A policy analyst with the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) Dr. Steve Manteaw has urged government to redesign the sinking fund to sponsor its ambitious free Senior High School policy.
The outgone Mahama government in 2015 created the sinking fund to help defray the country’s huge accumulated debt.
The former Minister of Finance, Seth Terkper said last year that the fund has a balance of USD300 million.
But speaking Wednesday at the Starr Summit dubbed; A National Dialogue on Sustainable Funding of Government’s Free Senior High School Policy: Opportunities and Challenges of Relying on Petroleum Revenues, Dr. Manteaw urged government to use the sinking fund to finance the free SHS policy.
The government, according to him, had set itself on a bold adventure; that is the implementation of its electioneering promise of free SHS and that sustainability should guide its search for a financing solution.
According to the finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta the free SHS policy scheduled to take off September 2017 would be funded from the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA).
Presenting the government’s maiden budget statement on March 2, 2017, Mr. Ofori-Atta projected that the implementation of the policy for the 2017/2018 academic year would cost the country GHc400million.
The Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Marfo in February stirred controversy following his disclosure that government intends to use the Heritage Fund as a source of funding for the implementation of the policy.
A proposal Dr. Manteaw strongly kicked against in various interviews and reiterated his stance during his presentation at the Starr Summit on the topic; Funding Free SHS: What options do the petroleum sector offer?
He said even though it is “not out of place to require that the petroleum resources of this country, which is a common heritage, be used to contribute to educating its future generations” touching the Heritage Fund is gravely out of place.
“Government’s decision to leave the heritage fund alone is welcomed,” he said adding that “though the current rate of return on the heritage fund is low, it does not warrant dissipating it – rather, we should be looking for better ways of investing it to guarantee better yield.”
“The 70 percent ABFA provides a bigger scope for financing free SHS. We could devote a bigger percentage of ABFA to education financing and narrow the other spending areas for greater effect; mining also has capacity to contribute; and we must redirect CSIR spending to prioritise contribution to education, he added.