A policy analyst with the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) is advocating the introduction of ‘sin taxes’ by the Ghana government to fund its free Senior High School (SHS) program.

Speaking to Xinhua in Koforidua, the Eastern Regional capital, 85 km north-east of the Ghanaian capital, Accra, Tuesday, Dr. Steve Manteaw said it was quite dangerous for the government to overly rely on petroleum revenues to fund its flagship program because of the volatility in the oil business.

He is therefore urging the government in the West African country to consider using revenue from the mining sector as well as introduce new taxes to ensure the sustainability of the program.

“My position will be rather to reduce how much oil money we put into education not to become overly reliant because of the volatility nature of oil revenues and find other innovate ways and by that I mean we should be able to diversify the funding sources for the free SHS.

‘’The mining sector can make a contribution; we can introduce other forms of taxes, including sin tax; taxes on tobacco and alcohol and the rest to all support the education of our children. That way, if oil prices collapse, you are sure to get revenues coming in from other sources to top up the free SHS program,” he stated.

Section 21 (5) of the country’s Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA), Act 815, 2011 enjoins the Minister for Finance to prioritize not more than four areas to benefit from the use of the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) in the absence of a long-term national development plan.

Section 21 (6) further mandates the initial prioritization to remain in force for a minimum of three years before it may be subject to review.

The new government subsequently reviewed the priority areas with which it intends to use the ABFA.

They include agriculture, physical infrastructure and service delivery in education, physical infrastructure and service delivery in health as well as road, rail and critical infrastructure development.

The Free SHS program is estimated to cost government in excess of 400 million Ghana Cedis or 93 million US dollars to implement in the 2017/2108 academic year. Already, government has allocated 290 million cedis or 67 million dollars, meaning other priority areas would suffer.

The policy analyst said it was within the purview of government to allocate greater percentage to fund free secondary education but suggested other funding sources.

“Well, the government will be within the law if it uses a bulk of the money to finance free SHS and allocate paltry sums to the other areas but that in itself means that the government will have to find other sources of revenue and take care of the other commitments.’’

There have been concerns that some persons could inflate enrolment figures in schools to benefit financially from the system.

Dr. Manteaw further urged the Ghana government to put in place mechanisms to make sure people did not create ‘ghost’ students.

“It is a possibility; that is why I am urging that we put in place mechanisms to forestall this from happening. It also becomes a challenge for the interest groups that will be tracking the use of oil revenues, particularly PIAC and its partners.

‘’We need to find ways of tracking the disbursements that go to finance the free SHS to ensure that there are no ‘ghost’ students in the list that is submitted by the education authorities.” Enditem

Source: Francis Tandoh

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