Government had big plans for the 2020 fiscal year when it delivered the budget in November 2019. The fiscal year was tagged the ‘Year of roads’.
This was an indication of how heavy it was going to be on infrastructure, particularly roads.
However, the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020 greatly affected government’s revenue and expenditure.
As a result of the ravaging impact of the pandemic, on almost every domestic economic activity, the government, like many other governments globally, has struggled to keep the economy stable amidst several restrictions and interventions in an attempt to fight the disease.
These restrictions began with the announcement of a partial lockdown, by President Akufo-Addo on March 27th, as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Ghana, but it was lifted after 3-weeks.
On May 31, 2020, government announced the gradual easing of the ban on public gatherings which had been in place since March.
As part of measures to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic in the country, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo again announced that all households and small to medium scale enterprises were to benefit from a stimulus package of one billion Ghana cedis.
This was behind the creation of a Coronavirus Alleviation Program to revive the country’s affected industries and address the disruption in economic activity caused by the pandemic.
Furthermore, as part of efforts to lessen the burden on consumers, President Akufo-Addo announced that government would absorb all water bills for all users for the period spanning, April to June 2020.
The government also requested for 11.8 billion Ghana cedis in supplementary estimates for the 2020 financial year to support its expenditure for the year particularly due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will be also recalled that the government in the 2020 Mid-year budget announced a reduction in the Communication Service tax from 9 to 6 percent, and continued the free water supply programme to Ghanaians and free electricity supply to lifeline consumers for the rest of the year.
But, with the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine, how have Ghanaians been keeping through all the difficult times?
“It has really been hard, even transportation to the workplace has become very difficult,” Francis Ninson, a lab technician at the Adabraka Polyclinic lamented.
Jake Ofori, a security guard noted that, “Formally, we are paid on time, but because of the pandemic, we have lost most of our contractors. So our managers cannot pay us on time.”
Also, as the Majority Leader and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu prepares to present the 2021 budget statement in Parliament on Friday, March 12, 2021, Citi Business News sought the expectations from Ghanaians.
For Francis Ninison, he wants government to reduce taxes.
“The COVID-19 has really hit the country especially the youth. A lot of us are in the house while others have lost their job. So we are expecting the government to tell us how they will create employment for the youth. Also, we are expecting government to reduce the taxes we pay because things are difficult now,” he said.
Paul Glover, a National Service Personnel at the ADB bank, called on government to continue providing free water to Ghanaians.
“My issue is that while most of those in government are getting free electricity and water, we don’t. This is bad, so we are expecting the Finance Minister to make provision for free water and electricity for us, especially those in deprived areas. We are expecting to hear that,” he lamented.
But for Eric Taylor, a teacher, among other things, he wants government to touch on education.
“I am expecting the budget to touch much more on energy because energy is the backbone of the economy. Some years back, the NDC government were lashed because of the dumsor challenges, now NPP government came to inherit some problems and challenges and they have been able to improve a little on it so I am expecting the Finance Minister to explain how they are going to boost the energy system especially the electricity system in the country,” he said.