GOV’T TO INVEST €890M TO COMPLETE 33 HEALTH PROJECTS
The Akufo-Addo-led NPP administration has reserved €890 million for the construction of at least 33 major health projects as part of the agenda towards the overall management of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
The Majority Leader and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who stood in for Finance Minister-designate Ken Ofori-Atta, at the reading of the 2021 Budget Statement in Parliament on Friday themed
“Consolidation and Continuation,” said “33 major health projects have been approved for implementation at a cost of €890 million.”
He said despite the unexpected increase in expenditure due to the pandemic, the government was committed to carrying out the projects, saying in pursuit of the government’s health infrastructure drive, including Agenda 111, the Ministry of Health awarded contracts for the construction of 101 district hospitals, seven regional hospitals and three psychiatric hospitals, insisting that “In 2021, the implementation of these projects will continue.”
COVID Health Levy
The Majority Leader who is the NPP MP for Suame in the Ashanti Region, said the government was introducing COVID-19 levy to make up for the increasing state expenditure as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
When approved, it was expected to be a percentage point increase on both the existing VAT Flat Rate Scheme (VFRS) and National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL) and the accruals would go into the construction of health infrastructure, recruitment of more health personnel, vaccination programme and address other challenges in a bid to manage the pandemic better in the country.
“To provide the requisite resources to address these challenges and fund these activities, the government is proposing the introduction of a COVID-19 Health Levy of a one percentage point increase in the National Health Insurance Levy and a one percentage point increase in the VAT Flat Rate to support expenditures related to COVID-19,” he said.
The minister said that expenditure on health infrastructure and health-related items such as vaccines, hospital supplies and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) would become routine, adding that “government will take measures to ensure that these additional critical expenditures do not undermine our fiscal consolidation and debt sustainability.”
He said the government would ensure “clinical structural focus” of the economy in the next four years through its transformational agenda to build on the gains so far made.
He said pursuing the GH¢100 billion Ghana CARES (Obaatan pa) programme, which by far was the boldest and biggest economic recovery programme in the country’s history, would enable the government to turn the challenges created by COVID-19 into opportunities for socioeconomic transformation.
“We care about the welfare of the people and we care about the need for businesses to create wealth. The next four years will see a more clinical structural focus on President Akufo-Addo’s transformation agenda as we build with deliberate rapidity on the gains so far made,” he stressed.
He said the government’s economic recovery programme would foster closer collaboration with the private sector, labour, the people, development partners and foreign investors.
“Mr. Speaker, through Ghana CARES, we will expedite the government’s digitalization agenda to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in public service delivery; revitalize the housing and construction industry to address the severe housing deficit and create job opportunities; and establish Ghana as a regional hub,” the minister asserted.
He also said they were leveraging the country’s position within ECOWAS and as host of the Secretariat of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to deepen manufacturing, financial services, education, healthcare, aviation and logistics, digital services, petroleum, automobile, tourism, hospitality and creative arts.
The Majority Leader said that “there will also be regular institutional engagements to ensure we achieve synergies and track results on a timely basis.”
“Mr. Speaker, government has decided to chart a new direction from 2021. A major concern of all Ghanaians across the political divide is the usually wasteful spectre of uncompleted public projects scattered across the country,” he said, adding that the government owed the people a duty to use limited public funds responsibly.
“Our goal is to bring to an end the culture of unfinished projects. The main focus of government for this year is the fulfilment of existing commitment and the completion of existing projects,” the Leader of Government Business in Parliament said.
He disclosed that the Delivery Tracker, launched last year to check the progress of infrastructure projects, showed over 8,700 ongoing projects across all sectors at the end of 2020, saying, “That is why the President has tasked his ministers and heads of all other relevant institutions to focus the infrastructural energies of government mainly on continuing and, if possible, completing existing projects in 2021.”
“The era of abandoning viable projects started with public funds must end and that time, we believe, is now,” he posited.
On growth, he said data from the International Monitoring Fund’s (IMF’s) January 2021 World Economic Outlook (WEO) update projected the global economy to grow at 5.5 per cent in 2021, up from the estimated contraction of 3.5 per cent in 2020.
The 2021 growth estimate, he pointed out, reflected an expected positive turnaround on account of COVID-19 vaccine-powered economic activity and strong policy response in advanced countries.
Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said despite high expectations for global economic recovery between 2021 and 2022, output gaps were not expected to close until after 2022, adding that consistent with this expectation, inflation was projected to remain subdued during 2021-22.
“For advanced economies, inflation is projected to increase from a low of 0.7 per cent in 2020 to 1.3 per cent in 2021 and further to 1.5 per cent in 2022, in consonance with increasing prices of medical supplies and those of other commodities,” he asserted.
On commodity prices, he disclosed that data from the January 2021 edition of the IMF World Economic Outlook (WEO) projected Brent crude oil prices to average US$50.03 for 2021 and US$48.82 for 2022, saying, “Gold as a safe haven benefited immensely from the pandemic in 2020. This was sustained by continued monetary easing by major central banks.”
He said, however, that in 2021 gold prices were expected to reduce to an average of US$1,740 per troy oz from an average of US$1,793 per troy oz recorded in 2020. World Market Cocoa price averaged $2,369.85 per MT in 2020 compared to $2,340.74 per MT in 2019. Cocoa price is expected to gain a 1.6 per cent increase in price and improve to $2,407.77 in 2021.