16th June 2024

Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, Minority Leader

The Minority in Parliament has blocked incentives to businesses and investors in the country, causing the Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin to express frustration over the development.

The incentives, in the form of tax waivers, have been in Parliament since 2021 without any concrete decision taken on the matter. Attempts to get Parliament to take a final decision on the issue last Friday hit a snag as Speaker Bagbin suspended the emergency sitting due to delays in the works of the Finance Committee of Parliament.

The requested tax waivers were one of the three reasons for which the Majority invoked Article 112(3) of the Constitution to recall Parliament from recess. The Majority implored both sides of the House to consider the exemptions and pass them so that the investors who have been waiting for the incentives could get the needed waivers.

Opposition

However, the Minority strongly opposed the request, claiming the Finance Committee was not done with its work. Cassiel Ato Forson, Minority Leader and member of the Finance Committee, wondered why the Majority intended to pass the waivers through without the Committee’s report saying it “beats his imagination” and he suspects something “fishy.”

The actions of the Minority forced Speaker Bagbin to suspend sitting without a concrete decision on the waivers. The tax exemptions were for some 42 selected companies under the government’s One District, One Factory (1D1F) programme.

Frustration

Expressing his frustration, Mr. Afenyo-Markin indicated that he was in “a lot of pain” that the House could not take a decision on the crucial matter. He noted that since the 20th of March, he had been urging the Finance Committee to meet and finalize their report, and wondered why they were using issues such as quorum to determine why they could not meet, some two months later, after the waivers had been in and out of the committee for about three years.

“Mr. Speaker, what we are doing is wrong; all these years, what have we done and we say they should be given more time. There is nothing fishy except that we cannot mislead investors to come into our country only to frustrate them. We cannot and we should not encourage that as a House.

“Mr. Speaker, people invest their capital, we encourage investors to come into the country, and they set up factories only for us to frustrate them. Why? Mr. Speaker, why? Our people are not being employed because factories have not been completed. The way we are dealing with this matter is unfair,” Afenyo-Markin noted.

Mr. Afenyo-Markin argued that tax exemptions aid production, making it imperative that Parliament does not deny companies that need such incentives.

“I would encourage them[Finance Committee] that the non-contentious ones that they say they have, they should make them available and deal with it. This is becoming too much, Mr. Speaker, give them a deadline. They had all this opportunity,” he expressed his frustration.

Suspension

The visibly worried Speaker also expressed concerns at the manner in which the Finance Committee had delayed the processes.

“We discussed this matter thoroughly this morning at conclave and we arrived at the understanding that the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader would lead in identifying those items that do not have much challenges and that would be referred to the Committee to consider and report back to this House so that we would take that one through,” he stated.

He, however, rejected the call by the Majority Leader to let the waivers pass without the report.

“We do not have any report from the Committee so we cannot proceed without a report. That was the agreement in the morning, so I do not understand why we are going on a different tangent.

“We were told that a negotiation that was not conclusive was looking at between 10 and 15 companies that I am told do not have many challenges or they say are safe and can be handled but it is the Committee that would take a final decision and report to the House,” he stated before suspending sitting.

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