There's no cash to spend on striking doctors - Terkper

Mahama Seth Tekper Stern

Finance Minister Seth Terkper has jumped to the defence of President John Mahama whose “I-won't-pay-beyond-budget” comment has gotten doctors more angry.

"I think the president must be understood" Terkper attempted to calm the stormy waters in the health sector, adding we cannot have a budget that devotes so much to compensation at the expense of development.

The president has come under heavy criticism for saying he will not authorize any payment to the doctors that is not captured in the budget.

The doctors have been on strike for a week now demanding conditions of service part of which includes 40% of basic salaries as accommodation allowance per month, 20 percent as core duty facilitation allowance, 30% clothing allowance, 20% maintenance allowance, 20% utility allowance, 50% as professional allowance and 25% special risk allowance and vehicle tax exemption to doctors.

But the proposal has been condemned severally by government spokespersons some of whom have described the demands as outrageous.

On Wednesday the president said "any agreement that is reached in respect of allowances or conditions of services would have to be appropriately captured in the budget.
"And I want to say for emphasis I will not authorize any expenditure on wages and compensation not provided for in the budget."
The doctors were angered by the comment and threatened to intensify their strike action by withdrawing emergency services by Friday and resign en mass few days later if nothing is done about their conditions of service.

But the Finance Minister said government cannot repeat the mistake of 2012 by using 70 per cent of the country's revenue on paying salaries.

"We should take a holistic view of the budget. There is an amount that is coming in. There is framework in which we do budget. You go to Cabinet then to Parliament and it will be backed by the appropriation law within which we expected to remain," he said.

He indicated the doctors must return to the negotiation table and whatever is agreed by the joint negotiation and which provision is made for in the budget, that amount will be paid.

"We have suffered some past budget overruns," he stated, adding the country cannot afford to move in that direction.


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