Cameroon Unveils New COVID-19 Economic Relief Packages, Rejects Gift From Opposition

The Prime Minister and Head of Government of Cameroon, Dr Dion Ngute, on Friday announced economic incentives aimed at alleviating some of the difficulties faced by businesses and the citizens as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement followed the instruction of the head of state, President Paul Biya.

The measures were arrived at following consultations with various professional groups and representatives of the country’s external technical and financial partners, Ngute said.

Some of the measures became necessary as a result of the progress so far made in combatting the coronavirus pandemic, according to the prime minister.

He said while schools remained closed and the celebrations of the International Labour Day on May 1 and the National Day on May 20 would not hold, bars, night clubs, restaurants and eateries would, as from Friday, be opened with a caveat – attendees must wear face masks.

The measure is already being criticised as government is accused of putting the interests of some businesses above the education of young Cameroonians. But the prime minister pointed out that the hotel and restaurant as well as the transport sectors were the hardest hit by the anti- COVID-19 measures so far taken by government.

The prime minister said there had been an intensification and extension of tests to an increasing number of communities and individuals.

He said that more patients who tested positive for COVID-19 were being successfully treated and discharged from hospital with a very low mortality rate.

As of Thursday, April 30, Cameroon had 1,852 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 61 dead and 934 patients successfully treated and discharged from hospital, according to the Minister of Public Health, Dr Manaouda Malachie.

Other palliative measures taken by the government include:

  • the lifting of the measure limiting the number of passengers transported by taxis and buses while the wearing of masks remains in place;
  • the suspension for the second semester of 2020 of the audit and general verification of business accounts except in cases where fraud is suspected;
  • the postponement of the deadline for the deposit of fiscal and statistical declarations without penalties in cases where amounts due have been paid;
  • the granting of a moratorium and the deferment of payment of taxes by enterprises directly affected by the coronavirus crisis as well as the suspension of forced recovery measures against the enterprises;
  • support to the treasury in the sum of 25 billion FCFA (50 million dollars) to enable it to pay arrears of value added tax due to business enterprises;
  • postponement until September 30 of the deadline for the payment of land taxes for the 2020 fiscal year;
  • and the exemption from payment of communal taxes by roadside vendors commonly known as bayam-sellams.

The government also suspended several other taxes for three months – April to June – while monthly family allowances per child have been increased from 2,800 FCFA (5.5 dollars) to 4,500 FCFA (nine dollars).

The prime minister called on all public sector workers who had abandoned their places of work on the pretext of confinement because of COVID-19 to immediately return to work, failure to which would attract severe disciplinary sanctions.

He admonished heads of various ministerial departments to ensure that workers both within the central administration and the decentralised services, strictly respect the return-to-work directive.

In a related development, the Minister of Public Health, Malachie, on Thursday refused receiving anti-COVID-19 medical equipment valued at about 100 million FCFA (200,000 dollars) donated by the leader of Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM), Prof. Maurice Kamto. The equipment included 10,000 face masks, 6,800 surgical masks and 950 screening test kits.

In a bizarre response for an audience by the political adviser of Kamto in the person of Penda Ekoka, to present the CRM leader to present the gifts, the minister abandoned his office for several hours and later issued him a letter directing him to take the gifts to the Minister of Territorial Administration.

Malachie gave the directive in full knowledge of the fact that the Minister of Territorial Administration , Paul Atanga Nji, had been in a legal battle with CRM and had threatened to ban it on several occasions and so would not receive the gifts.

The health minister’s action has attracted condemnation on social media platforms with most Cameroonians accusing the government of playing politics with the lives of the people by refusing gifts from a concerned citizen, Kamto.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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