Acquire COVID-19 vaccines with tax revenue — Ishmael Yamson

BY: Maxwell Akalaare Adombila
Mr Ishmael Yamson
Mr Ishmael Yamson

A management consultant, Mr Ishmael Yamson, has entreated the government not to depend solely on donors and bilateral and multilateral benevolence for vaccines to protect the citizens against COVID-19.

He opined that resources to fund the procurement and deployment of the first consignment of COVID-19 vaccines must come from domestic sources and not borrowed funds.

According to him, the country needed “to demonstrate that we are ready to help ourselves” before calling for external support.

Mr Yamson, who is the Executive Chairman of Ishmael Yamson and Associates, told the Daily Graphic in an interview in Accra that using tax revenue to fund the vaccines would ensure flexibility in the receipt and usage of the consignment at a time when there was a global scramble for the vaccines.

He said it would also represent a sense of nationalism and proof that the leadership of the country was committed to safeguarding the people and the economy against a disease that had so far killed more than 577 people and pushed the economy into its first recession in more than 35 years.

Mr Yamson, who also chairs the Board of Scancon Limited, operators of MTN, spoke on a range of national issues, including how the country should confront the pandemic and the scars it leaves behind, how businesses and leadership could survive the pandemic and how the country could maximise information and communications technology (ICT) in a post-COVID-19 era.

He also touched on the election petition hearing at the Supreme Court and what it meant for the country’s future.

First consignment

The call comes at a time the country is set to receive its first consignment of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Programmes Manager of the Expanded Programme for Immunisation (EPI), Mr Kwame Amponsa-Akyianu, last Friday said the country would receive about 350,000 doses of the vaccines this month under a roll-out plan meant to cover 20 per cent of the population in the first phase.

External resources

Mr Yamson said although he was not against the use of external resources to fund the vaccine programme for the people, it was “out of place” to use external resources for the first consignment of vaccines proven to be the antidote to a disease killing hundreds of people and wreaking havoc on the economy.

“You can do both, but what I am saying is: do not let us depend solely on external funding because the external funding is not within your own decision to make,” he said.

“Are we saying that although we find all manner of wastes to spend Ghana's money on, we cannot find $10 million or so to buy vaccines if that is what is going to save our economy?

“If we cannot do that, then I am really sorry that we have to wait till we can borrow money, or the WHO or a bilateral arrangement can give us a grant,” the statesman said.

Mr Yamson also called for the equitable and targeted deployment of the vaccines to ensure that those who needed them most were the first to get the shots when the exercise started.

Economic recovery

The business executive further advised against a full-blown attempt to resuscitate the economy at a time when the virus was still in full gear.

He said the lethal nature of the virus meant that no meaningful economic recovery could occur if the pandemic was not brought under control.

Mr Yamson, therefore, urged the government to concentrate on containing the spread before attempts at economic recovery, since the latter could only happen in a COVID-19-free environment.