The Ghana Employers Association (GEA), has expressed appreciation of all the policy revisions made to the 2020 Budget Statement to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and support businesses.
A statement signed by Mr Alex Frimpong, GEA, Chief Executive, which was copied to the Ghana News Agency said the measures would go a long way to aid the economy to recover rapidly to keep the Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda on course.
"We are confident that stakeholders will be involved in quickly fashioning out an effective execution system so that the laudable Stimulus/Relief Packages established, can be readily accessed by Businesses to keep them afloat and enable them to retain their staff," it said.
"Again, the GEA as always stands ready to join other relevant stakeholders to discuss the proposed National Unemployment Insurance Scheme for effective implementation."
The statement said the devastating impact of COVID-19 on businesses in particular, and the economy in general, could not be underestimated.
It said the GEA firmly believes, however, that working together with the Government and all other stakeholders in the true spirit of building the nation for the greater good, recovery would come sooner than later to keep hope alive.
The statement said the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana, since March 15, had created many uncertainties, financial challenges, and shortfalls in aggregate demand for businesses and employers in the country.
It said consequently, many enterprises had limited their operations with more workers facing the prospect of unemployment.
It noted that a clear understanding of the situation from the employers’ perspective was therefore imperative in proffering evidence-based policy recommendations for government’s consideration in its Mid-Year Review of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy and Supplementary Estimates for the 2020 Financial Year, as well as subsequent economic and social policies.
It said, for this reason, the GEA, as the mouthpiece of employers in Ghana, undertook a COVID-19 impact assessment survey of its members across all sectors of the economy to determine the actual impact of the pandemic on their businesses.
It noted that the survey results and policy recommendations were submitted to the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations and the COVID-19 Alleviation and Revitalisation Committee and Trades Union Congress (Ghana) for consideration.
It said in accordance with Article 179 (8) of the 1992 Constitution, Standing Order 143 of Parliament, as well as Section 28 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921), Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, the Minister of Finance, presented to Parliament for approval, the Mid-Year Review of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of Government and Supplementary Estimates for the 2020 Financial Year, on July 22, 2020.
"GEA welcomes the various policy revisions made to the 2020 Budget Statement, as the budget captures some of the recommendations made to Government via the Association’s COVID-19 survey report," it said.
"As part of the recommendations made, employers, through GEA, wanted Government to consider the following: Review upwards the COVID-19 stimulus package for ALL enterprises (i.e. Micro, Small, Medium and Large-scale enterprises).
"Support local firms to produce intermediate goods and raw materials to fill the supply chain gaps created by the pandemic."
Others are that the loans taken by the Commercial banks following from the 150-basis points reduction in the policy rate by the Bank of Ghana, be advanced to only COVID-19 affects businesses, Defer payment of VAT and Income Tax for three months, beginning from May 2020; and extend the date for filing of tax returns from the standard four months to nine months, for the general sustenance of businesses hard-hit by the pandemic.
It said the Mid-Year Budget Review had mainstreamed the first two of GEA’s recommendations through the formulation of the flagship GHc 100 billion Ghana COVID-19 Alleviation and Revitalisation of Enterprises Support (Ghana CARES) programme.
It said the GEA views this policy as a potent initiative that reflects realities of the current COVID-19 regime and if implemented effectively would enable the economy to recover in the short to medium term.
It said the programme shall comprise two phases - a Stabilization and Revitalization phase.
It said the Stabilisation Phase would, protect businesses and worker incomes, attract private investments and support Ghanaian businesses, strengthen the health system, ensure food security from July to December 2020; while the Revitalisation Phase would expand access to finance for Ghanaian businesses improve business regulations and their implementation, digitalization of the economy, skills development, and energy sector reform in the medium term.
It noted that specific policies to be implemented under the Ghana CARES programme for the next six months include: Increase the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme Business Support Scheme by GH¢150 million and establish a 2 billion Ghana Cedis Guarantee Facility to support all sectors of business and job retention.
Others are to reduce Communication Service Tax (CST) from nine per cent to five per cent and establish a National Unemployment Insurance Scheme (NUIS) to provide temporary income support to workers that are laid off due to COVID-19.