STORY BY: SETH KOJO EYIAH.
The Traders Advocacy Group Ghana (TAGG), has blamed the increasing prices of goods and services in the country on the failure of policymakers for not doing enough to stem the situation.
It said it is unfortunate that traders and importers are rather being blamed for the situation instead of the policymakers telling Ghanaians the economic reasons for the hikes in prices of goods on the market.
Speaking at a news conference in Accra, the General Secretary of TAGG, Nana Poku, said Ghana is not self-sufficient when it comes to the commodity market. Therefore, importation is inevitable as most commodities are not manufactured in Ghana. He said, “As a result, close to 60% of household commodities needed for day-to-day living is imported into the country to augment the effort of Ghanaian industries.”
Mr. Poku said TAGG expected policymakers such as the Ministry of Trade and Industry and all other agencies especially the Ghana Shippers Authority, to have conducted an all-inclusive stakeholder engagement to sample views of trade organisations on the issue instead of being selective as to who participates or not.
“Such antics do not augur well for trade promotion in the country,” he said.
TAGG said at the moment, shipping companies and vessels are not sending containers to China resulting in an upsurge in freight charges when shipping a container from Asia to Ghana. However, government and for that matter revenue collection agencies such as the Ghana Revenue Authority are going overboard with atrocious and ridiculous increase in charges and duties on goods imported into the country.
In recent times, freight charges for a 40ft container from China to Ghana range from $12,000 to $20,000. In view of these developments, the Customs Division of GRA calculates per the freight charges before arriving at the actual duty to be paid by the importer. “Unfortunately, GRA instead of evaluating the situation offshore to ascertain its impact, have rather come out with a predetermined rate ranging from $3,000 for 20ft container to $5,000 for 40ft container, and $8,000 for refrigerated container” and sees no reason to empathise with traders and importers.
Mr. Poku said TAGG has gathered that government is putting together committees to investigate the rationale behind price hikes in commodities such as building materials. “We beg to differ. Was the government expecting FATHER CHRISTMAS PRICES? Are they expecting traders to pay more on imports in huge sums of money and at the end of the day sell for less and lose their capital? Big NO!”
He said for years successive governments have come and gone but the plight of importers and traders have remained the same with no remedy in insight. Mr. Poku noted that traders for years have been pleading anytime there is increment in tariffs by government but will not do so again this time around.
“If this current government increases import tariffs, we will also tell our traders and members across all the 16 regions to do same. Prices will continue to soar as long as government keeps increasing tariffs around imports,” Mr. Poku stressed.
He said it is disheartening that a government that once listened to the voices of traders no longer does. The group, therefore, called for a change in the trading community.
TAGG lamented that foreigners have now taken over the import business pushing out indigenous businessmen and women who hitherto had monopoly on the market.
The traders have therefore rejected in no uncertain terms the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin’s assurance to Nigeria that the GIPC Act, Act 865, will be amended to exempt Nigerians from the $1 million dollar investment threshold in order to trade in the country’s retail sector.
The General Secretary of TAGG said the retail sector employs thousands and thousands of Ghanaians. That was why the GIPC Act was promulgated to protect the Ghanaian retail sector against foreigners. The traders, therefore, questioned the patriotism of the Speaker of Parliament and if he has the Ghanaian trader at heart.