“Ghanaians should never forgive President Mahama if the Ebola virus infects any Ghanaian. He is putting Ghanaians in danger by agreeing to establish the Ebola centre here in Ghana” – this was Nana Akufo-Addo’s tweet, written on 9th June 2015 at 7:30 PM to Ghanaians when he was the opposition leader.
When you make reference to this tweet, you’ll be shut down and told that you’re politicizing the current global epidemic, the coronavirus. These very Ghanaians who were called upon to “never forgive President Mahama” have not held it against President Nana Addo and have largely stuck together as one, putting in laudable efforts to help defeat the enemy; the coronavirus.
But then, we need to set the records straight: when the coronavirus was gaining momentum and spreading to other countries, there were major calls for Ghana’s borders to be shut down. However, these clarion calls fell on deaf ears, and the borders remained opened and as expected, travellers smuggled the virus into Ghana. At the long run, the nation’s borders were shut down (are still shut down) but then, we decided not to play the blame game since the die had already been cast but rather, stuck together as a people and were interested in looking ahead.
The advent of the virus and its consequences on livelihoods have been dire – numerous businesses have had to fold up (some are in the process of folding up), resulting in the loss of employment to many people.
So, in a televised address to the nation on March 27, 2020, President Nana Akufo-Addo announced a GHS1.2billion coronavirus Alleviation Programme(CAP) to help businesses survive the economic crisis wherein GHS600million from the CAP will be given as soft loans for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), with up to a one-year moratorium and a two-year repayment period and an interest rate of just 3%. There were also additional reliefs such as an extension of the tax filing date from April to June, a 2% reduction of interest rate by banks, effective April 1, 2020 and a grant of 6 months moratorium on principal repayment by banks to entities in the airline and hospitality industries.
So when you are in a nation like Ghana, whose citizens have being mischievously made to believe that they are being done a favour even when the very people they (Ghanaians) vote into power set out to do their jobs, it makes deceit and politicking quite easy to be achieved.
The National Board for Small-Scale Industries(NBSSI) projected that over 200,000 businesses will benefit from the disbursement of the GHS600million which was announced by the President. Here, we take a look at reasons why this package is rather a woefully inadequate one which was instituted to score political points.
On 19th May 2020, President Nana Akufo-Addo launched the GHS1billion CAP business support scheme. Whiles it appears that there’s nothing wrong with launching a programme, there’s definitely everything wrong with launching this very support scheme. What’s the point in spending money to launch this scheme when you have already informed Ghanaians that it’s something you’ll do? The Ministry of Information or the Ministry of Finance or any other body deemed fit could have just provided updates on it, or?
The President of the Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation (ILPI), Mr. Peter Bismark Kwofie asked government to triple the GHS600million stimulus package, citing that the said amount is “woefully inadequate” for the businesses which are expected to benefit from the package. Let’s do some maths; When GHS600million is shared equally amongst 200,000 businesses, each business will receive GHS3000. How can a viable business venture be revived or cushioned with GHS3000? Note that the sectors earmarked to benefit from this stimulus package include: Agro-businesses; manufacturing; water and sanitation; tourism and hospitality; education; food and beverages; technology; transportation; commerce and trade; healthcare and pharmaceuticals; textiles and garments. GHS3000 is laughable considering at the targeted industries.
This is what Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, a staunch member of the NPP and close ally of President Nana Akufo-Addo had to say about the launching of the CAP business support scheme; “Today, President Akufo-Addo will launch the GHS600m COVID-19 Alleviation Programme to help revive SMEs. The President in his wisdom anticipated the job and income losses way back when our Coronavirus cases were not even in double numbers, by announcing this a couple of months ago. True to his word, he got straight to work and today the means have been found and the system put in place to make good the promise. This is what leadership is all about. 100s of millions of people across the globe are losing their jobs, with businesses struggling to stay afloat. It is not the fault of any government, per se. But, it is the duty of a responsible government to do its best to save businesses and job. In Akufo-Addo, Ghana has such a good leadership in place. In NPP, Ghanaians have a government that is taking bold and decisive steps to tackle the COVID-19 crisis in every way responsible. Cometh the hour cometh the man…”
In one breath, Ghanaians are told not to politicize the COVID-19 but in another breath, leading members of the NPP ‘forget’ that they are also Ghanaians and have the effrontery to politicize reliefs being offered by the government to its citizens.
The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta also had the following to say, “This package, which is the first phase, is unprecedented in our country’s history, is about 0.15% of GDP and 1.22% of the projected tax revenue for 2020. It has been designed for the waakye seller, the barber, the fruit and coconut sellers in mind – the entrepreneurs and sole proprietors that form the backbone of our (informal) economy. It is our hope that this relief will bring back hope and reignite our economy, realigning us towards our Ghana Beyond Aid. Let us seize the moment!”. But, in order to ensure a smooth application process for all eligible candidates, application forms were said to be made available on www.nbssi.bov.gh, which is the website of NBSSI, via a USSD code (which isn’t yet known) across all mobile networks and via the CAP Business call centre on 0302477777 or via visiting the nearest NBSSI Business Advisory Centre.
For the waakye sellers, the barbers, the coconut sellers, the Koko sellers and the fruit sellers, the above means of accessing the loans will prove to be very complex, especially when it is common knowledge that most of the people engaged in these petty trading jobs are largely illiterates and do not belong to any trade associations whose membership is a prerequisite to access the loan. How is the government going to ensure that crucial information regarding this stimulus package is disseminated to the point that it gets to them?
“Fellow Ghanaians, did we go or did we come?”
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