Coronavirus: Prioritize health over ‘Year of Roads’-Economist advises Gov’t

With the rise of the number of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus disease (COVID -19) in Ghana, Chartered Economist, Gideon Amissah, has called on Government to focus on educating Ghanaians on the do’s and don’ts of the disease, as well as provide logistics to fight the disease rather than focusing on the ‘Year of Roads’ agenda.The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta in the 2020 Budget and Economic Policy of Government read in Parliament, declared the year 2020 as the ‘Year of Roads’ as the Government will be focusing on fixing roads across the country in 2020 and beyond.

However, in an interview on the Happy Morning Show, aired on Happy 98.9FM, Chartered Economist, Gideon Amissah said: “The government must prioritize health over ‘Year of Roads’. What I am hearing from medical experts is that they need logistics. The World Health Organization (WHO) shows that we should do more testing, but it looks like the facilities that can do the testing in Ghana are few. If a case occurs in the Northern Region, Kumasi, among others, where can we do the testing? We have to expand the logistics and education must be enough”.

He reiterated his stance on the need for education on Coronavirus when he said, “a lot of Ghanaians do not really understand what is going on so the education will be needed”.

He furthered that another reason why Government should abandon the ‘Year of Roads’ agenda is because it will be impossible for China to fund the projects through the Sinohydro deal as it has been hit by the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Our hopes were in Sinohdydro deal in terms of year of roads. You will realize that a lot of the roads would have been coming from the Sinohydro deal. But as things are going with the Chinese who are to give us this deal, I am not so sure that we are likely to get that fund, so with that I will agree we should not focus on the road agenda but look out for the health sector to control the disease”.

He, however, added that he will not rule out the possibility of Government prioritizing the ‘Year of Road’ agenda especially as we are in an election year.

“It is also an election year and there is a high likelihood that politicians will take political decisions rather than economic decisions. When it happens that way, it may affect us and it is likely to get us to go and borrow more or increase our taxes. I am not so sure of the increase of taxes because of election year. But if they still want to pursue the road projects then its highly likely that we will go for loans possibly in the name of Coronavirus to push this road agenda because of political agenda”, he added.

The parliament of Ghana recently approved a 2billion dollar agreement, for roads and related infrastructure, with China in exchange for Ghana’s rich bauxite in what has come to be known as the Sinohydro agreement. Based on this, the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta, in his 2020 budget statement declared the year 2020 as the ‘Year of Roads’.