Government clears GH?2,287 million of GH?3,220 million arrears

Accra, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta on Wednesday announced that the Government had by the end of last September paid GH?2,287 million out of a total of GH?,220.00 arrears programmed for clearance in 2017.

He told the nation, while presenting the 2018 Budget Statement and Financial Policy of the Government to Parliament that Government was confronted with a huge stock of expenditure arrears upon taking office from its predecessors (the John Mahama led National Democratic Congress (NDC)) early this year.

The arrears were mainly in respect of delayed payments in transfers to the statutory funds, wages and wage related arrears, road arrears, and other MDAs’ expenditure. It also comprised overdue payments to the Energy Sector, State Owned Enterprises and other institutions.

According to the Minister, the accumulation of expenditure arrears remains one of the major challenges to meeting the fiscal objectives of Government and the successful implementation of the Budget.

Given the negative impact of the build-up of arrears on the economy, Government committed to an arrears clearance programme in line with the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement with the Government of Ghana, the Minister said.

Mr Ofori-Atta said the Government had resolved to be fiscally disciplined and respect the limits this august House set for it within, reporting that we are well on course to end the year with a fiscal deficit of 6.3 per cent.

The figure, he said was lower than the 6.5 per cent contained in the budget, and this is only the second time in a decade that a government has managed to stay within its budget deficit target.

He outlined, amidst hails and cheers from the Majority Side with boos and jeers from the Minority Side, achievements of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) as having restored macroeconomic stability, renewed confidence in the economy, provision of reliable electricity supply, and that, the Government had returned the economy to a robust growth, with a real GDP growth of 7.8 per cent in the first half of 2017, against 2.7 per cent in 2016.

He said the Government has also reduced inflation, which at the end of October 2017 stood at 11.6 per cent from 15.4 per cent as at end of December 2016.

The Finance Minister said the Government also maintained stability of the Cedi against the US dollar, and brought down policy rate to 21 per cent from a peak of 26 per cent in 2016.

Government, he said, has also normalized the domestic yield curve, issued the country’s maiden 15-year bond in April 2017 and improved external balances, driven by higher export earnings and lower imports.

It has also improved gross international reserves to US$7.2 billion, equivalent to 4.1 months of imports cover and improved primary balance to 0.3 per cent surplus in September 2017 against a deficit of 1.6 per cent in September 2016.

Furthermore, according to the Minister, Ghana received positive sovereign rating reviews from international ratings, and the Government has successfully completed the 4th IMF/ECF programme.

The budget, presented on the authority of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and in accordance with Article 179 of the 1992 Constitution, was titled Putting Ghana to Work,

The 2018 Budget gave a report on the macro economic performance of the nation for 2017, the 2017 sector growth, exchange developments for 2017, policy initiatives for 2018 and other initiatives such as the National Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and electricity tariff reforms.

The 2018 Budget also touched on Government measures to enhance promised employment generation and fiscal measures aimed at enhancing revenue generation.

The 2018 Budget is the third the Nana Akufo-Addo led Government is presenting since coming into office last January. The first one was in March and the second- the mid-year performance review last July.

The Minister also submitted to the House the 2017 Annual Report on the Petroleum Funds, in accordance with Section 48 of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011 (Act 815), as amended.

Source: Ghana News Agency