The Minister of Finance, Seth Terkper, came to announce in parliament Thursday that the sharp decrease in crude oil prices on the world market from July last year, coupled with IMF-prescribed policies, had completely thrown the 2015 budget statement out of gear – portraying signs of harder times for the nation.
The minister said Ghana’s projected oil revenue of GH¢4.2 billion for the fiscal year based on the Petroleum Benchmark Revenue of $99.4 per barrel, had been reduced to GH¢1.5 billion, resulting in a shortfall of GH¢2.7 million.
According to Mr Terkper, oil prices fell as low as $47 per barrel but it is now at $55.7 per barrel.
He said in addition to the loss in oil revenue, taxes from the Special Petroleum Tax would also reduce by GH¢185.6 million, stressing that total revenue target of GH¢27.8 billion in the 2015 budget would see a shortfall of GH¢3.1 billion.
The finance minister therefore proposed that in the interim, the government would be withdrawing GH¢487.2 million every quarter from the Ghana Stabilisation Fund (GSF) to be able to finance the funding gap in the 2015 budget.
He said that a new bill on the amendments of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act 2011 (Act 815) would be presented to parliament in due course to take care of such exigencies.
“Mr speaker, the fall in crude oil prices as well as the current energy situation and the rapid depreciation of the cedi in 2014 could also have negative impact on overall economic output,” he said.
The minister said that the government would go to the international market to raise $500 million to refinance the 2007 Eurobond, hinting that the government might be compelled to go for more loans in the present circumstances.
He also told parliament that expenditures by the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) as well as metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) would be cut.
“Mr speaker, to make reduction in expenditures effective and ensure the achievement of our fiscal objectives, the Ministry of Finance has issued Budget Implementation Instructions to all MDAs.”
According to Mr Seth Terkper, expenditure ceilings were being enforced through implementation of quarterly budget allotments on MDAs’ budgets and that expenditures would be prioritized by the MDAs based on the budget allotments.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for New Juaben South, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, challenged the minister to tell the house the expected revenue that the country would stand to gain also as a net importer of oil.
“Mr speaker, the minister has come to speak about revenue loss to the nation being an exporter as a result of the sharp reduction on oil prices but he refused to tell us the gains that will accrue to the nation also as a net importer of crude oil,” Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah said, adding that Ghana imports more oil than it exports and therefore the country stands to benefit more in the present circumstances.
The New Juaben South MP advised the government to reduce its penchant for borrowing because it is economically dangerous for the country.
The NPP MP for Adansi/Asokwa, K.T. Hammond, said the government had allowed Tullow to have a field day at the Jubilee Field, adding that oil producing companies working at the Jubilee Fields were recklessly shortchanging the government and the people of the country.
He wondered why the government should allow a whopping $160 million to be used to pay expatriates without any taxes being paid to it (government) while over 250 Ghanaians who work in the fields receive just $20 million a year, and are also made to pay taxes.
“Mr speaker, Ghanaians who receive just a peanut for their toils in the oil companies are also being threatened with redundancy, so what is the government doing about this?” he queried.
Source: Thomas Fosu Jnr.