Former president and flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress, John Dramani Mahana says he is happy President Akufo-Addo took into consideration some of the recommendations he made to cushion Ghanaians during this lockdown period.
Taking credits for being the first to come out with such ideas, Mahama said he made some suggestions to government and is glad the Akufo-Addo-led administration factored it in the address to the nation.
President Akufo-Addo on April 5, 2020, announced relief packages in a bid to curb the impact of the virus on the social and economic life of the ordinary Ghanaian.
Among such interventions is the absorption of water bills for all Ghanaians for the next three months, roll out of a soft loan scheme up to a total of GHC600m which will have a one-year moratorium and a two year repayment period for micro, small and medium-scale businesses, a tax holiday for frontline health workers for the next three months and an additional allowance of 50 percent of their basic salary per month for April, May, and June among many others.
This was however met with disdain from the opposition party as they claimed credit for the initiatives. The NDC’s General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia and Communications Director, Sammy Gyamfi both accused the ruling NPP government of ‘stealing’ ideas proposed by Mahama to score political points from Ghanaians.
Reacting to this, ex-president Mahama said “Last week, I made some suggestions about drawing money from the Stabilization Fund to cushion some of the unintended consequences of the partial lockdown. These included some temporary relief from utility tariffs including water and electricity.”
“I suggested a flexible adjustment in timelines for submission of SSNIT returns due to the manpower downturn occasioned by the pandemic. I also requested consideration of some tax relief for small businesses and tax exemption on critical medical items and other goods required for our COVID-19 response effort.”
“I also suggested the scrapping of the 50% increase in the Communications Service Tax (CST) and negotiations with the Telcos for some reduction in data tariffs in exchange for a free six-month extension of their licences. This will be a welcome relief for thousands of Ghanaians who are having to work from home. I urged government to provide food from the National Buffer Stock Company or elsewhere to alleviate hunger in the most deprived communities within the lockdown areas.”
“I am grateful to note that some of these suggestions were taken on board during the President’s last broadcast to the nation. While the announcement of relief from water tariffs was received with appreciation, the lack of water in many parts of the specified areas make the three-month cancellation of tariffs meaningless for some,” he added.
Moreover, Mahama urged the Ghana Water Company to supply water to every Ghanaian irrespective of the outstanding bills they have to settle and urged Ghanaians not to waste the water given to them since we’re not in normal times.
“The Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) must be supported to increase the supply of water to make this gesture meaningful to all. Our people are also urged not to waste water at this critical time. Clear instructions must be given to GWCL that the Presidential directive of three months relief from water tariffs means that no consumer must be billed for the months of April, May, and June. This is notwithstanding if they have arrears on their bills or not,” he said.
He further pledged his party’s support in the fight against the coronavirus and said the Minority on Parliament’s Finance Committee has been advised to participate in meetings to discuss modalities for the disbursement of the proposed stimulus package.
“Our (NDC) representatives on the Finance Committee of Parliament have been urged to fully participate in the expected meeting on Thursday with the Ministry of Finance to discuss the modalities for the disbursement of the proposed stimulus package.”
“We will table proposals to ensure that this money is utilized efficiently and administered in a manner that is fair and just to all Ghanaian businesses that are suffering the adverse effects of the economic slowdown occasioned by this dreadful COVID-19 pandemic.”