COVID-19 stimulus packages essential for businesses

While the world struggles to find a cure for the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), every country is trying to find a remedy to the blows, which the pandemic has dealt various sectors of the economy.
In Ghana, one antidote, which the government and its development partners have adopted to cushion businesses, is the implementation of a number of stimulus packages through the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI).
They include the one-billion cedi COVID-19 Alleviation Programme Business Support Scheme (CAP BuSS), which has so far supported 240,000 businesses, including 110,000 led by women.
In addition, there is the GH¢90-million NBSSI/Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Programme for Micro, Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (MSMEs), otherwise known as Nkosuo.
Sectors being supported include agri and agro-businesses, water and sanitation, commerce and trade, technology, education, services, manufacturing, food and beverages and creative industry.
These are laudable programmes, which must be implemented well to achieve their goals because of the various restrictions imposed by the government to stop the spread of the virus that had dealt a heavy toll on businesses.
Last month, a Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) survey revealed that about 115,000 businesses had either permanently or temporarily closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related responses.
The ‘Business Tracker’ survey also found out that more than 45,000 workers lost their jobs during the partial lockdown, with workers in accommodation and food sectors being worst hit, while 770,000 workers of businesses had their wages reduced.
The survey also showed that more than two-thirds of businesses that were closed down were micro-sized whereas about a quarter of them engaged in the provision of accommodation and food services remained closed.
Businesses in the Greater Accra and Kumasi areas, where the partial lockdown was imposed, had the highest levels of closures with education being the hardest hit followed by financial services, transport, accommodation and manufacturing.
“About one in every 10 businesses in manufacturing, health-related, retail and wholesale, and construction /utilities are still closed down,” according to the GSS survey.
There are more surveys which are sector-specific and speak volumes of the extent of havoc done by the pandemic but looking at even the GSS data alone, we would not be wrong to say that it is clear many of these businesses cannot rise up from the ashes all by themselves.
The NBSSI, therefore, has a critical task to ensure that such stimulus packages become a useful tool in the recovery of businesses, especially MSMEs, which are said to constitute the chunk of businesses in the country.
If these businesses receive the support and they begin to flourish again, the positive impact would spread into the lives of their families and help solve social problems that have been heightened by the pandemic.
The Ghanaian Times, therefore, would like to urge beneficiaries to use the support for the intended purpose.
We are aware that these packages are not for free but are loans which have very flexible interest rates and payments schedules, so we would like to advise beneficiaries not to renege on repayment so that the funds could be channelled into other productive ventures, possibly another scheme, to support others.

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