… but MPs think otherwise, question loan component for free SHS in Eurobond facility
The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta, has stated categorically that government has not taken any loan facility to specifically finance the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme since its inception in September 2017.
According to the Minster, the Free SHS policy has since its inception, been financed from the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) and Government of Ghana (GoG) funding sources.
“Over the past five years, a total amount of GH¢7.62 billion has been allocated to implement the free SHS programme. Out of this amount, GH¢4.18 billion was sourced from GoG, representing 54.76 percent, while the balance of GH¢3.44 billion, representing 45.24 percent, came from ABFA,” he said.
The Minister made these statements in response to questions on the floor of parliament, especially by Dr. Clement A. Apaak, MP for Builsa South, enquiring from the minister, the amount of loan facility that has gone into the Free SHS programme and how sustainable it is to continue borrowing to finance the policy.
However, Dr Apaak, drew the Minister’s attention to a publication on Bloomberg website in which the Minister of State at the Finance Ministry, Charles Adu Boahen in the article published on May 25, 2021, titled ‘Ghana to Sell Sustainable Bonds for up to US$1 Billion by July’ indicated that one of the reasons for such an arrangement is to finance Free SHS.
“The proceeds would help refinance domestic debt used for social and environmental projects, including loans taken to pay for the government’s free senior secondary school policy,” he quoted Adu Boahen.
To buttress the aforementioned point, his colleague on the minority side, Isaac Adongo, MP for Bolgatanga Central Constituency, also questioned the Minister on government’s borrowings that had an element dedicated to the Free SHS policy pointing to a GH¢2.4 billion component in the recent Eurobond arrangement by government, specified for funding Free SHS policy.
In response, Mr. Ofori-Atta, pleaded with the speaker to afford him more time to go and cross check with data available to the ministry and review the mentioned arrangements and documents, in order to be able to provide the house with the exact facts and figures next time he appears on the floor without speculating.
To ensure that no child is denied access to education, the Free SHS policy was introduced to provide key requirement such as tuition, meals for both boarders and day-students, textbooks, library fee, boarding fee, science laboratory fee, examination fee and utility fees.
According to the Dr Apaak, who is also the Deputy Ranking Member on the Parliamentary Committee on Education, the House has approved over GH¢7 billion since 2017, yet, government has been engaging in borrowing to finance the free SHS programme since its inception.