Petrol Price Down; NDC Cries Foul

Consumers of petroleum products will now heave a sigh of relief following the passage of the Special Petroleum Tax Amendment Bill, which saw a reduction in the tax from 15 percent to 13 percent.

The Special Petroleum Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2018, that seeks to reduce the previous 15% petroleum tax to 13%, was yesterday passed by the house and would be assented to by the president to take effect immediately.

The process was not without drama, as minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) members sought to prevent the enabling bill from being passed.

Per the Amended Bill, which awaits the assent of the president, a litre of petrol sold at the various pumps at GH¢4.67ps will now sell at GH¢4.51ps and a litre of diesel sold at GH¢4.67ps will go for GH¢4.48ps.

With the new tax measure, the ordinary taxi driver who consumes about 300 gallons of petrol a month will be able to save GH¢210 on the product.

The reduction will come at a cost of GH¢47.9 million a year to the state.

The minority members’ action, according to them, was because the reduction was completely insignificant and would not be felt by Ghanaians.

Their leader, Haruna Iddrisu, who was not in the chamber at the time of the debate on the second reading of the bill, nearly caused a stir when his attempt to initiate another debate and make an input was rejected by the Speaker of Parliament, Prof Mike Oquaye, saying that that consideration stage was over.

The minority leader said the speaker was trying to disrespect him and that despite the enormous respect he (Haruna) has for him if he (speaker) did so again, he would also ‘treat the speaker same.’

The minority leader’s warning to the speaker threw the chamber into pandemonium, as the majority members angrily asked him (minority leader) to apologise to the speaker for using such strong words on him.

The minority members also backed their leader for his stance, with accusations and counter accusations being hurled across the aisles.

The minority leader did not understand why the speaker decided to call the majority leader (Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu) to respond to an issue of lack of quorum to continue with the consideration of the bill that was raised by the minority chief whip, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, while he (minority leader) was on his feet expecting the speaker to recognize him first.

Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu explained that he was recognized by the speaker first not as a majority leader, but as the leader of the house, to respond to a quorum issue that had been raised by the minority chief whip, which could affect the passage of the bill.

During the debate at the second reading stage of the bill, the minority chief whip had said that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) while in opposition, had promised to scrap the petroleum tax, but when it came into power it had decided to just reduce the tax rate insignificantly which would not make any difference to petroleum prices.

Muntaka said that while in opposition, the NPP described the Special Petroleum Tax introduced by the then NDC government as a ‘nuisance tax’ and that he was expecting the NPP to stick to its promise of completely scrapping it.

A Deputy Minister of Finance, Kwaku Kwarteng, said that the NPP came and met the Special Petroleum Tax, which had been introduced by the NDC government at 17% ad valorem – which means that as petroleum prices were going up, consumers were supposed to pay more taxes, which was very detrimental to consumers.

According to the deputy minister, the NPP reduced the rate to 15% in 2017 and has further reduced it to 13%, and changed it from ad valorem to specific tax – which means that the rate will be a fixed one (whether petroleum prices increase or not) and that that is intended to bring relief to consumers.

Mr Kwaku Kwarteng said that because the NDC government could not reduce the rate on the petroleum tax and the NPP is doing that, the NDC members were making unnecessary criticism about the reduction.