Today is day 5 of the two week partial lockdown declared by the President last week. We must all continue to cooperate with these directives and STAY HOME. We need to stay home to prevent a faster spread of the COVID-19 virus and slow the rate of infection.
While we observe the period of lockdown, it is incumbent on Government to also take urgent action to resolve some of the obvious shortcomings in our response to the pandemic. The unpleasant news of an eminent strike by health workers at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital because of the poor response to COVID-19 is most disturbing.
The situation in Korle Bu is not an isolated case. Complaints of lack of PPEs and isolation facilities are coming from many health facilities across the country and it is important that steps are taken to identify areas of urgent need and supply the resources and logistics needed to build the confidence of our frontline health workers to battle this disease.
The well-intentioned lockdown has obviously led to some unintended consequences and I believe it is time to utilize the Stabilization Fund to build some additional buffers for the economy. The use of the fund should be directed at cushioning the general population through this period of economic slowdown. These measures may include short term temporary tariff relief in respect of utilities.
While petroleum prices have dropped in recent times, the directive to commercial drivers to reduce the number of passengers means their incomes have also reduced. Additional relief in the form of a temporary waiver of some petroleum taxes to further reduce fuel prices will be helpful to the motoring public, especially commercial drivers.
Additionally, since a significant number of people are in WFH (working from home) mode, the use of data and ICT mediums have become imperative. Government should consider also a temporary relief from the Communication Service Tax (CST) in order to grant some relief to data users. Possible discussions between the National Communications Authority (NCA) and the telecommunications companies could yield positive results in providing some relief to their customers during this difficult period.
We can also consider applying some revenue to procure the appropriate materials to facilitate local production of face masks by our tailors and dressmakers. This will make available millions of reusable masks by the general public. This will allow for medical masks to be reserved for health personnel only. This project will help provide income for thousands in the textile and garment sector.
And finally, I thought in these times, the National Security Coordinator’s attention should be engaged with weightier matters of national security than who is presenting what branded item to our health facilities.
These are not normal times and we should elevate our activities above the petty partisan, parochial mode that we have been used to in the recent period.
John Dramani Mahama
April 03, 2020.