A deputy Minister of Finance, Dr John Kumah, has described the National Democratic Congress (NDC’s) position on the decision of the government to reverse the benchmark value discounts on some selected imported products as a deception which does not help in nation building.
The government in the 2022 budget announced its decision to scrap the 30 per cent and 50 per cent discount benchmark values on imported vehicles and general goods, respectively, which was introduced in 2019.
But at a recently held press conference, the NDC urged the government to rescind this decision, stating that, failure to do so would increase prices of imported products like sugar, rice, fish, poultry, noodles, pasta, tomato paste, among others.
Responding to the NDC’s press conference, Dr Kumah, said the views shared by the largest opposition party in the country were regrettable and pedestrian.
“Perhaps, if the NDC had done a little research, it would have unearthed the countless benefits that government and local businesses would accrue from reversing this policy.
“Moreover, the thrust of NDC’s presser appears ill-informed and inconsistent with its 2020 Manifesto “Edwuma Pa Plan”, where they promised to prioritise local production for rapid industrialisation, job creation and entrepreneurship,” he stated.
He said the benchmark value discount policy in the first place was a creation of the New Patriotic Party government in 2019 and it was therefore strange that the NDC party, who in their eight years in power, never saw the need for such a policy suddenly emerge as defenders of the policy.
“Why didn’t the NDC government implement a benchmark value policy to cushion Ghanaians and importers?,” he asked.
Promoting local production
Dr Kumah, who is the Member of Parliament for Ejisu, said the decision of the government to reverse the policy was to help boost local production in the country.
He said throughout the country’s history, various governments have strived to promote local production and have implemented policies to reduce the Ghana’s dependence on foreign economies.
He noted that the policy of import-substitution was one classic example.
He said the foreign exchange cost to government for the importation of some goods which could be produced locally was something all political actors should be concerned about.
“The NPP government has shown clearly that its priority is to support local businesses to be able to produce many of these products and ultimately reduce the foreign exchange burden occasioned by the huge imports,” he stated.
Dr Kumah said it was undeniable that the government in the past 5-year had worked tirelessly to anchor economic growth and progress on local production.
He said a comprehensive and wide-ranging industrial transformation programmes geared towards making Ghana the new manufacturing hub in West Africa and Africa had been implemented.
He noted that the specific areas of this grand programme includes the National Industrial Revitalisation Programme, which aims to provide a stimulus package to commercially viable but financially distressed companies.
“The next component is the One District One Factory (1D1F) which is also geared towards decentralising industrial development in Ghana. The Strategic Anchor Industries is the next. This is intended to position Ghana’s industrial landscaping around specific industrial patterns and products (agro-processing, pharmaceutical industry, integrated aluminium industry, iron and steel industry, automobile and vehicle assembly, textiles, garments and apparel sector, industrial salt, petrochemicals, manufacturing of machines and machinery Components, industrial starch and oil palm industry).
“The rest are the Industrial parks and special economic zones that facilitate land acquisition to set up industrial parks across the Country. These parks will be Free Zone enclaves with access to reliable utilities,” he explained.
He said the government was also implementing an export development programme aimed at encouraging and facilitating businesses to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA), the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
“We also aim at enhancing domestic retail infrastructure to add value to locally manufactured products to make them competitive with other products from elsewhere.
“The Business Regulatory Reforms, Industrial sub-contracting exchange is also intended to link SMEs to large companies in the Country to ensure that they subcontract some of their businesses to the SMEs and improve Public-Private sector Dialogue,” he stated.
Response to the NDC’s position on the economy
Dr Kumah also described the NDC’s position on the economy as fallacies which are characterised by factual inaccuracies.
He said the sterling performance of the NPP government was there for all to see.
“The strong rebound in growth which is projected at 4.9 per cent for 2021, is a testament to the marvellous job the NPP has done since assuming office, albeit the blips brought by COVID-19.
“The fallacy of the NDC on the cedi’s strength is laughable. The pace of depreciation of the cedi against the major trading currencies during the era of the NDC were in their high twenties. Today, the cedi’s depreciation rate against the dollar has slowed to 3.63 per cent as at the end December 2021,” he said.
He said the government was focused on building the Ghanaian economy, emphasising local production in line with the Ghana Beyond Aid Strategy.
In this regard, he said deliberate policies which encourage citizens to expand their entrepreneurial prowess would be supported.
“Government will grow local businesses to create jobs and accelerate our economic emancipation. Government will choose domestication ahead of any policy dogma that increases our dependence on foreign goods.
“Indeed, the government is firmly convinced that our local businesses can meet domestic demand and even support other countries through the various trade pacts Ghana has signed on,” he said.