2022 budget: A balanced account of what happened in parliament yesterday

On 17th November 2021, Ghana’s finance minister Ken Ofori Atta presented the 2022 Budget statement to Ghana’s Parliament to debate and approve.
Immediately after the presentation, there was general discontent among many Ghanaians on some portions of the budget.
Many Ghanaians including supporters of the ruling government had issues with;

1.The 1.75% e-levy to be imposed on all electronic financial transactions which many felt will be counter productive to the country’s digital and cashless agenda.

  1. The increment in fees of all government services by at least 15% with potential to adjust to for inflation for a period
  2. Re introduction of the infamous “Agyapa deal”
  3. The removal of road tolls

So even before the debate started in Parliament, many Ghanaians had shown their displeasure and asked their members of Parliament to reject the budget.
However, there were others too who believed taxes build a country and wanted the budget passed so the government can improve on its revenue generation to build a better Ghana.

The minority before the debate in the house had also questioned the introduction of the e-levy and other aspects of the budget and gave hints of not approving the budget.

Yesterday Friday, 26th November 2021 was the final day of debate and voting to approve or reject the 2022 budget statement.

As at 10am when sitting started, the minority MPs were there but the majority side were absent
The Speaker then told the house that he had been informed the majority caucus was having a meeting hence their absence from the chamber.

Speaker therefore directed that the house waits for the majority side to take their seats so the business of the house could commence.
The minority side opposed this decision of the Speaker vehemently because they believed the majority caucus was deliberately delaying the process.

Around 2pm, the majority caucus came into the chamber for proceedings to start and the majority leader rose to speak
He told the speaker the last persons to debate were the minority leader and himself.
However he was asking the speaker if he could grant audience to the Finance Minister to address the house.
He said the minority had raised many issues during the debate and the FM was there to address them to satisfy them before the debate ends and approval or rejection commences.

The minority leader rose and said No and wanted to finish his debate before the Finance minister addressed the house
The Speaker ruled that the minority leader should debate and he did for 42mins.

Surprisingly, the majority leader who said they should shelve final debate so Finance Minister could address the house said, if the minority leader had had his say, he would also have his say.
He also debated on why the budget should be approved for 48mins
Strangely the majority leader spent most of that 48mins talking about how the country was mismanaged from 2013 and spoke little about the 2022 budget.

After both leaders of the house spoke, the speaker granted audience to the Finance Minister.

He started by saying from the debate on the floor and demeanor of MPs, it was evident there was no consensus so he prayed for the speaker to allow him meet leadership of both majority and minority on their issues raised and come back to the house.

The Speaker then said he was surprised the Finance Minister was raising such issues when the debate was over.
The Speaker asked why those consultations were not made before the budget was brought to the house and said he has always preached for the Executive to collaborate with the legislature to avoid such situations the Finance Minister was asking to deal with.

After this, the speaker put the question to the members if the Finance Minister’s prayer should be accepted
There was a “yeah yeah” for the first question of those who want it and “No oooo” for those who disagreed.
The Speaker ruled from what he heard, the “Nos” had it but dep majority leader rose up to challenge the Speaker’s ruling and called for a different approach
The Speaker agreed and this approach was to clear the chamber of “foreigners” so only MPs can participate in the voice vote.
After the Speaker directed, Majority Chief whip, Muntaka Mubarak rose and asked the Speaker to let Minister and Deputy Ministers who were non-MPs to leave the sitting chamber according to law.
The constitution of Ghana says the Vice President, Ministers and Deputy ministers who are non-MPs can take part in Parliamentary debate any time but CANNOT be part of voting in the house.
Dep Majority leader Afenyo Markin rose and said constitution said they couldn’t take part in voting but never said they should leave the sitting chamber so the Finance Minister shouldn’t leave
The Speaker ruled that the law was clear hence Finance Minister who was not an MP should leave.

Suddenly Majority backbenchers started shouting and banging tables and causing commotion in the chamber
They said if the Finance Minister was leaving, then the General Secretary of the opposition NDC Asiedu Nketiah should also leave.
Mr Asiedu Nketiah was not sitting in the MPs chamber but in the public gallery so it was shocking how majority MPs wanted ONLY him from the public gallery to leave if we assume without admitting their calls were right.

The Speaker said he couldn’t hear what they were saying so they should channel their grievances through their leadership to him so he deals with it
The Majority MPs didn’t heed and asked all their members to walk out of the Chamber.

The Speaker suspended sitting for 5mins but came back after 23mins to continue with proceedings
He asked the clerk to check if members present as at that time could form a quorum(that is 1/3rd out of 275).

The MPs present at that time were 137 so the speaker said walk outs were legal and he as minority leader in the past staged walk outs with his side.

However that did not halt the proceedings of Parliament if they formed a quorum
He therefore insisted they continue with the business of the house.

It’s very important to note at this point, he posed the question again on acceptance of the Finance Minister to consult leadership and there was no “yeah yeah” but a huge “No” and he ruled that motion had failed.

After he posed another question on whether to accept the budget statement of 2022 presented by the Finance Minister and ordered for a vote count.

At the end of the voting, 137 MPs said No with nobody voting Yes so the Speaker ruled the Budget Statement had been rejected by the house.

credit : Austin Woode

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