Debates of 1 Apr 2014

PRAYERS 10:25 a.m.


  • [No correction was made to the Votes and Proceedings of Monday, 31st March, 2014.]
  • [No correction was made to the Official Report of Thursday, 20th March, 2014.]
  • Mr Speaker 10:25 a.m.
    Item number 3 on the Order Paper -- Business Statement for the first week of the Second Meeting.
    Do you want to take the Business Statement now?
    Dr Benjamin B. Kunbuor 10:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, let us defer it to get some clarifications on some matters.
    Mr Speaker 10:25 a.m.
    Very well.
    Hon Members, we have two Statements today; one is by the Hon Member for Biakoye. I will let him make his Statement and I will take comments from only two Hon Members, one from each side of the House.
    Then I will take another Statement by the Hon Minister for Finance.
    Hon Member for Biakoye, you have the floor.
    STATEMENTS 10:25 a.m.

    Mr Emmanuel K. Bandua (NDC -- Biakoye) 10:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to make this Statement, congratulating the President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, on his election as Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) last Saturday, the 29th March, 2014, at the just ended 44th Ordinary Session of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government in Yamoussoukro, la Cote d'lvoire, for a one year term.
    One year may seem to be a short period in the life of a nation. However, with effective and well-focused leadership, a lot can be achieved, particularly where the leader has the full backing and support of his compatriots.
    It is therefore, gratifying to note that the President was elected by consensus, a signal that he has the total support of his colleague Heads of State.
    It is my firm conviction that with this unalloyed support of his compatriots, the President will rise to the occasion in dealing with the daunting challenges that face the sub-region.
    In his acceptance speech, the President gave an indication that he has full grasp of the challenges by outlining how he was going to pursue his leadership agenda.
    He said he would focus on three thematic areas of peace and security, economic integration, and infrastructural development.
    I dare say that the President could not have made any better choice.
    Mr Speaker, I crave your indulgence to make a few comments on these thematic areas.
    Touching on peace and security, the situation in Mali readily comes to mind. Fortunately, a lot has been achieved under the leadership of his predecessor, President Alhassan Ouattara of la Cote d'lvoire, in stabilising the volatile situation, and I hope the President will work to consolidate the peace in Mali and the entire sub-region.
    Another challenge as far as peace and security are concerned, is the Boko Haram menace in Nigeria, and I hope the President will support Nigeria in dealing with this problem.
    Mr Speaker, a lot of lip-service has been paid to the free movement of goods and people in the sub-region. More meaning will be given to this project if there is a huge infrastructural develop- ment in the sub-region, particularly in the road and rail sectors.
    It is therefore, gratifying to note that the President has given the assurance, that under his leadership, attention will be given to the development of the Abidjan-Lagos Highway, and the expansion of ports and harbours, that serve not just individual countries, but all of West Africa.
    Mr Speaker, in my opinion, the high point in his acceptance speech is his pledge to promote intra sub-regional trade.
    With your indulgence, I beg to quote his words:
    “We will also do more to promote trade among the member nations of ECOWAS, recognising that increased trade among ourselves would significantly enhance our collective economic prosperity.”
    In the light of this statement, I am beginning to wonder where our salvation lies as a sub-region, and what our priority should be. Is it in West African Economic Integration or in an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union?
    Negotiation over the Economic Partnership Agreement stalled two (2) years ago. This is because of fears that lifting tariff barriers could hamper the growth, if not crash completely nascent industries, which were unable to cope with imports from Europe.
    Nigeria has also voiced lingering concerns over the potential negative impact of the Economic Partnership Agreement deal on its industrial sector, if certain products were allowed tariff-free into its market.
    In Ghana and other West African countries, civil society organisations, religious and farmer-based groups have opposed the signing of the Agreement by
    As the debate rages on, I humbly urge our President and ECOWAS Chairman to listen to the arguments on all sides before a final decision is made.
    On this note, I wish the President, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, a successful one year term as ECOWAS Chairman.
    Mr Speaker, once again, I thank you for this opportunity.
    Mr Speaker 10:25 a.m.
    Order! Order!
    Ms Safo 10:25 a.m.
    Just as the Hon Member who made the Statement said, we look forward to a situation where the Chairman would look at how we are going to deal with the conflict situation in Mali and how we are going to support them with troops.
    As President Ouattara has left -- We were in this country when this same Government, when there were conflict situations in la Cote d'Ivoire - we were told that we have to sit on the fence and that every country would have to deal with her own situation.
    To quote the terminology -- sitting on the fence: di wo fie asem. Mr Speaker, we are just praying and appealing to His Excellency and the leader of this country, that indeed -- and in his new position now
    -- 10:25 a.m.

    Mr Speaker 10:25 a.m.
    Hon Member, you are not supposed to provoke debate.
    Ms Safo 10:25 a.m.
    Very well.
    Mr Speaker, I was just basing my statements on facts.
    Mr Speaker, the fact that ex-President Kufuor has been a two-time ECOWAS Chairman cannot be disputed and the fact that he has been AU Chairman cannot be disputed --
    Mr Speaker 10:25 a.m.
    Hon Member, limit yourself to the Statement.
    Ms Safo 10:25 a.m.
    Very well.
    Mr Speaker, I will take a cue.
    Mr Speaker, as I said, we look forward to working together in the sub-region and for the Chairman to actually take the lead in the Malian situation.
    Again, in the Economic Partnership Agreement that we are faced with now, I was very glad when I heard that indeed, no resolution was passed or they could not come to an agreement whether Africa or the sub-region was entering into that partnership agreement with Europe.
    Mr Speaker 10:25 a.m.
    Hon Members, let us have order in the House. The background noise is too much.
    Ms Safo 10:25 a.m.
    We have to ask ourselves whether indeed, our industr ies can compete with these European industries. If we have the capacity, why not? We believe in inter-trade relations, but again, we need to protect our local industries and ensure that we support them well before we enter into such an agreement with Europe, that is well advanced in its industries and trade.
    We may ask, if we were still exporting raw materials without adding value to them, can we compete with a country like Germany where they add value to their raw materials and export? Indeed, we would be lagging behind as a continent and as a sub-region.
    Mr Speaker 10:25 a.m.
    Hon Members, I am taking one comment from each side.
    The Hon Deputy Majority Leader?
    Mr Alfred K. Agbesi 10:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, the Statement has generated interest and I would want to appeal to Mr Speaker --
    Mr Speaker 10:25 a.m.
    Hon Deputy Majority Leader, are you over-ruling me?
    Mr Agbesi 10:25 a.m.
    Not at all, Mr Speaker.
    Mr Speaker 10:25 a.m.
    Hon Member, you know that the Minister for Finance will make a Statement and we have other matters on the Order Paper to dispose of. We are rising today and I am managing the time accordingly.
    Mr Agbesi 10:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I would yield my chance to the former Leader, Hon Bagbin.
    Mr Alban S. K. Bagbin (NDC -- Nadowli/Kaleo) 10:45 a.m.
    Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the special consideration.
    Mr Speaker, in accordance with our Standing Orders, I would want to make a comment on the Statement that has just been made by the Hon Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
    Mr Speaker, I would want to emphasise that in making Statements, our Standing Orders say that Hon Members can comment on them. Hon Members do not support Statements; we comment on Statements. That is in the Standing Orders.
    Mr Speaker, it is true that, once again, the West African sub-region, particularly ECOWAS, has signalled their appreciation of the gains that Ghana has made. All our Presidents since 1992 have had the opportunity to represent the country as Chairmen of ECOWAS and even African Union (AU). So, we are not surprised that His Excellency, President John Dramani Mahama has also been given that kind of recognition. But clearly, it is not for him as an individual, it is for the country. And we have to do everything to support him to succeed.
    It is true that we are all working towards regional integration. So, the integration should go beyond economic but regional integration. And it is important for Hon Members to know that one of the objectives of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is to foster regional integration. Therefore, one of the reasons the Presidents and Heads of State rejected the EPA in its current form is that it is not going to foster regional integration.
    In fact, during the negotiations - it has really disintegrated the region because it is only Ghana and la Cote d'Ivoire that signed the interim Economic Partnership Agreement. Nigeria and the others did not sign for good reason. Now, the terms that our technical people have managed to agree with the EU team are still not in the favour of the region. That is why they rightly declined to sign the Agreement. I applaud the Presidents and Heads of State of ECOWAS, particularly the leadership of His Excellency, President John Dramani Mahama.
    Mr Speaker 10:45 a.m.
    Hon Members, I will take
    -- 10:45 a.m.

    Mr Dominic B. A. Nitiwul 10:45 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, because you had ordered --
    Mr Speaker 10:45 a.m.
    But I will take from the Leaders.
    Mr Nitiwul 10:45 a.m.
    Would do you want to vary your order?
    Mr Speaker 10:45 a.m.
    Yes. If you have any brief comments, I will allow you to make them and then I will take that of Hon Agbesi, too. [Pause.]
    Very well.
    Hon Members, that brings us to the end of that Statement.
    On my own behalf and indeed, on behalf of the House, I congratulate the President on his election as the Chairman of the ECOWAS.
    Hon Members, I refer you to Standing Order 70 (2). It reads and I quote:
    “A Minister of State may make an announcement or a statement of government policy. Any such announcement or statement should
    be limited to facts, which are deemed necessary to make known to the House and should not be designed to provoke debate at this stage. Any Member may comment briefly, subject to the same limitation.”
    Hon Members, it is under Order 70 (2), that I invite the Hon Minister for Finance to make a Statement to the House.
    Policy Statement on the Economy
    Minister for Finance (Mr Seth Terkpeh) 10:55 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I appear before you today to provide you with a consolidated set of measures that we have been using to manage our economy — to correct the imbalances that have occurred in recent years and to lay the foundation for transforming the structure of the economy.
    Since my appearance before this august House in November 2013, several developments in the economy, particularly the sharp depreciation of the cedi in the first quarter of 2014, rising interest rates, and the adverse global environment on commodity prices, have posed challenges to the achievement of the 2014 economic programme. However, it is the resolve of Government to strengthen the measures outlined in the 2014 Budget to enable our country confront these essentially short- term challenges and meet our development goals.
    Following the President's State of the Nation Address, the nation listened attentively to the spirited debates and issues raised by Hon Members of Parliament around the challenges and prospects of our country. Hon Members maintained a nationalistic and informed
    posture in addressing the major themes of His Excellency's Address to the House.
    Similarly, business leaders, civil society, social and development partners have raised pertinent issues regarding economic management and implemen- tation of the various policies that we have been implementing.
    Mr Speaker, in managing the economy, we shall be guided by several of these inputs from the House and stakeholders of the economy.
    Mr Speaker, this particular Statement is dedicated to the consolidation efforts of Government and demonstrates cumulative policy consistency of all the measures we have taken since 2013 to bring our fiscal situation under control. Several of the measures are structural and address the medium-term prospects of the country.
    As will be shown, the measures are far-reaching and it is our expectation that they will clarify the commitment of Government and the people of Ghana in bringing the imbalances that have occurred in recent years under control.

    Recent economic developments and measures

    Mr Speaker, in 2012, we achieved real GDP growth of 7 .9 per cent and an inflation rate of 8.8 per cent. However, the economy had come under severe stress, particularly on the fiscal front, on account of exceptional factors that include:

    i. implementation challenges associated with the single-spine wage policy initiated in 2007 to address distortions and inequities in the public sector wage structure;

    ii. significant shortfall in grants from development partners;

    iii. non-realisation of projected revenue from the oil companies, due mainly to shortfall in projected output in 2011 and


    iv. larger-than expected petroleum and utility subsidies;

    v. higher interest costs arising from the steep rise in short-term domestic interest rates; and

    vi. the continued disruption in gas supply to the country from the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) that led to a substantial increase in subsidies.

    Therefore, rather than a 6.7 per cent budget deficit originally targeted, we realised an actual deficit of 11.8 per cent.

    Mr Speaker, the 2013 Budget ushered in bold decisions to improve the fiscal situation. To improve revenue perfor- mance and support the fiscal consolida- tion effort, it will be required that in July, 2013, Government introduced the following revenue measures that include:

    i. National Fiscal Stabilisation Levy - levy of 5 per cent of profit before tax of banking, insurance, other financial services, commu- nication, and brewery sectors with a sunset clause to end at the end of 2014.

    ii. Special Import Levy of 1 per cent and 2 per cent on some imported goods.

    iii) Environmental tax of 10 per cent on plastic to broaden the base; and
    Minister for Finance (Mr Seth Terkpeh) 11:05 a.m.
    vi. More effective application of the Communication Service Tax.
    Mr Speaker, clearly, the tax measures go beyond the sole objective of raising revenue or even addressing the current challenges exclusively. As noted, they broaden the tax base, remove inefficiencies and make the regime fairer to all taxpayers. Together with ongoing improvements in revenue administration, these tax measures are estimated to yield additional revenue of not less than GH¢700 million or 0.7 per cent of GDP in 2014.
    In 2014, the Ministry of Finance has initiated a process to change the upfront exemptions regime to a credit and refund system to minimise abuse, tax evasion and tax avoidance. In addition, the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act will be reviewed to ensure that exemptions granted by the GIPC are consistent with the Government exemption policy.
    Mr Speaker, at the appropriate time, these are measures which will be included in policy statements and will be placed before this House.
    The main theme of the 2014 Budget is to realign the expenditures. In this regard, the budget includes expenditure rationalisation measures such as:
    i. continuation of the policy on bringing utility and petroleum subsidies within budget estimates and making them more targeted towards our social intervention goals;
    ii. a framework within the Ho Forum on public sector pay sustain-
    ability to reduce the wage bill as a share of tax revenue, from 57 per cent in 2013 to 35 per cent by 2017. This would put us in compliance with the ECOWAS criterion of wage-to-revenue ratio. And this was a subject of discussion by the Heads of State in Yamoussoukro last week.
    iii. the development of a multi-year framework in the immediate term as part of wage sustainability measures which is emerging from a growing consensus between government and labour;
    iv. continuation of the policy of net freeze on employment into some sectors of the public service.
    v. payroll management measures such as payroll audits and Electronic System Payment Voucher (E-SPV) to reduce the incidence of “ghost” workers on government payroll; and

    Mr Speaker, we expect that Hon Members of Parliament will be among the public servants who have begun to check their pay slips on line rather than the paper slips that used to be distributed.

    vi. continuation of the moratorium on the award of new contracts and new loans with continuing emphasis on pipeline items.

    Mr Speaker, in addition to the above measures, the following PFM reforms that are structural in nature are also being implemented. It will be recalled that many of these were implemented in 2010:

    i. the shift of all government transactions to a new Chart of Accounts (COA) -- to facilitate transparency, particularly in the preparation of the Public Accounts that are laid before this House;

    ii. the shift of budget and financial accounting from cash to semi- accrual basis to help government better track its financial commitments;

    iii. deployment of all transactions to a GIFMIS electronic platform comprising ten (10) budget and financing accounting modules; and

    iv. improvement in revenue and fiscal performance under the GRAs revenue modernisation programme.

    Mr Speaker, as noted, these expen- diture measures are in line with the theme for the 2014 Budget, which emphasises the realignment with respect to compensation, interest payment, other recurrent expenditure and capital or development expenditure. We wish to reiterate that the realignment remains the theme for addressing our current fiscal challenges as espoused in the budget that was presented before this House.

    The Government is confident that the fiscal measures outlined above will lead to the achievement of the fiscal deficit target for 2014.

    Mr Speaker, in 2014, the key monetary policy concern is re-anchoring inflation expectations and exchange rate stability. The Bank of Ghana (BoG) therefore, took steps to increase the policy rates as well

    as issue new regulation and reinforce the existing ones on a foreign exchange market .

    The BoG measures are designed to ensure transparency, streamline activity and reduce leakages in the foreign exchange markets, address anti-money laundering issues and promote the use of the cedi as legal tender.

    Mr Speaker, permit me therefore, to restate that Ghana remains a favourable investment destination and these measures seek to regulate business affairs efficiently. It was never the intention of Government to revert to a control regime.

    Medium-term fiscal measures

    The main goal of the medium-term macroeconomic programme is to achieve and sustain macroeconomic stability for the promotion of growth. These are anchored on;

    i. ensuring fiscal discipline;

    ii. enhancing domestic revenue mobilisation;

    iii. public sector reforms, that would be widened;

    iv. reclassification and improvement in our public debt; and

    v. encouraging Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).

    Mr Speaker, expenditure rationalisation measures will continue to also take account of the shift in.

    i. the focus of expenditure from low priority public spending for all MDAs;
    Minister for Finance (Mr Seth Terkpeh) 11:15 a.m.
    ii. rationalisation of the wage bill, pensions, gratuities, and social security which together are compensation and this will be done in the context of GIFMIS, HRMS and payroll reforms;
    iii. restructuring of the District Assemblies' Common Fund (DACF) and other Statutory Funds to reduce rigidities in the budget and aligning them more to priority programmes; and
    iv. rationalisation of public sector staff in MDAs -- which elements include an upgrade and installation of new HRMS programme for Office of Head of Civil Service (OHCS) and Public Services Commission (PSC). The enhancement of these measures will include a broad public sector reform such as an option for voluntary retirement plan as well as a review of MDAs organisa- tional structure;
    Mr Speaker, we will continue with our refinancing, and
    v. deepen the implementation of GIFMIS through completion of the budget modules and roll-out to all MDAs and MMDAs to improve efficiency in public expenditure management and provide a more effective way of controlling commitment -- GIFMIS Policies ;
    vi. a more thorough privatisation of the downstream of the electricity distribution systems at ECG and NEDCO, by using private sector in the collection of revenues, under performance-based contracts as well as PPP programmes;
    vii. debt management measures such as:
    a. managing the debt sustain- ability limits -- refinancing and extending the tenure of loans and bonds for financing the capital budget;
    b. adopting recovery schemes such as escrows and on- lending loans for commer- cially viable projects;
    c. financing of capital budget from specific long-term domestic and foreign loans and bonds and not relying on short-term instruments. The afore- mentioned goal will complement the lengthen- ing of the maturity profile of domestic debt and financing the capital component of the budget through the issuance of longer dated bonds; and
    d. channel grants and con- cessional borrowing with heavy grant elements to social investments while using the proposed GIF to leverage funding from the financial markets.
    Mr Speaker, the Government will pursue enhanced revenue mobilisation mainly through tax reforms and improved revenue administration and efficiency. We aim to increase revenues in relation to GDP over the medium-term to levels consistent with peers in the lower middle income country.
    Mr Speaker, the review of our debt strategy as discussed above is particularly important. It is in this context that the House approved two critical measures as part of the 2014 Budget:
    i. Sovereign Bond issue: We have obtained approval from Public Procurement Authority (PPA) to appoint the advisers and we will be embarking on a non-deal road show this month. Mr Speaker, we are aware emerging and peripheral markets remain volatile, but keeping an eye on these developments is also not tantamount to withdrawal from the bond issues as has been widely reported in recent days.
    ii. Ghana Infrastructure Fund (GIF): Mr Speaker, the House also debated its resolution on the establishment of the GIF in the 2014 Budget covered. Mr Speaker, I am happy to inform the House that the Advisory Committee has summited its report, which includes a proposed Bill, which Cabinet has approved for the consideration of this august House. We shall consult with Leadership on the next steps. As we noted in the 2014 Budget, the GIF is key for the success of our loan recovery effort from commercial projects; the mobilisation of domestic and international resources for investment; partnership with the private sector through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), Joint Ventures (JVs), and other Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) structures; and reclassification of our public debt with emphasis on contingent liability for public
    debt element that can be recovered through onlending and escrow mechanisms.
    In the medium-term, the objective of monetary policy will remain price stability. In this regard, monetary policy will aim at delivering an inflation target of 9.5 per cent within a band of ±2 per cent and an increase in international reserves which will cover not less than four months of imports of goods and services by 2016.

    In conclusion, Mr Speaker, the economy is beginning to adjust to the fiscal and monetary measures and with net positive change in nominal budget numbers as well as a reduced pace of depreciation of the cedi, although risks relating to continuing commodity price volatility and tightening global financial conditions still remain.

    Mr Speaker, given that these consolidation measures are promulgated within a multi-year framework, as is the experience of our country and all countries undergoing major adjustment, their full effect will materialise over more than a single year. It is important to emphasise some of the measures that are currently being implemented are structural in nature and they will take longer time to yield results.

    Mr Speaker, we wish to reiterate the comprehensiveness of our home-grown financial consolidation measures. It is in this regard that we believe that these measures are credible enough to meet the short-to-medium-term objectives. Mr. Speaker, we will keep in view the need to safeguard the positive medium-term prospects.
    Dr Anthony A. Osei (NPP -- Old Tafo) 11:15 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, thank you for giving me an opportunity to comment on the Statement ably read by my good Friend, Hon Seth Terkpeh.

    Mr Speaker, some of us know why this Statement needed to be made at this time. First and foremost, we know the President is already out for the European Union (EU) Summit and as the EU Director-General said a couple of days ago, he would be expected to say some things there, so it is good that it is being said ahead of time.

    Mr Speaker, finally, there appears to be some consensus on the state of the economy; whether we call it the crisis or challenge, it is a swallow. We know there was a swallow. But Mr Speaker, it is important that as Ghanaians, when we talk about these matters, we should talk about them in a way that would help us. So, I believe we are moving forward.

    You would recall that in January, this side of the House -- I think around January 9th or January 10th, after some Members on the other side went to talk about one year of the Presidency, they
    Dr Kunbuor 11:15 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I intended that we draw the House's attention to Order 70 on this particular Statement, but unfortunately, he started making his contribution. I thought that was the Order that would guide us in relation to how the comments would be made in relation to this matter.
    I have heard one or two comments that are already referring to sides of the House, and what was said by one side of the House and what one side of the House said. I think the integrity and intent of Order 70 can become problematic if we are beginning not to address the issue as a House but in relation to sides. I would want that we have that caution in mind.
    Dr A. A. Osei 11:15 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I am well aware --
    Mr Speaker 11:15 a.m.
    Hon Majority Leader, before I gave the floor to the Hon Minister for Finance, I quoted Standing Order 70(2) to guide the House with regard to, not only the comments by the Hon Members but as well as the Statement that the Hon Minister himself would be making.
    His own Statement must be limited to the facts and the comments thereon must also be limited to the facts and it is not supposed to provoke debate at this stage.
    Dr A. A. Osei 11:15 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, if the Hon Majority Leader had listened, the way I started, I was not provoking debate. I welcomed the Statement and gave reasons I thought we should all welcome it.
    Mr Speaker, but I would want to be brief. First, before I continue, I would want to plead --
    Mr Speaker 11:15 a.m.
    He is not comfortable with “this side of the House”.
    Dr A. A. Osei 11:15 a.m.
    He is not comfortable with me even though he is my Friend.[Interruption.]
    Mr Speaker, I would want to bring the Hon Minister's attention to an item on page 2 on Fitch. Mr Speaker, unless something has changed, first and foremost, I think that the deficit for 2012 has been reported officially beyond 12 per cent. So, if there has been a change and he has put it at 11.8 per cent, I think we need to know.
    Secondly, the Single Spine, as far as I know, was not initiated in 2007. So, that is also something that he may want to look at.
    Mr Speaker, but I think essentially, What we have here is a summary of everything in the budget; all the policy measures in this Budget Statement and the 2013 Budget Statement. As he said, we know that consolidation takes more than one year, but we would want to caution him that 2012 was double digits, 2013, double digits and unless something else is done significantly, the path we are heading appears dangerous.
    This is why we are urging -- and I know that somewhere at the end, he states very cleverly that, if necessary, he would bring a supplementary budget. I guess my advice of bringing a budget is getting somewhere.

    Mr Speaker, the Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry should listen carefully.

    Mr Speaker, I again find this is important. Yesterday, when I read the newspapers, I was a bit disheartened as a Ghanaian. This is because Standard Chartered Bank and the lady, Raizer, who is usually very diplomatic when it comes to Ghana, was rather undiplomatic when it came to our situation. That tells me that there is worry out there. So, it is good that they are reminding investors that we are committed.

    The alleged downgrading by Fitch -- In fact, as I speak Fitch is going to hold a conference called on Ghana. So, it is clear that investors are a bit worried and I am glad that the Hon Minister is doing this prior to his going to the EU Summit because it would come up. So, if investors know that the Government is committed -- but we have to go beyond commitment, Mr Speaker. I do maintain that the current budget -- and I agreed with what he was saying -- he needs time to see what happens in the next couple of months.

    The Bank of Ghana knows and we all know that, those measures cannot be the solution. I am sure. Mr Speaker, as we said --[Interruption] -- Mr Speaker, the Hon Member is asking, what are my suggestions?
    Mr Speaker 11:15 a.m.
    Hon Ranking Member, ignore the comments and address the Chair.
    Dr. A. A. Osei 11:15 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, my good Friend recently got married, so, I would excuse him.
    Mr Speaker, it is well known what my suggestions are. The Hon Minister happens to be a good Friend and we have had conversations. There are certain things we discuss privately, but publicly, I have made some suggestings. I do not intend that they should be taken verbatim. But I think that there are places we ought to look and this is why the Hon Majority Leader was concerned when I was
    Mr Speaker 11:25 a.m.
    Hon Members, I have taken a cue from the comments of the Ranking Member and everybody should be guided accordingly by his comments. I believe that this is the way to go.
    I will now call on the Hon Avedzi.
    Mr James K. Avedzi (NDC - Ketu North) 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I would want to thank the Minister for Finance for giving us this Statement on the economy.

    Mr Speaker, I wish and hope that from time to time, the Hon Minister comes to the House to brief the House in the form of this Statement, to tell us how the economy is performing rather than waiting for a whole year to come either in the mid -year review or to come in the budget year to present the state of the economy in the form of a Budget Statement.

    I am very grateful. I am very happy that Ghanaians are now made aware of what is happening to us as a country and the steps the Government is taking to address all these measures.

    Mr Speaker, this is not a new budget, it is not a new budget at all and if anything new would come, it would come, in the form of --
    Mr Speaker 11:25 a.m.
    Which new budget are you referring to? Hon Member for Ketu North, the Minister made a Statement.
    Mr Avedzi 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, there were some people who were expecting the Minister to come with a new budget --
    Mr Speaker 11:25 a.m.
    Hon Deputy Minority Leader, do you have a point of order?
    Mr Nitiwul 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I would want to plead with you to direct him that what he has heard outside, he should not bring it to this House. This is because nobody said that the Hon Minister was presenting a new budget. He said we were expecting -- but he never said that the Minister had brought a budget.
    If he heard it outside, he should leave what he has heard outside, at the doorstep of the Chamber. When he comes to the Chamber, he should say what he has heard in the Chamber. Nobody on this side or that side has talked about a budget. They said we were expecting. That is what he said.
    Mr Speaker 11:25 a.m.
    Hon Members, let us try as much as possible to limit our comments to the facts contained in the Statement just made by the Hon Minister for Finance.
    Mr Avedzi 11:25 a.m.
    Thank you, Mr Speaker.
    Mr Speaker, I am only saying that people might think that this is a new budget -- I am only telling them that this is not a new budget. This is a Statement on the economy.
    Mr Speaker, I am also grateful to the Minister for giving us the various measures, first of all, the performance of the economy in 2012 and 2013 and the measures that the Minister is putting in place, which are categorised into short, medium and a long-term measures.
    Mr Speaker, the effects that all these measures would have on the economy -- those that are going to be immediate and
    those that are going to be long-term, medium-term effect on the economy.
    Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister mentioned that as one of the measures, there is going to be a moratorium on the award of new contracts, not on loans. Moratorium on the award of new contracts and contracting new loans with a change in focus to pipeline items. Again, nobody said -- or the Hon Minister did not say that there was going to be a moratorium on loans. He said a moratorium on new contracts. But loans would be contracted with a change in focus on the pipeline items. I am very grateful to the Minister.
    Dr A. A. Osei 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, on a point of order.
    You advised us to avoid a debate but for the record, I beg to quote what the Hon Minister said, page 6 --
    “...continuation of the moratorium on the award of new contracts and new loans” --
    Mr Avedzi 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I believe strongly that the reference made by the Hon Ranking Member is before you and it is clear -- “continuation of moratorium on award of new contracts”, which agreed with what I said earlier -- and new loans with continued emphasis on pipeline items. Which means that there is a moratorium on general loans but new loans will be contracted for only pipeline items; it is clear in the Statement.
    Dr A. A. Osei 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, with respect, the Hon Minister has read a Statement, and the Chairman is re-reading the Statement instead of commenting. That is not his role. Let us go the right way. He has read how many pages to us? Does he have to do the same thing? Not everybody has a copy of the Statement. So, he should not read it to us but comment on it, so that we can go forward.
    Mr Avedzi 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I do not think that should be the concern of the Ranking Member. The Statement that the Hon Minister read, those relevant ones that I know are going to work to the benefit of this country, are what I am --
    Mr Speaker 11:25 a.m.
    Hon Chairman of the Finance Committee, under the rules, the comments should be very brief. Indeed, after you, any other person who is going to comment should not take more than -- apart from the Leaders, I will not give you more than five minutes. That is why I said that I had taken a cue from the Ranking Member and that we should all go in that direction. This is because his comments have built a certain consensus for the way forward and that should guide each and every one of us.
    Mr Nitiwul 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, the Chairman of the Finance Committee made a very serious statement, that this House must take serious notice of. That some part of what the Hon Minister for Finance came to present to this House for the people of Ghana would not work -- so, we want to know the part that would not work, so that we would let the Hon Minister know that he, the Chairman, is saying that some parts would work and some would not work.
    Mr Avedzi 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I did not say that some parts of the Statement would not work. Mr Speaker, this is what I said and I would urge the Hon Member to listen
    attentively. Mr Speaker, I said “the part of the Statement that are relevant to the expenditure control” [Interruptions.] Mr Speaker, I am saying that the relevant portion of the Statement -- Before that, I made a statement on the processing of expenditure on GIFMIX platform. I am only quoting those points he made that are relevant to the expenditure control, which would benefit this country; this is the point I made.
    Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity and I would want everyone to listen.
    In conclusion, I would want to say that, the Hon Minister for Finance, who has come up with this Statement, should implement it as he presented it to the House and we urge the House to support the Hon Minister. I also urge Ghanaians to allow the Hon Minister to implement this Statement and at the end, the result would benefit all of us as a country.
    I thank you, Mr Speaker.
    Dr A. A. Osei 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, my good Friend, the Hon Chairman wants to urge the Hon Minister to implement the policies in the Statement but not implement the Statement. He cannot implement the Statement -- [Interruptions.]
    Mr Speaker 11:25 a.m.
    Hon BaffourAwuah.
    Mr Ignatius Baffour Awuah (NPP -- Sunyani West) 11:25 a.m.
    Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the Statement ably made by the Hon Minister for Finance.
    My Hon Colleague, the Chairman of the Finance Committee just commended the Minister for being the first Minister for Finance in the past 10 years to have come here to give a Statement on the economy.
    Mr Speaker, I would want to add that the Minister -- was forced under the circumstances of today to come. This is because if things were better, he would not have come.
    Mr Speaker, I would want to comment on one or two points which the Hon Minister made, especially with regard to public debt. The Minister said that more emphasis was going to be given to debt, especially linking it to contigent liability.
    Mr Speaker, the impression is always created, especially external debt which are contracted, are mostly earmarked for specific projects which would pay for itself.
    Mr Speaker, if we do a critical analysis of our total debt portfolio, we have more domestic debt than foreign debts and most of these domestic debts are not earmarked. They are specifically for budget support. So, if we say that we are going to do earmarking, is the Hon Minister referring only to external debt as the major composition of the total debt or what? That is what I would want him to answer.
    Apart from that, Mr Speaker, the Hon Minster talks about rationalisation of wage and having a monitarium on wage increases. Mr Speaker, I doubt whether the people of Ghana would be prepared for this, especially at a time when tariffs are high, electricity and water bills are going up, and prices of petroleum products are going up.
    Mr Speaker, it would be unfair for the people to accept all these increases and at the same time, you tell them that, no, their wages are not going to be increased. They would be made losers and this is something I would want us all to think through.
    Apart from that, it is quite refreshing for the Hon Minister to say that maybe, in the course of the year, he would come back to the House with a supplementary budget. Mr Speaker, it is yet early but I would want to believe that, if really we want to see 2014 as a year for us meeting out targets, the Minister has no other option than to come to the House with the supplementary budget and we are waiting for him to come with that.
    Thank you, Mr Speaker.
    Mr Speaker 11:25 a.m.
    Hon Members, the Leaders' are proposing four on each side of the House. But I would want to reduce it to three,unless Members decide to be very brief.
    Hon Minister for Information and Media Relations, you have five minutes.
    Minister for Information and Media Relations (Mr Mahama Ayariga)(MP) 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Statement made by the Hon Minister for Finance.
    Mr Speaker, this as recognised by Hon Members, the first time that he has come to make an Urgent Statement on the state of the economy. This is not the first time that he is publicly briefing Ghanaians on the state of the economy.
    On several occasions, Mr Speaker, as Minister for Information and Media Relations, I have organised media platforms for him to brief Ghanaians on the state of the economy.
    Let me place on record that this is a Finance Minister who has been very open and transparent with the affairs [Interruptions] of the economy of this country --
    Mr Speaker 11:25 a.m.
    Hon Minister, I will encourage you that in future you come to the House first before you create the media platform that you have been creating for the Hon Minister.
    Mr Kwabena Darko-Mensah 11:25 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, the Hon Minister said that he had heard that Government would be going to the IMF. So, I would want to know his source of that information.
    Mr Speaker 11:25 a.m.
    Hon Member, it is the Ranking Member of Finance who said he heard rumours. I thought it would have been directed to the Ranking Member first before the Hon Minister for Information and Media Relations.
    Dr A. A. Osei 11:45 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I would want your guidance to guide my Hon Good Friend. The IMF are not here to say something like they do not have “new ideas”. It is not the best. It may be misconstrued. So, I plead that he withdraws that part from his statement.
    Mr Ayariga 11:45 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I said that going to the IMF, basically, entails going to take on a set of programmes to remedy your economy. And I am saying on authority that when you look at the comprehensive outline of programmes that the Hon Minister for Finance has already introduced, are programmes that have already been approved by this august House, which are being implemented. I have read widely on IMF programmes over the years. I do not believe that there is anything new that we would be committing ourselves to if we go to the IMF. Of course, it is a decision of the country ultimately where we go to. That is the context in which I made the Statement.
    What I would want to thank the Hon Minister for Finance for is that, in his Statement, he did admit that we have serious challenges. I am also thanking the Hon Ranking Member on the other side of the House because we have a consensus now on a number of key issues that we should be dealing with as a country.
    We have a consensus on the debt issues; we have a consensus on the challenges of our wage bills; we have a consensus on the issues of revenue mobilisation; we have a consensus on the challenges of our deficits and we have a consensus on the need for us to look at the way forward in terms of developing the infrastructure of this country.
    That is why I think that, all of us sh ould r eded i ca t e our selves t o
    Dr A. A. Osei 11:45 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I am surprised that the Hon Minister is saying that we have a consensus. On Saturday -- just on Saturday, he said we did not have a consensus with the Hon Minister. He said that on Saturday. So, I am glad that he has changed his mind between Saturday and —
    Mr Speaker 11:45 a.m.
    Hon Members, on the floor of this House, some few years back, the Member for Sunyani East said there was a Chinese proverb which said that “fools do not change their minds but wise people sometimes change their minds”— That was the old J. H. Mensah. [Laughter] [Interruption.]
    Mr Ayariga 11:45 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, in any case, there is no change of mind here. [Interruptions.] On Saturday, I was on a radio platform with him, and we were discussing a lecture by Dr Bawumia. I said to him that, there was nothing that Dr Bawumia had said that this Hon Finance Minister had not already said.
    There is no recommendation that Dr Bawumia had made that this Hon Finance Minister was not already implementing and even implementing more. That was what I said. So, if I am to stand by my statement, it means that what Dr Bawumia is saying as their lead economist, and what our Hon Finance Minister is saying, are the same thing. Therefore, there is a consensus —[Interruption.] There is a consensus on the issues.
    Dr A. A. Osei 11:45 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, he went further to say I wanted to say “want to state on this platform, the Minister is giving me a hard time”. That is what he said. That is the part that I am referring to. Now that he has changed his mind, it is alright; we are going forward.
    Mr Speaker 11:45 a.m.
    Hon Minister, your time is up; your last sentence; your time is up. Conclude.
    Mr Ayariga 11:45 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I would want to conclude by reiterating the Statement of the Hon Minister, that these are comprehensive and these are home-grown fiscal consolidation measures. I am happy that these are already measures that have been approved by this House and so, we would continue to support the Hon Minister for Finance to implement these measures and we believe that we would be able as a country, to come out of our current economic predicament.
    Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu (NPP - Dormaa Central) 11:45 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I would want to join my Colleagues in appreciating the boldness of the Hon Finance Minister to come before the House to admit that there are challenges in the economy. I would have wished the Hon Finance Minister would replace the word “challenge” to “crisis” because and my Colleagues have said —
    Mr Speaker 11:45 a.m.
    Hon Member, do not provoke a debate.
    Mr Agyeman-Manu 11:45 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I would have wished he had used “crisis” instead of “challenges” because this particular activity that is happening this morning, is unprecedented;it has never happened —
    Mr Speaker 11:45 a.m.
    Hon Majority Leader, you have the floor.
    Dr Kunbour 11:45 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, it is with much regret that I have to rise on a point of order. But I guess that the direction in which the Hon Member is making his contribution is certainly going to offend Standing Order 70(2) and I am saying that his wishes should be kept to himself. He should talk on what the Hon Minister for Finance has said expressly. Later, he should send his wishes and then say it somewhere else. This is because it is his wishes that would degenerate this House into a debate.
    Mr Agyeman-Manu 11:45 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I am a bit taken aback and surprised to the extent that the Hon Majority Leader thinks that I cannot express a wish. I am not saying that is what the Hon Finance Minister should say, but I was expecting -- my anticipation -- I cannot say these too in this House?
    Mr Speaker, I would continue. I have appreciated his boldness and I am saying that this move is unprecedented and I am alluding to the fact that my Colleagues who have contributed have also shared.
    Mr Speaker, the Statement and the measures that the Hon Minister is talking about, in my view, are not seriously comprehensive at all. Let us look at the Single Spine. We started talking about the challenges and the overuns more than two years now. We are still talking about overruns. The implication is that, the measures we are using to try to resolve the challenges are just not clicking.
    Now, the Hon Finance Minister is telling us that we are looking at measures to reduce these overruns and these wage bills, from the current 57 per cent to close to the standard 35 per cent by 2017. That is a challenge and we cannot solve this problem until how many years ahead of us? The overruns in the Single Spine issue should be looked at very seriously.
    We are talking about moratorium on new contracts, but as I speak, on today's Order Paper, we are going to borrow for new contracts and new procurement issues. So, what is the effect of what the Hon Minister for Finance is telling us in his presentation? A moratorium, if it is not partial, complete moratorium should not see us today, going to resolve to go and borrow to invest into new things. That I think could be against these measures the Hon Finance Minister is introducing and that does not give some of us confidence, that these measures that we are putting would be out.
    Again, I was expecting the Hon Minister for Finance to have come to announce that we have laid hands on new things that are going to come in terms of inflows, so that we would be able to solve some of the challenges that we are talking about.
    The only good hope the Hon Minister for Finance is giving us is the fact that, we are going to see a significant increase in oil inflows by the second half of 2016. Where will this economy be by then?
    The Hon Minister for Finance went ahead talking about how we will resolve certain matters. We are going to do refinancing of expensive debts and he refused to talk about how we are going to resolve the issues of dedicated funds arrears, road arrears and non-road arrears. How are we managing these issues?
    The deficit issue is talking about cutting costs, but when we have these debt profiles on us that we are not refinancing, how do we get deficits to come down? Mr Speaker—
    Mr Speaker 11:45 a.m.
    Your time is up.
    Mr Agyeman-Manu 11:45 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, I thank you for the time. I am grateful.
    Mr Alban S. K. Bagbin (NDC -- Nadowli/Kaleo) 11:55 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, let me start by commending the Hon Minister for Finance for coming to the House and truthfully and honestly telling us the state of the economy.
    Mr Speaker, I commend the Hon Ranking Member for the comments he made, particularly by drawing our attention to the fact that, there are some underlying reasons the Hon Minister has come to make this Statement.
    But it is important for me to put on record that, since 2000, we have had Hon Ministers coming to the floor of this House and giving us Statements on the state of the economy. It is not the first time.
    Mr Speaker, comments are not meant to ignite debate and so, it is important that if this House wants a debate on the economy, we could move towards moving a Motion which we have done a number of times in this House, to debate the state of the economy of the country.
    Mr Speaker, this is very good because, we need to tell the good people of Ghana what the state of the economy is, try to convince them, for them to be able to go with us the leaders to surmount the challenges that we are facing. That is critical; it is part of accountability and I think that it is the best way to go.
    It is important that in my comments, I also try to draw the attention of Governments, including the current Government to come before the House under article 34, to tell us the realisation of the policy objectives that we have been approving. That is different from article 67, which deals with the Message on the State of the Nation.
    We all know that under Chapter 6 - “Directive Principles of State Policy” - we are all enjoined by the Constitution to try and create a just and free society. And in that respect, under article 34(2), it is stated that:
    “(2) The President shall report to Parliament at least once a year, all the steps taken to ensure the realisation of the policy objectives contained in this Chapter; and, in particular, the realisation of basic human rights, a healthy economy, the right to work, the right to good health care and the right to education.”
    It is part of our duty as a House to insist and to get this presentation made for us to be able to articulate the concerns of our constituents and therefore, carry them along to support us to give us the social capital to be able to develop the country.
    Mr Speaker, in commenting on the Statement that has just been made, I also would want to --
    Mr Speaker 11:55 a.m.
    Hon Member, is it possible to combine articles 34 and 67? Is it possible? I am just asking you. You have drawn our attention to article 34 and you have quoted it and we have article 67. Is it possible to make them one?
    I just want your thoughts on the matter since you have drawn our attention to --
    Mr Bagbin 11:55 a.m.
    Practically, Mr Speaker, it is not possible. To try and combine articles 34(2) with article 67 is not possible. The policy thrusts are different, this is because you have to bring a voluminous document and it would be lost in the debate. You will need to separate the two --
    Mr Speaker 11:55 a.m.
    Well, that is for a debate another day.
    Mr Bagbin 11:55 a.m.
    Thank you very much.
    Now, commenting on the Statement, I would also want to add that the Single Spine Wage Policy was also meant to motivate workers to produce, because productivity in the country is very low. I would want to call upon my Colleagues in leadership of labour to not only focus -- on talking about conditions of service, but also put in place motivational incentives from their own perspectives to increase productivity.
    Mr Speaker 11:55 a.m.
    Hon Member, your time is up; conclude.
    Mr Bagbin 11:55 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, the Single Spine Wage Policy was also to give Government the opportunity to rationalise the numbers of workers in the public sector. If not, we would be facing these challenges.
    But it is important to end by saying that if you are running an economy based upon commodity prices like gold and cocoa --
    Mr Speaker 11:55 a.m.
    Hon Member, conclude.
    Mr Bagbin 11:55 a.m.
    And you have gold at 1,600 US dollars per ounce to 1,200 US dollars, you would definitely have challenges. This is because it is not only foreign exchange but the domestic revenue will fall short. These are some of the challenges we are meeting.
    But it is important that as a House, we keep on agreeing to disagree and that is what democracy is about.
    Thank you very much Mr Speaker.
    Mr Speaker 11:55 a.m.
    Hon Members, I am taking the last two comments. I want to find out whether the Leaders will be speaking. If the Leaders would not speak,
    then the last two that I am taking from each side will be the last on this matter. So, I will want to clarify that position. This is because the advice I have been given from the Leaders is that, we are taking four. If the Leaders are speaking, then I will call on them to make their comments now, so that we move on.
    We are rising today and I do not want us to rise very late. So, if the Hon Leaders will speak, then let me take the last comments from them.
    Minority Leader (Mr Osei Kyei- Mensah-Bonsu) 11:55 a.m.
    Thank you Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to also acknowledge the efforts of the Hon Minister responsible for Finance. Mr Speaker, to also acknowledge some degree of frankness that he has exhibited. I hope that the agents of Government would take a cue from the language of the Hon Minister.

    Nii Lantey Vanderpuye -- rose --
    Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu 11:55 a.m.
    Mr Speaker, this Statement by the Hon Minister has become imperative, because as we all do recognise, barely two weeks after the passage of the Appropriations Act, the economic indicators started to --
    Mr Speaker 11:55 a.m.
    Do you have a point of order? Please, what is your point of order, Hon Member?
    Nii Lantey Vanderpuye: Mr Speaker, the Hon Minority Leader has just ascribed “acerbic tongue” to appointees and agents of Government and this, I think
    Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu 12:05 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, I think this certainly, does not call for any response.
    Mr Speaker, as I was saying -- [Interruption] -- barely two weeks after the House passed the Appropriations Act, we began to witness the sharp depreciation of the cedi. Inflation also appeared to veer off what had been projected.
    Mr Speaker, so, when the Hon Minister comes to acknowledge that we are in serious problems -- whether challenges or crises, Mr Speaker, we should sympathise with the Hon Minister for this open admission.
    There are some issues that I may want to have further clarification on. The Minister has related to moratorium on the award of new contracts. Mr Speaker, I would want to know exactly what the Hon Minister means and I hope the Hon Minister is listening; I would want to know what he means by a moratorium on the award of new contracts.
    The Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) formula we just approved, the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) formula we just approved, they would be embarking on new contracts. Are you saying that this is across board, it would affect them? We need to know the areas that he is relating to.
    Mr Speaker, the Minister was also not very clear when he said that the growth rate for 2013, the last quarter, experienced
    some challenges and that we may be having some deceleration of growth. So, what is the projection now, what is the actual now?
    I believe that three months after the expiry of the year, we should be able to determine the real Growth Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate. If what was projected could not be attained, what is it now should be made known to us, because we need it for effective planning. And three months after the expiry of the year, the nation should be able to know.
    Mr Speaker, it is instructive that as a nation, we now know that for 2013, the single spine salary regime, the implementation of it as a ratio of tax revenue amounted to 57 per cent.
    Mr Speaker, that is most instructive, because all this while, the country has been saturated with figures depending on whoever is giving the figures; the character and colour and shape of the person, they are quoting between 75 per cent and 85 per cent. Today, we are being told that it is 57 per cent and I think it is most instructive. Again, it is important for us, for purposes of planning.
    Mr Speaker 12:05 p.m.
    Are you challenging the percentage he has given?
    Mr Ayariga 12:05 p.m.
    Very much so Mr Speaker.
    Mr Speaker, the Finance Minister was very clear. He said for 2013, that is the figure; that the previous figures as we put them out was 70 per cent and that included --
    Mr Speaker 12:05 p.m.
    Did they make any reference to you?
    Mr Ayariga 12:05 p.m.
    No! But he spoke about figures bandied about and I am sure he is talking about figures that we have put out.
    Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu 12:05 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, even last week, in this very House, there was disagreement between the Ranking Member on Finance and somebody else from the other side -- The Hon Member for Ketu South, Mr Fifi Kwetey in this House -- So, let us not go there; you know what figures you have been quoting, even in 2013. You know. Do not come and pretend.
    Mr Speaker, so, as I am saying, it is most instructive that now we are very clear in our minds that the figure is 57 per cent.
    Mr Speaker, the Minister also is relating to, I guess, a wage freeze. Would he come very clean on that? Let us know what it is, because you are talking about a proposal and then some negotiation around that, to achieve what? To agree on the wage freeze or whatever? Mr Speaker, certainly, if there is agreement outside the corridors of this House, it certainly would affect us; so, we need to know.
    Everybody in this country would be affected. Three months down the lane, Hon Minister, be bold and tell us that this is the direction that we want to go.
    Again, he is talking about the freeze on contracts. The President, in this House, in the State of the Nation Address, spoke about the initiation of some projects in accord with his vision. How does it relate to this new trend that he wants to set; a freeze on new contracts? Mr Speaker, so, we need to know. [Interruption.] Hon Minister, if you have further information, can you give it out, so that we can respond to it? Mr Speaker, so, I guess we need to address this.

    Is it a new directive. Is it a shift in a new area? I have always believed that it is important that we save for the future, not just because there is a windfall. Let us spend. Even though production targets were lower than anticipated, but because of the windfall, he came here and said, let us spend. I am happy that there is a U-turn in that.

    The other matter that I wanted to discuss has already been related to by the Hon Member for Sunyani West, Mr Ignatius Baffour Awuah. That has to do with the domestic borrowing. What is the size of it now and may we know Mr Speaker, the measures employed by the Bank of Ghana to stabilise the cedi; thus far what has been the effect?

    People have described it as knee-jerk reaction and so on. But thus far, what has been the effect of the measures announced by the Bank of Ghana by way of trying to mitigate the problems that we have?
    Majority Leader (Dr Benjamin Kunbuor) 12:15 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to make one or two brief points in relation to the Policy Statement that the Hon Minister for Finance has brought to this House.
    Mr Speaker, some years ago, somebody made a statement that the economy is too serious a matter to be left for politicians alone. I certainly disagreed with the person at that time, but I guess that I can even extend that to say it is such a serious matter that cannot be entrusted to partisan positions.
    I am saying this for the fact that those of us to track the economic performance in its proper global, regional and sub- regional context, would be able to see the proper way in which the Finance Minister is before the House.
    Prof George Yaw Gyan-Baffour 12:15 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, the economy has never been entrusted to politicians alone ever. The Governor of the Bank of Ghana is not a politician, but the economy is a major part of running the economy of this country. So, Mr Speaker, I think that is misleading and the Majority Leader should actually move away from that.
    Dr Kunbuor 12:15 p.m.
    I know that the Honourable Professor, because he came late, would use the least opportunity to make a contribution. -- [Laughter] --
    But what I precisely said was that, I disagreed, with a friend who said the economy was such a serious matter to be left to politicians. That is the premise. And I say it is worse still when you say that it is left to partisan politics. That is the context.
    But I am saying this because, given the global political environment and our location in our sub-region and the African region, the volatility of the economy and a number of the microeconomic indicators are of such a nature that you are bound to
    have some misalignments, after your economic policy has been read. When you notice these misalignments because the outturn from 2013 has now actually come out and you are beginning to anticipate that because of those outturns, you are likely to have distortions in 2014; the prudent way to manage an economy is to come out with commitments in terms of how the microeconomic indicators would be handled.
    And in my view, that is why the Hon Minister for Finance needs commenda- tion. It is not just an exercise of trying to register achievements, but one in which you are already sending out the signals, that in terms of our microeconomic framework, these are the red flag areas and this is what we need to do as a people to ensure that we address them.
    Mr Speaker, but there is something more fundamental that, in my opinion one of the issues that we should be dealing with in relation to this economy. I know definitely, between Hon Dr Akoto Osei and Hon Prof. Gyan-Baffour, they will see this as perhaps, a closed chapter.
    Dr A. A. Osei 12:15 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, I do not know what he means by he thinks the matter is closed. I do not know why he is saying the matter is closed. How can the matter be closed? We do not want to get -- he and I can meet outside and have the debate. But the matter cannot be closed. As long as we are Ghanaians, it can never be closed.
    Dr Kunbuor 12:15 p.m.
    I am assuming that one is a structuralist and the other is a monetarist. So, I know what I am saying.
    Papa Owusu-Ankomah 12:15 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, indeed, the Hon Majority Leader is strenuously leading us into a debate with his economic philosophy. I have advised him on several occasions that he should reserve some of these philosophies to the classroom where he properly belongs, not in this Chamber.
    Dr Kunbuor 12:15 p.m.
    Well, I would take a cue from the former Hon Majority Leader. But I would say that, properly, we are saddled with these economic problems today because we have never respected the classroom.
    Mr Speaker, so, I believe that there should be a time as the Hon Member for Nadowli/Kaleo (Mr Bagbin) said, where we must open up a major debate on the floor of this House in terms of the structure of the economy and how both the structure and the monetary policy can be sustained. Otherwise, we would keep coming up with a number of monetary tools and interventions. And because of the distortions in the structure of the economy, we would always come back to where we are. That is the context in which I think the matter must come up.
    Lastly, Mr Speaker, the Hon Member for Nadowli/Kaleo (Mr Bagbin) raised a matter that has been agitating the minds of people in terms of what Mr Speaker has asked, whether article 34 cannot be
    combined with article 67. I guess that would be an important matter for this House to consider subsequently. In terms of both the procedure and the substance, my humble view is that, the two are different. This is because one deals with the President dealing with very specific thematic areas once a year, while the other deals with a session and before the dissolution of Parliament.
    So, at the procedural and thematic level, it becomes clear that if we want to get the two married and handled at a go to give a broader context to the debate, then that would be for this House to fashion out and we can guide the Executive on the matter.
    I can see the impatience of the Hon Member for Sekondi (Papa Owusu- Ankomah), so, I thank you, Mr Speaker.
    Papa Owusu-Ankomah 12:15 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, the Hon Majority Leader is trying to lead me into temptation.
    Mr Speaker, my view has been that, Presidents have always combined the two, except that they have not really stated that they are combining the two. That is how I assess their Messages on the State of the Nation.
    But since the Hon Benjamin Kunbuor is the Hon Minister responsible for Government Business, I guess he may suggest to the President that he should try and comply with article 34, since according to him, he has not done so since he became President.
    Mr Speaker 12:15 p.m.
    Yes, Hon Minister for Finance, there are one or two issues that they have raised. It is not consistent with our rules, but the Hon Minority Leader raised some issues. If you are minded of responding to them, I will give you the floor.
    Mr Terkpeh 12:15 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, with your kind permission, I wish to clarify a few of the issues.
    Mr Speaker, the point on moratorium and whether we could do it on exceptional basis or not with respect to the two items -- loans and contracts, I addressed at paragraph 11, precisely page 6 of the Budget Statement. So, this is the context in which the Statement was made. I wish to refer Hon Members to it.
    Mr Speaker, what we have also brought is a Statement that is consolidating the measures that we are taking and as we have often said, this is within a two to three year context and this is the context in which we use in the medium-term.
    Mr Speaker, indeed, these are home- grown policies and in the past, we would have been -- some of the points being made -- in fact, when we have had power crises such as when the Akosombo Dam reserve goes low and when we have power crises and output is affected or when gold prices have gone down or cocoa prices have gone down in an IMF programme context, these are the basis on which we have gone to the IMF to ask for waivers. Therefore Mr Speaker, the fact that we have our own home-grown policies should not imply that we cannot have missed- targets.
    Otherwise, we would always be prevailed upon to go to the IMF for redress. Inasmuch as we are members, and we can prevail or take the opportunity to go to the IMF, but the countries that have made significant progresses within a middle income context, are the ones that have also involved home-grown policies.
    Mr Speaker, the Hon Minority Leader's two points are which I wish to address quickly. Yes, we do believe that when we have -- When the Petroleum Revenue Management Act or ABFA in particular has excess funds, they should be
    channelled and he would recall that between 2011 and 2014, we have come to actually ask that we devote the excess in the Stabilisation Fund, which would have gone into the budget ordinarily for the services of the Contingency Fund, something which I know he and some Hon Members are very passionate about.
    We have also asked that part of it is used for debt services. So, I do want to draw his attention to the fact that we have been very targeted on this.
    One other point that Hon Members wanted clarified is our self-financing policy with respect to domestic -- Mr Speaker, let me remind Hon Members that the three and five year bonds that were issued which actually increased the domestic debt, and also increased interest rate increases were actually used to finance capital projects such as the gang- of-six, which include toll roads. So, that means, we can actually borrow for domestic projects from our domestic resources and they can still be self — financing.
    Mr Speaker, the connection with the Ghana Infrastructure Fund, which I may want to clarify is that, when it becomes fully operational as most of sovereign funds, it would be able to issue its own bonds from pension funds and from domestic sources within the country, which can be used for development. Therefore, the idea of self-financing is actually not restricted to only foreign loans that we take.
    Indeed, we should be aiming as a country, to issue domestic bonds that have a long tenure like ten years as it is done in some countries for purposes of financing our capital budgets, some of which can be self-financing.

    Mr Speaker, I thank you very much and I thank Hon Members for their contributions and we shall take note of the other comments that have been made.
    Mr Speaker 12:25 p.m.
    Hon Members, that brings us to the end of Statements.
    Hon Minister, we thank you very much for coming to the House to brief Members on the state of the economy.
    Hon Majority Leader, at the Commencement of Public Business --
    Dr Kunbuor 12:25 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, I would want us to go back, so that we can, with your leave, take the Business Statement that we deferred initially.
    BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE 12:25 p.m.

    Majority Leader/Chairman of the Business Committee (Dr Benjamin B Kunbuor) 12:25 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, the Committee met yesterday, Thursday, 27th March, 2014 and arranged Business of the House for the First Week of the Second Meeting, ending Friday, 30th May, 2014.
    Mr Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 56(2), the Committee accordingly submits its report as follows:
    Arrangement of Business
    Mr Speaker, the Committee has programmed the following Ministers to respond to Questions asked of them during the week:
    No. of Question(s)
    i. Minister for Youth and Sports -- 1
    ii. Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing -- 1
    iii. Minister for Roads and Highways -- 5
    Total number of Questions -- 7
    Mr Speaker, in all, three (3) Ministers are expected to attend upon the House to respond to seven (7) Questions during the week. The questions are of the following types:
    i. Written -- 1,
    ii. Oral -- 6
    Mr Speaker, taking cognisance of the fact that some Questions are pending your approval, the Business Committee takes
    the opportunity to inform Hon Members that any such Questions approved by your goodself would be programmed for response during the week under consideration.
    Mr Speaker, some members of the Business Committee are of the firm view that scheduling of Ministers to respond to Questions on Fridays should not be limited to the Hon Minister for Roads and Highways. It was further suggested that, having regard to the backlog of Questions
    asked of the Minister for Roads and Highways, the Minister should be programmed on more than one day each week to respond to Questions.
    Mr Speaker, pursuant to Order 70(2), Ministers of State may be permitted to make Statements of Government policy. Mr. Speaker may also admit Statements to be made in the House by Hon Members in accordance with Order 72.
    Bills, Papers and Reports
    Mr Speaker, Bills may be presented to the House for First Reading and those of urgent nature may be taken through the various stages in one day in accordance with Order 119. Papers and committee reports may also be presented to the House.
    Motions and Resolutions
    Mr Speaker, Motions may be debated and their consequential Resolutions, if any, taken during the week.
    Members on Backbench
    Mr Speaker, the Business Committee has noted with much concern that with the increased numbers of Members of Parliament, a greater number of Back- benchers are often unable to avail themselves of the opportunity to contribute to debates at plenary. The Business Committee therefore, recom- mends that a day be set aside during each week for Back-benchers to make Statements in the House.
    The Business Committee also endorsed a further suggestion that Back-benchers should appoint from among themselves
    representatives who would relocate to the Frontbench on days agreed upon by the House to assist the Chair in the conduct of business in the House.
    It is hoped that the approval of the above recommendations by the House and the subsequent implementation of same would help build the capacity of the Back- benchers and further prepare them for parliamentary leadership roles.
    Mr Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 160(2) and subject to Standing Order 53, the Committee submits to this Honourable House, the order in which the Business of the House shall be taken during the week.

    Statements --

    Consideration Stage of Bills --

    Plant Breeders Bill, 2013 (Continuation of Debate)

    Trademarks (Amendment) Bill, 2013

    Excise Duty Bill, 2013

    Committee sittings.

    Questions --

    80. Mr Frank Annoh-Dompreh (Nsawam-Adoagyiri): To ask the Minister for Youth and Sports what plans the Ministry has to empower the National Youth Authority towards addressing the problem of unemployment confronting the youth in the country.

    *81. Mr Augustine Collins Ntim (Offinso North): To ask the Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing what measures the Ministry has put in place to replace the overhead reservoir tank that has broken down for the past one year at Nkenkaasu in the Offinso North District.

    Statements --

    Consideration Stage of Bills --

    Plant Breeders Bill, 2013 (Continuation of Debates)

    Trademarks (Amendment) Bill, 2013 (Continuation of Debates)

    Excise Duty Bill, 2013 (Continuation of Debates)

    Committee sittings.

    Statements --

    Consideration Stage of Bills --

    Plant Breeders Bill, 2013 (Continuation of Debates)

    Trademarks (Amendment) Bill, 2013 (Continuation of Debates)

    Excise Duty Bill, 2013 (Continuation of Debates)

    Committee sittings.

    Questions --

    *65. Mr Noah Ben Azure (Binduri): To ask the Minister for Roads and Highways what plans the Ministry has to commence the construction of the Bawku - Garu road that passes through Narango and Aniisi.

    *67. Mr Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi (Asante Akim Central): To ask the Minister for Roads and Highways when the Konongo Town Roads will be given bitumen surface?

    *68. Mr Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi (Asante Akim Central): To ask the Minister for Roads and Highways when the bridges on the Owere River at Konongo and Patriensa on the Konongo - Agogo Road will be reconstructed?

    *69. Mr Simon Osei-Mensah (Bosomtwe): To ask the Minister for Roads and Highways the status of the following roads in the Bosomtwe Distr ict that were awarded on contract before the December 2008 General Elections: (i) Aputuogya - Adwumam - Kokofu (ii) New Kokobriko - Kokofu (iii) Sawua - Homabenase (iv) Sawua - Jachie.

    *70. Mr Simon Osei-Mensah (Bosomtwe): To ask the Minister for Roads and Highways the status of the following roads in the Bosomtwe Distr ict that were awarded on contract before the December 2008 General Elections: (i) The 42km Road Network around Lake Bosomtwe (ii) Abono - Obo (iii) Abono - Asuoho Adwafo (iv) Kuntanase - Gyapadu.

    Statements --

    Motions --

    Third Reading of Bills --

    Plant Breeders Bill, 2013

    Trademarks (Amendment) Bill, 2013

    Excise Duty Bill, 2013

    Committee sittings.
    Mr Isaac K Asiamah 12:35 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, the issue of Members on the Backbench is very interesting. I would want the Leader of the House to define what he means by “Backbench” and whose benches constitute “Backbench,” so that all of us are informed about the definition of “Backbench”; and our status as “Backbenchers.”

    That is why I would want him to define the meaning of “Backbench”, because whether it starts from the bench immediately after the Leadership, or those at centre, left or right, we do not know. He has to define exactly what he means by Members of the “Backbench” and other issues that are more germane to the so- called --
    Mr Speaker 12:35 p.m.
    Hon Members, we are looking at the Business Statement for --
    Dr Kunbuor 12:35 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, I would like to draw the Hon Member's attention that as part of our parliamentary continuing education, we should take a closer look at Erskine May, which is the Bible of parliamentary practice and he would come across “Backbench”. But let me say, if he wants to domesticate “Backbench” and my own observance here, “Backbench”, in my view, seems to look like an attitude problem.
    So, you might decide to sit too much in the front, but you might conduct yourself as if you are at the very far end of the bench. So, we will operationalise the use of the Backbench, particularly, when I see
    Mr Speaker 12:35 p.m.
    Hon Members, I will suggest that since this Business Statement is for the beginning of next Meeting, I will want us to adopt it, because the Business Committee has made a recommendation that there is a possibility of them meeting to re-programme and they will inform the House.
    With regard to the issue of the backbench, I think that we need to interrogate the matter further, not on the floor of the House but at our various caucus or at the joint caucus, then we can address those matters. But not on the floor of the House now.
    Hon Members, the Business Statement for the First Week of the Second Meeting ending Friday 3oth May, 2014 is accordingly adopted.
    Indeed, Hon Members, this is only tentative, so, let us just adopt it.
    Mr Frederick Opare-Ansah 12:35 p.m.
    Mr Speaker, I noticed that we are expected to rise sine die today and we just adopted a Business Statement with a particular week- ending and I would want to reconcile the two.
    Mr Speaker 12:35 p.m.
    You are absolutely right. That is why I say it is tentative. We can decide to change the programme at any time, that is why I qualified it. I agree with you that there is an element of inconsistency.
    Hon Majority Leader, Business Statement accordingly adopted.