Press Statement: The Civil Society Platform on Ghana’s IMF Programme’s Assessment of the 2017 Budget

The Civil Society Platform on Ghana’s IMF Programme commends Government for committing to adhere to and maintain good economic governance principles of fiscal discipline, accountability and transparency in this year’s budget which is very much in line with the IMF Programme objectives. The Platform presents the following views on the 2017 budget:

Macroeconomic Targets

  • The Platform holds the view that government’s end of year macroeconomic targets; Budget deficit of 6.5 percent of GDP, Inflation rate of 11.2 percent, GDP growth rate of 6.3 percent and Gross Foreign Assets of at least 3 months of imports cover could be achieved, provided government commits to fiscal discipline, ensure a favourable economic environment, stable currency, reliable electricity supply and decline in the cost of credit, among others.

Enforcement of the PFMA, 2016 (Act 921)

  • Government’s strict enforcement and compliance with the sanctions regime of the new Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) would effectively deal with the persistent structural defects in the management of the country’s public finances.
  • Given that Act 921 has useful provisions to ensure efficient and effective use of public resources; ranging from Assignment of Responsibilities, Budget Preparation and Management, Cash and Asset Management, Public Debt Management, Strengthening Parliamentary Oversight and a Sanctions regime for non-compliance.
  • It is welcoming that the maiden Annual Debt Management Report for 2016 has been submitted to Parliament in accordance with Section 72 of PFM Act 921.
  • Government should quicken the engagement process with stakeholders and come out with regulations to fully operationalize Act 921 even as the IMF programme has set a March 2017 timeline for the adoption of the regulations.

Establishment of the Fiscal Council

  • The government’s decision to establish a Fiscal Council is laudable given that this independent body would strengthen commitments to sustainable public finances through various functions aimed at setting up medium-term fiscal policy anchors to guide fiscal policy as well as monitor compliance and ensure credibility of budgetary forecasts.
  • Government should come up with timelines for the establishment of this Council and also engage extensively on the modalities.

Expenditure Management

  • The Platform believes the measures in the budget to contain and rationalize public expenditure if strictly adhered to could plug the many leakages in the system; including efforts to continue the payroll clean-up using the SSNIT database as filter, enforcement of provisions in the Public Procurement (Amendment) Act, 2016 (Act 914) with emphasis on sole sourcing should be embraced and supported by all to protect the public purse.

Anti-Corruption

  • A critical tool for citizens to demand accountability from public officers on the use of public resources is the Right to Information law. The Platform urges government to ensure passage of this law before end of year to give real meaning to the government’s commitment to fight corruption.
  • The fight against corruption would also be given the needed boost should government implement the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP). In addition to the establishment of the Office of the Special Prosecutor and strict application of the provisions in the PFM and Public Procurement Amendment Acts, as well as the proposed amendments to, sections 3, 151 and 239-257 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), which will make corruption a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

Pro-Poor and Social Development Spending

  • The Platform also welcomes the government’s intentions to safeguard pro-poor spending in the 2017 budget. Hence, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection should review and strengthen the social interventions (such as the School Feeding Programme, Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty, etc.) to ensure that funds allocated reach their intended beneficiaries, the poor and vulnerable across the country.

The Extended Credit Facility Arrangement with the IMF

  • The Civil Society Platform welcomes government’s decision to continue with the IMF programme. The current programme (2015-2017) aims to restore debt sustainability and macroeconomic stability to foster a return to high growth and job creation, while protecting social spending.
  •  The Structural Reform Benchmarks for 2016-2017 has seen some delays while others are due. These include; benchmarks on enhancing mobilization of non-tax revenues, human resource management, to strengthen control of the wage bill regarding the payroll of subvented agencies, adoption of regulations for the implementation of PFM Act 921 and also strengthen resilience and stability of the banking system.
  • Government and the IMF would have to engage on some of these issues to ensure the programme remains on track and programme objectives realized.

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