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All beneficiaries of the government’s COVID-19 stimulus loans distributed through the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) must pay back the money, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industries Robert Ahomka-Lindsay has said.
He, however, told journalists on Thursday, 29 October 2020 that: “If we decide to do something different, that is something for the future. I can’t tell you that now because that is not something that is in our structure”.
Pressed for clarity on his remarks, Mr Ahomka-Lindsay said: “Not everything is captured in two syllables and I think this is one of our problems; we’re trying to keep things in two syllables but that’s not the case”.
“We have launched a programme, the programme has specific activities involved in it; that is what the programme is to be.
“Tomorrow, because of exigencies of issues and the rest, things can change, and, by the way, that’s the nature of the world: it doesn’t stand still. If that happens, as a government that listens, we’ll look at it and make a decision but as we stand here, please pay it back”, he said.
The clarification was needed following claims by former President John Mahama that the government was circulating information around that if beneficiaries of the stimulus package do not vote for President Nana Akufo-Addo and the main opposition party returns to power, they would be forced to pay back the money but would not have to do so if the incumbent government is retained after the 7 December polls.
Mr Mahama, on Tuesday, 27 October 2020 gave Ghanaians the assurance that his next government, should he win the polls, will not chase any trader who has benefitted from the stimulus package.
According to Mr Mahama, some elements within the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) are deceiving the beneficiaries not to vote for him with reason that he would chase them for the money if re-elected.
Speaking to NDC supporters at Osuwem, as part of his five-day campaign tour of the Greater Accra Region, Mr Mahama described the rumour as cheap politics without any merit.
He told the traders that he would also not collect the loan back if elected President in the December polls.
He said: “It’s been four years of hardship, four years of suffering; now that it’s getting to election, they are giving traders money.
“They are coming round and distributing money to people but you’ve been in poverty for four years, they didn’t come and give you money. Now that its two months to election, they are coming and giving you money.
“When they give you the money, you collect it, but when you go to vote, vote for Mahama”, the former President said.
According to him, “they are giving money to traders and they are saying it is a loan to support you ‘but if you vote for us and NPP stays, we won’t collect it but if John Mahama comes, he will collect the money back.’ Me, too, I won’t collect it.
“So, any money they give you, if they say they won’t collect it, its free money; me, too, when I come, I won’t collect it.”
Mr Mahama described the alleged move by NPP as cheap politicking.
According to the former president, the money being given as loans is money his government saved in the stabilisation fund during his term in office and wondered why he would chase the traders for it when he was the first to suggest that it should be used to support them during the pandemic.
“This is cheap politicking, cheap politics; the money you are using is money I put in the stabilisation fund. The money that is being distributed to traders is from the stabilisation fund, I put that money there when I was president so that anytime we are faced with a crisis like this, we can take money out of that fund.
“So, when you were faced with this crisis, I was the first to suggest that: ‘Go and take money from the stabilisation fund and then you say: ‘OK, we are taking money from the stabilisation fund, we are going to use GHS600 million as stimulus’. Half of that money, you’ve shared to your party people, the remaining money you’re giving to traders and you’re telling the traders that it is a loan but vote for us, if we stay, we’ll cancel it, we won’t let you pay, but if John Mahama comes, he will collect it’”.
“That money, I put it there, [so] me, too, I won’t collect it. So, if they give you that money, it’s free; me, too, when I come, I won’t collect it”.