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2019 Budget Won’t Ease Financial Hardships

Every November, Ghanaians brace themselves for an annual ritual — the reading of the national budget with all the attendant drama, grandiose promises and pathetic displays of self-adulation.

Doubtlessly, it is always a moment of hope, anxiety, fear, frustration and anger all at once. But Ghanaians are resolute and mentally tough; they have psychologically prepared themselves for anything the ruling government will throw at them in the budget, be it unexpected increases in the prices of food and fuel or the continuous inability of government to create employment.

It is in the nature of Ghanaians to swallow the “poison” and hope that it does not do them in, to wit, further complicate their already precarious financial circumstances.

So, it was with less fanfare and little excitement that Ghanaians watched, if they did at all, Finance minister, Mr. Ken Ofori Atta waddle up to parliament on Thursday and deliver the poison – the budget — they have waited for all year long.

And deliver he did, with all the pomposity and grandstanding one could imagine. Mr. Atta could have done a splendid job if he only had stuck to just presenting the budget.

But like his uncle, he just couldn’t resist the temptation to point an accusing finger at the previous NDC government for everything that ails the anemic Ghanaian economy.

Need we remind the finance minister that the NPP now runs Ghana, and so by inference, it owes the economy. Making the NDC a constant scapegoat for the NPP’s self-inflicted problems is getting tired, the NPP’s narrative is wearing thin, fast.

A truncated, three minutes radio commentary is not enough time to do justice to a budget that is 174 pages long.

So, let’s look at the fundamentals, the essentials. The 2019 budget, to all intents and purposes, wasn’t vastly different from previous budgets presented by this same minister.

The budget was, as expected, chock full of eye-popping promises, that Mr. Atta brazenly claims will have the desired effect of making life a lot less hard for millions of Ghanaians and prevent their descent into further gloom and despair. Let’s just hope that Mr. Atta’s claims materialize.

Ghanaians, indeed, are hoping that the budget will provide a respite from their continuous daily struggles to make ends meet. They are waiting with bated breath to see the changes in their financial lives the budget promises to bring.

But in the same vein, many  Ghanaians are skeptical that the budget will reduce their hardships for the simple reason that certain economic indicators have not changed in the last two years; for instance, unemployment is still astronomically high, inflation continues to hover around 9.5 percent, and the debt to GDP ratio is still a stunning 70.50 percent.

These are troubling trends and I find it difficult to understand how the finance minister elected to tell Ghanaians with a straight face that unemployment is down, inflation has been taken care of and the debt to GDP ratio significantly reduced.

Truth be told, there are no guarantees that the 2019 budget will bring long lasting financial relief to long suffering Ghanaians. The current dismal economic situation will remain unchanged and prospects for a better future have been made worse by the government’s decision to end its relations with the IMF.

This is not only silly, it is detrimental to economic growth. Sooner or later, this same government will go cup in hand to the IMF seeking financial bailouts. That will be a cruel joke on Ghanaians.

In the final analysis, conventional wisdom presupposes that a budget should be a source of hope,  fountain of inspiration and a road-map to prosperity. Unfortunately the 2019 budget isn’t all of the above; herein lies the tragedy.




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