The Ghana Association of Bankers Monday announced the establishment of a GHS 10 million Covid-19 Response Fund for the procurement of equipment and providing other support to minimise the socio-economic impact of the disease on the public.
"Banks, working through the GAB, have donated to set up a GHS10 million Covid-19 Response Fund.This donation will go directly towards the procurement of equipment for managing the virus, support to frontline medical staff in residence, and to ease the burden and practical difficulties some of our vulnerable citizens have to endure during this period of restriction in movement," it said in an official statement.
GAB is also in the final stages of discussions with the Bank of Ghana, the Finance Ministry and member banks to set up gross loans on preferential terms of up to GHS3 billion to pharmaceutical companies, which decide to switch production lines to enable them to focus attention on critical medical equipment or to enhance the capacity of existing plants.
The statement signed by Mr D.K. Mensah, Chief Executive Officer of the Association, and copied to the Ghana News Agency, in Accra, mentioned additional interventions to reduce the financial burden on the public and businesses as cutting interest rates and scrapping or reducing charges for digital banking platforms.
It said Banks had agreed to cut further interest rate by a general 200 basis points on all existing local currency-denominated loans and for all new loans to be sanctioned by member banks.
"This rate cut shall cover not only the period of the pandemic but Banks recognise that it will take businesses and individuals sometime after the end of the pandemic to retool and restock to achieve the semblance of normalcy – the rate cut will, therefore, cover the remaining tenor of the facility," it said.
The statement said given the sanctity of customer privacy/data protection issues, the banks would hold bilateral - discussions on further reprieve to customers operating in the worst-affected industries to develop a more tailor-made solution to ensure sustainability.
"We recognise with concern the challenges some of our clients have had to go through during the pendency of the pandemic; to mention a few, we note real
challenges facing the airlines and general transportation businesses; hotels and other tourism related businesses; importers/exporters and our clients who are staff of these worst affected businesses.
"We advise customers to exercise restraint during this exercise as delays may be expected as banks will be using existing lean staff on the roll to begin individual discussions on loan extensions, restructuring or other solutions respective banks will proffer to lessen the impact the virus may have caused".
According to the statement, GAB members had already either reduced or removed completely charges on digital banking platforms to available digital banking to enable banking halls of banks to handle limited banking services.
"Banks demonstrate resilience during pandemic by kicking in Disaster Resolution protocols and Business Continuity Plans," it said.
"As announced by his Excellency the President of the Republic, as an essential service provider, Banks view this call to duty as a service to country in times of need.
" As has been witnessed elsewhere, sustained contraction should be avoided to lessen the pain of any consequential economic downturn and we are ready to play our part in that regard".
The statement urged all and sundry to adhere to the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization, the Ghana Health Service and President Nana Akufo-Addo to stem the spread trajectory of the virus.