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Snarls around 2022 budget rejection

Adnan Adams Mohammed Contrary to widespread information that, the 2022 budget statement has been rejected by Parliament, there are others saying it is not constitutional. A veteran Parliamentarian from the majority side or ruling government has diffused the public information of he budget rejection. Parliament has not constitutionally rejected the budget, the Member of Parliament for Adansi-Asokwa said in an interview shortly after the Speaker of Parliament declared the 2022 budget rejected. “Read my lips, Parliament has not constitutionally rejected our budget, we shall return to the House on Tuesday, November 30”, Hon K.T. Hammond roared. Parliament, last week, voted against the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy for the government. This was after the House concluded a debate on the Budget on Friday evening [Nov 26, 2021] and the Majority side walked out of the Chamber. Through the voice vote, the House rejected the Budget when the Speaker asked the question, a few minutes to 8pm on Friday. The Majority side had walked out of the Chamber and so when the Speaker put the question for those in favour or against, the “No” voice votes had it and there was no “YES” voice vote. This is the first time in the fourth Republic that a budget has been rejected. Even though the Majority were not present to participate in the exercise, the Speaker said their absence could not prevent the House from proceeding with the business of the day. Since the presentation of the budget by Ken Ofori-Atta, the Minority have vowed to oppose it, saying that its approval will impose hardship on Ghanaians. After a head-count which saw all Minority MPs on their feat in opposition to a motion for the Finance Minister to have a further engagement with the leadership of Parliament, the Speaker ruled that the budget had been rejected. “The No’s have it. The motion is accordingly lost,” Alban Bagbin declared after the headcount. Prior to the vote, the Finance Minister had appealed to the Speaker to allow him to further engage the leadership of Parliament over the budget. But the appeal was turned down by the MPs through a voice note. The Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, then challenged the Speaker’s ruling and called for a division. A division is a form of voting from MPs whilst ensuring that all non-MPs are cleared from the lobby. In view of that, the Speaker directed that all non-MPs will have to vacate parliament for that form of voting to take place. At this time, the Finance Minister was in the chamber, yet was not a Member of Parliament. His presence was opposed by the Majority MPs. They contended that Ken Ofori-Atta was a Minister, hence, his ineligibility to be in the chamber. After noticing that the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress was in the public gallery, the Majority also demanded the removal of Asiedu Nketia from Parliament. Whilst the NDC MPs remained calm, their colleagues on the other side created a chaotic scene, banging on the table and accusing the Speaker of bias. Minutes later, the leadership of the Majority side staged a walkout. The Speaker then suspended the proceedings. Several minutes later, the Speaker returned and asked if there was a quorum for business to continue. After establishing that proceedings could continue, he put out the question again – whether the appeal from the Finance Minister should be considered. After the Minority had their way through a voice note, he proceeded to the main agenda of the day; the approval of the budget. Alban Bagbin subjected the approval of the budget to a voice vote and the Minority had their way. Since the presentation of the budget by the Finance Minister on November 17, 2021, the NDC MPs have vowed to kick against it. They have said that the approval of the budget will impose further hardship on Ghanaians. One of the policies in the budget that the NDC MPs have kicked against is the introduction of a 1.75% electronic levy. Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, communicating his side’s position to the government, said the e-levy proposal will further marginalize the poor and will defeat efforts at financial inclusion. He added that the levy possesses all the elements of double taxation “and even the projection, 1.75% may as well work out to be 3.75%.” “Mr Speaker, our concern is whether the e-levy itself is not and would not be a disincentive to the growth of a digital economy in our country; and we are convinced that the e-levy may be as well be a disincentive to investment and a disincentive to private sector development in our country.” “We in the Minority may not and will not support the government with the introduction of that particular e-levy. We are unable to build a national consensus on that particular matter,” he revealed. The Speaker then during before the proceedings for the remarked that there was no majority side in Parliament and reiterated his willingness to serve the interest of Ghanaians. “Honourable members, early in the days after my election as the Speaker, I did pledge to the good people of this country, truly that I will do everything within my power not to obstruct government business.” “I did so expecting reciprocity that government will also do everything not to frustrate or obstruct the business of Parliament. As your Speaker, I will do all I can, not to allow government to obstruct or frustrate Parliament…” “That is a pledge to the good people of Ghana and there is a reason why the good people of Ghana elected this Parliament, a hang Parliament, those who prefer to say a near hang, it is a hang Parliament of 137, 137. The Independent who decided to do business with one side, gives them a majority group, there is no majority party in this House.” Mr Bagbin said it was a new beginning where “for the first time a majority has walked out from its own business.”

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