By Frederick ASIAMAH
The Trades Union Congress of Ghana is warning that labour agitations could persist in the wake of the allocation of paltry funds to the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations and the agencies under it.
“For the 2017 fiscal year, the Ministry of Employment and all its agencies will receive GHC60.7 million for their operations,” the TUC observed, analyzing that “This represents 0.001 percent of the total appropriation bill and 0.04 percent of the allocations to the presidency.
“In Dollar terms, the 2017 allocation to the Ministry is about US$13.1 million compared to a budgetary allocation of the Ghana Cedi equivalent of about US$23 million in 2009.”
It proceeded to warn that “We cannot achieve industrial peace for economic growth if government continues to treat the ministry responsible for employment and labour relations as a non-priority ministry.”
These were contained in the TUC’s “Comments on the 2017 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government of Ghana,” which were issued recently.
In spite of rating the budget good in its general assessment, the labour organisation raised issues with specific areas such as allocations to the employment ministry as well as taxation.
“Industrial peace is necessary for the realization of the ambitious employment agenda outlined in the 2017 budget,” it said, stressing that “There is the need for investment in the national institutions that are at the forefront of industrial relations and social dialogue if we are to achieve industrial peace.”
It recalled that it its earlier submission to government, “we lamented the underfunding of the labour administration institutions. We called on government to reverse the situation by investing in the labour market institutions including the National Labour Commission (NLC), Labour Department, Factories Inspectorate Department, Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) and even the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations.”
Turning attention to taxation, the TUC commended government for its general disposition towards taxes. “Perhaps, one policy initiative that sets this budget apart from all previous budgets has to do with taxation or tax reliefs, to be more precise.
“Again, consistent with the NPP Manifesto to shift the focus of economic management from taxation to production, the 2017 budget has reduced or eliminated several taxes.”
It would be recalled that the Minister of Finance at the beginning of March, announced the abolition and review of certain taxes. These included the one percent special import levy, the “kayayei” market tolls, 17.5% VAT/NHIL on financial services, 17.5% VAT/NHIL on selected imported medicines that are not produced locally, 17.5% VAT/NHIL on domestic airline tickets, 5% VAT/NHIL on real estates and duty on imported spare parts.
In addition, government has replaced the 17.5% VAT/NHIL with 3% flat rate for traders. Government has also introduced tax credits and other incentives for establishments that employ young graduates from tertiary institutions and tax incentives for young entrepreneurs.
The TUC reacts that “We share the view that some of these taxes were nuisance. The elimination of these taxes may spur the growth of businesses and raise the disposable incomes of Ghanaians. This is the way to go because blanket tax reductions do not automatically lead to job creation even as they reduce government revenues.”
That notwithstanding, it was unhappy that did not yield to its suggestion to consider reducing personal income taxes (P.A.Y.E.).
“We had suggested that, government should raise the tax-free threshold to GH¢12,000 per annum (or GH₵1000 per month). Government seems to have ignored this suggestion,” it observed.
“The implication is that even minimum wage earners will pay income tax. We urge government not to tax workers into poverty,” it said.