Fine tuning the 2019 budget proposals

The much-anticipated proposals for Ghana’s 2019 national budget have finally been presented to Parliament – indeed the nation as a whole – by Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta. Now the proposals will be debated in Parliament which is supposed to result in their being fine-tuned to make it even better, based on the perspectives and insights of members of the legislature and through them, interest groups from the constituencies they represent.

This will not happen however. Rather, as has become the custom, parliamentarians and leaders from both sides of the political divide, will trumpet the entrenched positions they had taken even before the proposals were revealed to them. Such political posturing is unhelpful too all but the politicians themselves who simply use the constitutionally required debate to try and score political points in the quest to retain or acquire political power as the case may be.

This is why we suggest that the private sector should lead in the impending debate. Whether one likes and trusts private enterprise and its profit motive driven conduct or not the reality is that with government lacking the fiscal space to carry out its economic growth and development initiatives itself, the private sector is being required to be the engine of growth. Therefore, the inevitable consideration of the budget proposals should closely incorporate what the private sector wants done for it to enthusiastically play that role.

The resultant suggestions, perspectives and requests should then be carried to government by the Parliamentarians, who themselves should relegate their political posturing to the background and actually listen to the people who voted them into the legislature in the first place.

There are several other things that need to be done as well if the private sector is to be the engine of the growth planned for in the 2019 budget. One is the passing of key legislation such as the Public private partnership law which is supposed to give comfort to private investors being asked to partner government. There are lots of things government and its state institutions need to do too. For instance, the commencement of deposit insurance, which would encourage growth in the bank deposits that ultimately would finance private sector participation in implementing all those budgetary initiatives.

Government also needs to secure the support and cooperation of key private sector actors. For instance, private pension funds that can provide long term investment capital needed to restructure the economy as the 2019 budget effectively calls for.

The presentation of the 2019 budget proposals is a major step forward towards transforming intent into concrete reality. But it is not the only step needed and the bag should not be left to politicians alone to carry from where it is now. Let the private sector present its terms for partnership. That would be far more useful than another round of bickering, derived from political posturing and point scoring.