Bagbin accused of rigging votes for govt but Screams “I did not do anything untoward. I only followed the rules.”
President of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), has expressed disappointment with Parliament’s approval of the three revenue tax bills last Friday, saying excessive taxation in the country is making Ghanaian companies uncompetitive in the West African Sub-Region.
“Businesses are not competitive in the sub-region and that is why some of us have to go and buy goods from Togo, so additional taxes will really affect our trade. It is going to make us pay a multiplicity of taxes and that is why we called it an obnoxious tax system”, Dr Joseph Obeng cried.
Parliament on Friday, March 31, passed the Income Tax Amendment Bill, Excise Duty Amendment Bill, and Growth and Sustainability Amendment Bill, which collectively, are expected to generate approximately GH¢4 billion per year to supplement domestic revenue.
The approval of the bills, has since sparked its own controversy with some suggesting that the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, adopted a voting procedure which was unusual. That he had opted for voice votes which he ruled as an endorsement of bills. He was later to do headcounts upon protests, but then most of those counted Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, were not MPs; a case of rigged elections.
It was also said that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Majority caucus, did not have the required numbers to approve of the bills, however, that the clerks after the voice votes later counted ministers who were not MPs, but sat amongst them NPP MPs.
It is also being reported that MP for Sekondi, Andrew Agyapa Mercer, who is a Deputy Minister of Energy, was also not in Parliament last Friday during the counting that had 137 for the Majority caucus against 136 for the Minority caucus.
Philip Atta Basoah, the NPP MP for the Kumawu Constituency in the Ashanti Region, had passed on a few days earlier from heart attack and stroke, while the NPP MP for Nanton, Mohammed Hardi Tuferu, had been involved in an accident on his way to the House to Participate in proceedings.
However, the Speaker insists nothing untoward was done in the passage of the controversial revenue bills. The NDC Minority caucus is reported not to have challenged the procedure adopted by the speaker, thus tacitly giving its blessings.
Ahead of the passage of the bills, many interest groups had rejected it. They included the Ghana Union Traders Association (GUTA) and the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) among others. They have asked Parliament not to pass these “killer taxes; bills because business risks collapsing as a result”.
GUTA President, Dr Joseph Obeng, called on Parliament not to pass the government’s proposed three new taxes arguing that businesses may not be able to thrive if Parliament passes these new taxes.
Opposing the proposed taxes, he said, “We are sending a clear message that unless they [Parliament] represent themselves and that they do not represent the good people of Ghana, especially the business community, then they should go ahead with this. All that we are saying is that they should hold on.
“Let’s evaluate and see where best we can enhance revenue, rather than compound [taxes] on all of us. They [Parliament] should do the needful because it’s not going to help us. Already businesses are dying, and the government wants to ensure local productivity. How do you ensure local productivity when we have these killer taxes?”
He has since bemoaned the approval, saying it will affect the rate of tax compliance by businesses, because it will be a discouraging act to honour, arguing that Ghanaian businesses are particularly not competitive in the West African Sub-Region due to the high taxes that they have to pay.
Dr Obeng, further lamented the high commercial lending rate which he said is another big disincentive for businesses in the country.
“Commercial lending rate is at 40 percent, and how do you want businesses to pay this and still have money to pay all these taxes? We are very disappointed at how we are producing our democracy here, because it is all about imposition, this approval is going to impede our growth.”
Dr Obeng, also tasked the government to look at other sectors to raise revenue other than overly burdening local businesses with taxes.
“We should curtail the leakages at the Free Zones and warehousing to help raise the needed revenue.”
Meanwhile, it has been reported that the Nanton MP, Mohammed Hardi Tuferu, who was involved in an accident on Friday, while on his way to Parliament to partake in a vote on the financial bills, was driven to the House in an ambulance with the Whips on both sides of the house directed by the Speaker to confirm his situation.
Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, after proceedings clarified why the legislator was counted as part of the votes.
”Members who are incapacitated shall upon reporting their incapacity to the Speaker through the Clerk shall be recorded. We have some of our members that are incapacitated and what I did was to ask the Whips to go and physically see them to assess their incapacitation and whether they are of sound mind.”
“I did not do anything untoward. I only followed the rules.”
Tax Consultant, Dr Abdallah Ali Nakyea, had also slammed the government for the continuous introduction of taxes, stating that instead of widening the tax net, the government is rather deepening the tax net on already overburdened taxpayers.
In his view, the new taxes, will negatively affect the operations of businesses, which could lead to job losses and seriously impact the economy.
“Remember if in every case you introduce a levy then very soon, there will be a levy on everything, including the air we breathe. Covid came, and we introduced a Covid recovery levy of 1 percent because we are prepared to help the government resolve the crisis. Then we have the financial sector stabilisation levy, and we are paying, so if you are even bringing a new levy, a lot of existing levies need to be repealed,” Dr Ali Nakyea told Bernard Avle on the Citi Breakfast Show on Thursday, March 30.
Dr Nakyea, added “when you cannot pass on the cost, you absorb it, that is why another segment of GUTA is saying, if you don’t listen, and you bring it on board, we are not going to absorb it. And when you cannot pass it onto the price, you pass it backwards, which means you cut down on employment, you cut down on input which means you downsize and that will hit the economy backwards because unemployment will have to increase.”