Ghana: Mid-year fiscal review, war against illegal mining highlighted in Ghana

Accra, Ghana (PANA) – The mid-year fiscal policy review of the 2017 budget, presented to Parliament on Monday by finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta, and the stepping up of the war against illegal mining, which has degraded the environment and destroyed water bodies, were some of the stories highlighted by the Ghanaian media this week.

The media also reported on investigations into a US$ 510 million power deal signed by the previous government that the new government believes smells of corruption.

“Economy on recovery path,” was the headline of the state-owned Ghanaian Times on the mid-year fiscal policy review which quoted Ofori-Atta as saying Ghana’s economy was on the path of recovery and investor confidence had been restored.

“Inflation is trending downward and interest rates are lower, the cedi (local currency) has stabilised, and there is a general feeling of optimism and hope,” he said.

The minister said although the government inherited a weak economy, characterised by huge debt and high fiscal deficit, it had worked within the last six months to improve on them.

He said the economy had returned to the path of growth and stability following the abolishing of more than 12 “nuisance” taxes, which were hindering the growth of the private sector. These include the 1% special import levy on raw materials and machinery, 5% Value Added flat rate imposed on the real estate and the 17.5% VAT on financial services.

The pro-government Daily Guide, in its story under the headline, “Economy is recovering”, said the Finance Minister gave a ray of hope for Ghana’s economic resuscitation and expressed great optimism for the future, with tailored economic policies that would facilitate smooth transition into prosperity for all Ghanaians.

The minister said the government had lived within its 2017 budget and met almost all its targets with the stabilization of the local currency, reduction in inflation, interest rate and eventual stabilization of the economy, which will soon reflect in the pockets of ordinary Ghanaians.

Mr Ofori-Atta indicated said the overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 6.3% forecast in the 2017 budget statement was maintained over the first half of the year

The state-owned Graphic, in its story under the headline, “Economy not doing well”, said the Minority in Parliament described the macro-economic gains of the government captured in the mid-year budget review as “cosmetic and artificial”.

It accused the Minister of Finance of cooking up figures which did not reflect the true state of the country’s economy.

The Minority, led by Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said the Ghanaian economy was on life support and needed urgent remedial measures to bounce back.

Mr Iddrisu expressed his disappointment at the way government had managed the economy in the first six months of the year.

“400 security men deployed to fight galamsey" was the headline of the Ghanaian Times on the war against illegal mining.

The newspaper said the Government had intensified its fight against illegal mining, called “Galamsey” in Ghana, with the deployment of the first batch of a national joint task force to three most affected regions – Eastern, Western and Ashanti.

Code named “Operation Vanguard”, the task force comprises 400 security personnel drawn from the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) and the Ghana Police Service (GPS).

The chairman of the inter-ministerial taskforce on illegal mining and Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, said the operation would not be a “nine-day wonder”.

“This taskforce will remain in the affected areas until degraded land and rivers are restored and a re-afforestation programme undertaken,” he said.

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said another team to be made up of personnel from the Ghana Navy and Marine officers would monitor the forests and river bodies until illegal mining activities are completely eradicated.

The Graphic reported that the Minority on Tuesday walked out of Parliament over what it described as a flawed admission of an urgent motion requesting Parliament to rescind its decision to approve the AMERI power deal for gross misrepresentation.

In a story with the headline “Minority MPs walk out of Parliament over AMERI deal”, the Graphic said the Minority had argued that the admission of the urgent motion by the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, and referring it to the Committee on Mines and Energy for consideration without allowing a debate against the Standing Orders and procedures in the House.

The Minority leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, told journalists that the boycott was also for the Minority to register its protest against the conduct of the Speaker for stifling and disrespecting its leadership.

Mr K.T. Hammond, an MP of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), moved the urgent motion for Parliament to rescind its decision to approve the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) agreement between the Ghana government and the Africa and Middle East Resources Investment Group (AMERI Energy) for the installation of power plants in March 2015 for reasons of gross misrepresentation.

Meanwhile, the Daily Guide reported in a story with the headline, “CID grills 3 NDC MPs over US$510m AMERI deal”, that three former ministers in the previous National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, whose homes were raided by operatives of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) over the ongoing AMERI US$510 million probe had reported themselves to the police.

The former ministers, who are all Members of Parliament (MPs), reported themselves upon request by the CID to assist in investigations into the power deal.

They are Dr. Kwabena Donkor, former Minister for Power, John Abdulai Jinapor, former Deputy Minister for Power and Dr. Dominic Ayine, former Deputy Attorney General.

The newspaper said apart from the three MPs, Francis Dzata, Technical Advisor to the Power Ministry, also had his residence searched by warrant-holding officers a week ago.

The previous administration, in the heat of the power shortages, entered into the agreement with AMERI for the supply of power plants to mitigate the power crisis.

But media reports indicated that the cost of the project was outrageously high, thus compelling the new government to set up a committee to look into the contract.

The committee, led by a private legal practitioner, Phillip Addison, said in its report that it had found technical and financial lapses in the contract and called for its abrogation.
-0- PANA MA/VAO 5Aug2017

05 august 2017 09:12:37

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