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Mon, 04 Dec 2023 Feature Article

Peter Suaka Writes: The Deception of the Draft Import Restrictions Legislative Instrument 2023

Peter Suaka Writes: The Deception of the Draft Import Restrictions Legislative Instrument 2023
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For the third time the legislative instrument on Export and Import Regulations, 2023 has suffered a setback in parliament as the minority blocks it from getting laid. We are told the Honorable Minister of trade enjoys a strong support from his Government and particularly the Finance Minister who urged parliament to support the laying of the LI in its current form to assist the government in its quest to curb the country’s import drive. Minority have argued, that they support this import restriction policy document in principle, but strongly object to some portions of the draft LI which they claim violate our national interest.

Section 3(3) of the draft LI; Exports and Imports (Restrictions on Importation of Selected Strategic Products) Regulations 2023 provides that; the Minister shall appoint the members of the Import Permit Committee who shall sec. 4(a) Advice the Minister on sec. 4(a)(ii) the issuance and renewal of import permits to importers of the selected strategic products;. This provision empowers the minister to select his appointees from the stated departments and agencies to constitute the committee that will advise him on the issuance of imports and exports permits to applicants. The fact about the politician is that, the politician will hardly appoint a person he cannot control. And when the politician gets this kind of unrestricted powers, the risk of abuse is high. In any case at all, the role of this Committee is merely advisory which the minister could elect to accept or reject. This means, the final decision as to who gets the permit is in the bosom of the minister. This is how permits will be issued to only party apparatchiks.

Section 11(3) (iii) of this draft LI also provides that; the application for an import permit shall be accompanied with; (iii) Particulars of the principal officers, directors and partners of the company or firm. This the minority warns again that this provision is another recipe for cronyism, vindictiveness and partisanship. How does an application for import permit turn into lifting of the corporate veil exercise of a sort by a minister of state? Why must the Minister/Committee know the beneficial owner(s)/Directors of the company before deciding whether or not to grant them a permit to do business? How does that got to do with the demonstrable history/capacity of the company to do the business it applies to do? And who does not know how near impossible it will be for a business or a company with express or suspected ties with opposition elements to ever get a permit from the minister in this kind of arrangement? So the intentions of the Minister and this

government has been sufficiently demonstrated in this draft LI which obviously is not to address Ghana’s trade deficit challenges but feast on same. A clear avenue to provide jobs for the boys.

Additionally, Section 15(4) of this same LI provides that; A person who fails to renew the import permit issued or whose application for renewal is rejected by the Minister shall cease to import selected strategic products into the country. This means that it is only the Minister (Minister of Trade and Industries) who can renew an import permit upon expiry. We learnt from the text books and literature several years back which is true that; power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Why should so much powers be given to a Minister of state in this manner involving granting and renewal of import permits for key consumable products like rice, sugar, poultry products amongst many others which we are told by the industry players that for some of these key products, Ghana does not produce up to even 1% of them locally? This obviously will become a potential center of corruption and even deepen the already existing hunger and food shortage among the Ghanaian populates.

The content of this draft LI should however make sense to any keen follower of Ghana’s politics particularly under this current regime. Every problem confronting this country becomes opportunity for illicit enrichment for someone. There are numerous unrebutted reports of how the current finance minister, Ken Ofori-Atta and his Databank benefited over GHc 800 million from Ghana’s financial crises with blatant violations of the laws of Ghana on conflict of interest when Databank allegedly served as book runners for the Ministry of Finance and the Government of Ghana anytime the Finance Minister borrowed from the international market to support our local budget. https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Ofori-Atta-s-Databank- other-bookrunners-bagged-GH-875-million-in-4-years-Adongo-alleges-1277758.

We also saw how Ken Ofori-Atta’s Enterprise insurance blossomed and enjoyed little or minimal competition under him (Ken Ofori-Atta) as Finance Minister when he supervised the withdrawal of licenses of over 30 financial institutions and Insurance Companies for reasons many industry players strongly criticized.

We have read other unrebutted reports of how Gabby Asare Otchere Darko’s Law firm “Africa Legal Associates” was allegedly paid millions of dollars in the Agyapa deal as Ghana struggled to find solutions to securitize royalties from our gold minerals to benefit the future generation. https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Agyapa-deal-Gabby-Otchere-

Darko-s-law-firm-pocketed-US-103-000-Kweku-Baako-105048 . The PDS saga is still fresh on our minds, the National Cathedral as well as the alleged sharing of COVID revenue as contained in the Auditor General’s report and many other examples cannot be forgotten anytime soon. This is the score card of this government when it comes to crafting solutions to address the challenges confronting this country.

There is no debate about the fact that one of Ghana’s major problems today is how to address our balance of trade deficits but the solution is certainly not what K. T. Hammond and the NPP government has tabled in this Legislative Instrument. According to Mr. Victor Adjei, the Chairman of Ghana National Poultry Farmers Association, over 80% of poultry farmers are not in business today and Ghana does not produce even 1% of the poultry we consume. The solution to this is certainly not a deceptive LI with intentions of feasting on our problem of lack of productivity by creating job for the boys through a skewed granting and renewal of permit regime.

Government must resuscitate our local capacity to produce these key items first before contemplating Import Restriction policy. If 1D1F, Planting for food and jobs, one village one dam, one million dollars per Constituency for the last seven years sunk Ghana into this abyss of economic quagmire, this technically skewed Imports and Exports LI 2023 is certainly not a solution beyond its potential distribution of importation permits and jobs to cronies.

Thanks to the Minority in Parliament, this self-serving LI has been arrested and blocked for the 3rd time. May it never resurrect in parliament anytime soon.

#Ghanafirst
Written By Peter Suaka
Master of Laws (LL.M) Student – KNUST Faculty of Law Email: [email protected]

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