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19 February 2017

Don’t let free SHS fail – former Deputy Finance Minister advises

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Former Deputy Finance Minister, Mona Helen Quartey has cautioned the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) to think through the free senior high school (SHS) programme before implementing it.

She said the “bold endeavour” of government might fail if it is hastily executed without a clearly thought-out plan to sustain the social intervention programme.

Contributing on the Joy FM/MultiTV news analysis programme Saturday, the finance expert said funding for the programme is one of the major challenges that need to be immediately fixed.

Related Article: Osafo Maafo was thinking aloud in Heritage Fund comment – Akomea

“This should not fail…we say that it should succeed so let us look at proper, stable funding,” she said.

The ‘bold’ announcement by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo about the implementation of the free secondary education coming September has stoked the debate about funding.

A section of Ghanaians wants government to itemise how it is going to fund the project estimated to cost the nation some GHC3.6 billion a year. There are about 432,780 SHS students in the country per the 2015/16 academic year data.

A suggestion by Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Maafo about the likelihood of government financing the pro-poor programme with the Heritage Fund triggered criticisms.

Civil society groups and political opponents have strongly argued that the use of the reserved oil revenue which is more than GHC250 million would not be appropriately a wise decision to take.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has labeled government’s decision as “lazy and [an]incompetent” one, saying the use of the Fund could destablise the economic fortune of the country.

Section 10 of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act 815 states that,

“A Ghana Heritage Fund is hereby established. (2) The object the Ghana Heritage Fund is to (a) provide an endowment to support development for future generations when petroleum reserves have been depleted; and

(b) receive excess petroleum revenue. (3) The Ghana Heritage Fund shall receive from the Petroleum Holding Fund a percentage petroleum revenue which be determined by Parliament as savings for the purpose of this Act.”

Days later, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta told Joy News the Heritage Fund is not part of the sources of funding for the programme. He said the Senior Minister was mere suggestive in his comment.

NPP Director of Communications Nana Akomea said on Newsfile that government would be able to implement the policy without any glitches because it has the record and a proper plan of funding.

He added that what it takes to successfully carry out a social intervention is prioritisation which he promised government would do.

But Madam Quartey insisted that “it is not about prioritising, but preparing for it and how you fund it is critical as well.”

She said the erstwhile NDC government had prepared the ground for President Akufo-Addo to fulfil all his 2016 campaign promises if he would adopt some of their strategies.

“This government can achieve success by learn from our experiences,” she said, adding the NPP should consider “deliberate targeting” of the needy in the implementation of the programme instead of a wholesale support to every SHS student.

 

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