The intention by Ghana’s new government, to use proceeds in the country’s Petroleum Heritage Funds to finance its Free Senior High School (SHS) policy from September has drawn a flak from various sections of the society.
Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo suggested at a forum here on Tuesday that the fund which is a strategic endowment reserve established to support the development for future generations when Ghana’s petroleum reserves have been depleted will be used to sustain the free secondary school program
The Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA) Act 815, 2011 which set out the formula for distribution of how the revenues from Ghana’s petroleum provided for the establishment of the Heritage Funds which is allocated nine percent of total petroleum funds.
It also makes it clear that the law could only be amended after 15 years of the coming into force of the Heritage Fund to change any direction of utilization.
However, the Senior Minister said government thinks using the Heritage Fund to finance free senior High school education will guarantee the development of Ghanaian youth.
In sharp reactions however, a number of individuals and organizations have cautioned the government to stay away from the Heritage funds.
The Africa Center for Energy Policy (ACEP) said here on Wednesday that although it supports the use of petroleum funds for pro-poor initiatives including education, government must not touch the Heritage fund for that activity.
“Much as we support the use of oil revenue for financing education, we want government to recognize the significance of the heritage fund and not touch it,” the statement signed by Benjamin Boakye, Deputy Executive Director for ACEP stated.
Rather the think tank called for the amendment of the PRMA to allow 50 percent of the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) portion of the petroleum revenue to support the Free SHS program, adding “This will be a more equitable way of distributing the resources than financing “ghost project” through thin distribution of oil revenues.”
The Heritage Fund was established as a result of dialogue between civil society and government with the principle of intergenerational equity which seeks to ensure that ownership of the resources is shared among the living and the yet unborn. It also ensures sustenance of revenue flow after the oil has been exhausted.
The Integrated Social Development Center, (ISODEC) has also kicked against the intention by government to use the Heritage Fund which has generated 277 million US Dollars over the past six years to finance its Free SHS policy.
Head of Communications and Policy at ISODEC, Steve Manteaw described the intention as worrying and a lazy man’s option to a difficult task.
Speaking to a local radio station, Citi fm, Manteaw urged that the proposal must not be entertained at all else Ghana risked returning to the era of Gold mining where all revenues were spent including selling shares in Anglogold Ashanti to raise money for salaries. Enditem