President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has disclosed that over 17billion cedis has been spent to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country since 2020.
According to the President, he took the decision to prioritize the saving of lives when the pandemic struck Ghana in March 2020.
Delivering the message on the State of the Nation on Wednesday in Parliament, President Akufo-Addo said as a result certain unplanned expenditures had to be done to save the lives of Ghanaians.
"The unplanned expenditures included, but were not limited to, the recruitment, on a permanent basis, of fifty-eight thousand, one hundred and ninety-one (58,191) healthcare professionals, and the payment of extra incentives to our frontline health workers," President Akufo-Addo said.
"It took an unbudgeted GH¢1.9 billion to ensure that our children and teaching staff went back and stayed in school safely. Some, including a few in this Honourable House, went as far as to accuse the government of trying to kill Ghanaian children when we introduced the controlled school re-openings. I might add here that, in some countries, school closures have lasted for twenty (20) months, and children are only now going back to school. Our children did not lose a single academic year.
"We provided nearly five million (5 million) households and over ten million (10 million) people with electricity and water subsidies at the time they were most needed.
"In all, data from the Ministry of Finance tells us that an amount of GH¢17.7 billion (or 4.6% of GDP) has been spent in containing the pandemic since 2020".
The President had earlier stated that the country could not have been prepared for the pandemic as "even the richest economies with the most sophisticated structures were unprepared".
He said at the time, Ghana's health and medical infrastructure was woefully inadequate and piles of dead bodies would have been strewn across the streets without an intervention.
He mentioned that the country had learnt some hard lessons and made investments to become self-sufficient, particularly with regard to vaccine production and health infrastructure.
He was hopeful that the construction of 111 hospitals under the Agenda 111 Programme would be completed before he exits office on January 7, 2025.
"We are undertaking the construction of 111 entities, which comprise standard 100-bed district hospitals for one hundred and one (101) districts without hospitals, with accommodation for doctors and nurses; six (6) new regional hospitals for each of the six (6) new regions; the rehabilitation of the Effia-Nkwanta Hospital in the Western Region; one (1) new regional hospital for the Western Region; and three (3) psychiatric hospitals for each of the three (3) zones of the country, i.e. North, Middle and Coastal," he said.
"Agenda 111 is an ambitious project, which must and will be done, and which will create some thirty-three thousand, nine hundred (33,900) jobs for construction workers, and, on completion, some thirty-four thousand, three hundred (34,300) jobs for health workers.
"Mr Speaker, I have to report that, like all major construction projects, it is evident that the initial schedule we gave for the completion of the Agenda 111 was overly ambitious. Identifying suitable sites around the country, for example, has turned out to be even more problematic than had been anticipated. I am able to say that a great deal of the preparatory work has now been completed, and work has started at eighty-seven (87) of the one hundred and eleven (111) sites. I have been assured that preliminary work on the remaining twenty-four (24) sites is ongoing".