On Monday, March 30, 2020, Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta while addressing parliament, proposed the amendment of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act to allow government access to portions of the Heritage Fund in the fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic which has infected 195 people and claimed five lives.
This proposal has generated concerns among members of Parliament with some Minority MPs vowing to resist any attempt by government to touch the fund reserved for future generations.
Speaking on PM Express on Tuesday, Dr. Steve Manteaw who agrees with the Minority MPs argued that the heritage fund is not a contingency fund and should not be treated as such.
According to him, although the measures announced by the Akufo-Addo administration in dealing with the pandemic are prudent, the situation the country finds itself in currently could have been avoided if the contingency fund, set aside to deal with emergencies had not been ignored by successive governments.
“The measures that have been announced by the President are quite elaborate and I will describe them as prudent and the right thing to do but I also make the observation that the desperate situation that we find ourselves in is something that could have been avoided if we had kept faith with the lettered spirit of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act. By proposing to raid the petroleum heritage fund amounts to treating it as a contingency fund, mind you, funds are actually established for specific purposes and for the purpose in which we find ourselves today, we have a fund to deal with it which is the contingency fund.”
“Question is how have we treated the contingency fund? We require that the excess over stabilization fund is distributed into the sinking fund and contingency fund. Over the years, what we have done is to ignore the contingency fund and put money into the sinking fund and in the process feeding into our appetite to borrow and creating a huge debt problem. We did not pull money into the contingency fund. There is no doubt therefore that we will find nothing or very little in the contingency fund to deal with this specific situation.”
Dr. Manteaw added, “There is no justification to touch that money. I believe we can do without touching the heritage fund. The situation we find ourselves and the President is quite right that we are in times that are not ordinary that calls for tough cutting measures, we’ve seen some attempts on the part of government but they are not far-reaching enough.”