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Private Enterprise Federation boss urges stronger state backing

“Where is the support system for business?” asks PEF chief executive Nana Osei Bonsu, as COVID-19’s toll on the private sector rises

The chief executive of the Private Enterprise Federation, Nana Osei Bonsu, says that the government has not done enough to help lessen the impact of COVID-19 on private business.

Nana Osei Bonsu, who was speaking this weekend on Town Hall Talk on Asaase Radio (99.5 Mhz), argued that businesses in Ghana have not received enough support to enable them to survive the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Where is the support system for businesses to take care of their employees? Where is the support system for businesses to create the PPEs, face masks, the sanitisers?

“And where is the support system for businesses to create virtual platforms to engage their workers in virtual discussions?” he asked.

Hard times

‘‘These are times that are very trying, and are upsetting the way that businesses normally operate, because this is unplanned, and you know businesses survive on predictability,” the PEF boss said. “So, if this unplanned budget is laid upon already difficult income streams, then you know what I mean by the damaging impact of COVID-19.’’

His comments came in response to a question put to him by the host of the show, Kofi Abotsi, about the impact of the coronavirus on local businesses and the government’s efforts to support them.

Nana Osei Bonsu said most Ghanaian businesses operate at grass-roots level, with little or no procurement power. As such, the capacity to procure the necessary tools to engage staff who may now be at home because of the risks posed by the disease – such as laptops and data – is beyond the means of most.

“Because of the kind of systems that we have, internet access by some businesses to be able to reach every employee at any time [is too expensive]. Social distancing is required, so we have introduced a shift system where two [staff] come in today and two come in tomorrow, [but] there is no co-ordination.

“So we’re trying our best to meet the dangers of the pandemic, we’re trying our best to do business, but it’s not easy. We are adapting, but slowly.”

The data bar

The PEF leader bemoaned the high cost of internet connectivity in Ghana. Telecommunications overheads for employers have soared, because most of them now mainly engage their staff on the phone and virtually.

“I have to be talking to my employees on the phone consistently. I have to be on the internet 24/7, they have to be on the internet 24/7,” Nana Osei Bonsu said. “So there’s the cost element.

“On the other side is the consistency and the quality of the service. And this is why we have to find ways collectively – not only government, but the private sector – to ensure that now that COVID has levelled the playing ground, the government should recognise, at the highest level, the immediate need [for] the availability of the internet.’’

In April this year the government rolled out a GHC600 million package in soft loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Ghana. The move, under the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme Business Support Scheme (CAPBuSS), was one of a raft measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the private sector.

President Akufo-Addo, unveiling the CAPBuSS, increased the size of the fund to GHC1 billion. He also announced favourable terms: the loans are repayable within two years and have a one-year moratorium.

“The Minister for Finance has been directed by me to prepare, for approval by Parliament, a Coronavirus Alleviation Programme to address the disruption in economic activities, the hardship of our people, and to rescue and revitalise our industries,’’ President Akufo-Addo said at the time. “He will then immediately make available a minimum of GHC1 billion to households and businesses, particularly small and medium-scale enterprises.”

Kennedy Mornah and Victor Atsu Tamakloe

* Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online.
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