Salaries swallow education budget

As has always been the case in the education sector over the years, the bulk of 2018’s budget allocation will go into paying salaries – leaving little for infrastructural development.

Although the education sector budget increased by 11 percent from GH¢8.33billion in 2017 to GH¢9.26billion in 2018, much of the increment went into payment of remuneration compared to goods and services and capital expenditure.

The share of allocation to remuneration increased significantly, from 91.4 percent in 2017 to 98.5 percent in 2018.

This development raises serious concerns about government’s commitment to deal with infrastructural and logistical constraints that contribute directly to educational outcomes.

Civil society organisation ‘Send Ghana’, in its preliminary assessment of the 2018 budget said the implementation of free SHS that saw about 400,000 students gaining admission into second cycle institutions exposed the sector’s infrastructural deficit and logistical challenges.

Government’s allocation to capital expenditure and goods and services are insufficient to address this situation, it said.

“Expenditure on the policy is likely to be more than double for 2018. Unlike the 2017 budget, the 2018 budget should provide a clear plan for sustainable sources of funding for the programme.

“It should also address the infrastructure gap by providing the percentage of capital expenditure government intends to spend on doing so,” it said.

Government, in the 2017 budget, made an allocation of GH¢400,000 to kick-start implementation of the free Senior High School programme.

But the funding seems not to be enough as the second cycle institutions across the country are faced with infrastructure challenges, which need to be addressed for the successful implementation of the policy.

Concerns have, however, been raised by some stakeholders about the sustainability of funding for the programme.

In relation to this, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Ghana has suggested government should increase the 17.5 percent VAT by one percent in order to provide a more sustainable means of funding the programme.

“Given the important nature of this initiative for our country’s sustainable development, we are therefore calling on government to revisit its funding arrangement for this essential initiative…We believe that more sustainable funding should be pursued domestically.

“For example, just as we did for the NHIS, increasing the VAT rate by say 1 percent and ring-fencing it for exclusive funding of the Free SHS would be very ideal. Domestic tax revenue provides a more stable and predictable source of financing expenditure for important public programmes such as free education,” the IEA said in its mid-year budget review statement.

Meanwhile, President Nana Akufo-Addo while addressing some traditional leaders at the Flagstaff House recently promised to ensure the free Senior High School (SHS) programme is sustained despite teething challenges.

“Everything new, when it starts, has problems. But if you don’t start you can’t progress, so we have taken the first step. The issues about infrastructure, school classrooms, logistics – we are going to deal with those. But we can only deal with them because we have started,” he said.