Free Senior High School is good but…..ActionAid Country Director

Country Director for ActionAid Ghana, Sumaila Abdul-Rahman Country Director for ActionAid Ghana, Sumaila Abdul-Rahman

Country Director for ActionAid Ghana, Sumaila Abdul-Rahman, has lauded government's Free Senior High School programme, but says a lot more remains undone at the education sector, especially the basic level.

In the view of Mr Abdul-Rahman, even though the mostly hailed policy is a very great policy having afforded most children at the SHS level the opportunity to be in the classroom, serious attention and funds need to be allocated to the basic level.

According to him, education in the Ghanaian context, is a right that needs to be enjoyed by every child as stipulated in the country's Constitution, but due to low funding, not all children get the opportunity to enjoy this right.

The ActionAid boss, who said this at the launch of a report on what tax incentives can do for basic education in Ghana, said "Education is a basic human right as captured by the 1992 Constitution under Article 25 thus indicating that "basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all".

The government is mandated by this to provide free access to basic education. This is why we as an organization applaud the free Senior High School policy, because it would provide opportunity for all".

He continued, "However, this right is not fully enjoyed by all because of challenges associated with resources leading to inadequate financing. This and many other challenges are the reasons we have gathered here today, to discuss how to deal with this challenge by making proposals through this report".

The report, follows a series of research conducted by ActionAid Ghana, focusing on how to leverage domestic taxation for sustainable financing of education of the education sector, how progressive taxation can increase government's spending on public basic schools and reverse education privatization and now, what tax incentives can do for basic education in Ghana.

For instance, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) tasks governments to spend six percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or about 20 percent of national budget allocations to education financing.

The GPE supports government financing of education with additional funds, but requires clear commitments from governments to finance education up to about 20percent of annual budget allocations.

In Ghana, from 2016 to 2020, education sector financing, has consistently had an average shortfall of Gh4, 198 million according to GPE Benchmark.

This is a huge amount which could make a greater impact in the education sector if this funding need is met. This means that government's allocation to the education sector, requires increases in overall revenue pot to be able to fill this funding gap.

Unfortunately, it is the continuous tax incentives to these multi-national companies that is hindering effort by successive governments to achieve this objective.

To this end, ActionAid Ghana and it partners, decided to research into the issue of tax incentives to these companies which they think should be invested in the education sector.

In 2016, government's allocation to the education sector as a percentage of all MDAs collocations was 14. percent . The following year 2017, it had dwindled to 13percent, but only increased temporarily to 16percent in 2019.

According to the report, the projections for 2020 and 2021 similarly do not look promising in terms of meeting the Global Partnership for all standards of 20percent even though it is projected to be 15percent in 2021.

As if that is not enough, Ghana between 2018 and 2020 lost a whopping $901.1million as tax incentives through Parliamentary tax waivers alone to corporation and about $657million through GIPC investment in 2018. This means that by estimate, Ghana grants an average of 19.6 percent per initial project value as tax incentives. Due to low financing of the sector, government's own Free Compulsory Basic Education (FCUBE) is yet to be attained.

This and many are the reasons why ActionAid and other civil society groups, are calling on government to reduce drastically the dashing of revenues to these companies in the name of tax incentives and rather pump these funds into basic education to improve and get more children into school. Civil society organizations say it is about time government stopped being too "charitable" to the companies and rake in the necessary funds to support the sector.

It asked government to also negotiate better by lowering the government insatiable desire to also give out incentives to companies at the expense of the education sector. The report also tasked government to also look at other sectors such as the extractive sector, illicit financial flow as well as the informal sector.

Source: By Gifty Arthur/