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University education must be free - Ivor Greenstreet

Ivor Greenstreet

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The Presidential Candidate of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) for the 2016 election, Mr Ivor Greenstreet, has said education in the country must be free.

“We believe and have always believed that education should be free from the kindergarten up to the tertiary level,” he stated.

He was speaking on the theme: “Exploring alternative avenues to fund university education,” at the University of Development Studies Annual Delegates’ Conference of the University Students Association of Ghana (USAG) in Tamale last Tuesday.

Mr Greenstreet, who was sharing his thoughts on the important matter of funding university education, declared: “Yes, we believe university education should be free and today I shall explain why we believe education, including university education, should be free and one of the avenues which can be used to pay for it.”


Tax holidays

Mr Greenstreet said funds to operate free education could be secured if President Akufo-Addo renegotiates all agreements with companies that benefit from incentives which do not inure to the benefit of the people of Ghana.

He added that the President could end or significantly reduce tax holidays and tax breaks granted to mining, oil, free zone and other multinational companies.

He further stated that the investment policies of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) which had been exactly the same year after year had been to offer tax incentives to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).

“No real gains have been achieved from this policy. Instead, our trade taxes have declined. Studies have shown that Ghana loses more than $ 1.5 billion annually as a result of tax incentives. That is over half the entire Government of Ghana budget for education,” he remarked.


Economic independence

Mr Greenstreet mentioned that studies had shown that it wasn’t tax breaks that attracted FDI but rather a skilled workforce, good infrastructure, an attractive fiscal environment, law and order. “They attract investment far more effectively than tax breaks,” he stated.

He provided details of the millions of dollars the nation had lost to international companies through tax exemptions and incentives, as well as poorly negotiated agreements.

He said in July 2011 in the oil sector when the EO Group sold its 3.5 per cent stake in Kosmos to Tullow Oil, worth over $300 million, it never paid the 10 per cent tax, amounting to a loss of $30 million.

Additionally, when Sabre Oil sold its four per cent share in Tullow Oil to PetroSA, it never paid its 10 per cent tax on a $365-million-dollar deal and another $36 million was lost.

In the mining sector, he said, there were stability agreements which had clauses that put on hold the tax laws of Ghana for periods between 10 and 15 years.


Revenue losses

The revenue losses here, Mr Greenstreet said, had run into hundreds of millions of dollars, adding that those were especially the case for Newmont and AngloGold Ashanti and more recently Goldfields Ghana.

The incentives, he said, were supposedly to help those companies recoup their investments.

Mr Greenstreet indicated, “The poorly negotiated Newmont agreement of 2003 was later altered with an improved agreement ratified by Parliament in 2015.”

“However, not learning from the past, another very poorly negotiated agreement with Goldfields was ratified in 2016 with the connivance of both NDC and NPP,” he claimed.

Explaining further, he said between 2011 and 2012, Ghana lost another $100 million dollars due to another stability agreement. The multinational SINOPEC which constructed the Gas infrastructure project didn’t pay corporate income tax, import duties and VAT.

“Meanwhile, we the ordinary Ghanaians are forced to pay indirect taxes which pay for the roads, communication and other public infrastructure that these same multinationals use for free,” he stressed.

Source: Graphic Online

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