The Trades Union Congress has commended government for its introduction of the Coronavirus Alleviation and Revitalisation of Enterprises Support (CARES) programme, and indicated that hundreds of thousands of jobs and livelihoods depend on diligent implementation of the programme.
In the TUC’s preliminary comments on the Mid-Year Review of the 2020 Budget Statement and Economic Policy, the Union said: “Coronavirus has fully evolved into a full-blown economic and employment crisis. Hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians have already lost their jobs and livelihoods. The measures announced by the Minister for Finance in the mid-year budget review have come at the right time.
“The extension of financial support to larger businesses, the proposed unemployment insurance scheme, and the training and retraining programmes are timely interventions which will help ease the burden on businesses and workers in these difficult times The TUC fully supports these initiatives. We are ready to work with government and all other stakeholders to design and implement these important initiatives.”
The TUC recalled how, in May 2020, it called for additional stimulus to support businesses and workers, and therefore welcomed the programme with the hope that it will deliver on its promise to transform the economy.
“According to the Minister for Finance, the three-and-a-half-year programme is designed to mobilise GH¢100billion between 2020 and 2023. As the Minister for Finance stated in his presentation to Parliament, the Ghana CARES Programme has benefitted immensely from wider stakeholder consultations. That is part of its strength.
“In our view, the programme has the essential elements needed to address the impact of COVID-19 on workers and households, as well as on businesses in the short- to medium-term as envisioned under the Ghana Beyond Aid initiative. The increased funding to enable the CAP-BuSS (Coronavirus Alleviation Programme Business Support Scheme) to support a lot more MSMEs is a step in the right direction. Equally important and necessary is the decision to extend support to larger businesses that are not covered under the current CAP-BuSS.”
The TUC believes that support is needed to enable big businesses to weather the COVID-19 storm and retain their employees. It feared that without the support many businesses, especially those in the hospitality, manufacturing, private education and aviation sectors, will in no time be forced to terminate employment for a significant number of workers.
On the National Unemployment Insurance Scheme, the TUC applauded the decision, saying: “The proposed scheme presents a great opportunity for assisting the current cohort of workers affected by COVID-19 and at the same time prepare the nation adequately for future crises. TUC also welcomes the seed-fund for training and retraining of workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The training and retraining programme will allow a significant number of workers to upgrade their skills and competencies, and enable them to return to the labour market”.
Regarding the pandemic’s impact on the economy, employment and livelihoods, the TUC noted again that: “In April, when the Minister for Finance appeared in Parliament, he hinted at a dramatic drop in national output as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Following the partial lockdown of Accra and Kumasi, the minister estimated that GDP growth for 2020 will be 1.5 percent – down from the initial projection of 6.8 percent at the beginning of the year.
“In the mid-year budget review, the growth projection has been revised to 0.9 percent. This will be the lowest growth rate since 1984. But Ghana is not alone in this spectre of decreasing national output. Africa’s economy will decline by about 3.2 percent, which will be the continent’s first recession in 25 years. The world economy, as a whole, is expected to contract by 5.2 percent according to the World Bank.
“The decline in economic activities has translated into equally massive employment and livelihood losses in a short space of time as a direct result of the pandemic. The indirect or secondary impact on jobs and livelihoods has equally been substantial. Without significant government intervention, many more people risk losing their jobs and livelihoods.”
On measures taken to mitigate the social, economic and health impact of the pandemic, the TUC is of the view that since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, the government has implemented several measures aimed at containing its spread while moderating its economic and social impact on the population. For the union, the National Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (NEPRP) has been quite effective.
It explained that under the NEPRP, extensive testing, contact tracing and treatment have been achieved. The union added that thousands of additional health personnel were recruited for this exercise, and government has also provided personal protective equipment, incentive package for frontline health personnel, and extensive education on the pandemic among other measures.
The TUC acknowledged that on the economic and social fronts, the response has equally been strong; and through the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) government has implemented a series of interventions intended to reduce the population’s suffering. Among these are free delivery of both cooked and dry food packages to poor and vulnerable individuals and household, as well as free water and free or subsidised electricity to households and businesses.
“Under the CAP Business Support Scheme (CAP-BuSS) government has rolled out a soft loan scheme to support micro, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) as part of measures to preserve jobs and livelihoods.
“Government has also established the COVID-19 National Trust Fund, which has so far mobilised over GH¢53million in donations. The Trust Fund has supported the procurement of PPEs and other medical items, COVID-related education and sensitisation material, studies on the impact of the pandemic, as well as the construction of the very first infectious disease centre in Ghana” the statement said.