COVID-19 not an excuse for gov’t to overstay its first term — Oppong Nkrumah

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Government has clarified that it is not exploring any avenue to use the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) disease to go beyond its first-term legal mandate.

However, it maintained that the only way to do so will be through the electoral processes as determined by the constitution of the country, done in a safe, free and fair environment.

According to the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, government has taken note of commentary to suggest that “some possible governance arrangements can be appropriate if it becomes impossible to hold elections in December”.

It was against this backdrop that he said “government does not contemplate any justifiable reason to seek extending its first-term constitutional mandate with the virus as an excuse without safe, free and fair elections.”

He said government “is of the view that instead of contemplating measures that are not envisaged in the constitution, our best energies, innovation and creativity should be invested in exploring how Ghana can have safe and free elections”.

The minister, who was speaking at the regular press briefing organised by the Ministry of Information to give updates on the coronavirus disease, observed that examples can be taken from South Korea and other countries which have been able to successfully go through elections in these periods.

Meanwhile, he said, government has met to examine the impact of COVID-19 so far on the various sectors of governance.

Mr. Oppong Nkrumah explained that the Ministry of Finance had earlier indicated that Ghana’s projected growth is to take a hit from the initial 6.5 percent projection to about 2 percent. Also, the macro-fiscal position is projected to be affected, and these occasion some adjustments to be made.

The Cabinet retreat therefore offered a chance for all ministers to present how COVID-19 has affected their sectors, and what is expected to be done for recovery from the ‘slow-down’ attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.

Following this, he disclosed that the Minister of Finance has been tasked to ensure macro-fiscal slippages resulting from the outbreak of COVID-19 are reduced to the barest minimum.

“It has been obvious that this year’s deficit will exceed the 5 percent of GDP that we have all been trying to work toward. It is important to note, however, that this slippage is as a result of the massive cuts in national revenues due to the global economic slowdown and reduction in trade, and the need to expand some expenditure items to help contain the situation.”

Additionally, he further revealed that the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning has been tasked to prepare a recovery programme for the economy. This is expected to be done by the Finance Minister and presented to Parliament for approval, after prior approval by the Cabinet.

The programme is expected to outline how fiscal interventions can assist specific sectors of the economy to achieve a rebound. Government has also decided to prioritise some key sectors of the economy: including health, roads, education, agriculture, social protection among a few others.

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