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Dr James Owusu

Create Covid-19 hardship fund

ARTICLE BY DR JAMES OWUSU

 

THERE HAS been a lot of debate as to whether there should be a complete lockdown of Ghana or not.

There has been a surge in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 and this is a concern. Lockdown in Ghana might have some serious implications looking at our cultural and traditional practices.

In addition, we’re a developing country and we don’t have systems in place to mitigate lockdown. Looking at the number of cases being reported a total lockdown is inevitable, though. We need to think of long-term system of saving lives rather than looking at the short-term economic gains.

This is a matter of life and death and we need to act now. We understand if there is a total lockdown, there will be serious economic implications in terms of people losing their jobs, not being able to feed their family, pay their bills etc.

A lot of people are self-employed and locking down the system means their business will go under. The question is how can these people be supported by the government during this crisis? We’re not as rich as developed countries who have put in stimulus packages to support businesses and the self-employed and those on zero contract hours.

For example, the UK government has put in £330 billion to support businesses affected by the crisis. America has injected $2 trillion to support businesses.

In times like this we have to be innovative and creative, albeit using our local resources to solve our local problems. This is the time for all of us to come together regardless of party affiliations to solve this pandemic. We can look at the following proposals:

1. Government can set up Covid-19 Hardship Fund.

2. All businesses legally registered can be supported by the fund for at least 3 months. This can be reviewed after 3 months. VAT and other taxes must be suspended for that period.

3. All commercial transport drivers who are legally registered with DVLA will not be operating for 4 weeks to slow the transmission. Government will provide some financial support to mitigate the cost of living.

4. There should be an emergency legislation to stop evictions and defer rent payments or mortgage holidays for 3 months for those who have lost their jobs or cannot work because of the lockdown.

These are difficult times and difficult decisions have to be made to solve difficult problems. These are unprecedented times and we must be open and transparent with people.

We all know people’s livelihoods will be affected. However, we need to look at the long-term impact if we don’t take drastic measures to stop the spread.

At times like this, we have to recognise the value of each other and the strength of a society whose members care for each other and care for all.

Dr James Owusu is a senior lecturer and a consultant at Leyden Educational Consultancy based in the United Kingdom.

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