RELIEF packages provided by banks to cushion businesses from the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have been met with mixed reactions from some business associations in the country.
While some maintained that the relief packages provided by the banks had help to keep their members in business amid the pandemic, others say their members are yet to benefit from such packages from financial institutions.
The reactions come few weeks after the President of the Ghana Bankers Association (GAB), Mr Alhassan Andani, announced that banks in the country have so far supported businesses in different forms to the tune of GH¢3.6 billion.
The amount was provided in the form of new loans; rescheduling of loan repayments and interest write offs among other things. It was meant to support businesses and individuals directly affected by the pandemic.
The President of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), Dr Joseph Obeng, in an interview with the Graphic Business on June 22 in Accra commended the banks for the relief packages in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He mentioned loan repayment holidays provided by the banks to the tune of about GH?1.6 billion to customers as one of the significant measures to help keep them in business.
“The Republic Bank Ghana Limited was the first institution to place a six-month moratorium on the repayment of loans it granted to customers, in a bid to help its clients cope with the devastating impact of the virus on businesses and economies.
“The bank’s recognition of the critical times and the attendant high pressure on cash flows for individuals and businesses was commendable.
“This is indeed a great service that kept most of our members afloat,” he said.
He explained that the initiative had helped cushion the cash flows of importers to take all precautionary measures to protect themselves and their families from the pandemic.
Dr Obeng urged all members of GUTA and the business community in general to take advantage of the relief packages of the banks.
“These relief packages granted by the banks are the kindest gesture an institution could offer its customers during this period,” he added.
However, the President of the Vegetable Producers and Exporters Association of Ghana (VEPEAG), Mr Felix Kamassah, stated that their members were yet to benefit from such packages from financial institutions.
He noted that news on the banks relief packages have come to their attention but they remain remorse because its members have not benefited from the new loans, rescheduling of loan repayments and interest write offs.
“None of our members have so far benefited from the relief packages provided by the banks as a result of the pandemic. Not that we do not like or take loans, but when we get to the banks, we do not get the kind of support we are looking for,” he said.
This, Mr Kamassah said, was simply a clear evidence of how financial institutions neglect or refuse to grant loans to businesses in the horticulture space.
He, therefore, called for an industry specific packages such as the provision of soft loans to support the horticulture industry, especially vegetable and fruit production.
“We think the financial institutions should support us with soft loans of low interest rates and not the usual commercial rates,” the president said.
This, he said, would rescue vegetable exporting firms who lost their capital as a result of the restrictions on human movement (lockdown), especially in Europe.