Gov’t offers more reliefs: three months of free water, electricity and more

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Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta

 As part of efforts by the Akufo-Addo government to mitigate the effects of the novel coronavirus on the economy, it has put in place some measures to see to it that Ghanaians do not feel the full impact of the pandemic.

Government says it will, in the coming days, officially announce the setting up of a GHC100 billion development programme, known as the ‘Ghana Coronavirus Alleviation Revitalisation of Enterprises Support Programme: Ghana CARES’.

The initiative, which was informed by broad consultations, and has been named the ‘Obaatanpa Programme’, is aimed at transforming the economy from its current state and also cushion all sectors that have been hardly hit by the COVID-19.

Presenting the 2020 Mid-Year Budget Review in Parliament yesterday, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, noted that the government’s audacious move is not only to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, but to also implement programmes that will transform the state.

The Minister also announced another three months of free supply of water and electricity to all Ghanaians. He explained, however, that the free electricity supply will be enjoyed by lifeline consumers for the rest of the year.

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“It takes a caring government of the people, and with that, I mean a government of all the people, to offer cost-free water to all across the country: representing all domestic and commercial customers in Ghana for three months,” he said.

Vital lessons

According to the Finance Minister, lessons learnt from the COVID-19 outbreak as well as the enticing emergency social support and economic stimulus packages announced by G20 and OECD countries has flared up the government’s passion for Ghana and to re-energise its efforts to create prosperity for the citizenry.

“Mr Speaker, the Ghana CARES Obatanpa programme is an unprecedented, bold and audacious GH₵100 billion programme for us to re-imagine and re-envision our future like never before. It is sequenced in two phases: a Stabilisation Phase that runs from July to the end of the year (2020); and a medium-term Revitalisation Phase will accelerate the Ghana Beyond Aid transformation agenda,” he said.

Details of Obatanpa

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Giving a hint of what the Obatanpa initiative entails, Mr Ofori-Atta pointed out that under the Stabilisation Phase of Ghana CARES, government will ensure food security, protect businesses and worker incomes, strengthen the health system, attract private investments and support Ghanaian businesses.

He added that the government will intensify support for farmers through the Planting for Food and Jobs and Rearing for Food and Jobs programmes, and will also aggressively facilitate access to financing for rice millers to enable them to purchase paddy from rice farmers.

“In addition, we will provide financial support to the National Buffer Stock Company and Ghana Commodity Exchange to enable them store and trade stocks as needed to smoothen out supplies on the market,” he said.

CST reduction

Also, the Finance Minister said that, going forward, the government will work with telecommunication companies and the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to rollout fibre across the country on the back of the electricity distribution network so that every citizen nationwide will have access to high speed broadband.

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He further announced a reduction in the Communication Service Tax (CST), from nice per cent to five per cent in the short term, to reduce the cost of communication services to the consumer.

“We will count on the telcos to match this reduction in the CST by reducing their tariffs. This is important for our youth, entrepreneurs and the burgeoning FINTEC industry,” he said.

Health workers

Again, health professionals will also heave a sigh of relief with the provision of a GH¢10 million life insurance package for them. Government has also waived taxes for some 137,000 health workers

“Mr Speaker, in motivating health personnel, government has provided a life-insurance package of 10m Ghana cedis for those directly involved in surveillance case, management laboratory, and all other health and allied personnel who get infected,” he said.

“Additional provision was made over time and re-space payment for key front-line workers. Transport cost and cost for contact tracers and field surveillance officers also absorbed by government to further cushion and incentivise frontline workers,” he added.

 

Source: Daily Statesman

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