Kwame Boakye for Accra Mail
Someone once said when it comes to change, Ghanaians are the lowest to respond in the entire world. To him, we like to live under the status quo with all its attendant harsh conditions and complain all the time rather than embrace the new concept that promises relief. When someone introduces change, the first response is "it won't work." The educated, the worst offenders, then quote extensively from text books to buttress their it-won't-work arguments while the not so educated sing the this-is-how-we-came-to-see-it chorus.
True when something gets into our minds, it sticks really well. Even when times and conditions change, we fail to update what we have up there. Result? We often find ourselves in precarious situations that cause a lot of damage to our goals and aspirations.
A sad case in point is the cultivated belief that anybody returning home from abroad has to bring a vehicle to enable him or her to go around. This was a 1970 idea that should have long gone out of use. At that time the transportation sector had almost broken down and we encouraged and cherished the efforts of our brothers and sisters to bring vehicles of all ages and conditions to resuscitate it. Indeed, to date, we continue to cherish the immense contribution they offered at that crucial time in our nation's history.
But things have changed since. There are car dealers along the major roads of our urban centres throughout the country. You can find a vehicle that fits your budget and needs at a price lower than if you have to bring your own.
The recent lamentation in the newspapers of an individual who couldn't come up with 58million cedis to clear a 1995 Isuzu cross country vehicle that he had brought into the country was very unfortunate indeed. But he must blame himself for not listening to reason instead of huffing and puffing at the state to change the law in his favour. The law cannot be changed for any individual anytime he (generic) thinks he's aggrieved. According to him he couldn't understand why he had to pay that much as duty when a
similar one of a more recent make was selling at around 30million cedis. Duh! We cannot fathom why anyone, who's aspiring to be an entrepreneur, would fail the first test of the game, that is, to try to cut down costs. That is the point. If vehicles are selling that cheap in Ghana, what on earth would prompt people to import their own at high cost to them and their planned business undertaking? If he did carry the Isuzu with him home on the premise that he can't find a vehicle like it at home, it should have dawned on him that some people drive Land Cruisers and Pathfinders. He didn't know? No, he can't convince some of us enough that he had not heard that he could get everything in Ghana, and that it is a waste of money and time to try to bring everything you'll need to Ghana.
If you want a vehicle that is worth say $10,000, you carry your $10,000 with you safely in your pocket or wire it home, if you believe in absolute safety like I do. At least you don't pay freight and import charges on the money. Then you go to the car market and select one for that amount, test drive it, and pay for it.
If you choose to import your own to impress the 'home guards,' you pay $10,000 for it, ship it home for around $2,000, and clear it for around $2,500 depending on the age of the vehicle. You would have spent $15,000 to acquire the same vehicle that would have cost you only $10,000. That would be your business alone and you won't have to bug our ears with high duty stories because you knew what you were getting yourself into when you decided to take that path.
On your way from the harbour, you may stop at the dealers and sample some of their vehicles out of curiosity. Your jaw drops on hearing how cheap they are and knowing what a "tsatsu" (financial wizard) you've been. Ask further how much they'd pay for yours if you want to open the sluices under your eyes to let out more tears.
Don't ask me how these dealers are able to sell their vehicles at a price lower than what you paid for your import. It has something to do with business acumen, quantity price, and competitive advantage. Let those who know how to use the import code import stuff for us to do the purchasing.
Not only vehicles. Returnees carry with them items that can only be classified as junk. Most are things that are abundant in Ghana and to which nobody pays attention. It is sad to find litres of Coca Cola, canned food, toilet soaps and toilet paper loaded into suitcases or tote bags in the cargo hold of aircrafts on their way to 'the land of no commodities.' They do this because they've always been negative and believed in the fact that the nation cannot do any better.
Folks, there is an abundance of commodities in the country. We carry junk with us because we refuse to listen to reason. Period. You don't carry your own sand when you go to the beach. If the item you crave is abundant in Ghana, why import your own to the point of going broke or losing it to the state because it attracts too much tax? It is baffling to see the huge luggage our people alone carry back home and what they contain. We don't forget to take a few of everything we'll need on our few weeks' stay. If you give us the chance, we'll take a few apartments with us because we think we cannot get any place to lay our heads. We don't cease to amaze ourselves with stories of our own country that are everything but inspiring and encouraging.
We should take with us financial ingenuity rather than trunks full of commodities and vehicles that we may not be able to clear. We should have faith in our nation and believe that we can get everything we need on the market when we have the money. Otherwise, we'll always find ourselves in a similar situation our Isuzu brother found himself.
Views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.