Ghana pushes national cathedral project despite economic wobbles

By Jaysim Hanspal
Posted on Thursday, 13 January 2022 19:16

Proposal of Ghana's National Cathedral (Facebook)
Proposal of Ghana's National Cathedral (Facebook)

The building of Ghana's national cathedral, due to be completed in December, is a beacon of hope for Christian supporters of the government in the country - but for some oppositionists and those of other faiths it has been a source of controversy.

“Next year by now, the whole structure will be in place. We had a meeting with the contractors, we had a meeting with the consultants [and] we had a meeting with Adjaye and Associates, myself and some high-profile people, last week,” said member-secretary to the Board of Trustees of the National Cathedral, Victor Kusi Boateng, in an interview with MyJoyOnline.

Despite claims that the 5,000 seater cathedral project is a wasted priority, the government claim it will bring new skills, technology and jobs to the country and act as a beacon to national, regional and international tourists. It has selected celebrated architect David Adjaye to design the building.

Delivering the mid-year budget review on July 2021, finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta revealed that the cathedral will officially be commissioned on 6 March 2024.

The project is the result of a promise President Nana Akufo-Addo said he made to God before winning the 2016 elections.

A rising tide

With a market-based economy primarily powered by international trading and imports, Covid-19 has significantly impacted Ghana’s economy. The country’s GDP is expected to take a nosedive in 2022 from 6.2% to 2.8%. It is currently operating with a fiscal deficit of 7.4 %, with increased inflation and high-interest rates of 14.5. This created a ripple effect, increasing unemployment even as the country incurs increased expenditure and debt-burdens costs of the pandemic.

Whilst the tourism and service sectors were impacted the most, and the agricultural remained the least impacted, the pandemic has eventually spurred innovation and growth across the board. In the first quarter of 2020, the GDP value of the service sector dropped 20% but has now risen to 13.4% – the highest record growth to date.

Although the industry has suffered, Ghana is seeing a growth spurt as companies have been quick to modernise their business models. Electricity and construction are also sectors that have seen sustainable growth, with Bui Power Authority expecting to have a total capacity of 259 MWp by 2022. Additionally, a 45 kW micro-hydro plant was recently commissioned in Tsatsadu.

In light of growing climate concerns on the continent, this is sure to improve Ghana’s access to cleaner, more sustainable energy while reaching its COP 26 goals established in Glasgow this year.

A tax on the people (e-levy)

In November, the country’s finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta had announced that the government intends to introduce an electronic transaction levy (e-levy) in the 2022 budget.

The levy, if introduced, would charge 1.75% on all electronic transactions, including mobile money payments, bank transfers, merchant payments, and inward remittances. However, the announcement was met with concerns that the pivotal levy will hinder the country’s aims to digitise and innovate.

Ironically, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) received backlash for its excessive taxation policy, leaving the New Patriotic Party (NPP) tarred with the same brush. As parliament is currently split, progress to implement the levy has been slow. Personal income tax remains low as both parties will fight to keep supporters with the upcoming election period. Therefore, the outcome of the tax could be pivotal for Ken Ofori-Atta, if he decides to present himself as presidential candidate in the 2024 polls.

Excessive, but desperate

The measures, although excessive, reflect Ghana’s increasingly desperate financial position. With no money in the system, this policy will attempt to increase government spending with a flat tax that will impact everyone in society, not just big spenders. For some, it might be seen as an equaliser, redistributing wealth from the cities to rural areas where technology is less pivotal.

Both parties have been criticised by the #Fixthecountry movement for its economic and social policies and ongoing allegations of systemic corruption.

Tax mandates on technology have been implemented in countries like Uganda, where a social media tax on mobile data at 12% was criticised for blocking freedom of speech and innovation in the country’s growing technology industry.

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