Free SHS: CSPOG welcomes government’s new position

The Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas (CSPOG) welcomes government’s change of mind, and assurance that it will not fall on the Heritage Fund to support its Free SHS programme, a decision which would have undermined the national consensus, achieved through extensive consultations and intense negotiations among Ghanaians on how much of the oil revenue to spend now and how much to save against the future.

It is the conviction of CSPOG that, any arbitrary amendment of the law, using a party’s sheer majority in parliament, would have set a bad precedent for future retaliatory revisions of the same law, to suit party political expediencies of the time.

According to CSPOG the change of mind signifies government’s responsiveness to public concerns, and its respect for citizens’ right to democratic participation in decision-making.

The group believes that if this newly evolving culture of tolerance for dissenting views is sustained, it will eventually move this country away from unnecessary politicisation of national issues, which in time past has not served the best interest of the country.

While CSPOG welcomes the turn of events it remains convinced that a national dialogue on financing options for the free SHS wouldn’t be out of place and that if the enrolment and cost data available to government were shared, it will make for a more informed debate on the programme’s viability in the immediate, medium to long term.

Postponing this to the reading of the 2017 budget, in the view of CSPOG, only postpones the inevitable debate.

Again, the group has learned of government’s intention to review and further amend the Petroleum Revenue Management Act 2011 (Act 815) ostensibly to support investment of revenue in high-impact strategic social and economic infrastructure.

This is contained in the New Patriotic Party’s 2016 manifesto. The areas or sections to be affected are however not clear. CSPOG is therefore calling on government to make such details available for broad consultations to arrive at a collective position guided by international best practices.

CSPOG reiterates its willingness and readiness to engage constructively with the government and its relevant agencies of state in identifying and addressing weaknesses in the PRMA, as well as finding solutions to petroleum sector governance challenges identified in a recent analysis it undertook with the kind support of the Ghana Oil and Gas for Inclusive Growth (GOGIG), all in the hope of helping to unleash the transformative potential of hydrocarbons.

Thank you,

Dr Steve Manteaw (Chairman, CSPOG)