SONA, bold attempt to consolidate gains – Analysts

BY: Maxwell Akalaare Adombila
President Akufo- Addo
President Akufo- Addo

Three experts on the economy, industry and trade have described the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) as a bold blueprint to build on the successes chalked up in the last four years.

They told the Daily Graphic yesterday that the address sought to set the stage for the consolidation of the gains and the charting of new heights for the economy and the country in general.

The experts — Prof. Peter Quartey, the Director of the Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana; Dr Joseph Obeng, the President of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), and Mr
Seth Twum-Akwaboah, the Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) — were reacting to the SONA.

They cited the President’s commendation of the private sector for ensuring a steady supply of essential products during the peak period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rolling out of the stimulus support programme for businesses, the phased implementation of the Ghana COVID-19 Alleviation and Revitalisation of Enterprises Support (CARES) programme, the institutionalisation of credit and policy support schemes and the planned establishment of a National Development
Bank as some of the relevant initiatives by the government to help revive businesses and strengthen them in a post-COVID-19 economy.

First address

His first SONA since his re-election in December last year, the President used the opportunity, which is a constitutional requirement, to emphasise the need to work together to tackle COVID-19, revitalise private sector operations, stimulate growth and protect livelihoods.

He also stated that the establishment of the National Development Bank, under the Ghana CARES programme, would help provide support for businesses in Ghana.

“The government expects economic activity, which has already picked up, to do so even further, following the ongoing vaccination exercise and the easing of restrictions put in place to curb the effects of the disease. We expect gross domestic product (GDP) growth to rebound strongly this year to nearly five per cent, above the IMF’s 2021 January projection of 3.2 per cent growth for sub-Saharan Africa for 2021,” the President said.

Consequently, he said, the medium-term outlook, supported by the implementation of the Ghana CARES Programme, was bright, and the government was confident that “together, we will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with a stronger and more resilient economy”.

Positive tone

Prof. Quartey, who is a Professor of Economics, said such a tone was positive, ambitious and results-driven.

He said it showed the government’s commitment to work with the private sector to improve on the gains chalked up.

The former Head of the Economics Department of the University of Ghana said the assurance of a quicker rebound in growth reflected the impact targeted policies and programmes, such as the stimulus support, credit guarantee and tax incentives, were having on businesses.

He called on the private sector to embrace the opportunities provided by the government to grow their businesses and help return the economy to its pre-pandemic stage.

He further advised the government to target the pharmaceutical, information and communications technology (ICT) and agricultural sectors for additional support to help maximise their resilience.

Industrial development

Mr Twum-Akwaboah said the government’s commendation of industry’s response to the COVID-19 was motivating and could energise businesses to do more.

He said the results showed that the private sector was capable of producing to feed the nation when given the needed support.

He described the National Development Bank as a “critical ingredient for industrial development” which must be actualised quickly.

“We expect explicit information on when and how it will be set up. We also seek active involvement in its establishment to help structure it in a way that it can respond positively to the needs of industry,” he added.

Development Bank

For his part, Dr Obeng said the plan to establish a development bank was opportune, as it would address the long-dated challenges of access to and cost of credit to businesses.

He said the bank should be used to resolve the funding constraints which had been left unattended to by the mainstream banks over the years.

He also pledged the association’s support to the government to help structure the bank in a manner that would inure to the benefit of private sector development and the nation’s interest.