By Emmanuel Oluebube, Correspondent UK
The Board of Directors of the African Development Fund (ADF) on Friday approved a US$69 million grant to support Ghana’s efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its socio-economic impact on the nation.
The grant from the ADF, the concessional arm of the African Development Bank (AfDB), will provide fiscal budget support to finance the government’s national COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan, and Coronavirus Alleviation Programme.
Specifically, the funds will help to upgrade the capacity of healthcare facilities to isolate, diagnose and care for patients, and provide more test kits, pharmaceuticals, equipment and beds. It will also ensure adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and support financial incentives and an insurance package for health and allied professionals.
Ghana ranks fourth in COVID-19 infections in Africa after South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria. As of 24 July 2020, the West African nation has recorded 30,366 cases of the disease, with 26,687 recoveries and 153 deaths.
“Overall, the objective is to help contain the spread of the virus, expand testing and ease the impact of the virus on social and economic life, through measures aimed at protecting jobs, sustaining livelihoods and supporting small businesses,” said the Bank’s Director-General for West Africa, Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade.
The ADF grant is a Crisis Response Budget Support operation, disbursable in a single tranche under the Bank’s US$10 billion COVID-19 Response Facility. The grant aligns with one of the Bank’s High 5 priorities, namely to “Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa”.
Under Ghana’s COVID-19 response programme, all affected persons will receive free treatment and free water supply. Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSMEs) will benefit from a soft loan scheme with one-year moratorium and two-year repayment period. The private sector will also benefit from a tax freeze and refund, direct subsidies and a guarantee fund, enabling businesses to access bank credit.
The programme also aims to increase the percentage of the population tested from one per cent to three per cent by the end of December 2020, boost the number of points of entry reporting suspected cases of COVID-19 from 1 to 14 by the end of September 2020, and increase designated treatment centers with adequate intensive care facilities to 100 per cent by end December 2020.
As elsewhere, the pandemic has slowed down economic activity in the agriculture, industrial and services sectors. The agriculture sector, in particular, will likely record a lower performance since the disease has coincided with the onset of Ghana’s farming season.
The economy of Ghana, which exports gold, cocoa and oil, is negatively affected by a significant increase in public spending due to COVID-19. Real GDP growth is projected at 2.1 per cent in 2020 compared to 6.1 per cent in 2019, while the current account deficit is forecast to widen to 3.6 per cent compared to 3 per cent in 2019, due to a decline in export earnings and lower tourism revenues and remittances.
The COVID-19 pandemic could also deepen inequalities between men and women, with far-reaching health, social, and economic implications, Bank officials noted.