The Institute for Energy Security, IES, says attempts by government to fall on the Ghana Heritage Fund to fight the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic cannot be justified.
The Institute says the utilization of Fund deliberately set aside for future use, will leave future generations with a burden too huge to carry.
The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, on Monday submitted to Parliament an assessment of COVID-19’s impact on Ghana’s economy, and why among other fiscal measures to mitigate the impact, the Petroleum Revenue Management Act 2011 (Act 815), should be amended to allow for withdrawals from the Ghana Heritage Fund, to undertake emergency expenditures in periods of national emergency.
However, IES argues that the Fund was created to set aside a portion of petroleum revenue for the benefit of future generations, and therefore must not be used to fight the COVID-19 crisis.
It says it is saddened but not surprised, and pointed to a high level of indiscipline in the energy sector – particularly when it comes to making financial and economic decisions. It therefore described the request to Parliament as only consolidating that level of indiscipline and amassing huge debts which will eventually be borne by the Ghanaians.
While acknowledging that the world in general and Ghana in particular is experiencing extraordinary times in recent history due to the coronavirus pandemic, the IES in a statement warned that this should not be a launch-pad for government to unnecessarily engage in implementing measures that are “short-sighted and lack robustness, and come with negative ramifications for the future”.
Context-wise, the IES explained that the fight against the novel coronavirus does not fall under any of the circumstances under which the fund can be used; and that the attempt to tap into the Fund if successful, will rob future generations of the endowment once all the petroleum resources have been depleted.
Mr. Anamua Sakyi said: “The IES wishes to point out clearly to government that the Heritage Fund, as the name suggests, does not allow for any utilization under the present circumstance, and no amendment in law is justified”.
The statement added that the fund takes the least percentage in the distribution of petroleum revenues to the various funds, including the Ghana Stabilization Fund (GSF), which was established for such moments of shocks to the economy to balance the national budget.
Ideally, it said the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund and the Contingency Fund are also meant for circumstances like the current situation.
“Government must tell Ghanaians the status of the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund and Contingency Fund. Why did government stop placing petroleum revenue into those funds? If only government was not reckless in stopping payment into the funds, there would have being enough money in there to use in such extraordinary times,” Mr. Anamua Sakyi lamented.
Additionally, the IES, which described the proposal as disgusting, noted that it is surprised that while in opposition, the current government vehemently opposed utilization of the Heritage Fund; but now wants to do the same.
“In this regard, the Institute calls on government to back-off from the Ghana Heritage Fund. The IES, of course, urges government as a primary starting point to tighten the belt on the Executive arm of government expenditure, and abort all needless expenditure relative to these moments,” the statement concluded.
Mr. Ofori-Atta has already told Parliament that the COVID-19 fight will cost Ghana some GHS 9.5 billion cedis; as it has already disrupted government’s revenue target, and will slow growth rate.
He has thus hinted at the new to return to Parliament in July this year to present a new budget.