Experts have predicted that should the coronavirus pandemic elapse mid-year as projected by many economic bodies, the world is poised for a recession and Ghana will be greatly affected.
“The Global economy as Japan and all the other countries have forecasted is going to go through a recession, but that depends on how long, we are able to contain this pandemic. If it takes longer then we are really in for trouble,” Prof. Peter Quartey, the Director of ISSER, University of Ghana cautioned.
“If you listen to the doomsayers, who say if nothing is done fast, it means global GDP is going to drop by 0.5% and that means we are talking 1 trillion dollars in terms of loss, and that’s significant. That would certainly spin us into a recession,” Dr. Kofi Mbiah, a Maritime Law Consultant and CEO, Ghana Chamber of Shipping corroborated.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s panel discussion on Counting the Cost of Global Upsurge in Viral Diseases, with focus on the COVID-19 and the emerging Hantavirus, the Director of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research of the University of Ghana, Prof. Peter Quartey, anticipated that a lot of sectors including the financial services sector, agriculture, the manufacturing sector, export and import among others would land in huge deficits if the pandemic is not contained in the country by mid-year.
“If you look at our production itself, we will see all of the key sectors declining. Our export base is going to decline, the agric industry for example. Services sector especially, for example hotel and restaurant, the airline industry, and even banking and other financial services are going to decline,” he predicted.
Suffering Maritime Industry
Dr. Kofi Mbiah, a seasoned expert in the International Maritime Industry, a Maritime Law Consultant and the CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Shipping, made similar projections for the port and shipping industry and recounted the massive losses currently experienced in the industry, globally.
“When we take the shipping industry, as a significant driver of world trade, it has been badly affected. The tanker trade, the dry bulk trade, the general cargo trade, and the container trade have all been hit badly. Today there are a number of tankers moving at less than half capacity,” he revealed.
He expressed particular worry for Ghana’s port and maritime industry which does not only serve as the government largest tax source but employs many Ghanaians including port operators and administrators, customs officials, freight forwarders and other shipping service providers.
Dr. Mbiah stated that his fear is that the current temporary measures to cut down numbers of employees by institutions in the port, may be forced to be a permanent situation if, the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the local and international maritime trade.
“The thing that I look at in terms of the economics of this is that, what we are doing now, with respect to the rotations of the critical staff is a concern. We should be mindful, and pray that this temporary measure does not continue and become a permanent situation.”
Government Bail Out
Prof. Quartey said due to the anticipated state of hardship it is imperative that the government looks for money to bail out the general public especially the Private Small Scale Enterprises, which cover the large chunk of Ghanaians.
“There could be a lot of desperation, a lot of unemployment, and that may lead to social vices. You need to find the money and provide the bail out to some key productive sectors of the economy as well as services like the banking, insurance, airline. Also, help the small and medium enterprises,” he said.
According to him this requires extensive planning to ensure prudent management, and accountability to adequately allocate these resources.
Prof. Quartey indicated that it is with such transparency that would attract philanthropists and corporate entities to come to the aid of the nation in these hard times.
Empower Veterinary Services
Dr. Joseph Awuni, a Virologist and Head of the National Veterinary Laboratory, on the same program indicated that currently the Noguchi Medical Research Institute has made contact with his outfit to serve as a backup for the testing and diagnosis of COVID-19 as the number of cases recorded in the country increases.
He stated that the current crisis can see some improvement if Veterinarians in Ghana are supported adequately to augment the role of research and testing of such viruses.
“We have the facilities to do this, but these facilities can only function with funding. And with this COVID-19, when dealing with it, you need protective clothing. We don’t have it,” he exclaimed.
He said the Veterinary Services are the most competent outfit to ensure that animal products that can serve as carriers of the virus are monitored and eliminated from Ghana’s boundaries when contaminated and reiterated the need to be resourced to serve such mandate effectively.
“There are a great number of people who are working in animal food processing plants, who may be infected, sharing the virus and directly contaminating these foods of animal origin without showing signs. It is unfortunate that veterinary services have been removed from inspections of foods of animal origin at the ports,” Dr. Awuni complained.
The Virologist revealed that such zoonotic diseases would not cease if human encroachment on wildlife continues, citing it as a root cause of the current pandemic.
“With the global population explosion, there is high demand of food and other things, so human beings are encroaching on the normal habitats of animals thus, the sharing of these diseases,” he asserted.
However, the various experts reemphasized the need for the current health protocols to be followed as those are the surest ways of containing the virus so that public health as well as the national economy doesn’t continue to suffer.
“People must be healthy to be productive and where there is production then we can move away from this crisis. That is why it is important for us to observe these protocols and ensure that wherever we are we ensure that we say, stay at home,” Dr. Mbiah said.