Mr Speaker, we have successfully come to the end of our Sittings for the Third Meeting of the First Session of the Sixth Parliament and I am grateful that I have this opportunity to make these few comments as the House prepares to rise sine die. As usual, we must, first, be most thankful to God who has sustained our lives and given us strength, vitality and vigour to go about our activities.
I am also grateful to Members who have worked tirelessly and diligently to ensure the effective execution of the Business of Parliament.
Mr Speaker, we have debated, amended and passed many Bills even though, in the view of the Minority group, not all
SPACE FOR CALENDAR FOR 2014
have been after thorough consideration. Notable among them are the Internal Revenue (Amendment No. 2) Bill, Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, Special Import Levy (Amendment) Bill, and the Export Trade, Agricultural and Industrial Development Fund Bill, the Excise Tax Stamp Bill, 2013 and the Appropriation Bill.
Mr Speaker, the high point of this Meeting, undoubtedly was the presentation to Parliament of the 2014 Budget by the Minister for Finance, Hon Seth Emmanuel Terkpeh. The Minister's presentation which was enveloped by a chorus of “Hear, Hear” from the Majority benches, seemed to suggest to Ghanaians that their salvation lies in the 2014 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of Ghanaians.
Indeed, the Majority, in the course of the debate, demonstrated their admiration to the “Rising to the challenge and Re- alignment budget” by proclaiming that it is the best thing to have happened in contemporary times to Ghanaians. The Minority side thought that Budget Statement and Economic Policy is sterile and menopausic and not capable of generating the desired growth. Next year, by this time, Ghanaians would better appreciate which side got it right.
Mr Speaker, the conduct of Business in the House in the course of this Meeting has been eventful, even though much of it has been negative. Temperatures in the House have often risen to levels which they ordinarily ought not to have reached.
All of us must do sober introspection and reflection. The maxim in a Parliament worth its sort has always been that whereas the Majority may have their way, the Minority must always have their say. The Minority must be protected by the Chair. What are the instruments available to Parliament in their “power of the purse” and oversight responsibilities: Question
time, Statements, Motions, committee work, et cetera. To what extent have the officers of the House allowed the House and Members to prosecute their duties through this medium? Parliament is not a uniform body and the Business of oversight in any Parliament rests more on the shoulders of the Minority parties in Parliament. Notwithstanding, the Minority must state their case without any intention to block Government's developmental agenda. Sheer obstruction does not pay.
The Majority group must have their say but they should know they do not have the support of the entire populace and that is why consensus-building should be the resort. The tendency to out-muscle Minority groups or spring surprises is michalcelian and is not sustainable. The Speaker should always protect the rights of the Minority, not the other way round and the sword that the Speaker wields, must be double-edged. Let us introspect to strengthen Parliament and we will be able to avoid these volcanic eruptions.
Subject to these, Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Minority, let me once again, reiterate our commitment to co-operate with the Majority side of the House to facilitate the implementation of Government policies.
Mr Speaker, I would like to commend the various committees with regard to the time consciousness of the submission of reports on the budget estimates of the various Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, in spite of the short time Hon Members had to their disposal to digest the information, and conduct the hearings.
It is important to state though that increasingly, the time and space for the scrutiny of our budget estimates and economic policy have been contracting.
It is a sad commentary on the scrutiny and diligence that ought to be exercised by Parliament. A Parliament requires at least, eight weeks to dissect a budget; any period less than eight weeks is unhelpful.
Notwithstanding, Mr Speaker, may I take this opportunity to commend you and your deputies for dedication to duty in spite of the occasion differences. You have resorted by and large, the work ethics of Rt Hon Peter Ala Adjetey and that is commendable. It is for the MPs to take a cue. May I also once again, express my sincerest thanks to the Clerk, his deputies and staff for all the work they continue to do in this House.
We cannot forget our media practitioners who transmit events from the Chamber to the rest of our citizens and the world at large. We urge them to continue with this all important exercise, so that the people of Ghana would feel part and parcel of good democratic governance.
Mr Speaker, may I, in winding up, use this opportunity to wish all Ghanaians a happy Christmas. Christmas is a period of forgiveness, reconciliation and reunion, occasioned by the birth of Christ Jesus. As individuals, as believers, as groups, as leaders, let us acknowledge that we are not the repository of wisdom or knowledge.
We complement one another. Let us be another's keeper. That is how to lessen the burden on our fellow human beings. If we create, we must all participate in the sharing. When we do not create, we should not share. The nation will be better, healthier and stronger by that.
Mr Speaker, I thank you.