The NPP Parliamentary candidate for Obuasi, Kwaku Kwarteng has lambasted the NDC government for failing to present a budget which will genuinely address the critical issue of unemployment in the country.
According to Kwaku Kwarteng, though the 2012 budget is titled “Infrastructural Development for Accelerated Growth and Job Creation”, there are no clear cut policies or strategies to address head on, the high rate of unemployment in the country.
Making his submission on Multi TV’s Minority Caucus, the Government Spokesperson on Finance in the Kufuor administration stated that after carefully perusing the 2012 budget one gets the impression that government intends to continue concentrating on providing social infrastructure like roads and hospitals in the hope that the private sector will continue to create job opportunities. With the high rate of unemployment facing our youth one would have hoped that the government will put in place pragmatic and practical social intervention measures as President Kufuor did with the NYEP, to fast track the creation of jobs. “I was expecting government for instance, to state that they will be expecting say $2billion from oil. Part of this money will be used to revamp the textile industry thereby creating employment not only in the textile industry, but also subsectors under the textile industry. We want to see specific direct investments on the part of government, to create jobs. This is absent in the 2012 budget”.
Kwaku Kwarteng recollected how barely a year into administration of President Mills his Deputy Minister for Information, Samuel Okudjeto Ablakwah lied to the world that the NDC government had created over 1.6million jobs since coming into office. “Many were those who asked for the whereabouts of these jobs so they could get involved” The Minister of Employment and Social Welfare Hon. E.T. Mensah since then has had to go round to debunk this assertion.
Another aspect of the budget which according to Mr. Kwarteng undermines the creation of job opportunities is the proposed increase in taxes. Corporate taxes are expected to be increased from 25%-35% and this will increase cost of production, inhibit industrial expansion and undermine job creation; yet the Finance Minister says they promised to create jobs and they have. This, for Kwaku is an exhibition of lack of seriousness on the part of the NDC. The Obuasi parliamentary hopeful also wondered where all the loans the government had borrowed had gone to. According To him, it was stated in paragraph 181 of the 2009 budget, that government owed a total of $8billion. In paragraph 127 0f the 2012 budget, it was stated that the country’s debt had risen to $14billion. “In a period of 3 years, we have borrowed as much as about $10billion yet there is nothing to show for it. All we can point to are broken promises of one-time NHIS premium, fizzled STX housing project, one modern stadium per region, and one university per region among others. Where is the money, and what have we used it for?” he asked.
He called on the government to use part of the loans it was contracting to rehabilitate the road from Anweya-Nkwanta through Obuasi to Dunkwaw, to Tarkwah, explaining that though most of our gold is mined in these areas, the road network is in a poor state.
He however congratulated the government for introducing the composite budget element, acknowledging that it will deepen the concept of decentralization, further accelerate development in the districts, and enhance monitoring and accountability.
Also on the programme was Hon. Seth Acheampong, NPP Member of Parliament for Mpraeso. He expressed his doubts about the NDC government’s seriousness to solve the myriad of problems facing the country.
According to the Hon. MP, projects such as the creation of Landing Sites were stated in the 2009 budget but were not executed. These same projects have since then appeared in the 2010, 2011 and now 2012 budget. “We are worried because when you read an important document like the budget ands see recurring statements on projects, then obviously, the government is not serious”, he said.
Hon. Acheampong also expressed his disappointment at the way government has been managing the agricultural sector. He stated that according to the 2012 budget, of the ¢262million allocated to the agricultural sector, a whooping 50% is expected to be donor funded, a clear contradiction to President Mills’ call that African Leaders should determine the destiny of their countries. This is coming at a time when unemployment levels are worrying and the agriculture sector is the single largest employer in the country.
He pointed to the erosion of incentives to cocoa farmers, citing among others, government’s failure to fulfill its promise of establishing a social security fund for cocoa farmers. Meanwhile monies allocated for scholarships for wards of cocoa farmers are continuously being cut. While GH¢2.4million was allocated as scholarships to wards of cocoa farmers in the 2011 fiscal year, the figure dropped to GH¢2million for 2012. There are also reports that fertilizer meant for our cocoa farms are finding their way through smuggling to Nigeria.
The Mpraeso MP also expressed alarm at the rate at which the Atta Mills led government is immersing itself in domestic borrowing at very high interest rates. According to him, the government is currently borrowing from Fidelity Bank, at an interest rate of 23%!
Most callers and text messages described the 2012 as a document full of repeated promises with no clear cut indicators as how they will be fulfilled.
The programme was hosted by Nana Fredua Ofori-Atta who sat in for the regular host, Yaw Buabeng Asamoah.
YAW P. K.MANU