The National Democratic Congress (NDC) says Gvernment’s “claim of reviewing” the benchmark value policy to support local industries is a ‘smokescreen’to overburden citizens.
According to the Party, the Government was in a better position to help local industries and boost local production by reducing the cost of doing business through the stabilisation of the Cedi, lowering utility tariffs, and reducing taxes instead of reversing the policy.
It said the removal of benchmark value on some 43 imported items was likely to harm the same industries that Government said it was protecting, because most of the industries relied on the imported commodities that did not have substitutes locally as input for local production.
“Even for the few affected products that are produced locally, we do not currently have the local capacity to produce to meet national demands,” said Mr. Sammy Gyamfi, the National Communications Officer of the Party at a press conference in Accra on Wednesday.
He said the decision to reverse the policy at a time when commodity prices had increased with depreciating currency, rise in freight charges, and projected increase in fuel prices, showed the “insensitivity” of the Government to the plight of Ghanaians.
“This will ultimately increase the cost of doing business in the country, negatively affect the turnover of businesses and trade volumes and lead to the collapse of many businesses and jobs,” he said.
Mr Gyamfi claimed the Government was being forced to abandon its vision of reducing smuggling and making Ghana’s port the most competitive in the sub-region through the benchmark policy due to “self-inflicted economic malaise” caused by “corruption,” “mismanagement,” and “reckless election-driven spending.”
Mr. Gyamfi, said Government was, therefore, on a mission of shoring up its revenue “to create an artificial picture of a sound economy in order to convince the investor community on more and more borrowing”.
He said it was not tenable to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a justification for the reversal of the benchmark value because the Government had external funding from institutions such as IMF, World Bank and exceeded its revenue in 2020, which surpassed revenue generated in 2019.
“In the year 2019 before the advent of COVID-19, total tax revenue stood at GHC43 billion while total tax revenue for 2020 stood at GHC45.3 billion, thereby exceeding tax revenue target by GHC2.5 billion.
“Without any argument, this government has been the luckiest and most resourced government in Ghana’s history with a total resource envelope of over GHS460 billion accruing to them in the last five years,” he stated.
The Government, in April 2019, introduced a benchmark value discount of 30 percent on vehicles and 50 percent on goods at the port to make the port competitive within the sub-region
The intervention was to curb smuggling, which had increased because of higher import duty charges at the port.
On January 4, 2022, however, the Government, to the displeasure of traders and importers, announced the reversal of the policy to protect local industries.
The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) welcomed the decision to reverse the policy, which it said would help local industries to grow and become competitive.
The Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), however, said the timing was wrong, would increase prices of goods and overburden the citizens.