The Ghana COVID-19 Alleviation and Revitalization of Enterprise Support Programme (Ghana CARES) or Obaatampa Programme came up after the President tasked the Ministry of Finance to lead the development of a comprehensive government economic plan that can revamp and stabilize the economy during and post COVID-19.
The scheme has two phases. The first phase is aimed at stabilizing the economy by reducing the cost of basic services, ensuring food security, support businesses and workers, strengthen the health system, and pass legislations such as home ownership financing and tax exemptions to facilitate a quick economy recovery.
The second phase is to revitalize and transform the economy by supporting commercial farming and attracting educated youth into agriculture, building Ghana’s light manufacturing sector which targets agro-processing and food import-substitution, develop engineering/machine tools and ICT/digital economy industries, accelerate the implementation of government digital initiatives; digitize fiscal revenue collection; expand the fiber network backbone; and increase digital literacy and online education, develop Ghana’s housing and construction industry, by leveraging the construction of hospitals under Agenda 111, establish Ghana as a regional hub for finance, manufacturing, ports and logistics leveraging the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and reviewing and optimizing the implementation of Government flagships and key programmes for greater results, value-for-money, and fiscal sustainability. The second phase is envisioned to also strengthen the enablers of growth and transformation.
The 8 key projects under the Obaatampa Programme are
- supporting commercial farming and attracting educated youth into commercial farming.
- building the country’s light manufacturing sector.
- developing engineering/machine tools and ICT/digital economy industries.
- fast tracking digitalization.
- developing Ghana’s housing & construction industry.
- establishing Ghana as a Regional Hub.
- reviewing and optimizing the implementation of Government flagships and key programmes.
- creating jobs for young people, and expanding opportunities for the vulnerable in society, including persons with disabilities.
Supporting commercial farming
Commercial farming helps stabilize the economy by making more food available at a lower price. Commercial farming is basically the planting of crops with an aim of selling for money. The population of Ghana is relatively young. Only 3% of the total population are 65 years and above. Unemployment rate in Ghana is currently 4.51%, the agriculture sector contributed 17.31% to Ghana’s GDP in 2019.
This confirms that the country’s agriculture sector is a booming sector. The sector is noted as the second largest employer in the economy as it employs 29.27% of Ghana’s labor force. This means that this sector is a fertile sector and hence governments’ interest in supporting commercial farming and attracting educated youth into commercial farming.
Ghana, for the first time after a long while, has become a net exporter of food. In 2019, Ghana made an export of 140,000MT of food to some neighboring countries. With a track record of revamping the agriculture sector from 0.8% in 2011 to 2.9% in 2016, 6.1% in 2017, 4.8% in 2018 and back to 6.4% in 2019.
The government under the leadership of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo can properly manage the GH¢100 billion to supporting commercial farming and attracting educated youth into commercial farming through the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ), Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD), Rearing for Food and Jobs (RFJ), Greenhouse villages, Agriculture Mechanization Services (AMSECs) and others.
Targeting agro-processing and food import-substitution (specifically, in rice, poultry, cassava, sugar and tomatoes), pharmaceuticals, and textiles and garments, Ghana spends US$2 billion each year on food importation. The country imports rice, poultry, wheat, sugar, tomatoes, cassava, and others. Ghana currently imports over 700,000 MT tons of rice at an estimated cost of US$ 400million, representing about 60% of rice consumption in country, over US$100 million of poultry products a year and US$178 million of wheat in 2019. Ghana currently imports all of its refined sugar needs, costing about US$160 million in 2019 and the country imports US$140 million fresh and processed tomato-related products.
Building the light manufacturing sector
Government’s aim of building the country’s light manufacturing sector is basically to support local businesses to bring about competition in producing and processing raw materials to reduce dependence. The textile industry currently has four large textile mills; GTP, ATL, Printex and Volta Star Textiles, with an employment of about 7,500 workers and generates roughly US$ 50 million from exports.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry is targeting US$1 billion in total exports and creating at least 200,000 jobs in the sector over the next 10 years under the initial stages of the Ghana CARES Obaatampa Programme, the ministry aspires to generate US$200 million in exports and create 50,000 jobs in textiles and garments and this would build the country’s light manufacturing sector.
With the aim of building capabilities of the citizenry to manufacture machine tools to support the production and manufacturing of agricultural tools, food processing equipment, auto spare parts, building construction equipment and others under the GH¢100 billion Ghana CARES Obaatampa programme, government is going to support entrepreneurs with tech start- ups, fintech, apps for agriculture, business process outsourcing and others.
Government aims at completing and operationalizing the foundry being developed by the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation. This foundry will provide the foundation for local fabrication of machinery and spare parts. Government will work hand in hand with some private sector industries to develop and operate tech hubs in all the regions.
Fast tracking digitalization
The GH¢100 Billion Obaatampa Programme would go further to complement digitization. Ghana currently has gone digital through the implementation of a Digital Property Address system, moving 70% of the population to access financial services either through a bank or mobile money account, digitizing the ports, NHIS, GRA, DVLA and other government institution. 15.5 million people have been enrolled onto the National ID Card or the Ghana card.
As the President stated in his message on the State of the Nation, the National ID numbers will be linked to all SIM cards, bank accounts, Births and Deaths Registry, DVLA documents, and passports. Government hopes to expedite the implementation of its digital initiatives, digitize fiscal revenue collection, increase digital literacy and others.
Developing housing & construction industry
In developing Ghana’s housing and construction industry, government aims at setting up a working housing industry which would create jobs for the local artisans. Government under the GH¢100 Billion Obaatampa scheme to strengthen and expand housing mortgages.
After the passage of the Home Ownership Financing bill, government’s construction finance programme, there would be easy access to land purchase by housing estate developers. Government would anchor the construction of hospitals under Agenda 111 to strengthen the capacity of the construction industry.
Establishing Ghana as a Regional Hub
Through the strengthening of institutions like Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), Ghana Free Zones Authority (GFZA), and by overhauling the legal, policy and institutional framework for investment promotion, Ghana can establish the International Financial Services Center.
Ghana as a stable and peaceful democracy with considerable international good will, an English-speaking country with a relatively well-educated labor force and notwithstanding our geographical location and time and the hosting of the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Ghana undoubtedly, can be the best regional hub.
Reviewing and optimizing the implementation of gov’t flagships and key programmes
Government with the motive of reviewing and optimizing the implementation of its flagships and key programmes is undoubtedly a good call because it would result in “greater results, value-for-money, and fiscal sustainability.”
Flagship projects like Agenda 111, Free SHS and others need to be revised to suit current conditions. For instance, government aims on rebuilding the agricultural sector through the programme for Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) and stimulating industrial growth through 1D1F, these policies are sound and in the right direction.
However, a reviewing and optimizing these flagships tell the entire citizenry how ready the government is in achieving its projects. The Obaatampa Programme would equip the government to undertake its aim by providing capital for infrastructure, policy reviews, creation of jobs for all and others.
Creating jobs for young people, and expanding opportunities for the vulnerable in society, including persons with disabilities
To create jobs for young people, and expand opportunities for the vulnerable in society, including persons with disabilities, government has already begun some outstanding works. The 1D1F initiative has 76 operating companies, 112 companies, including five medium- size agro- processing factories and 63 common user facilities.
Government has successfully attracted major global vehicle manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Sino Truck to set up industries in Ghana. Initiatives such as planting for Food and Jobs, Rearing for Food and Jobs, the 1-Village-1-Dam initiative, 1-District-1-Warehouse policy, establishment of greenhouse villages, revitalization of the cocoa rehabilitation programme, and the reactivation of our aquaculture industry among others are being implemented. The Obaatampa GH¢100 Billion would aid the government to consolidate and further its gains.
The President, in his message on the State of the Nation, added that the establishment of the National Development Bank, under the Ghana CARES programme, is expected to provide support to businesses in Ghana. He added that government expects the GDP growth to strongly rebound this year to nearly 5%, above the IMF’s 2021 January projection of 3.2% growth for Sub- Saharan Africa for 2021.
The Obaatampa programme is really a Ghana beyond aid programme. The government is keen at transforming the country’s economy that was affected by Covid-19 Pandemic. This aims ensuring food security, protecting businesses and worker incomes, strengthening the health system, as well as attracting private investments and supporting the Businesses of Ghanaians. These are measures put in place by government to support all types of enterprises to come out of the wrecking effect of Coronavirus and to be able to create more jobs to employ and re-employ people.
This in effect would contribute tremendously to the economic growth of our motherland, Ghana. Government predicted that the impact of the coronavirus disease on the Ghanaian economy could last for three years and in order not to put Ghana’s economy in shamble, it has therefore developed a three-year COVID-19 alleviation programme called The Ghana CARES Programme known as the Obaatampa to help rescue the economy from the clutches of this global pandemic.
Having the Ghanaian economy grow would create more profits for businesses which would eventually result in the rise of stock prices. This would give companies, the right capital to invest and hire more employees and as more jobs are created, income also rises. Hiring more employees would directly reduce the rate of unemployment in the country.
Economic growth was projected at about 1% in 2020 due to the outbreak of the pandemic, which triggered a reduction in external demand and a terms of trade shock in the oil sector. The economic outlook of Ghana looks propitious even though it faces several risks and challenges. The wide spread of the coronavirus across the 16 regions in the country and lower oil prices would reduce Ghana’s trade, investment, and tourism activities.
It is encouraging to learn the benefits Ghanaians would gain from this programme which include;
- higher average incomes. Consumers would have access to more goods and services and enjoy better standards of living.
- The unemployment rate would reduce drastically. With the higher output and positive economic growth, firms tend to employ more workers, creating more employment.
- There would be lower government borrowing, creating higher tax revenues and there would be less need to spend money on benefits such as unemployment benefit. It would help reduce debt to GDP ratios as well.
- Public services would improve. This would enable government to spend on public services such as health care, education enabling higher standards of living such as increased life expectancy, higher rates of literacy and greater understanding of civic and political issues.
- Resources can be spent on protecting the environment. With a higher economic growth, a country can devote more resources to promoting recycling and the use of renewable resources.
Kandifo Institute, as a think tank revolving around leadership, governance, and economy, eulogizes the government for its Ghana COVID-19 Alleviation and Revitalization of Enterprises programme (Ghana CARES) Obaatampa programme, as it really is a real game changer.
With the above stated, the Ghana CARES Programme also called the “Obaatampa” will be of great benefit to Ghanaians, and it is going to make Ghana great again. This is an exhibition of a well- detailed Ghana Beyond Aid scheme which clearly indicates the genuine concerns of the President and his Ministers to revamp the Ghanaian economy.
Kandifo Institute admonishes Ghanaians to make good use of the Obaatampa Programme in all available ways because, it is a programme developed for the entire citizenry. We must change the narrative and as such, conversations must go beyond partisanship as it is a scheme for the entire Ghanaian populace. This is a realistic and possible Ghana Beyond Aid scheme.
>>>The writer is Executive Director, Kandifo Institute. He can be reached on [email protected]