When dealing with the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government of Ghana undertook extensive dialogue with the social partners within the National Tripartite Committee (NTC) in the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, and the Social Partnership Council (SPC) under the Ministry of Finance. The two tripartite social dialogue bodies allowed social partners to engage in constructive dialogue, consultations and negotiations on critical issues of national concern and have been instrumental in the design and implementation of measures to make enterprises, employment and the economy sustainable and resilient.
Some of the key outcomes of the various dialogue processes are as follows:
- A joint communique on workplace safety guidelines on COVID-19 pandemic that detailed employers’ obligations in terms of safety protocols, including the provision of protective equipment, the establishment of Safety Committees, the appointment of focal persons to educate workers, social distancing, increased dialogue and collaboration with the union, and unions’ obligations to implement the safety protocols.
- Launch of Ghana Covid-19 Alleviation and Revitalisation of Enterprises Support (Ghana CARES) programme on 18 November 2020. This programme implemented some policy recommendations made to the Government by the GEA and comprises two phases. The stabilisation phase seeks to protect businesses and workers’ income, attract private investments and support Ghanaian businesses, strengthen the health system, ensure food security. The revitalisation phase broadly aims at expanding access to finance for Ghanaian businesses, improving business regulations and their implementation, digitizing the economy, enhancing skills development, as well as energy sector reforms in the medium term. The government announced GHȼ100 billion (USD 18 billion) funding for this programme. According to the economic support scheme, the government provides 30 per cent of the funds needed for the implementation of the various activities under the programme and the remaining 70 per cent will come from the private sector.
The Ghanian Employers’ Association (GEA, an IOE member) represents employers in both committees.
In addition to this role, GEA undertook an impact assessment survey of its members across all sectors of the economy to determine the actual impact of the pandemic on their businesses.
It emerged from the survey that the pandemic has disrupted about 62% of business operations and that more than half of employers (62.7%) do not have their own funds or cannot access external funds to augment their businesses.
The survey’s results and policy recommendations were submitted to the other social partners and constituents of the NTC and the SPC for consideration. This exchange of information allowed GEA to play a key role in adequately representing its members in tripartite committees and bringing forward business needs. It was also a means to strengthen tripartism by offering evidence-based policy recommendations for adoption and implementation at the national level.
Among the economic recommendations made by GEA were the need for Government to:
- Review the Covid-19 stimulus package for all enterprises (i.e. Micro, Small, Medium and Large-scale enterprises);
- Support local firms to produce intermediate goods and raw materials to fill the supply chain gaps created by the pandemic;
- Redirect the loans by the Commercial banks to only Covid-19 affected businesses;
- Defer payment of VAT and Income Tax for a three-month period;
- Extend the date for filing of tax returns from the standard 4 months to 9 months, for the general sustenance of businesses hard-hit by the pandemic.
Moreover, GEA in July 2020 released an employer’s guide on required internal policies to deal with Covid-19.
GEA highly appreciated the way in which the crisis was managed and believes that “the swiftness with which the government of Ghana is acting to implement the Ghana CARES programme will provide a solid ground to advance similar concerted tripartite initiatives on the business environment to help address the urgent needs of employers in the context of the covid-19 shock.”
Mr Alex Frimpong, Chief Executive of GEA, commented on these measures: “We are confident that stakeholders will be involved in quickly fashioning out an effective execution system so that the laudable Stimulus/Relief Packages established, can be readily accessed by Businesses to keep them afloat and enable them to retain their staff.”.
Finally, the tripartite Committees are now discussing the proposal to introduce a National Unemployment Insurance Scheme in support of those workers who were terminated as a result of the pandemic.
Alex Frimpong said “again, the GEA as always stands ready to join other relevant stakeholders to discuss the proposed National Unemployment Insurance Scheme for effective implementation.”