The Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Mr. George Blankson recently reported that the GRA exceeded its 2015 revenue target of GH¢ 21.57 by collecting GH¢ 22.17 billion.
Refreshing as that news is, there, however, is still a lot more to be done to rake in more tax revenue for Ghana’s development against the backdrop of the sustained and increasing activities of smugglers. This calls for a sustained fight against smuggling activities on the part of stakeholders, the citizenry and the security agencies.
The GRA has attributed the 2015 revenue target improvement to successes chalked in the implementation of the Single Window Unit System introduced at the ports in September 2015 as well as strategies devised by it to collect more revenue. GRA deserves the commendation of all for this feat.
Ghana, however, faces a myriad of challenges in the area of smuggling which ought to be confronted by all stakeholders in a sustained and concerted manner if it is to win the war against smuggling and rake in more revenue to meet its development aspirations.
SMUGGLING& REVENUE COLLECTION
Information relating to smuggling available in Ghana indicate quite clearly and disturbingly that there is a booming trade in smuggled goods and commodities such as textiles, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, cocoa, food items, cigarettes (tobacco) etc. in violation of our laws.
The status quo calls for vigorous and sustained anti-smuggling activities to stymie the gaping holes in national revenue collection and thereby boost revenue collection by the relevant authorities.
It is heartwarming that the Cocobod for instance, has in the past resourced the Ghana Armed Forces with vehicles to patrol the land borders of Ghana to arrest cocoa smugglers.
Occasionally, one reads media reports of exercises by the Ghana Police Service, the Customs Division of GRA and the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) to arrest persons dealing in the illegal importation, warehousing and sale of textiles and alcoholic beverages among others. Such exercises ought to be increased with a sustained frequency to send a clear signal that Ghana is committed to stamp out smuggling to boost revenue collection and safeguard public health.
A grave danger inherent in smuggling of food items and other consumables for instance, is the existence of counterfeit goods. This has implications on public health. The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) as well as the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) for instance are backed by law to ascertain the contents and quality of constituent parts of food items and products consumed or used in Ghana.
It is known that importers of counterfeited products do not register their products as required by law for obvious reasons.
The current approach of the WTO to which Ghana is compliant with, demands some revisions to trade practices globally but cannot be a justification for dealing in and consumption of illegally imported goods.
It is known that in spite of the laudable collaboration between Cocobod and the security agencies, cocoa smuggling for instance still flourishes. This imposes a burden on the state, citizenry and industry players to join forces to combat smuggling with sustained and increased frequency.
Smuggled goods are today sold brazenly in almost all markets in Ghana. The border towns are also notoriously known for brisk trade in smuggled goods.
CHALLENGES& SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS
The challenges facing the GRA, myriad as they are, are not insurmountable. The most notorious of these though are:
Ghana’s porous borders
Corruption on the part of some law enforcement officers who aid and abet persons who are engaged in smuggling, thereby depriving the state of much-needed tax revenue.
Inadequate public sensitisation on the negative health impact of buying and consuming smuggled goods
Indifference to policing Ghana’s borders on the part of some security agencies to ensure non-entry of smuggled goods or unaccustomed goods.
It is suggested that stakeholders such as the government, the security agencies and citizenry ought to collaborate on a consistent basis to combat smuggling. This can be achieved through:
Public-Private Partnerships to deal with smuggled products
Equipping and training the security agencies such as the Police, Ghana Immigration Service and the Customs Division of the GRA to confront the illicit trading
Prosecution and sentencing of persons who engage in smuggling goods with stiff sentences such as confiscation, jail terms and huge fines
Sustained public sensitisation on the harm consumption and trading of smuggled goods has on public health and the economy.
The call is for industry-wide consultations to be commenced to reach a national campaign with key deliverables to be achieved every year to save Ghana from the menace of smuggled and counterfeited goods with immediate effect.
We need a healthy citizenry and increased revenue generation to meet national development challenges; and smuggling is a principal enemy that ought to be checkmated effectively to ensure a total victory in this regard.
The challenge is on and there is the need for the Ministry of Finance, GRA and all entities whose products are suffering at the hands of the smugglers as well as the citizenry to join forces to save Ghana.