Editorial: Funding critical to acquiring additional vaccines…

Pierre Frank Laporte, World Bank,

World Bank Country Director, Pierre Frank Laporte, has expressed concern that the economy stands a risk of not growing as fast as projected should the vaccine roll-out not go according to plan.

The World Bank projects the economy to grow at 4.5 percent for the year, lower than government’s target of 5 percent as forecasted in the 2021 Budget Statement.

Mr. Laporte however believes that projection could be thwarted if the challenges of procuring vaccines persists for a long time.

“What will be critical is how fast we can deliver this,” he observed. “Should this happen, I don’t expect any disruption of the growth forecast.”

The World Bank approved a US$200million second additional funding for the Ghana COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Project to provide financing for the procurement of vaccines for some 13 million people in the country.

The vaccine roll-out in sub-Saharan Africa remains the slowest in the world. Less than 1 adult in every hundred is fully vaccinated, compared to an average of over 30 in more advanced economies.

Owing to the severity of the situation at hand, the International Monetary Fund has put forward a proposal that targets vaccinating at least 40% of the total population of all countries by end-2021, and at least 60% by the first-half of 2022.

Without significant, upfront, international assistance—and without an effective region-wide vaccination effort, the near-term future of sub-Saharan Africa will be one of repeated waves of infection. In short, without help, the region risks being left further and further behind.

Hence, Ghana and other African countries will receive US$23billion out of the US$650billion Special Drawing Rights from the International Monetary Fund to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

The Ghana COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Project is confident that additional funding will enable the country to explore the acquisition of more COVID-19 vaccines from a range of sources to support Ghana’s target to vaccinate 17.5 million people.

Such support from multi-lateral institutions like the IMF and World Bank is crucial to assisting deprived regions like Africa procure vaccines so necessary to avert a larger catastrophe.

The unprecedented US$650billion new SDR allocation, far and away the largest in the Fund’s history, once approved will make US$23billion available to member-countries in sub‑Saharan Africa.

Editorial 2: Commit more budgetary funds to agriculture for transformational agenda…

Total expenditure allocation for the agriculture sector in the past four years from 2017 to 2020 has stayed below one percent of government’s total spending in the economy.

In 2014, the African Union (AU) member-states adopted the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods (the Malabo Declaration).

It is an essential document that assists AU member-states to achieve agriculture-led growth, and end poverty and hunger.

Although positive progress is being made, the consensus is that the continent as a whole is not on track to meeting the goals and targets of the Malabo Declaration by 2025.

Prior to Malabo, at the Second Ordinary Assembly of the African Union in July 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique, African heads of state and government endorsed the ‘Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa’.

The Declaration contained several important decisions regarding agriculture, but prominent among them was the “commitment to allocate at least 10 percent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and to achieve 6% growth of the agriculture economy”.

Total spending for the agriculture sector in 2017, which was GH¢384.6million, constituted just 0.71 percent of entire government expenditure. In 2018 total spending on the sector rose to GH¢502.7million, which comprised 0.79 percent.

There was a significant increase in the sector’s investment in 2019 to GH¢635.5million, making it about 0.86 percent, with GH¢576.9million being expenditure for 2020 constituting 0.68 percent.

An organisation that collaborates with civil society organisations around the world to analyse and influence public budgets in order to reduce poverty, the International Budget Partnership (IBP) notes Ghana’s performance on African Agricultural Transformation Scorecard (AATS) – Malabo Declaration, currently ranks at 6.67 out of 10 percent.

Not too bad, but Mali (6.82), Morocco (6.96), and Rwanda’s (7.24) agriculture sector performance is stronger than that of Ghana. It only goes to show there is much more room for improvement in spite of programmes like Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ).

The year on year adverse variations in the requests made by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) to support expansion of the fertiliser subsidy programme, which have been met by fiscal policy caps by the Ministry of Finance, is also worrying, IBP said.

1.5 million farmers are targetted to benefit from the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ initiative this year, a significant increase from the total 1.2 million farmers who benefitted from the policy in 2020.

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