Govt outlines priority programmes for 2019

President Akufo-Addo

…But ban on new employment remains in place

The Ministry of Finance has revealed what government is regarding as its 16 priority projects and programmes for 2019. Considering government’s willingness to cut expenditures to match revenue shortfalls – which are almost inevitable because the revenue targets tend to be over ambitious in the first place – the status of these projects and programmes means they may be the only ones to receive their full budgetary allocations this year.

Interestingly social interventions, rather than infrastructural development projects dominate in terms of numbers. However it is uncertain whether they also dominate in terms of budgeted expenditure since the document does not contain the accompanying allocations and neither does the 2019 budget document itself.

The social intervention programmes that have priority status this year include: Nations Builders Corps (NABCO); Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP); Zongo Development Fund; MASLOC; Free Senior High School (including scholarships. Double track and education infrastructure); water and sanitation; school feeding programme; teachers and nurses trainees allowances.

Some of the priority projects and programmes bridge social interventions and economic infrastructure, such as planting for food and jobs, the national identification programme, the Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme and the development of the six new regions.

The others are primarily driven by economic considerations. These are: the fish landing sites projects; railway development programme; road construction projects under the agreement with Sinohydro; and the one district lone factory programme.

The status of projects and programmes as of priority status is made all the more important by a new directive from the MoF that government’s contractors and service providers should do their own due diligence to ensure that there are funds available to pay them for the tasks they are carrying out. With government resetting its expenditure schedules at each mid year review, this can be difficult but those handling the 16 projects and projects declared priority the contractors and service providers contracted to handle them have some level of comfort.

However, somewhat surprisingly, government has decided to retain the ban on net employment in the public sector, for the rest of this year at least, with the exception of the education and health sectors. This is unexpected since the current administration when in opposition up to the start of 2017, had criticized this condition, put in place by the International Monetary Fund as part of its Extended Credit Facility programme. Consequently the conventional wisdom was that government would change this policy upon the expiration of the IMF programme which will be concluded on April 4th this year.

However government has obviously decided the policy I still needed to contain the public sector wage bill.

By Toma Imirhe