Pulse Picks: 4 controversial government policies and proposals in 2021

Since it assumed the reins of power in January 2017, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government under the leadership of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has been blighted by different controversial policies every year.

Controversial government policies and proposals in 2021

The last five years have been full of decisions and policies that have been protested by the opposition party and some Ghanaians at length.

It must be, however, said that 2021 has been a year where such policies that have generated massive heat for the government have been relatively low.

Till the 2022 Budget and Financial statement was read in November, it was a cool ride for the Akufo-Addo government in terms of unpopular decisions.

But the 2022 budget changed this cool trajectory with some policies and proposals that got Ghanaians riled up against the government.

We, therefore, took a look back at 4 policies and proposals by the NPP government that were controversial in 2021.

1 . Electronic levy: During his 2022 budget presentation in Parliament, the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta disclosed that government is abolishing the collection of road tolls across the country and in its stead, an introduction of an electronic levy.

The proposed levy, which will come into effect on 1 February 2022, is a charge of 1.75% of the value of electronic transactions. It covers mobile money payments, bank transfers, merchant payments, and inward remittances.

The originator of the transactions will bear the charge except for inward remittances, which will be borne by the recipient. There is an exemption for transactions up to GH¢100 ($16) per day.

According to the finance minister, the total digital transactions for 2020 were estimated to be over GH¢500 billion (about $81 billion) compared to GH¢78 billion ($12.5 billion) in 2016. Huge growth in just five years.

This led to an initial rejection of the budget by the Minority which was later overturned and eventually passed by the Majority.

According to the Minority, the introduction of an e-levy will erode all the gains Ghana has made in digital economy and inflict further burden on the Ghanaian populace.

2 . Charges on government services to increase by 15%: Effective January 2022, the fees and charges for all government services will increase by at least 15%.

This is according to the 2022 budget statement presented by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta on Wednesday, November 17, 2021.

Per the document, the new charges will be subjected to an annual adjustment by the average inflation rate with the consent of the Finance Minister.

“Review Fees and Charges with an average increase of at least 15 percent in 2022 and thereafter subject it to automatic annual adjustments by average inflation rate as published by the Ghana Statistical Service, but with the prior consent of the Minister for Finance. The fees and charges should, however, be subjected to general review every 5 years. The effective date of implementation is 1st January 2022,” the budget stated.

3 . Benchmark value scrapped on 32 items: On Monday, November 15, the Ghana Revenue Authority announced that it has scrapped the benchmark value on 32 items.

A letter written to Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta to that effect dated 11 November 2021 and signed by Commissioner-General Rev. Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah, said: “We write to inform you that following discussions on various fora, it has been agreed that discount on some commodities currently being enjoyed should be reversed to achieve revenue effect”.

This policy decision led to the criticism of the government by some trade associations in the country. The Spare Parts Dealers Association of Ghana has noted that the decision by the (GRA) to reverse the 50% and 30% benchmark value policy the trading community enjoys on some 32 selected items will top up the burden of Ghanaians.

The Secretary of the Spare Parts Dealers Association, Eric Anti, said the situation will be terrible for Ghanaians if the GRA does not rescind its decision.

He cited the increase in freight charges, the depreciation of the cedi and the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy as reasons for the traders to continue enjoying the benchmark value policy.

4 . Hiring of luxury jets by the Presidency: Earlier this year, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Okudzeto Ablakwa stirred controversy when he alleged that President Akufo-Addo hired a private jet at the cost of ¢2.8 million on his travels to France, Belgium and South Africa at the expense of tax-burned Ghanaians.

He filed a question, and Parliament summoned Defence Minister, Dominic Nitiwul, to answer questions on the cost and why Ghana’s own presidential jet was not used.

The Minister justified the president’s decision to rent the aircraft, arguing that the capacity of the presidential aircraft can no longer carry the president’s entourage.


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