Government must target those in need of free SHS – Odike

The Founder and Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Mr Kwasi Addai Odike, has reiterated the urgent need for the government to target those in need of the free Senior High School (SHS) programme.

He said the present policy of a wholesale free SHS was taking a toll on the economy of the country.

“I still believe we need to revise the free SHS policy to make it a pro-poor intervention to provide access to education for all, irrespective of their status,” Mr Odike stressed in an interview with the Daily Graphic yesterday.

Already, Mr Odike’s position seems to be getting some support across the country. Recently, the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, is reported to have suggested that persons who can afford for pay fees for the education of their children be excluded from the government’s free SHS programme.

The government is facing some challenges in financing its flagship education programme, the free SHS.

It cost the government GH¢453 million to finance the free SHS in 2017. That amount is expected to double this academic year, due to the double intake policy that will be implemented from September.

However, Mr Ofori-Atta said persons with the means could continue to pay fees for their wards while the government collected data to determine which segments of society benefit from the policy.

“The issue of free education, I don’t think it is something that any of us can compromise on… It may be that there have to be changes in the way which we are administering it,” Mr Ofori-Atta said last Monday in an interview on Citi TV.

Mr Odike, therefore, appealed to the government to allow those with the capacity to pay to be allowed to do so while the poor were supported to educate their children to any level to reduce the high cost of education in the country.

He said: “This fee-paying arrangement for the rich in society will make the educational system sustainable as the fees that will be paid can be used to augment the government’s education budget.”

He commended the government for its decision not to increase the Value Added Tax (VAT) since such a move would have affected the growth of the economy.

“Increased taxes will affect the unemployed and vulnerable, as well as be a big blow to business entities,” he pointed out.

What was important, he said, was for the government to expand the tax net and to ensure that all income-earners paid tax.

He, therefore, suggested that about 80 per cent of those to be employed under the National Builders Corps (NaBCo) should be redeployed to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and posted to every nook and cranny of the country to collect taxes from all income-earners.

He said the core duty of such employees would be to locate any business entity and collect taxes due the state.

“We must establish revenue collection points in all the suburbs so that the process of collecting taxes is brought to the doorstep of the people,” he opined.

Touching on agriculture, Mr Odike said as the backbone of the economy, the government should be focusing more on commercial and industrial farming to produce for local consumption and feed the one-district, one-factory initiative.

He was happy that the National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL) had been separated from VAT, and mentioned that the money to be made should be properly managed and the loopholes for corruption plugged to make the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) more efficient in order to make health care available to all.

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