Even as Ghana ponders the question of whether or not to impose a complete lock down on social and economic activity across the country, the sad reality is that we are already half way there. Economic activity is shrinking by the day as is social activity. Increasingly, the usually bustling streets of urban Ghana are slowly but surely becoming nearly devoid of traffic, as are the pedestrian walkways.
Service companies are closing their doors, where possible offering their products and services strictly through digital channels. Indeed, this newspaper has been caught up in the throes of a voluntary socio-economic lockdown that is already preceding a formal one that is looking more and more likely by the day – this edition is the last one that we are publishing in hard copy form until the coronavirus outbreak subsides in Ghana. Like so many other companies, we will only produce digitally until the situation returns to normal.
Many companies are now operating on skeletal basis while many more have closed down altogether. For informal workers this means no income until further notice and for the worst affected it means no employment even when the virus subsides. Indeed, many enterprises will not recover at all from the ongoing meltdown of economic activity.
However, government is understandably struggling with the issue of formalizing a national lock down that is already increasingly underway. A formal lock down will seal the fate of thousands, possibly millions of Ghanaians whose livelihoods are tied to daily or weekly paid wages and for whom no work will mean no pay.
On the other hand, if no lockdown is formally enforced, desperation on behalf of small business owners and their employees to keep earning incomes will present a virile platform for the coronavirus infection to spread on.
Thus, the situation amounts to being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Whether a formal national lockdown is enforced or not, Ghana’s economy is in for a major hit across all fronts. Gross Domestic Product growth will fall dramatically, as will the national employment rate. Possibly, product shortages, including essential goods, is also on the cards as trade disruptions take hold, both internationally and locally.
All this combined will mean a significant fall in general living standards around Ghana.
With general elections pending at the end of the year, Ghanaians will have to discern their assessment of the incumbent government’s performance by putting the inevitable negative effects of the viral pandemic aside. This will be difficult since the political opposition will seek to tie whatever ill effects suffered by Ghanaians, to the quality of political and economic management.
Simply put, Ghana is entering unchartered waters, the only certainty being that they are stormy.
This newspaper wishes all Ghanaian the strength, fortitude and sheer good luck to get through this difficult period relatively unscathed. But we must remember that we will eventually get through it. Tough times do not last; only tough people do.