Use COVID-19 to build local industries — Dr Sipa Yankey

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A former Minister of Health, Dr George Sipa Yankey, has called on the country to capitalise on the opportunities provided by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to build local industries to further develop the economy.
He said the country must strategise to become a winner and not a loser during and after the pandemic.

“There will be winners and losers after this pandemic and as a country we have to decide to be on the winning side. The best way to be on the winning side is for us to build our local industries.

“Government and the private sector should rise to the occasion and take the opportunity presented by the virus in the health, pharmaceutical, textile and manufacturing sectors, as well as the agricultural export sectors to repair some of the damage that would be left behind by the pandemic,” he said in an interview with the Daily Graphic yesterday.

The Daily Graphic was speaking to him on what could be done to boost the economy even in the wake of the pandemic.

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Opportunities

Dr Yankey mentioned the demand for sanitisers and personal protective equipment (PPE) across the world as an opportunity the country could take advantage of to invest in the textile and pharmaceutical industries in order to make Ghana a major hub of the production and supply of PPE and sanitisers in the sub-region.

According to him, COVID-19 had shown that the country had the ability to produce PPE and sanitisers which were hitherto imported into the country.

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“We need to understand that PPE will still be in demand by healthcare professionals post-COVID-19. Hand sanitisers will still be in demand because people have become aware of its importance. The government must deliberately collaborate with the industry, provide technical and financial support to enable our textile industry produce quality PPE and in the right volume to meet demand.

Credit facilities

“COVID-19 has opened a huge opening for us for the manufacturing of PPE and sanitisers. I believe we have the capacity and skills to do it. What the government needs to do is to guarantee credit facilities from the banks to enable the textile industry to increase their production line,” he said.

He, however, called on the government not to only build local industries, but to also make it a policy to procure the products produced locally, adding “once the government procures these products, other countries will have confidence in our industries and this will boost exports.”

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Also, he lauded the Ghana Export-Import (GEXIM) bank for extending lots of credit facilities to the pharmaceutical and other industries, but stressed the need for the government to further capitalise the bank to enable it to deliver on its mandate.

“There is a momentum for domestication of manufacturing of goods in the wake of COVID-19. This momentum must be sustained even after the pandemic is over. It is hoped that GEXIM will turn attention to, and pump funds into other key productive areas of the economy.

“With businesses almost hanging by their fingernail, we cannot afford to lose the domestication momentum,” he added.

Solutions

On how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and future pandemics, Dr Yankey said it was necessary for the government to treat the healthcare system with the seriousness it deserved.

He said there must be critical and systematic investment in health care in a manner devoid of political gimmicks and campaign talks.

“We must not treat health as a political circus. We must be prepared for anything even after this pandemic. Pandemics are not something we have control over but we have the opportunity to deal with them effectively.

“Paradoxically, while the government desperately needed facilities to hold, monitor and treat suspected infected COVID-19 patients, first-class hospitals, which had been completed several years back, were lying idle. It was not until the situation became critical that the ultra-modern Bank of Ghana Hospital is now being used,” he said.

Also, he said the pandemic had revealed the shortfall of the country’s intelligence system, a situation he attributed to the politicisation of intelligence institutions.

He was of the opinion that the country’s intelligence institutions failed to brief the President early on the impact of the pandemic to enable the President to put in place appropriate measures.

“Intelligence must transcend beyond security and surveillance of political opponents. Our intelligence institutions must be manned by experts in security, economy and other sectors and not only party members,” he said.

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