Stimulus packages; grants not gifts!

Without doubt, one sector that the coronavirus pandemic has hit hard is the tourism sector – a major foreign exchange earner for the country.

The tourism sector and hospitality industries have been identified as key catalyst for Ghana’s economic transformation and the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda towards sustainable development.

Ghana is endowed with so many tourism attractions that have become the cynosure of all eyes across world, resulting in streams of visitors to the country over the years.

The recent successful hosting of the ‘Year of Return’ to commemorate the 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade that attracted a large number of visitors attests to the potential of the tourism sector to become the main cash cow for the country.

Besides putting Ghana’s name high on the tourism destination map, the event succeeded in bridging the gap to a large extent, between Africans in the Diaspora and the African continent where they trace their ancestral lineage.

The successes chalked in hosting the event has led to the development of the ‘Beyond the Return’, a 10-year project, spanning between 2020-2030, meant to consolidate the gains made during the event, especially the economic benefits of revenue generation and job creation in the hospitality industry.

However, this laudable initiative stands threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought the hospitality industry almost to its knee, due to  the closure of land, sea and air ports worldwide as part of containment measures to stop the spread of the disease.

Happily, to ensure that the industry does not collapse completely, the government has initiated various interventions including stimulus packages to cushion the industry players.

One such initiative launched yesterday, is a $9million grant stimulus package from the World Bank, to support Small and Medium Scale Enterprise in the tourism value chain.

Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, said at the launch that modalities had been worked out to enable disbursement of the grants within the few weeks.

“It is our fervent hope that, the support would boost the tourism value chain that is reeling under the COVID-19 lockdown and travel restrictions and bring players in the sector back to life”, she said

While applauding the government for the support, we fully back the clarion call by the minister to the target beneficiaries to use the funds for the intended purposes, to enable the country to achieve maximum benefit from the project.

The Ghanaian Times wish to add that the grants are not freebies; but that they are intended to stimulate our indigenous businesses to grow and create more jobs and wealth for the country.

Often, there is the tendency for some beneficiaries to think that it is compensation from the government for loss of jobs and revenue by the industry players.

Our worry stems from the reports that some people allegedly used fictitious names and other data to try to access stimulus packages being disbursed for businesses, through the National Board for Small Scale Industries.

In fact, these laudable initiatives being rolled out for businesses are opportunities for businesses to demonstrate their abilities to rise up to the occasion by getting our economy back on track.

The international community would be watching Ghana with keen interest to see how we are able to take advantage of these resources to turn the economy around and make it very resilient.

We urge all the agencies that would be mandated to distribute the package to undertake vigorous and timely monitoring and evaluation of the projects of the beneficiaries to ensure value for the tourism value chain, and for that matter the economy.

We commend the development partners, the government and the World Bank for this laudable initiative, and hope that the beneficiaries would rise to the occasion and make the tourism industry not only great again but the number one foreign exchange earner for the country.

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