The outbreak of coronavirus in the last quarter of 2019 and the negative impact of the pandemic on the world economy compelled many countries to adopt measures to check the spread of the virus. The measures included border closures, lockdown of the cities and economic activities, curfew, social distancing and provision of palliatives to the vulnerable in the society.The frightening forecasts by the international finance institutions that the Coronavirus could plunge the world economy into brutal recession and spell disaster for the struggling African economies may have forced many African countries to employ most of these measures without considering the consequences on their fragile economies.
In the midst of this stampede, a Nigerian scholar and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Charles Soludo, warned African governments that have largely copied the “stay at home” or lockdown orders as in many western countries to look inwards for workable measures since their economies cannot really afford the lockdowns.
Soludo noted that most African states cannot pay for lockdowns as many of them depend on budget support from bilateral and multilateral donors, and with acute balance of payments problems. “They do not even have leg rooms to simply print money. Most are now begging for debt relief and applying for urgent loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In Africa, both the governments and the people are begging for “palliatives”. “Check out the trillions of dollars, euros, and pounds in support to the vulnerable and stimulus packages. Despite these, check out the restiveness/protests in several of these countries and the unrelenting pressure to eliminate the restrictions,” he said.
Ghana, which imposed the lockdown, was quick to lift it after only three weeks. According to Ghana’s Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, it was impossible for the government to have continued the partial lockdown imposed on Accra, Tema, Kasoa and Kumasi beyond the three weeks announced by President Akufo-Addo to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Ghana.
The minister explained that the Ghanaian economy is largely informal and could not sustain that decision beyond the three weeks. He said that the coronavirus pandemic would cost Ghana about GHS9.505 billion.
Speaking recently in Accra, the minister said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghana was recording a huge decline in revenue from the ports, petroleum revenue receipts as well as tax revenue and that would translate to a significant drop in revenue target for 2020.
He, however said that the government was taking some measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and that the measures included the establishment of a Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) to facilitate economic recovery, putting in place a GHS600 million soft loan scheme with a two-year repayment plan for micro, small and medium scale businesses and taking care of water bills for all Ghanaians for April, May and June 2020 as well as a relief for electricity consumers, where all lifeline consumers will get a one hundred percent waiver for three months; while other consumers will get a 50 percent reduction.
In addressing part of the support programmes of the government, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on May 19, launched a One billion Ghana Cedi stimulus package to provide relief to the Micro, Small and Medium Enteprises (MSMEs), which have been hard-hit by the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the ceremony in Accra, President Akufo-Addo said the virus had exacted a huge toll on the world economies, including that of Ghana, reduced productivity, job losses and steep decline of revenue for government, businesses, households and individuals.
He noted that the worst hit are the MSMEs, which account for about 70 percent of the Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product and represent 92 percent of businesses and therefore need to be given special attention by the government.
Local media reports quoted the president as saying the business support programme was an integral part of the resilience and recovery plan being put in place to ensure the renewal of economic activity and sustenance of livelihoods.
“We are determined to protect as many jobs as possible and to help as many business as possible get back on their feet,” the president said, adding that the scheme would hopefully assist the nation’s economy to get back on track,” President Akufo-Addo said.
The reports added that the scheme to be administered by the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) is targeting businesses in the Food and beverages, technology, transportation, commerce, trade, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, textiles and garments sectors.
The allocation of the funds, according to the reports, would be supervised by a Loans Committee composed of one representative each from the Ministries of Trade and Industry and Finance, the NBSSI, and the participating banks, with the KPMG acting as the technical advisors to the scheme.
Apart from the stimulus package and the palliatives extended to the poor and vulnerable in Ghana by the government, corporate organisations and non governmental organisations, the Ghanaian government has intensified Covid -19 testing in its bid to stop the spread of the virus, while promoting the search for the cure of the deadly disease.
For instance, the testing has been extended to members of Parliament and all the workers in the complex. The Speaker of the Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, who gave the directive for the testing of the lawmakers for Covid-19, explained that the exercise part of the measures to stop the spread of the infection among legislators and staff of the legislative body.
Although the rise in coronavirus cases in Ghana are attributable to the impressive increase in the number of tests conducted daily. As at Friday, May 22, Ghana recorded 6,486 confirmed cases from the 6,269 announced last Wednesday. According to the latest update published on the Ghana Health Service’s COVID-19 dashboard on Friday, May 22, the number recovered persons was 1,951 and with this record, Ghana has the highest number on recoveries from COVID-19 in West Africa.
However, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS),,Dr. Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, said on Thursday, May 21 that the country there was a gradual decline in new COVID-19 positive cases and facility admissions.
He explained that about 11 out of the 16 regions have not recorded new infections since the country’s last update on May 19.
But Ghana’s Minister of Health, Mr. Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, has advised Ghanaians to learn to cope with the coronavirus disease since it is likely to be around with humans for a long time.
The minister noted that COVID-19, being a novel infection, currently has no medication or vaccine for its management, people should learn to manage it the way malaria is being handled in the continent.
Mr. Agyemang-Manu urged Ghanaians to maintain strict adherence to the protocols of the World Health Organisation and the Ghana Health Service which harped on regular hand washing with soap for at least 20 seconds under running water, use of alcohol-based sanitisers, wearing of nose masks and observing social distancing.
Ghana, according to the minister, has been listed by the WHO among countries doing well with the management of COVID-19 cases. With this recognition and the report of decline in the number new positive cases of coronavirus, the Ghanaian leader has every reason to proclaim on May 17, that Ghana’s approach in the management of COVID-19 pandemic is one of the best globally.