Although some health professionals and lay persons have expressed their disappointment at President Akufo-Addo’s lifting of the 3-week partial lockdown on Sunday, April 19; Secretary-General of the TUC, Dr. Yaw Baah – an ardent advocate for a total lockdown at the onset of the novel virus – has come out to say more jobs and business would have collapsed if the restriction ban was not lifted.
A former Director-General of Ghana Health Service, Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, and an Infectious Disease Specialist in the USA, Dr. Bertha Serwaa-Ayi, are both seasoned health professionals who have some reservations about the timing for lifting the partial lockdown.
The health professionals believe the government should have first considered the exponential growth of the coronavirus disease thoroughly before taking the decision. On the other hand, however, Professor Peter Quartey, Director of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), stated that the president’s decision to lift the partial lockdown will save the Ghanaian economy from a potential recession.
The ISSER boss observed that allowing businesses to re-open will eventually boost the economy, considering the fact that the informal sector makes up 80 percent of the economy.
Dr. Quartey was however quick to note that the country might overrun its budget deficit this year, and might have a debt to GDP ratio with an unsustainable threshold – but that should not be too surprising since we are not in normal times, he added.
Prof. Quartey further explained that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) might decline for two consecutive times, should the country fail to revamp the economy. He noted that a recession will occur when there are two consecutive GDP declines for two quarters within a year.
From the foregoing, therefore, we can appreciate the dilemma that confronts the country’s economic management team overseen by the president, and the decisions they have to take in the interests of the economy’s overall health.
So dire is the situation that the government is looking to suspend the statutory fiscal rule the requires the budget deficit in any given year does not exceed 5 percent of GDP. Mr. Ofori-Atta is expected to tell parliamentarians in the coming weeks that the 5 percent deficit rule is a luxury government cannot afford at this time.
Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Information Minister, has, however, come out to say that if Ghanaians flout measures put in place to stop the spread of the virus and there is a spike of infections, more draconian measures will be imposed.
We, therefore, cannot rest assured that lifting the lockdown will be a permanent feature, and this is an opportunity for the informal economy to make hay while the sun shines.