Government won’t be daunted by COVID-19 – Finance Minister
Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, the Minister of Finance, on Thursday, said the Government will not be daunted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but would continue to protect lives and support livelihoods of Ghanaians until a vaccine is achieved.
This, he said, would be done through compassionate, competent and courageous leadership, citing the President’s swift movement to announce a $100 million preparedness plan, which was prescient and laid the foundation to implement measures to save lives and safeguard economic activities by improving citizens’ access to essential public services and helping businesses weather the downturn.
Mr Ofori-Atta who appeared before Parliament in Accra, to present the Mid-Year Budget Review and Supplementary Estimate, said “even before the country fully grasped the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, our immediate concerns were on protecting lives and preserving the livelihoods of our people”.
Thus far, the health consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak in Ghana had not been as devastating as in other countries, he said, but added that sadly though, a total of 153 Ghanaians have succumbed to the virus as at Wednesday July 22, 2020.
He said out of the country’s cumulative record of 29,672 COVID-19 positives, there had been 26,090 recoveries.
This, the Finance Minister noted, had largely been due to the fact that Government had shown a leadership of conviction that had been decisive, swift, innovative in the management of the crisis, and also because health professionals, nationwide, have been heroic in handling the pandemic
“We have accepted that this pandemic and its effects are unparalleled in the annals of our country, and indeed globally. It requires the marshalling of unprecedented resources to contend with the pandemic and its effects on Ghanaian,” he said.
Mr Ofori-Atta however indicated that when he earlier presented the President’s 2020 budget, all the indicators of the economic performance pointed towards the path of sustained consolidation and robust broad-based growth.
This led to the approval by Members of Parliament for the Government to spend Ninety-Eight Billion, Thirty Six Million, Six Hundred and Ninety-Two Thousand, Three Hundred and Fifty Eight Ghana Cedis (GH¢98,036,692,358) in the 2020 fiscal year, to further the agenda for consolidating the gains to spur inclusive growth, jobs and prosperity for all.
However, a lot had happened since then, with the unexpected outbreak of the pandemic which was far more than a health crisis, with its devastating global crisis from which Ghana had not been spared the painful economic and social impact visited on people globally, he said.
He further admitted that nationally, not only had the restrictions on movements disrupted households and businesses with consequent job losses and reduced incomes, but it had also led to disruptions in the global supply chain, widespread supply shortages and its attendant increases in prices and reduction in domestic revenues.
The Finance Minister said the outbreak of the virus had laid bare the vulnerabilities of nations, households, individuals and the world at large, claiming 622,725 lives globally, and a cumulative record of 15,240,291 people infected as at Wednesday July 22, 2020.
He said the Government of Ghana had begun to mount an effective and coordinated response to the pandemic and under the “Agenda 111” initiative of His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, “we will design, build, equip and staff new hospitals in every district without one, and a new regional hospital in every region with none”.
This, he said, demonstrated the Government’s commitment to protect the lives of Ghanaians, and that these hospitals would solely be built by Ghanaian construction companies and lay the foundation for the launch of a nation-wide housing programme.
The Finance Minister admitted that the virus had laid bare the vulnerabilities of nations, households, individuals and the world at large, saying as at Wednesday July 22, 2020, the global COVID-19 death toll was 622,725 persons, while a cumulative of 15,240,291 infection had since the outbreak been recorded across the world.
He said the predicted long-lasting effect of this pandemic, amidst systemic shifts and uncertainties suggest 2020 and beyond will be very challenging and Ghana would therefore need this courageous, compassionate and competent Government with a well-crafted programme to protect the lives of Ghanaians, safeguard jobs and support businesses to sustain operations during this period and especially in the four years ahead.
He said the Government had proven over and over again its worth in managing the Ghanaian economy, and would optimise the opportunities presented by this pandemic and build a sustainable future for Ghanaians.