SEND Ghana commends government’s COVID-19 levy

SEND GHANA, a subsidiary of SEND Foundation of West Africa, has commended Government of Ghana’s announcement to introduce the COVID-19 levy and called for its utilisation not to combat only the coronavirus disease.

“We are now presented with the opportunity to apply revenues realized from the COVID-19 levy to cover the provision of all vaccines and immunization-related services. The establishment of a Ghana Centre for Disease Control (CDC) as contained in the 2021 budget is also a welcoming news.”

SEND Ghana, a policy research and advocacy civil society entity noted that before the emergence of COVID-19, Ghana’s health infrastructure such as buildings, equipment, drugs, and human resources especially for infectious disease control was extremely weak.

Mr George Osei-Bimpeh, Country Director, SEND GHANA in a 15 paged assessment of the 2021 Budget signed and copied to the Ghana News Agency (GNA), disclosed that outbreaks of pandemic such as COVID-19 and epidemic such as Cerebrospinal Meningitis had further revealed the existing gaps in Ghana’s epidemic and pandemic preparedness.

He said only 7.5 per cent of the total government expenditure was allocated to the health sector as against 15 per cent minimum allocation under the Abuja Declaration signed by Ghana 25 years ago, adding that, adequate health financing was critical for the implementation of Primary Health Care as the country’s strategy for attaining Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

“Raising the share of health expenditure close to 15 per cent will provide adequate allocation to address infrastructure deficit, and finance the provision of goods and services to cater for HIV and AIDS, Malaria, Maternal, and Child Health and vaccine procurements and immunization services.”

He said their analysis of the allocation to the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector shows that the government was only doing 0.09 and 0.13 per cent allocation for sanitation and hygiene as a percentage of GDP for 2020 and 2021 respectively.

“Further analysis of the sector for the past three years (2019, 2020, and 2021) shows that the government is not meeting the required threshold of $200 million annually as stated in the Sanitation and Water for All Ghana Compact.”

Mr Osei-Bimpeh urged the government to show commitment to the eThekwini declaration and the Sanitation and Water for All Ghana Compact of making a budgetary allocation of 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for sanitation and hygiene.

He said government had not fulfilled its commitment to develop, print, and supply teaching and learning materials (TLMs) for 1,250,144 KG pupils, 1,614,280 pupils in lower primary, 1,561,058 pupils in upper primary and 1,215,088 pieces of Teachers Guide for teachers from KG to Primary Six captured in the 2020 budget.

The Director noted that two years into the implementation of the new curriculum, teachers at the basic education level had been using their guide pack but with no corresponding textbook and workbook for the pupils.

“With the same level of priority accorded Free Senior High School where students are provided textbooks, government as a matter of urgency addresses the public concern regarding the production and supply of textbooks at the basic level.”

He called on the government to also equitably distribute resources and ensure appropriate implementation to reach above-average education outcomes as well as resolve the decline in enrolment in selected regions such as the Volta Region and unavailability of textbooks particularly in Northern, Bono and Ahafo Regions.

The Director called on government to give equal priority to ‘Rearing for Food and Jobs’ just as ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ and prioritized and provide clear budgetary allocation to Rearing for Food and Jobs (RFJ), adding that the budget statement was silent on a dedicated expenditure line regarding key activities to be implemented in 2021 under the RFJ programme.

He also said the government must ensure gender responsive budget implementation in the fishing industry in the country and address challenges such as access to outboard motors, fishing nets which were of primary concern to men and access to improved ovens for women.

Mr Osei-Bimpeh said government could have been more innovative with the taxation option by targeting the ‘haves’ instead of burdening ‘the have-nots’, too, with the same taxes, adding that, some of the tax proposals in the 2021 budget were more consumption based and burden would fall more on the poor and vulnerable.

“The Sanitation and Pollution Levy could have been flapped as a kind of ‘sin tax’ or ‘polluter pay tax’ on plastic bag usage to address the plastic bag menace, as exist elsewhere including Germany, Belgium, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda and Botswana.”

SEND GHANA also observed poor budget execution and overdependence on donor funding across the sectors mentioned above and drew government’s attention to the weaknesses “because they possess a threat to attaining Ghana Beyond Aid and accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

It also noted that the 2021 budget statement did not indicate the actual fiscal performance of Ministries, Departments and Agencies and Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies on education and other sectors for the year ending 2020, adding that such information was relevant for assessing previous year’s performance based on which projections were made for the current and other years.

“Despite the Government of Ghana’s vision to pursue a structural economic transformation of Ghana that is prosperous enough to be beyond needing aid, our analysis of the national budgets (2018-2021) shows that the government still relies heavily on Development Partners (DP) to fund its capital investments.”

Source: GNA

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