board by the John Mahama administration among others.
This forms the basis of any attempt to raise questions on the areas of the economy that the over Ghc600 billion has been invested into. A simple enquiry to establish the capital investments that this government had invested the over 220 billion loans into would bring about uneasiness. Unfortunately, these are resources that would be paid for, the reason for which as citizens we must be concerned. Without real evidence of investment in capital projects, the nation would have to ‘cough’ money to pay for its debts, debts of which it would appear it never benefited from.
There has been an area where our debts have quickly been conveniently said to have been channeled – Free Senior High School. The fact remains that funds allocated to cater for expenditure of Free SHS are from our oil exports, and not from our external debt.
The Ghanaian economy has suffered severe shocks from the beginning of the year 2020. Prior to Ghana recording its first Covid-19 case, we were assured of how the economy of Ghana was rapidly performing as well as robust. After two weeks of lockdown, the foundation of the economy have so far been badly damaged to the extent that it must be put on life support.
It was not as if Ghana was abandoned in the midst of Covid-19, a pandemic that has ravaged the world. On top of my head, Ghana made a total of some Ghc33.8 billion in the name of Covid inflows. The World Bank made available USD100 million (the equivalent of Ghc600 million) to support the nation. In addition, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) made available in two desperate facilities, a total of USD2 billion (the equivalent of Ghc12 billion) to help the nation deal with the impact of Covid. The Bank of Ghana provided a Ghc20 billion support to the government to deal with the shocks of Covid-19. The Stabilization Fund provided a sum of USD200 million (the equivalent of Ghc1.2 billion) to the government to help deal with the impact of Covid-19. Beyond these huge sums of monies, the Covid-19 relief funds which was launched to appeal to private individuals and corporate bodies to support, at a certain point, mobilized Ghc50 million from the Ghanaian public.
Ghc33.8 billion of funds advanced to the government to deal with Covid-19 remains a huge financial resource. Unfortunately, every problem of Ghana before and after Ghana was hit with Covid remains the cause of Covid-19. Clearly, we have used the money as other financial resources with absolutely little or nothing to show for it.
As a result, this year, 2022, government is seeking to bring in a lot more revenue. The government has become enthused with the desire to impose an unpopular levy on the ordinary Ghanaian, the E-Levy (a tax intended on all electronic financial transfers). This raised critical issues within the Ghanaian public. But as it stands, to the government, they are done debating the matter and only waiting for Parliament to pass the Bill seeking to impose the Levy so that they can go ahead and implement it.
Critical questions remain unanswered. For instance, government cannot answer to how it could appear in person between me and a shop attendant I decide to pay to supply groceries an amount exceeding Ghc100 to take its share of my money as a levy on the payment. Ironically, the same government, for no work done for me, could come between me and the sale shop attendant at the groceries store to charge me a 1.75% if I opt to pay for the goods through Mobile Money.
How for merely choosing to transfer my salary upon which I paid income tax onto my Mobile Money for use should attract a 1.75% levy anytime I make a payment beyond Ghc100 a day remains one of the confusing tax schemes that government is yet to clarify. Unfortunately, it seems these critical questions are ignored and never responded to, because of their tendency to expose the absurdity surrounding the whole idea to tax electronic transfers in the manner intended.
The arguments that the citizens have no problem with the telecommunication service providers as well as banks charging them for transfers while complaining over tax on our individual transfers to government smacks of lack of understanding of taxation and especially on the specific tax that the government is seeking to impose on the citizens. Why should a citizen have a problem with payment of fees and charges for using a platform someone invested in? What investment has government made in any of these platforms provided by the telcos and banks for the purpose of easing the transfer of money?
Those who come with such arguments are forgetting that government imposed taxes on the banks and the telcos on the fees and charges they bill to citizens for the use of their platforms. What they are failing to tell us is that the government regard the revenues accumulated from such taxes as inadequate. Unfortunately, the reasonableness and rational behind taxing an individual for the transfer of his or her money using a platform government has not provided remains an issue that communicators of government have been running away from.
The government’s digitization drive to encourage a cashless system stands defeated with this singular effort. All things being equal, government projects to accumulate about Ghc6.8 billion in revenue from the E-Levy. That is to hold the transactions constant without variation. But, this remains a tax that would be paid only when one uses the electronic platform. This means there would be no payment of same when the services are not used. It would be really surprising if the government had not projected casualties in this regard, thereby affecting the volumes of transfer leading to an impact on the amount of taxes projected.
While all these are happening, the government has hinted and actually began the implementation of benchmark value reversal even though it has been caused to be suspended for further deliberations, something that ought to have happened even before formulating the policy to have the values reversed. The impact of this is increase in the prices of goods on the market. The explanations were given as though we have no idea of the kind of market operated in Ghana. The arguments in support of the reversal comes across as if the prices of domestically produced items would remain same. If we have an idea of the production cost, the insatiable desire for increased profit among others that we see in our local markets, it is easy to predict that the domestically produced items would rise in prices simultaneously to those that would be affected from imports. After all, who would want to sell products whose prices would indicate a clear difference in quality?
In addition, one of the greatly impacted products would be those of vehicles imported into this county. Already, there have been complaints over the rising duty cost at the ports. A reversal simply means a 30% increase in the cost of clearing a vehicle at the ports and in some cases a 50% increase in duties in other products which we have not the capacity to produce domestically to meet domestic demands.
The year promises to be a tough one. With the imposition of taxes on electronic transfers which is imminent if the government side in Parliament manages to have their full composition in the Chamber, with increased prices of goods and services, the hardships would intensify. On top of that, even government services are going up. Schools fees goes up, same with the cost of acquiring a drivers’ license, road worthy certificate, birth certificate, death certificate, passport, public services forms, mortuary fees among others.
On top of these, under the watch of a leader who was professed to be incorruptible, which means a leader who must have the temerity to fight corruption, irregularities spotted and reported by the Auditor General runs in excess of 30 billion in the last 4 years with 2020 alone recording a total value of irregularities in excess of Ghc12 billion. In the fight against corruption, he has performed abysmally, and a bill of failure in same passed in him by his own first ever Special Prosecutor he held high, Mr. Martin Amidu.
Despite the numerous corruption allegations made against his appointees including those confessed by some of his appointees like Mr. A.B. Adjei which were captured on tape, none is standing trial. Instead, some allegations that were made against appointees of his predecessor’s government are being pursued with vigor and energy.
Are we therefore tempted to believe that the path defined from 2017 would mean imposition of hardships, unanswered questions on critical issues, and an abandoned commitment to fight corruption? The answers are not far-fetched. On top of it, government expenditure continues to bloat without any regard to the plight of the ordinary taxpayer as the president has not shelved his insatiable desire to live a comfortable life at the severe expense of the taxpayer.