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COVID-19: Ghana’s stimulus package “a scam and a vote-buying tool”-Traders in Tamale

President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in his fifth televised COVID-19 address to the nation announced some GH¢600 million Coronavirus Alleviation Programme Business Support Scheme (CAP-BuSS) to provide relief to Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs) across the country that have been affected by the economic distress caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Akufo-Addo announced that “government has partnered with the private sector to introduce the scheme in support of SMEs; And that, government, in collaboration with the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), Business & Trade Associations and selected Commercial and Rural Banks were going to be responsible for the roll out of the soft loan scheme up to a total of GH¢600 million, which will have a one-year moratorium and two-year repayment period for micro, small and medium scale businesses.” NBSSI had revealed some 200,000 businesses would be supported under the stimulus package.

In September 2020, disbursement of the loan facility to some prospective applicants of the fund started.

State of traders one year on.

After over one year since the launch of the programme, some traders in the Tamale central, Aboabo and Lamasheigu markets all in the Northern region revealed their applications never saw the light of day.

Sarah Tayal who sells mother-care items and baby foods applied for the funds.

“I lost most of my customers when I was not able to supply them the items they requested for their babies and the worse is that now prices of these items have shot up and there is no money to go and purchase them now”.

Sarah applied for GH¢5,000 of the fund in June 2020 but that never received it which compelled her to apply for the second time hoping to access it to support her business which was giving up life at the time. This time she says she applied for a relatively smaller amount thus GH¢3,000 but after series of text messages assuring her of receipt before January 31, 2021, she gave up.

“For me I think it was for them to get our votes in the 2020 elections which they got, they have scammed us and I live Akufo-Addo and his government to God”, she fumed.

A poultry farmer, Issah Amama whose business according to her is at the verge of collapsing said she was promised that she would receive disbursement by December 31, 2020 after a successful application for GH¢ 9,000 in June 2020 but had not received any disbursement at the time of filing this story.

She says it was a deceptive strategy to clamour for votes ahead of the 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

“Almost everyone in the market here who applied for the loan didn’t get and even the few who got are wives and relatives of top NPP executives”, Amama hinted.

Jacob, a mobile money merchant in July 2020 applied for GH¢7,000 and was assured in a text message that he will receive his disbursement by 31st January, 2021 is still waiting for an alert.

“We are all Ghanaians and things should not be done base on one’s political or tribal attachment” he fumed.

Charles Basigne, an owner of a delivery service in Tamale lamented over how he was denied the GH¢6,000 he applied for to help him procure a motorbike for his delivery service. He also attributed his denial to political affiliation.

“I am very disappointed because this wasn’t what they promised us when they launched the programme, they said they were going to give the loans regardless of politics, religion or tribe.”

Meanwhile, efforts to get the National Board for Small Scale (NBSSI) Industry to respond to the claims by the traders resulted fruitless.

In a news article, the Executive Director of the NBSSI, Mrs. Kosi Yankey-Ayeh is quoted saying “more than 200,000 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have accessed the fund. Data available according to executive director show that the beneficiaries were selected from 900,000 applications.”

The writer is a Mentee under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting COVID-19 project by Journalist for Human Rights.

By:Prince Kwame Tamakloe|www.zamireports.com|Tamale.

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