Ghana was not spared from the COVID-19 crisis after the first cases were announced in March this year. Health institutions were charged to take the bull by the horn to flatten the curve to prevent the fragile health sector from collapsing. The economics and public health of the country directed the public policy discourse. The new norm of social distancing, travel restrictions, self isolation and quarantine never departed from the lips of Ghanaians. The other side of the coin which threatened the economy was the partial lockdown and stimulus packages to support the vulnerable and the marginalized.
Flattening the curve by partially shutting down the economy, practicing social distancing, wearing of nose masks and travel restrictions were seen as the only way to contain the virus. However, these artificial interventions were unevenly administered and enforced.
If you didn’t know, it is the micro, small and medium scale enterprises, young entrepreneurs and other active individuals in the private sector of the economy who were shut down while bureaucrats and public servants continuously enjoyed and flourished in the pandemic.
Individuals and groups in areas such as the capital Accra, Kumasi, Tema and Kasoa who experienced the total lockdown had the shock of pay cut and job loss. Because there’s no statistics on private sector job loss from the Ghana Statistical Service during the pandemic, it looks all is well with those in the private parts of the economy. Many are suffocating with job loss and with little hope of finding the alternative.
The Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation in April engaged 20 young entrepreneurs in Tema, employing between 5 - 10 individuals to find out how the lockdown had affected staff retention. The result showed 17 of the entrepreneurs cutting down staff and asking others to report to work at different days. In a total of 148 employees, 40 were asked to stay home until end of lockdown to decide their fate and 62 were asked to report on different days even after the lockdown while 46 were regular before and after lockdown. Only two of the companies closed down and stopped providing services to the public without any timeline of resuming operation while one of the entrepreneurs asked her staff to work from home and never to return until October.
In the situation where individuals are losing jobs and others with pay cuts in the private sector, the public sector instead continued the recruitment and with others getting their promotion letters, it leads to unfairness and very discriminatory. The public sector did not cut wages and recorded no job loss and equally decided when the private sector can resume services. Bureaucrats continued with their activities and as an election year, visited their constituencies to use the opportunity to donate items to show how charitable they are.
The artificial measures where to once again flattened the curve; but in July, the virus vanished while the health protocols were in place. The government upon realizing the COVID-19 cases are reducing eased the restrictions. However, a majority in the private sector have lost a lot then expected to gain from the pandemic.
We have been asked to live with the virus and not to eliminate it but we have not been asked to take back our freedom, jobs and our way of live.
If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting the Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation by becoming a member or donating to help create the freedom and business environment we need for a prosperous future.