Director of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana, Professor Peter Quartey, has urged government to provide update and clarity on the newly introduced taxes so that their impact can be assessed and revised if necessary.
Government in the 2021 budget introduced some new taxes to shore up domestic revenue which has performed abysmally over the years. The new taxes include COVID-19 Health Levy which will see a one percentage point increase in the National Health Insurance Levy and a one percentage point increase in the VAT Flat Rate to support expenditures related to COVID-19.
In addition to this, government introduced a Sanitation and Pollution Levy (SPL) of 10 pesewas on the price per litre of petrol/diesel under the Energy Sector Levies Act (ESLA); and a further Energy Sector Recovery Levy of 20 pesewas per litre on petrol/diesel under the ESLA as a means of finding additional resources to cover the excess capacity charges that have resulted from the Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).
Besides these, government further slapped a financial sector clean-up levy of 5 percent on profit-before-tax of banks to help defray outstanding commitments stemming from the financial sector clean-up.
That is not all, the budget statement further added that there will be a review of existing road tolls which will be aligned with current market rates as part of the framework for promoting burden sharing as the country seeks to transform road and infrastructure sector in a post-COVID era.
It is against this background that Prof. Quartey is asking Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to provide adequate information on the progress made thus far on the new taxes so that they can be assessed to ascertain whether they are achieving its intended purpose or they have become nuisance to businesses.
“Revenue generation is very important. It is time to evaluate the new taxes which were introduced to ascertain its impact on revenue. It is time for the ministry of finance to tell us how much revenue we have gained to see whether they are efficient taxes. If not then we scrap it. There are too many levies on imports; are they bringing in the needed revenue or they are rather inconveniencing importers and affecting producer prices.
Another area of concern the professor asked for information to be provided in the upcoming mid-year budget is the rising debt levels and widening budget deficit. The country’s budget deficit as of the end of last year, according to the 2021 budget, had hit 13.8 percent of GDP. Public debt as of March 2021 was GH¢304.6 billion.
“And then also how far or how well we have managed our revenue situation. Are we likely to reduce our budget deficit? To what extent are we going to achieve our targeted budget deficit? Our debt to GDP is increasing. Some medium-term strategies were outlined in the budget. Are we on course in achieving them so that in the next two, three years, our debt to GDP ratio will come down to sustainable levels? Are we going to see that in the budget?
And of course, capital expenditure is also very important. Often times, our capital expenditure is low, sometimes below 10 percent of total revenue. How much have we invested? We need to invest to generate revenue and we need to invest to enhance GDP. So how much have we invested,” Prof. Quartey asked.
Revenue target for 2021
Government has set a revenue target of GH¢72.4 billion for 2021. Out of the total target, about GH¢70.9 billion is expected to be raised from domestic sources. Of this, non-oil tax revenue will constitute about 74 percent which will amount to GH¢53.6 billion, equivalent to 12.4 percent of GDP.