Author: Yahaya Sumara Sulley
Department of Forensic Sciences, Faculty of Biosciences, University for Development Studies, Tamale – Ghana
Parliamentarians of Ghana are celebrated on this day for their efforts in representing their people. The role of parliament has been more crucial in these trying times as we face the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the efforts of parliament in tackling the pandemic was the passing of the Imposition of Restrictions Bill in March 2020. The Act is a strategic effort towards the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing Government to impose proportionate and necessary restrictions in times of a pandemic.
Whilst the Act is a great milestone in protecting the public against the outbreak, there is a need to reflect on its impact on human rights and the Ghanaian economy.
According to experts, Ghana is expected to face some economic difficulties as a result of the pandemic. These challenges include a decrease in GDP; closure of borders thereby affecting trading volume, hospitality, and tourism; low agricultural productivity and low quality of education.
In response to the above challenges, Parliament has made strides to implement a mix of strategies to mitigate the health implications of the pandemic and its associated socio-economic impact.
Through Parliament, the government of Ghana has rolled out measures, such as three months of free water and electricity for lifeline consumers, and a 50 percent discount for non-lifeline consumers, and many others.
Other measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic include the introduction of legislation regarding income tax, personal tax, payment, and filing of tax returns as a response to tax-related implications associated with the pandemic.
These tax measures include a cut of interest rates, the extension of tax and loan repayment, and the legislative instrument that renders a foreigner or nonresident a resident thereby reducing their taxpaying rate from 30% -25% on annual taxable income exceeding GH₵240,000.
In addition, Parliament called for a rapid disbursement credit facility from the International Monetary (IMF) Fund which will be channeled into health facilities, affected households, and firms and help to increase the confidence of citizens by addressing their financial needs.
The Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) is functional as a result of Parliament’s approval. The Parliament has also initiated donations into the COVID-19 Trust Fund after its bill was passed into law.
Finally, parliament has approved the legal instrument to enforce the compulsory wearing of nose masks in Ghana as a means of giving strong legal backing to the presidential directives to fight the pandemic.
This tends to be an easier way of working with the realities of life in Ghanaian society where the majority of citizens depend on “hand-to-mouth” jobs to make ends meet even though some claim it has corrosive effects on the fundamental human rights of citizens.
As we reflect on today and the future of the Ghana Parliament, emphasis should be placed on citizen empowerment, inclusive parliament, and participatory governance, scientific research, strengthening public health and pharmaceutical systems to promote a well-informed citizenry to help in the fight against COVID-19 and other future emergencies in Ghana.