Ghana has managed COVID-19 outbreak effectively, says IMF

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the launch of the mass vaccine rollout in the country has been a breakthrough

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says Ghana has been able to manage the COVID-19 pandemic effectively.

An IMF mission led by Carlo Sdralevich which held consultations under Article IV from 28 April to 12 May 2021 through virtual meetings concluded that “Ghana has managed very effectively the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, and thus succeeded in protecting lives. Almost 93,000 cases have been confirmed, and unfortunately, 780 people have died as of today. The launch of mass vaccine rollout has been a breakthrough, with the administration of approximately a million doses as of the end of May.”

The team had collaborative and constructive discussions with Vice President Bawumia, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, Dr Ernest Addison, Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), other senior government officials, the finance committee of Parliament, private sector representatives and the civil society organisations (CSOs).

“Obaatanpa” CARES programme

In a statement, the IMF team said, “The impact of the pandemic on the economy has been severe. Real GDP growth slowed to 0.4% in 2020 from 6.5% in 2019, due to lower activity in the extractive industries and a collapse in hospitality and retail services, including the informal sector that especially employs female workers. Inflation spiked to double-digit because of food price pressures, before falling to 8.5% in April 2021.

“Policy interventions in 2020 were also critical to safeguard livelihoods and paved the way for a faster rebound of economic activity. Real GDP growth is projected at 4.8% in 2021, driven by a rebound in mining and services. Inflation is expected to remain around the central bank’s target of 8% by the end of 2021. The CARES programme has the potential to be transformative and inclusive for the Ghanaian economy, buttressed by its emphasis on SMEs and digitalisation as well as leveraging the AfCFTA.

“Government interventions in 2020 also exacerbated pre-existing fiscal rigidities and public debt vulnerabilities. The government deficit, including energy and financial sector costs, reached 15.5% of GDP, while annual gross financing needs exceeded 20% of GDP. Public debt rose to 78% of GDP in 2020, from 64.4% in 2019, including ESLA of GHC7.63 billion in 2020,” the statement said.

The team also concluded that “The 2021 budget’s recent policy pivot towards fiscal consolidation is an important step in the right direction and a difficult one in a pandemic. Fiscal consolidation should be deepened and anchored around debt and debt service reduction to create space for social, health, and development spending.”

Fiscal consolidation

According to the team, “Given the social and equity implications, fiscal consolidation should rely more on progressive revenue and spending measures, while guaranteeing fiscal support to the most vulnerable and social safety nets.

“Despite progress in rationalising power generation, the financial viability of the energy sector affects people’s daily life and will remain a drag on productivity and a driver of public debt if not addressed decisively. Improving efficiency and collections remains a priority to achieve substantial savings.”

The team said the planned audits of COVID-19 emergency spending and of arrears accumulated in 2020—in addition to routine budgetary reporting practices “are welcome as they will help account for the increase of spending and its effectiveness, and provide lessons to improve the robustness of public financial management systems.”

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