US$100 million COVID-19 cash secured and available – Finance Minister Featured

By Richard Kofi Boahen March 30, 2020 2057 1353 comments

The government has announced that the cedi equivalent of the sum of US$100 million, earmarked by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for the fight against the novel coronavirus, is ready for disbursement.

“Contrary to views of some sceptics that the money is not available, I wish to assure you that the money has been secured and is available to be disbursed in accordance with our public financial management procedures and rules,” the Minister for Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta,  told Parliament today, Monday March 30.

“Indeed, from day one, the government has not stopped spending in the fight against COVID-19,” the Minister said.

He was in the House to brief the legislature on the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the economy.

Preparedness and response plan

“Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Finance has been working with the Ministry of Health to cost the National Preparedness and Response Plan, prepared by the Ministry of Health and the World Bank,” Mr Ofori-Atta told MPs. “The Preparedness Plan seeks to, among others, enable early detection and effectively manage and contain a COVID-19 outbreak in Ghana.”

The Minister said the initial cost of programmes and activities under the COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan is roughly GHC572 million ($100m).

The plan, he announced, seeks to strengthen co-ordination of Ghana’s overall preparedness activities; strengthen the capacity of regions, priority health facilities and points of entry; rapidly detect, investigate and control any COVID-19 outbreaks in Ghana; and strengthen the national capacity for laboratory surveillance and diagnosis.

It is also expected to build the nation’s capacity for early diagnosis, case management, contact tracing and infection prevention and control. It will further ensure that minimum health logistics are in place in prioritised regions and health facilities and at points of entry into the country, and equally sustain preparedness and laboratory capacity so that COVID-19 samples can be tested in a timely manner and to a high level of quality.

Finally, the plan will increase public awareness of Ghana’s COVID-19 risk mitigation measures and the tactics being adopted in response to it.

Alleviation plans

The Finance Minister said the Economic Management Team is working around the clock to reduce the accumulation of economic scar tissue from the disease, adding that the President is determined to cushion the economic and social difficulties the pandemic is visiting on Ghanaian businesses and people.

“Our task, therefore, is to minimise the huge threat of job losses and the impact of job losses.  The President and his team are thinking outside the box to ensure that that the principles of fiscal discipline are not jettisoned and, yet, still ensuring that people have money to spend.

“Our plan is to ensure that essential public investments are not mightily compromised, while at the same time enabling significant increase in spending on health. Beyond that, the government is committed to using this unprecedented challenge to our economy and society as rather an opportunity to fast-track even more our agenda to industrialise and become self-reliant,” he said.

Mr Ofori-Atta told the House that the establishment of the new Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP), as announced by the President on Friday, is to offset the impact of the pandemic on Ghanaian businesses and households, and ensure that economic activity is sustained.

A billion cedis set aside

He announced that he “will immediately release an amount of one billion Ghana cedis upon approval by Parliament. The ministry is proposing to use the equivalent of US$219m from the Stabilisation Fund.

“The CAP will focus on areas that will provide maximum results in alleviating the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with a focus on protecting against job losses, protecting livelihoods, supporting small businesses, and ensuring the programme is efficiently and sustainably implemented,” he also said.

The Finance Minister said the CAP will seek additional funding to promote selected industries to shore up production for export and import substitution, support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and create jobs. It will also partner with pension and insurance funds to create guarantees and first loss instruments.

“Targeted businesses and households will include those in the health sector, education sector, hospitality industry, SMEs and households hard hit by the coronavirus. The specific details of the CAP and the instruments to allocate the resources will be fashioned out shortly,” he said.  

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