Communications Director of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Akomea says President John Mahama’s comments Wednesday that he will not authorize any payments to striking workers that will cause imbalances in the budget would be celebrated if the president could be trusted to keep his word.
He said it is difficult to take the president’s comments seriously because he has not demonstrated by deeds a commitment to adhere to his own resolutions especially when they relate to fiscal discipline.
He said in September 2012, president Mahama promised that in spite of the elections, his government would not spend in a manner that will later hurt the economy. This promise, Nana Akomea told Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, was not kept and the country recorded an historic deficit of 12 percent.
It is, therefore, hard to believe the president’s intentions are noble when he says that despite agitations by doctors, pharmacists and other public sector workers, his government will remain resolute and maintain fiscal discipline, he argued.
Doctors across the country have called a partial strike with a threat to resign en masse if the government does not give them documented improved conditions of service.
Currently Out Patient Department services have been suspended and withdrawal of emergency services – a prelude to the mass resignations – is imminent.
Whilst government is negotiating with the doctors, President Mahama Wednesday talked tough, saying he will authorize any payments outside the budget.
“Any agreements that are reached in respect of allowances or conditions of services would have to be appropriately captured in the budget.
“And I want to say for emphasis, I will not authorize any expenditure on wages and compensation not provided for in the budget.
“Fiscal discipline requires that not a single pesewa is spent on remuneration outside what has been budgeted for and this goes for both Article 71 Office holders and those on the single spine.
“It goes for the president as well as the lowest public sector employee. I am determined to hold the line no matter the political cost,” he said.
Reacting to the comments, Nana Akomea said, “One of the main problems that we had which had a major impact on the poor performance of the cedi from 2012 and also leading us to the IMF for a bailout was the deficit – spending beyond the budget.”
He said, “If, now, there is a newfound conviction that we would spend within the budget, it is good news.”
Nana Akomea is, however, not convinced that the president means what he says because previous promises to not spend outside the budget have not been kept.
“If you remember, last year, 2014…the president’s office itself overspent its budget by 150 percent,” he said.
The NPP Communications Director said it was curious that the president is now talking about spending within budget.
In any case, “no worker in this country has demanded to be paid outside the budget,” he insisted.
“If you take the pharmacists, they are asking for their conditions of service which expired four years [ago to be renewed] and concluded; if you take the nurses, they are asking for salaries which are owed them to be paid; if you take the lecturers, they are asking for book allowances which are already agreed on to be paid; the doctors are asking for new conditions of service; the government is supposed to negotiate and the government will be negotiating on the basis of what is in the budget so no worker has asked that ‘give me something you cannot afford.’ What they have put forward are proposals, so you go to the negotiating table and show them that this is what we have in the budget,” he maintained.
Nana Akomea believes the president’s comments were meant to pitch the public against the doctors.
Communications Consultant, Dr. Messan Mawugbe contributing to the discussion, said this “is a president who has actually painted the colour as it is with the right strokes on the canvass.”
He said there “was a high sense of factuality in the president’s comments.”
Dr. Mawugbe said even though some people might say the president should have toned down a bit given that negotiations are underway with the doctors and other workers, “I don’t think that the language the president used actually went overboard; it is a language actually situated in the context of fact, in the fact of objectivity and also in the context of how things need to be done and the way forward.”