Mixed reactions have greeted calls for a nationwide lockdown following the increasing number of confirmed Coronavirus cases.
While some like the Ghana Medical Association had argued for a shutdown to forestall any further spread of the virus, others argue that Ghana’s economy may not support such move.
Contributing to the discussion on the Citi Breakfast Show, a Health Economist at the University of Ghana, Dr. Gordon Abekah-Nkrumah, suggested means by which government could raise additional money to support a possible lockdown.
“…I have argued that if we look at the 2020 budget, we probably may have to do some sort of reprioritization. So for instance, we can look at the capital expenditure budget. We can reallocate that amount because we are not in normal times. So if we decide to forgo our capital expenditure budget, at the moment with the exception of the one that is related to health, I don’t think that that will hurt,” he suggested.
“We can also begin to look at domestic borrowing. An easy candidate could be pricing up the rate a little bit and I imagine that people might want to invest in that so that we can have a bit of domestic money. We can also look at reallocating the Eurobond money. That money has already been allocated but we can reallocate and see what we can get from there and begin even as we also engage with our external partners,” he added.
Government’s response to calls for lockdown
In as much as many groups are calling for a total lockdown of the country or the cities with the most number of cases of the novel coronavirus, the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has said that the request for a lockdown is not a decision to be taken lightly.
According to him, President Nana Akufo-Addo has instructed the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta to conduct an economic impact assessment of potential lockdown measures on the country.
“The President has instructed the Minister responsible for Finance to build the economic impact assessment which he did about two or three weeks ago and even presented parts of it to Parliament,” Mr. Oppong Nkrumah said to the press on Wednesday afternoon.
“But he has also instructed him to work out the implications of any further measures on the economy and how to put in place economic measures, what people call a stimulus programme to ensure that these measures do not adversely hurt the economy.”
Use Eurobond for COVID-19
Also suggesting similar measures to raise money to handle the spread of the virus is the National Democratic Congress’ (NDC) technical committee on COVID-19.
According to them, the government should amend the proposed plan for the utilization of the US$3 billion Eurobond so funds could be made available to support the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic and related expenses.
A member of the committee, Cassiel Ato Forson, proposed the alternative funding strategy during a media encounter in Accra on Wednesday.
“We humbly appeal to the government to amend the proposed utilization of US$3 billion Eurobond proceeds to make funds available immediately to cater for the COVID-19 related expenses and the possible adverse economic shocks that may occur,” he noted.