A parent who has a child in a boarding senior high school (SHS) in Ghana is expected to save nearly GH¢6,045 over a three-year period under the free SHS (FSHS) programme, the Finance Minister, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta has said.
A break down by the Minister indicated that the immediate cash benefits to a parent with a boarding SHS student is GH¢2,015.22 and GH¢2,115.22 for a parent with a boarding Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) student.
Presenting the 2019 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of Government to parliament last Thursday, he said, a total of 271,000 aged between 16 -18 years, who would have been thrown onto the streets but for free SHS are now seated in classrooms getting an education and gaining training to give them a better future.
“For the first time in our history, the whole of Ghana is enjoying Free SHS. Under free SHS, students are entitled to; free meals (Both boarding and day); free boarding accommodation; and free textbooks,” he stated.
Mr Ofori-Atta said that in 2017, the FSHS provided over 90,000 additional teenagers the opportunity to get senior high school education and improve their opportunities for work in the future.
“In 2018, as a result of the innovative double track system, we have been able to accommodate 181,000 more students who otherwise could not have access to secondary education,” he indicated.
He said government inherited over GH¢120 billion of debt at very high interest rates and even though it has brought down interest rates considerably, “we are still saddled with a sizeable amount of expensive debt.”
He said in 2019, government will spend over GH¢16 billion of revenue (over 26.6%) on interest payments, explaining that if it was able to refinance its debt at a much lower interest rate, it can make some savings that can be used to fund the FSHS.
“This amount can be considerably reduced if we refinance our debt at much lower interest rates.
A ten percent reduction in the interest rates translates into over GH¢1.6 billion in savings; almost enough to pay for Free SHS in 2019,” he said.
The Minister said the school feeding programme had been increased to cover 2.1 million pupils from 1.6 million and the amount spent on each child increased by 25 per cent, while the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme, (a social cash transfer programme that provides cash and health insurance to the extremely poor) had added over 150,000 households.
He said the share of the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF) to persons with disabilities had been increased from two to per cent to three per cent.
Mr Ofori-Atta outlined that the Capitation Grant had been doubled from GH¢4.5 to GH¢10.0; teacher and nursing training allowances have been restored; and electricity tariff reduced from 17.5 per cent for households and 30 per cent for businesses.
According to him, the National Insurance Scheme arrears of GH¢1.2 billion had been cleared and provided food crop farmers with 50 per cent subsidy on fertiliser under the planting for food and jobs program.
“We have provided jobs to 100,000 graduates under the Nation Builders Corps (NABCO) across every constituency in Ghana,” he added.
The Finance Minister said in line with government’s commitment to ensure retirement income security for every Ghanaian, it had taken steps to expand social security to cover the informal sector by charging the board of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) to ensure the inclusion of informal sector workers.
In this direction, he announced that SSNIT was working with government to develop a policy framework to provide informal sector workers with a voluntary fully funded personal pensions scheme which will be launched in 2019.