ACCRA, Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, has asked Parliament to authorise the government to spend GHC62 billion in 2018 to help sustain key social intervention programmes started in 2017 and establish a fair and inclusive society that creates life-transforming and productive opportunities for every able Ghanaian.

The minister said part of the amount requested would be used to sustain the positive socioeconomic gains chalked up in the first nine months of the year.

Presenting the 2018 Budget and Economic Policy of the government to Parliament, Ofori-Atta said measures introduced in the 2017 Budget were already yielding positive results, including restoring hope and bringing relief to Ghanaians.

Personally, it is heart-warming when a parent runs up to you and says ‘thank you’ for putting money in her purse because she did not have to pay GH2,000 for her two children in senior high school (SHS) or when an excited teacher trainee shows you the text message notification of her allowance received, the minister said, in reference to the recent introduction of the Free SHS Policy and the restoration of nursing and teacher trainee allowances.

While the free SHS policy benefited some 353,053 first-year students, some 49,000 trainees benefited from the restoration of the allowance earlier this year.

Ofori-Atta said the 2018 Budget, on the theme: ‘Putting Ghana back to growth’, was crafted to energise the entrepreneurial spirit within every Ghanaian.

The job of the Akufo-Addo government is to assist the people with the tools and the environment to go out there to work and earn a decent living and improve their lives, he said, noting that it was now time for Ghanaians to arise and build.

It is time for all Ghanaians to put their shoulders to the wheel and speak the same ‘language’ � ‘then nothing will be impossible for us’. We must come together in a new partnership with our faith-based institutions, civil society, businesses and the government to create a powerful locomotive for transformation, so that our President’s coordinated programme of economic and social development policies will create an optimistic, self-confident and prosperous nation, he added.

Referring to a litany of achievements that he said had been achieved in one year but seemed impossible in eight years, Ofori-Atta said the government’s commitment was now to solidify these gains for as long as we remain managers of the economy.

With those measures gaining momentum, he said, the government’s agenda for 2018 and beyond would now be to create opportunity and prosperity for all Ghanaians.

This should help address the poverty and unemployment challenges facing the country, he said.

For us, the fight against poverty and unemployment is not optional; it is a national security issue, he told the gathering of members of Parliament, representatives from civil society groups and the members of the diplomatic community.

We intend to pursue this goal of building a society of equal opportunities responsibly by protecting our natural endowments and, at the same time, adding value to the exploitation of these rich resources under our custody, he stressed.

In 2018, the minister said, the broad agenda would be to translate the stability achieved in the first nine months of this year into shared growth.

That includes guiding the economy to grow at 6.8 percent, reducing the fiscal deficit to 4.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and ending the year with a surplus primary balance of 1.6 percent of GDP.

Of the 6.8 percent growth in GDP for the year, the minister said the government expected non-oil GDP to grow at 5.4 percent.

The overall growth takes into account the anticipated reduction in petroleum output as a result of planned maintenance works scheduled for 2018, he said.

He also projected total revenue and grants for 2018 at GH51 billion, equivalent to 21.1 percent of GDP.

The amount is about 23.7 percent higher than this year’s target, which was revised to GH41.3 billion (20.2 percent of GDP) in June this year.