- On April 6, 2020
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Source: https://www.graphic.com.gh/ | 01 April 2020
The Minority in Parliament has kicked against the use of the Heritage Fund to support the fight against the contagious respiratory infection, COVID-19.
It stated that while it had no difficulty in giving approval to the Finance Minister to use $219 million of the Stabilisation Fund, the idea of touching the Heritage Fund should be a no-go area.
It said the fund was purposely set up to serve the future interests of the country, hence the government could not use it to finance the expenditures related to the fight against COVID-19.
The Minority expressed its objection after the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, appeared in Parliament last Monday to provide an update on the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and measures the government was taking to mitigate the impact.
He had proposed for an amendment of the Petroleum Revenue Management (PRMA) Act to allow a withdrawal from the Heritage Fund to undertake emergency expenditures in the period of national emergency.
Currently, he said, there was an estimated $591 million in the Ghana Heritage Fund.
But reacting to the call for the amendment of the PRMA to allow access to the Heritage Fund, the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, admitted that the country’s economy would be impacted at several levels by COVID-19 and indicated that the Minority had no difficulty in giving the Finance Minister approval to use $219 million (GHȼ1 billion) of the Stabilisation Funds.
“What we are saying is that the Heritage Fund was set up for a purpose and we are not there yet. So, make use of the Stabilisation reserve of the $219 million to support the fight against COVID-19,” he said.
He, therefore, advised the minister to return to the House “appropriately” under section 23 of the Financial Management Act or with Article 179 (8) of the Constitution to seek Parliament’s approval for financial support.
“We did not contemplate coronavirus so you did not appropriate correct. It is only fair and justified that we give you approval but come properly under Article 179,” he said.
Reminding the Finance Minister that while the coronavirus did not discriminate, he prayed that in the disbursement of the GHȼ1 billion, there would be no discrimination to allow Ghanaian businesses, regardless of the political affiliation, that were genuinely affected to benefit from the fund.
For his part, the Member of Yapei Kusawgu, Mr John Jinapor, reiterated the position of the Minority to resist any attempt by the government to take money from the Heritage Fund to finance the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP).
“As for the Heritage Fund, any attempt to dip into this fund we shall resist it vehemently.”
Utilise Heritage Fund
Responding to the Minority’s position, the Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, described the COVID-19 as both health and economic crisis and indicated that what was most worrying was that a recovery from such recession would be so slow and long.
“Mr Speaker, if there is any time that we have to dip our hands into the Heritage Fund, it is now and it will be absurd for Ghanaians to die while we hold $599 million in the fund.