Position Paper: Let’s Mitigate The Ravaging Effects Of The Covid 19 On The Poor And Vulnerable
Ghana has attained economic growth over the last couple of years to reduce poverty levels in the country. However growing inequalities is limiting the impact of this growth we continue to strive for. The rapid increase in the levels of inequality is derailing our efforts for inclusive growth. A recent study by OXFAM/ SEND Ghana/ GACC revealed that the wealthiest 10% of Ghanaians now share 32% of Ghana’s total consumption – more than is consumed by the bottom 60% of the population combined, while the very poorest 10% of the population consumes only 2%. This data shows how inequality cannot be under-estimated.
The emergence of the COVID 19 pandemic in recent times has brought the entire world to its knees. Countries with robust and well-resourced health infrastructure have since the outbreak of the corona virus struggled to contain its spread and impact.
Ghana since its first recorded case on the 12th of March has seen its cases rise to a whopping 28,989 cases as of 22nd July, 2020 (Ghana Health Service). This virus has affected all sectors of the economy putting a dent on our economic situation currently. The glaring impact include job losses, income losses, inflation, dwarfed remittances, shortfalls in petroleum receipts, import duties inter alia. The results of these impact are felt hardest by vulnerable groups such as women, youth, children and Persons with Disabilities. This pandemic initially saw government impose a ban on all public gatherings, including conferences, workshops, funerals, festivals, political rallies, sporting events and religious activities. These were followed by the subsequent closure of borders and a partial lockdown of Greater Accra and Greater Kumasi. Some short-term measures introduced to cushion the plight of the poor and the vulnerable included food distribution. Again, a credit line to help the business community (Micro, small and medium scale enterprises) get back on its knees were also introduced. However, these interventions are not sufficient to address the deepening cracks of inequality.
In light of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) projections, it has been made clear that the virus will be with us for at least 2 more years owing to the fact that a vaccine has not yet been developed. Government will need to develop an inclusive long term strategy that will help address the short to long term effects of the corona virus pandemic on the poor and vulnerable and the entire citizenry at large.
In the short term, recognizing that the mid-year budget will be read soon we envisage a comprehensive budget detailing in the short-term what it intends to do to boost the economy. Again, owing to the fact that this year is an election year, it is imperative that political parties use their manifestos to address the needs and aspiration of the people through its policies and programmes in the context of covid 19. It is on this premise that Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) and the larger part of Ghanaians including the poor and vulnerable see the opportunity to make an input into the policy discourse which will serve the greater need of the country.
On this note the CSO’s platform on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG / Goal 10) under the Ghana CSO platform on SDG’s make the following recommendations to government:
1. Spend sufficiently on universal quality public services that reduce the gap between rich and poor and reduce gender disparities:
- Allocate a minimum of 20% of government budget to boost universal public quality education that is free of charge, with a special emphasis on improving access to high-quality primary and secondary education.
- Allocate a minimum of 15% of government budget to fund a public health sector that is free of charge, universal, easily accessible and of high quality.
- Enact universal social protection programmes that are adequately funded and that benefit mainly the poorest people.
- Implement universal tax-based public services and social protection programmes. Do not use divisive poverty targeting or failed health insurance schemes.
2. Redistribute from the rich to the poor through progressive taxation:
- Increase taxes for high income earners to better fund basic social services.
- Increase the overall progressivity of the tax system by expanding taxes that are typically paid by the rich, such as wealth taxes, taxes on capital gains, personal income tax for top earners and property taxes, as well as corporate income tax for large companies, and by reducing dependence on consumption taxes such as VAT, which tend to fall disproportionately on the poorest people and in particular on women.
- Pay special attention to increasing tax compliance by high net worth individuals and seek to tax wealth that is hidden offshore.
- Ensure that multi-national corporations pay their fair share of taxes by strengthening anti-tax avoidance policies, transfer pricing legislation and counter-measures against tax havens.
- Stop the regional ‘race to the bottom’ on corporate taxation by scrapping unnecessary tax incentives for investors, and review existing incentives and tax treaties with a view to increasing revenue from investors.
- Strengthen transfer pricing regulations where they exist already and introduce robust regulations where they do not, and improve the capacity of national revenue authorities to curb illicit financial flows.
3. Strengthen protection for labor rights and enact policies for more inclusive labour markets:
- Significantly improve protection for the right of labour to unionize and to strike, and for unions to bargain on behalf of their members.
- Review minimum wage policies and regulatory regimes to lift the wages of the bottom 40% of wage earners.
- Legislate to enforce equal pay for equal work for men and women and invest in skills and on- the-job training for women.
- Fight discrimination against women, including by criminalizing it, publicizing incidents of rape and sexual harassment in the workplace and enforce laws against such practices.
- Put in place systems to ensure that the informal sector progressively complies with at least the minimum regulatory requirements on pay for both women and men and on the work environment.
- Better manage the vulnerability of large sections of the working population by incorporating workers in the informal sector into social insurance schemes and mechanisms. This may include the gradual integration of existing micro insurance arrangements into national social insurance schemes.
- Government must put skills development in the informal sector back on the agenda and create incentives for public providers of training to serve the informal sector. Skills help workers to access non-agricultural jobs and help increase their earnings.
- Apprenticeships are the most important form of skills development in the informal sector, and governments must invest the resources needed to improve the efficiency of apprenticeship schemes. This must be accompanied by results-based policy making (testing, monitoring and evaluation). All stakeholders have a role to play – employers, public and private training providers and donors, though government must take the lead.
4. Invest in national care systems to address the disproportionate responsibility for care work done by women and girls
- Government must invest in cross-governmental national care systems, in addition to investing in and transforming existing public services and infrastructure. National care systems must include the provision of universal access to safe water, sanitation and domestic energy systems, and investments to deliver universal childcare, eldercare and care for people with disabilities. These should also include access to quality healthcare and education, as well as the provision of universal social protection, such as pensions and child benefits. As part of national care systems governments should ensure a minimum of 14 weeks of paid maternity leave and the progressive realization of one year of paid parental leave, including a phase of use-it-or-lose-it paternity leave.
ISSUED BY: THE SUB-PLATFORM ON GOAL 10
(GHANA CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS PLATFORM ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
DATE: July 22, 2020
SIGNED: Conveners; on behalf of Members of Sub-platform 10