A health policy think tank has called on the government to abolish the 1% COVID-19 tax that was imposed on Ghanaians to fund the pandemic response. The African Center for Health Policy Research and Analysis (ACH-PRA) says that since COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency, there is no justification for continuing to collect the tax from the public.
The Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Thomas Anaba, told Citi News that the government has already received enough funds from loans and donations to deal with COVID-19, and that it should account for how it spent those funds. He said that the COVID-19 tax was unnecessary and burdensome for Ghanaians, especially at a time when the country is facing a severe debt crisis.
“We were not in support of this tax from the beginning. We think it is time for the government to scrap it along with all the other taxes they are imposing on us. We have borrowed and received enough money for COVID-19, more than we expected. We want to know how they used that money. They have not been transparent and accountable to Ghanaians,” Dr. Anaba said.
He also urged the government to provide relief to Ghanaians who have been affected by the pandemic and its economic impact.
“We want them to show some compassion and empathy to Ghanaians who have suffered a lot because of COVID-19. They should provide some stimulus packages and social interventions to help people recover from this crisis,” he added.
The COVID-19 tax was introduced by the government in 2021 as part of its budget statement and economic policy. The tax was meant to raise revenue to support COVID-19 expenditures and other related matters. The tax was applicable to both standard rate and VAT flat rate registered persons.
According to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), the tax did not have an expiry date and was still in force as of May 2023.
The introduction of the tax was met with criticism from some civil society groups, businesses, and individuals who argued that it was unfair and regressive.
The government defended the tax, saying that it was necessary to pay for COVID-19 freebies such as free water and electricity that were provided to Ghanaians during the lockdown period in 2020. The government also said that it needed more funds to procure vaccines and strengthen the health system.
However, ACH-PRA says that these arguments are no longer valid since Ghana has lifted all COVID-19 restrictions at entry points as of May 20, 2023. This followed the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) declaration on May 5, 2023 that COVID-19 is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The Ghana Health Service (GHS) announced in a statement that pre-departure testing and testing at all points of entry are no more a requirement for all passengers.