As part of efforts to mitigate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses, households and individuals, Mr. Anthony Akoto Ampaw – a private legal practitioner – has urged banks to review their interest rates downward.
He said the country could not begin any serious economic revival unless the banks are ready to change their interest rate policies.
“Let’s face it, in other countries it is the banks that provide credit for economic activity; I mean real economic activity.
“Our banks are major parasitic institutions in the country. That is why banks continue to charge interest rates of 20 to 30 percent,” Mr. Ampaw stated at the virtual launch of the Ghana CSO COVID-19 Response Coordination Platform.
“Who can go into production and be able to make a return that allows you to pay a 20 to 30 percent interest rate,” he quizzed.
“Our banks must be forced to recognise that either they are in the country to help us develop or we do not need them.”
The Platform, which is being funded by the STAR Ghana Foundation, is a network of independent, non-partisan like-minded civil society organisations (CSOs) and citizens’ networks coordinating around a structured response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Ampaw noted that the COVID-19 pandemic is not going to go away soon: “There are projections by those who are working in the field that there is likely going to be many more pandemics as we move into the future”.
He said the key thing is to identify the structural defects which the pandemic has exposed, and therefore to rethink how Ghanaians organise themselves as a society.
“In that respect, I do not think that we should do business as usual. We should not simply say we are waiting for the pandemic to end so that we go about doing things in the same old way. Because doing things in those old ways has been proven by experience and history to be a total failure,” he said.
“We must recognise that our political elite have generally failed us as a nation. And so, if we sit back and allow them to continue setting the agenda nothing is going to happen,” he said.
“It is true that we all know that the structure of our economy is such that we can’t make any real progress; but what are we doing about that,” he asked.
He said: “We will not be able to make any serious headway on this matter unless as a nation we develop a new attitude for development”.
He said CSOs have an opportunity to provide the platform to engage in a serious debate as to the strategic way forward.
He noted that the strategic way forward must be based on active promotion and support for the economy’s productive sectors, and not for the export-specific sectors which continue to dominate public life and policy.
Mr. Ampaw noted that there is a need for CSOs to compel government to consciously promote a strategic alliance between science, technology and production, saying: “If we don’t do this, we will be talking about these things for the next hundred years; nothing is going to change”.
He said it is high time for civil society to organise a well-structured national conference on the questions of development and inclusiveness arising from the COVID-19 experience.