Accra — Depending on who you speak with, one would argue that the novel coronavirus pandemic struck Ghana at the worst, or at the best moment.
The political class thinks this is the time to take advantage of the situation to endear themselves to the electorate, given that Ghana is headed to the polls later in 2020.
Both the government and main opposition party National Democratic Congress (NDC) are engaging in back-and-forth comments exposing their desire to take advantage of a pandemic to win hearts. Ghana’s Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia was criticized by members of the opposition NDC for comparing Ghana’s power crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic. Former president John Mahama was in power during the “dumsor” period – four years of persistent, irregular, and unpredictable electric power outages.
Former deputy minister of communications and NDC member Felix Ofosu Kwakye said it was illogical for Bawumia to compare two unrelated crises. “I have had occasion to say somewhere that what Bawumia did is akin to inviting me to take part in a beauty contest with a woman. It is illogical and with the greatest of respect to him, it does not make sense. A power crisis is not the same as a global health pandemic. For that reason, the responses to both are not the same,” Kwakye said.
Toying with the economy in COVID-19 era
Some Ghanaians would side with Kwakye that the vice president flopped by not only comparing two totally unrelated situations, but by also engaging in trivial politics in the wake of a pandemic that has claimed over 430,000 lives globally.
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) predicted that Ghana’s economy is “set to suffer significantly”, due to the “comparatively weak state of its national healthcare system (compared with those in developed countries)—including a shortage of capacity for screening, testing and quarantining suspected cases”.
Import duties are expected to fall short of the target by GHS808 million, GDP growth rate may decline from 8 percent to 2.6 percent, while the overall fiscal deficit is projected to decrease from the programmed GHȼ18.9 billion to GHȼ30.2 billion, according to Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta. Apart from these projections, ratings agency Moody’s downgraded Ghana’s economic outlook to negative, setting a huge task for the government in order to ensure a resilient economy
So it comes as a surprise that Bawumia, who is also an economist, would engage in petty politics when there is an economy to save. One would think it obvious that the VP wouldn’t have the luxury of time to reply to the former president if he was considering ways of maintaining a strong economy.
Mahama’s poor offer
Just like the government, Mahama took uncalled-for decisions. First, he set up an independent team to gather and suggest ideas on how to handle the novel coronavirus in Ghana, then he and his team held live sessions on the government’s handling of COVID-19.
These sessions were clearly a PR gimmick. It beggars belief that Mahama suddenly became a passionate messiah seeking to save Ghanaians from the pandemic. Why did he not make the lives of Ghanaians better when he had the chance? Ghanaians still recall how the gross mismanagement of the economy under his regime led to the freefall of the cedi, forcing the then-government to ban the quotation of goods and services in foreign currencies.
It is also not lost on us that the former president’s regime was characterized by numerous corruption scandals and his responses were disappointing to say the least. The former-president-now-turned-COVID-19-messiah failed to prosecute indicted officials, so what makes him think he can handle things better than his successor in the wake of a pandemic?
Given his past performance, Mahama cannot purport to be the solution to socio-economic ills affecting Ghanaians – we refuse to see him through his own distorted lens. He is just deploying this tactic to create the impression of having the competence to institute better policies than the current government.
In the wake of this pandemic, it is the ordinary citizen bound to suffer, given that politicians are always driven by their interests – rarely will you get the interest of the populace and that of the political class converging.
COVID-19 fight requires unity
Government and Mahama need to realize this is not the time for such games. Nana Akufo-Addo and his team should actively think about drastic ways of containing the novel coronavirus, in addition to cushioning the majority of poor Ghanaians from the adverse impact of the pandemic.
The starting point could be an instruction to the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to hand over deeper and broader data sets to researchers willing to develop dynamic modelling and analysis as the cases surge. This will help in its structuring of policies aimed at containing the virus. The government and the main opposition should show their commitment to containing the virus – the petty politicking from both sides should end now. Neither NDC nor NPP can escape responsibility in this!
Marian Efe Ansah is a staff writer for citinewsroom.com, has a keen interest in gender issues and politics, and also writes about education, the environment and travel.