Uncap Road, National Health funds in 2020 budget—Dr. Assibey-Yeboah

The Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament Dr. Mark Assibey-Yeboah has urged government to focus on removing spending limits on the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) as well as the Road Fund in the 2020 budget statement and economy policy.

According to Dr.Assibey-Yeboah, the Finance Minister should consider excluding earmarked funds such as the National Health Insurance Fund and the Road Fund from the Capping Act.

Parliament in 2017 passed the Earmarked Funds Capping and Realignment Bill, 2017 into an Act, to free up public funds in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for other uses.

The Act provides that the earmarked funds for each financial year should be equivalent to 25 per cent of revenue.

The 2020 Budget Statement and Economic Policy is expected to be presented on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta.

For Dr. Assibey-Yeboah, removing spending controls will free funds for to be used in addressing the financial challenges facing the National Health Insurance Scheme. A similar move for the Road Fund he argued will help address concerns of poor road infrastructure across the country which has sometimes resulted in a number of protests from residents.

“For me personally, I want to see the budget address the issues relating to our roads and National Health Insurance. Those are the two key issues that I want to see tackled. Left to me alone the Road Fund and the National Health Insurance Fund should not be capped for 2020.

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It will be huge if government decided not to cap the Road Fund and also the National Health Insurance Fund. That will free up a lot of resources for these two agencies. Every budget cannot solve all the problems, so for 2020 focus on roads and the health sector,” he told journalists on Thursday during a Finance Committee meeting in Parliament ahead of the 2020 Budget Presentation next week.

Dr.Assibey-Yeboah, who is also the Member of Parliament for New Juaben South, also expressed optimism that no new taxes would be introduced in the 2020 budget.

“By Wednesday we will know but I don’t think new taxes will be introduced. This is a listening government and I don’t think that any new taxes have been programmed in the budget” he said.

Touching on the caution by the Trades Union Congress for government not to fall into the ritual election year budget overruns, the Finance Committee Chairman referred to the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which was passed by Parliament to keep deficits below 5%, as the guiding law for the Finance Minister.

Minority expectations

At the meeting, the members of the Minority also shared their expectations of the 2020 Budget.

The Member of Parliament for Bolgatanga Central, Isaac Adongo, said: “I think NABCO is a concern, because we are all aware that once you introduce a programme which is supposed to be a temporary transit point for unemployed and you are not creating opportunities for those people to exit the scheme, then invariably it becomes part of the recurrent cost, so we will want to see efforts that are being made to expand the economy such that people will exit NABCO and find sustainable jobs, so that those resources can be redirected to other productive areas”.

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On his part, Fiifi Kwetey, MP for Ketu South, also shared similar sentiments with the Chairman of the Finance Committee on the uncapping of NHIF and the Road Fund. He stated: “I think what you said is right, the only problem is, for that to happen some other things must suffer because one of the reasons why the capping was done was because there was the need to spend a lot of money on flagship programmes such as Free SHS and Nabco).

“The government really have to have the courage to sacrifice one for the other, but definitely there are choices that have to be made but we can only hope for the best”

Member of Parliament for Ho Central, Benjamin Kpodo, also indicated that he is expecting that government take bold measures to check spending.

“We cannot continue spending when revenue suffers. Government must be bold enough to state that we are cutting this cost because we are not getting the revenue to continue spending. If we don’t take that bold step we will not be able to end the cycle”.

The Finance Committee has met with the Central Bank and the Ghana Revenue Authority ahead of the 2020 Budget Statement to touch base with these institutions on the preparation of the budget.

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