The current funding regime of government’s flagship program, the free Senior High School (SHS) programme from the consolidated fund must shift to taxation as a special purpose vehicle for the long-term sustenance of the policy, Member of Parliament for Effutu, Alex Afenyo-Markin has suggested.
According to the legislator, a great program like the free SHS should not be left to depend on the Consolidated Fund where it will compete with other critical needs, hence the need for a dedicated funding source through taxation just as it was done for the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND) and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
Mr. Afenyo-Markin, who doubles as Board Chairman of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) believes that the introduction of “Free SHS Tax” is the only practical means to sustain the policy in order to derive the benefits envisaged for the country.
The Effutu MP made the proposal in a statement on the topic: “Why Tax For Free SHS Education” on the floor of the House.
He cautioned that if issues of funding the visionary policy is not addressed, succeeding governments may abandon it with excuses of funding difficulties.
“Although the free SHS policy has come to stay, if the issue for the funding is not tackled head on and properly streamlined, a time may come when a succeeding government may find a convenient way to dispose of the policy as a result of funding difficulties” he warned.
The lawmaker has therefore proposed 2% increase in VAT rate, 1% tax charges on all mobile money transactions and a special tax of 1% on all imports as potential sources of revenue to fund and sustain the free SHS policy.
Justification for free SHS tax
Mr. Afenyo-Markin who is also a lawyer argued in support of his tax proposal that education is the backbone of the nation, therefore the program which is aimed at empowering the nation’s future leaders to take up key responsibilities in an envisaged industrial society must be funded from a dedicated source to succeed.
He also asserted that any money invested in the policy will come back to society in the long run although some see the free SHS as a burden to society.
The MP explained that since human capital is the best national resource, young people that will be educated through the policy stand the chance of being capacitated with different knowledge and skills to explore greater opportunities for themselves whiles the country benefits from their works and taxes.
Again, he argued that the imposition taxes for funding key policies worked in the cases of GETFUND, NHIS and others and will work for the free SHS if introduced.
The Member of Parliament for Effutu is of the total conviction that Ghanaians are willing to contribute their quota in the form of taxes to help sustain a far reaching policy like the free SHS initiative which has the potential to positively affect the fortunes of the nation.
The NPP in its 2012 and 2016 manifestos promised to introduce free SHS when it wins political power to govern the nation.
Upon winning, the 2016 elections the Akufo-Addo led NPP Government introduced the much touted pro poor free SHS policy beginning with first year students in September, 2017 for the 2017/2018 academic year.
The program is expected to increase coverage to second and third year students respectively in succeeding academic years but funding has been identified to be a major challenge for the long term sustenance of the program.