Government has been urged to broaden discussions on its planned implementation of the reversal of benchmark discounts.
David Ofosu-Dorte, Senior Partner at AB and David Africa, believes such consultations will help address the varied concerns raised by industry players over the move.
Following agitations from stakeholders in importation, President Nana Akufo-Addo directed the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to put on hold the implementation of the reversal of the benchmark values for further consultations, which he said should be concluded by January 17, 2022.
In addition, Mr. Ofosu Dorte wants the government to provide a clear time frame, for such talks to be concluded.
“I have realized that it is difficult for the government to make a decision. It is a massive issue and what I recommend to the President is the need for broader consultations and a definite timeline for this issue to be resolved because either way, it affects industrialization or the cost of goods that people buy. One of the things that the government needs to do is coordinate it with other things for the total impact”, Mr. Ofosu-Dorte told Bernard Avle on the Point of View on Citi TV.
Already, the Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana has said the suspension of the reversal of the benchmark values by the President is a clear indication the policy was rushed.
Executive Secretary of the Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana, Sampson Asaki Awingobit, told Citi News, the deadline given is not enough for wider consultations to be done.
“I am looking forward to hearing the President actually suspending the programme and allowing for wider consultations.”
“The January 17 deadline is too short a time for this to be done.”
Importers and exporters blame GUTA leadership for economic hardship
The Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana (IEAG) has blamed the leadership of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) for what it described as the hardship and high cost of doing business in Ghana currently.
IEAG, in a statement signed by Mr. Samson Awingobit Asaki, Executive Secretary, copied to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Tema said “all these hardships and challenges largely have to do with GUTA’s endorsement of government’s unwarranted and insensitive policies towards trading.”
The Importers and Exporters Association claimed that “the current GUTA leadership is in bed with the government endorsing all its policies even when it is not in the interest of traders.
“It is worrying that any time trades organizations kicked against some government’s unfravourable policies, the government then runs to GUTA, or GUTA leaders on their own volition would go to the government to support them at the expense of defending their members’ interests.
“Almost all the policies the government has introduced and implemented have received the blessings of GUTA, yet, they will leave the meeting grounds, go into the market and behave like saints and innocent or ignorant of what is happening to the business community,” the statement indicated.
“The way and manner the current GUTA Executives are treating the government and some of its unfriendly trade policies leave one to wonder if the current GUTA executives are not directly and personally benefiting from the government at the expense of their members and the cherished trading public,” the statement added.
The IEAG cautioned that until the current GUTA leadership acknowledged that they were leaders because of their members, and stand firm to oppose policies that are against the business community just like their sister associations do, the hardship the business community was facing would be worse.
“Until the current GUTA leadership change and realize that they are not leaders on their own and therefore cannot take decisions all the time on their own, but rather need to consult with their membership including sister associations, we will still have these problems at hand in the Ghanaian Trading Environment.”
It emphasized that “it must therefore be placed on record that GUTA was responsible for the difficulties all Ghanaian businesses were going through by accepting and allowing the implementation of some government’s insensitive policies.”
The association, therefore, called on all the importers and traders in Ghana to put pressure on the current GUTA leadership to sit up and think of the plight of traders instead of bowing to the whims and caprices of the current government all the time.
The importers and exporters association explained that interactions with some operators in the country revealed that they were losing huge revenue.
The association noted that the traders admitted having lost a minimum of about 40 percent of their revenues monthly due to the unfavourable policies of the government.
It added that prices of goods have gone up by 30 percent in all sectors making consumers’ purchasing power drop drastically.
Tariff hikes untenable, utility companies having a laugh – Bright Simons
Policy Analyst, Bright Simons, has described as untenable the demands being made by regulated utility companies for hikes in their tariffs.
According to him, their demands are akin to the utility companies “having a laugh” at the expense of Ghanaians, and he has thus called on the Public Utilities Regulation Committee (PURC) to take an active role in assessing the viability of their integrated resource plans.
“They cannot justify the demands that they’re making, and we believe the PURC has every basis to begin active regulation,” he said.
“This tendency where it just sits there and requests for quality KPI data as opposed to probing the integrated resource plan of the utilities to establish whether or not the return on equity analysis that they’re making is sound is no longer viable,” he added.
He made these comments on JoyNews’ Newsfile on Saturday in reaction to the proposal by the regulated utilities companies’ proposal to the PURC to hike tariffs by more than 100%.
According to the utilities companies, their current tariffs are not enough to fully support their operations thus contributing to their operational inefficiencies.
The Communications Director at the Ghana Water Company Limited, Stanley Martey, had earlier this week warned that should the tariffs continue to remain low, the GWCL may be forced to fold up.
On his part, the Communications Manager of the Electricity Company of Ghana, William Boateng had also stated that the ECG was broke and would need the tariffs to go up as soon as possible.
However, reacting to their statements, Bright Simons noted that particularly in the case of ECG, the percentage they receive from the tariffs currently being paid to them is much higher than the percentage most regulated utility companies across the world receive.
According to him, if ECG is complaining about receiving low tariffs it is most likely due to the inefficient use of the tariffs, and not how low they are.
He explained, “So we have to just look at the numbers. I mean, ECG has a distribution service charge as a percentage of the end user tariff. So what you pay at the end is an aggregated number that comes from charging you for the generation of the power.
“So Akosombo is owned by VRA, they have a certain cost for producing the power; then GRIDCo is owned by the government, they transmit the power to ECG; ECG is more or less owned by the government, and they send the power to your house as distributors.
“And each of them take a piece of the amount of money that you pay. So if you look at ECG alone, they’re getting like two point something cents per kilowatt hour that they give to you. Two point something cents is really good. I mean you look at utilities of the same size as ECG in many parts of the world, in Asia and US and the rest, and they’re making do with one cent or 1.5 cent etc.
“So if you’re getting 2 cents per kilowatt hour you have to be quite inefficient to claim that that amount is much too low.”
He noted that even though he does not disagree that there may be exogenous factors that contribute to the problem these regulated utility companies are facing, “we still have to look at the numbers.”
Release all 5% of ABFA cash to DACF – PIAC to Ministry of Finance
The Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) has urged the Ministry of Finance to release funds meant for the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF) to enable local assemblies to complete oil-funded projects, which are currently at various levels of completion.
A 2019 Supreme Court ruling indicated that 5 percent of the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) must be given to the District Assembly Common Fund but according to findings by PIAC in its 2021 report, even though some monies were distributed and allocated to the DACF, it did not correspond to the 5 percent as the judgement stipulated.
A senior member of PIAC, Alhaji Ahmed Sulleman Anderson who spoke to journalists on the sidelines of a media capacity training over the weekend in Keta for the Institute of Financial and Economic Journalist (IFEJ) and some selected Parliamentary Press Corp said only 1.74 percent per PIAC’s calculations of the total stipulated 5 percent was released into the DACF.
“On the 2021 report, the recommendations include the fact that the ministry of finance must ensure that funds are released early for projects to be executed on time. We are saying that there is a Supreme Court ruling which was made in 2019 to the effect that the 5 percent of ABFA money must be given to the District Assembly Common Fund. What we saw in the 2021 report indicates that some monies were distributed and allocated to the DACF, but it did not correspond to the 5 percent as the judgement stipulated. And per our calculations, it was just about 1.74 percent. So we are recommending that there should be strict compliance with that ruling by the Supreme Court so that the proper and appropriate amount gets into the DACF as the Supreme Court ruling stipulates”.
Dr. Sulleman further called on the Ministry of Finance to apply the formula used in determining the cap of the stabilization fund at all times “so that we don’t leave it to the whims and caprices of any minister at any time.”
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