If you’ve nothing to say, keep quiet – Kwarteng to Minority
Deputy Finance Minister Kweku Kwarteng has asked the Minority in parliament to be silent if they have nothing to say.
Responding to the Minority’s claim that Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta doctored figures in his mid-year budget review, Mr Kwarteng said on Wednesday, 2 August that: “It isn’t the case that anytime government presents something, you must find something wrong. If there is nothing wrong, you may keep quiet.”
Ranking Member of Parliament’s Finance Committee, Cassiel Ato Forson, had told journalists at a press conference that: “The attention of the Minority in Parliament has been drawn to the reversal of interest payment of a colossal amount of GH₵758.5 million and review of GDP (without a formal GSS Statement) at the end of Financial Year 2016 (Par 14 and 15). It is quite clear that the Minister made this reversal, which violates long-standing ‘cut-off’ fiscal rules for the sole purpose of making the government’s dismal performance for the first half of Financial Year 2017 ‘look good’. The action also purports to make the performance for FY 2016 worse.
“This ‘doctoring’ of figures is very shameful. This to say the least is very regrettable and cosmetic. From appendix Table 5A: Page 53 of the Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Review of the 2017 Budget Statement and Economic Policy, Summary of Revised Central Government Operations-2017, the Minister of Finance has reduced domestic interest payment by an amount of ¢657,005,271 Ghana Cedis to create the impression that expenditure on domestic interest payment is being reduced. This is clearly artificially compressed and contrived. This is a blatant disregard for cut off fiscal rules in accordance to the Financial Administration Regulations (FAR), Regulations 193.”
Mr Kwarteng, however, said: “At the time we sent the budget to Parliament, we did indicate that we would pay an amount for interest payments. Since then, we have done a lot of debt re-profiling. We have borrowed long term at lower rates to retire old debts that carried higher rates so that our overall interest burden would be lessened.
“We have achieved that and when we went to Parliament to review the figures, we thought it wise to indicate that we have been able to reduce our interest burden to this figure. Why should anybody want to criticise that?”
“All the points that Honorable Ato Forson made, in my respectful opinion, are illegitimate points. It would appear to me that there was the need to say something and trying hard to find something to say isn’t helpful in these circumstances.
“This general suggestion of some wrongdoing and calling on Parliament to investigate is politics that is unhelpful.
“My respectful suggestion to them is that they must raise issues that would be worth debates that government can learn something from, not these respectfully illegitimate issues that do nothing but create unhealthy engagements between the Minority and Majority,” Obuasi West MP told Accra-based Citi FM on Wednesday.