The General Agricultural Workers Union of the Ghana Trade Union Congress (GAWU) has revealed that the union was not against the benchmark policy in totality.
“We are against its discrimination towards the interest of domestic producers in the country.”
Mr. Edward T. Kareweh, GAWU General Secretary said the union was against a benchmark policy that made imports cheaper than locally produced goods.
Mr Kareweh cited the production of salt saying that “if Ghana was not producing salt, but rather imported it, there is the need for the benchmark policy to help make salt affordable to all, but on the contrary, Ghana produces salt in large quantities so why the benchmark on salt?
“Such a policy would destroy the local salt industry, while enhancing the import of salt,” Mr Kareweh stated at a press conference organized in Tema jointly by members of the GAWU and the Food and Allied Workers' Union (FAWU) to state their position on the ongoing debate on the benchmark policy.
He stated that local producers expected the government to introduce and create the enabling industrial environment especially for the local players to develop, but sadly “it isn't the case here whereby what is imported is sold cheaper than the locally produced stuffs in the market”.
Mr. Kareweh stressed that GAWU and FAWU would continue to drum home the need for the government to protect local industries, stressing that the benchmark reversal or suspension against the interest of the local industry.
He said that their interest is to see a benchmark that would favour the local producers in the country.
On his part Mr Kenneth Koomson, FAWU General Secretary said over 24,000 jobs would collapse if the benchmark value on some selected items was not removed, stressing that “currently there are four main oil palm plantations directly employees over 24,000 workers and these jobs stand to disappear if the benchmark value policy is not reversed”.
He said some workers who would lose their jobs may find solace in social vices.
Meanwhile, the Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana has, however, commended the government for heeding their concerns and suspending the implementation of the reversal of the 50 per cent subsidy in benchmark values paid on imported goods.
Mr Samson Asaki Awingobit, Executive Secretary of the association in a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency in Tema said “even though we continue to grapple with exorbitant import levies and charges on our cargoes at the ports that government must review downwards.
“We believe that the suspension of the implementation of the reversed 50 per cent benchmark value on selected items is a welcoming news to us the business community,” Mr Awingobit stated.
He said to make the country's ports more competitive, they would entreat the government to engage by way of consulting all industry players and also factor their concerns and suggestions into its policy formulations going forward.
Mr Awingobit added that the back and forth approach of policies in the maritime sector by the government was affecting trade and the business community's ability to plan ahead.
“It is therefore recommended that the government undertakes wider consultations with all industry players before formulating and implementing policies that have the tendency to disrupt the smooth flow of business at the ports,” he stated.