Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Attah, has dismissed suggestions by Senior Minister Yaw Osarfo Maafo that the Heritage Fund could be used to finance government’s Free Senior High School (SHS) policy.
The Finance Minister told Joy News that the Fund has never been a part of the options government has considered to fund the education policy.
“We are not going to touch the Heritage Fund to be able to support the free SHS education,” Ofori-Attah said in a comment that sought to draw out confidence in government’s resolve to improve the economy despite grim challenges.
Mr. Ofori-Attah has vowed to clear Ghana’s public finances, invest capital in critical infrastructural projects and deal with the ballooning debt (some GHC112 billion currently) under his leadership.
Osafo-Maafo generated a huge public outcry when he told Joy News in an interview that government was considering the Heritage Fund to finance the education policy slated for the 2017/2018 academic year.
The Heritage Fund is an endowment reserve established to support the development for future generations when Ghana’s petroleum reserves have been depleted, according to the Petroleum Revenue Management Act of 2011.
The Petroleum Act also provides that 21% of annual oil revenues should go into a Stabilisation Fund- to support the economy in dire times – while 70% should be used to support the budget.
Opposition to the suggestions from different fronts has come in thick and fast following Mr. Maafo’s revelation.
In a statement released in Accra on Wednesday, the Coalition of Civil Society Groups said the current figure of 9% that is set aside on net petroleum revenues as a heritage for future generations was reached after intense negotiations and broad national consultations, hence it will amount to an act of bad faith if the achieved consensus is altered without recourse to the people of Ghana.
Others have argued that Fund has less than $300 million, and hence will not be enough to fund the education policy that is estimated to cost GH¢3.6 billion annually.
In the wake of the opposition to the use of the Heritage Fund, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) legislator on Parliament’s Finance Committee said the government has not taken any definite decision to use the Fund to finance the policy.
However, in an interview Thursday with Joy News’ Latif Iddrisu, the Finance Minister was emphatic in his assurance that the Heritage Fund has never been on the options list for funding President Nana Akufo-Addo’s free SHS campaign promise.
In a related development, the Minister said the government was committed to fulfilling its campaign promises despite the odds stack against the economy.
He said the government will reduce taxes, increase revenue streams and cut out corruption and waste despite current challenges.
“People are even disputing the fact of tax relief for example, [but] we are going to do that,” said Mr. Ofori-Attah.