A Tax consultant at PKF Ghana, Mr Eric Amponsah Boateng, has asked the government to use the 2019 Budget Statement due to be presented on November 15 to introduce new methods of raising funds to finance the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme.
Contributing to discussions on how to finance free quality education at the fourth edition of the GRAPHIC BUSINESS /Stanbic Bank Breakfast Meeting in Accra yesterday, Mr Boateng said the government could replace the National Fiscal Stabilisation Levy (NFSL) with a new levy that will ensure that companies contribute portions of their profits to fund the programme.
The NFSL is a sunset tax first introduced in 2000 to mobilise funds to stabilise the economy. It has, however, remained in the tax books in spite of calls for its removal.
With the levy due end this year, the tax consultant said he expected “the Minister of Finance to introduce a national education levy for companies to pay a certain percentage of their profits to contribute towards the free SHS programme.”
The free SHS policy was one of the many campaign promises of the present government.
Although the policy is increasing admission to senior high schools across the country, its implementation has been fraught with challenges.
Funding the free SHS programme, for instance, has been a source of concern to many, with a section of the public expressing worry about the sustainability of the government’s social intervention programme.
The programme is currently funded by allocations from the petroleum revenue in the education category of the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA).
It enters its full session next year, when three categories of students will be benefiting from it.
In his reaction, the tax consultant said the government should use the budget to introduce a new policy with tax incentives to encourage businesses to contribute to fund the free SHS programme.
“When this is done, I think the country will be able to access enough funds to support and address challenges that have emanated as a result of the free SHS programme,” he added.
Parents must contribute
Beyond taxation, Mr Boateng indicated that he supported calls by some parents and guardians to be made to foot the bills of their children and wards because they could afford it.
“If some people can afford the fees, let them pay it. We should do a means test; not everybody should get it for free,” he said.
Mr Boateng added that forcing companies and parents to contribute to the programme would help the government to access enough funds to successfully accelerate the free SHS initiative.
His views were corroborated by majority of the participants at the forum who said parents who could afford must be made to pay in order to sustain the free SHS programme.
The participants, therefore, took turns to express their views on how the country could sustain the programme, which is costing over GHȼ400 million in its second year.
Response by GES
In response, the Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), Prof. Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa, said the GES was never opposed to parents contributing to support the free SHS programme.
Rather, he said the GES had directed schools nationwide to stop sacking students whose parents had not paid Parent and Teacher Association (PTA) dues.
He said while the service acknowledged the support that such associations gave to the enhancement of education and the running of the schools in particular, it was of the belief that it was wrong for schools to sack students for the non payment of PTA dues.
The breakfast meeting, which is an initiative of the GCGL (Graphic Business) and Stanbic Bank, is a series of thought-leadership programmes that feature selected topics of national importance. Among other things, it is aimed at influencing government policies in favour of the economy.
It brought together players in the private sector, policy makers and people from the government to deliberate on the funding options available to sustain the free education policy in the country.
On the theme: “Financing Free Quality Education in Ghana—Sustainable Funding Options,” the meeting had speakers such as Deputy Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Adutwum; the Director General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), Prof. Opoku Amankwah; the Principal of SOS Hermann Gmeiner International College, Mr Israel Titi Ofei, and the Former Vice Chancellor University of Ghana (UG), Prof. Ernest Aryeetey. — GB