After one of the most acrimonious exchanges in Parliament yesterday, the House voted to amend Clause Five of the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill to enable current and future governments to use revenue from the country’s oil find as collateral for loans.
The amendment process was polarised along the Majority and the Minority sides of the House, with members on either side adopting entrenched positions.
While the Majority side supported the proposed amendment by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Nabdam and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Energy, Mr Moses Asaga, to pave the way for the government to use the oil revenue as collateral, the Minority vehemently opposed the move.
Even though the leadership of the House had been allowed to meet on the matter on Wednesday to see if a common ground could be reached, it appeared that could not be and so the only option open was to debate and vote on the issue.
MPs from either side of the House heckled, jeered and booed their opponents as they contributed to the debate before the voting.
During the chaotic session, the First Deputy Speaker, Mr Edward Doe Adjaho, who was in the chair, could not take a decision on the voice vote and had to resort to a head count for the decision to be taken.
When the head count was taken, the Majority defeated the Minority by 97 to 87 votes, while the Convention People’s Party (CPP) MP for Jomoro, Samia Yaaba Nkrumah, abstained from voting.
Mr Asaga told the Daily Graphic later that by the adoption of the amendment, the government could now use 70 per cent of the oil revenue for collateral but could not use the remaining 30 per cent meant for the Stabilisation and the Heritage funds.
Contributing to the debate, the NPP MP for Afigya Sekyere, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, had argued that while preparing the bill, a survey had been conducted, during which between 70 to 80 per cent of the respondents were of the view that the government should not borrow against the oil revenue.
He said that informed the memorandum that accompanied the bill, which clearly restated the views expressed by Ghanaians from the various regions.
“To use the revenue as collateral means eating your lunch and dinner at breakfast,” he quoted, and called on the House not to rush to take a decision that would have serious consequences for the nation’s oil find in future.
Mr Kan-Dapaah said the credibility of Parliament was at stake and called for more time to ensure that enough consultations were done for a common ground to be found.
He wondered what had happened between the time that Cabinet approved the bill and now to result in the turn around by the government.
“Mr Speaker, is it because of the STX deal or some promises that had already been made by some officials of the government that had informed this sudden turn around?” he questioned.
For his part, the NPP MP for Old Tafo and Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, called for a dispassionate debate of the issue, without emotions, since the amendment had a huge implication on the future of the country.
He argued that even though Mr Asaga had argued that only 70 per cent of the oil revenue could be used as collateral, a closer look at the bill revealed that the entire 100 per cent of the revenue could be used as such.
Dr Osei cautioned against that and pleaded with the proposer of the amendment to take a second look at it and modify his amendment, since, according to him, the amendment in its present form would spell doom for future generations.
When he took his turn, the Minority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said the matter was critical, since the proposed amendment was not in tandem with the memorandum accompanying the bill.
“We should be careful with what we are doing,” he said, explaining that in its haste to pass the bill, the House could do more harm than good.
Debunking the arguments put forward by the Minority, the Deputy Majority Leader, Alhaji Rashid Pelpuo, said it was unfortunate that the Minority was just putting forth arguments without offering any alternative amendment to the clause.
“Mr Speaker, this is the way to go,” he said, explaining that with the oil find, the wealth of the nation had increased and that should be used to seek funds for the development of the country.
The NDC MP for Garu-Tempane, Mr Dominic Azimbe Azumah, said considering the country’s numerous development needs, particularly in the rural areas, people who did not support the amendment should revise their notes.
The PNC MP for Sissala West, Mr Haruna Bayirga, was firm in his conviction that using the oil money as collateral was the way forward for the country’s development.
He reminded the MPs that they themselves had used such an opportunity to purchase vehicles to enhance their work and wondered why they were kicking against efforts to use the country’s oil revenue to seek funds in future for development.
For his part, a Deputy Minister for Energy and MP for Tamale Central, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, was of the view that the amendment was intended to tighten the loose ends of the bill and that it was not a turn-around by the government, as the Minority had made Ghanaians to believe.
When Mr Adjaho saw that the two sides had adopted entrenched positions, he ended the debate and put the question to the vote. But he could not rule on the voice vote and had to resort to head count, in which the Majority prevailed.