Daasebre Oti Boateng, Omanhene of New Juaben Traditional Area, has called for a law to be enacted to make compulsory for investors to pay a specified amount to the communities in which they operate as part of their corporate social responsibility.
Daasebre Oti Boateng was not happy that some investors and companies neglect their corporate social responsibility because there is no law demanding them to fulfill that responsibility. He made the call in his closing remarks as chairman of a one-day regional investment promotion seminar held in Koforidua in the Eastern Region.
The seminar was organised by the Ghana Free Zones Board to educate participants about to fully exploit the benefits of the free zones programme. The seminar, attended by members of co-operatives, district planning officers and business operators, was under the theme "Local Investment - Our Bedrock."
In a presentation on the role of the GFZB in investment promotion and opportunities for Foreign Direct Investment, Rachel Amable, Deputy Executive Secretary of the GFZB, said the board licensed 150 companies by the end of last year, while production in the free zones was worth $2.5 billion from 1996 to 2006.
According to Ms Amable, about 35,621 people were employed during the same period. She said exports recorded $ 3 billion from 1998 to 2006, and a total capital of $1 billion was invested from 1997 to 2006.
She said priority sectors of investment identified by the GFZB are agro-food processing, cotton processing, textile manufacturing, ICT and ethnic beauty products. The others, she indicated include sea food processing, jewellery and handicraft products, light industry and assembly plant, plastic products manufacturing, metal fabrication, ceramic/tile manufacturing and floriculture.
Ms Amable said the areas of operation of the board are enclave development, manufacturing, service and commercial/warehousing. She assured participants that the GFZB offers generous incentive packages for investors.
She mentioned some of the incentives as 100 percent exemption from payment of income tax for 10 year and not more than 8 percent thereafter; 100 percent exemptions from payment of taxi/duties on direct and indirect inputs for good as well as 100 percent exemption from payment of withholding taxes.
She said the four main export processing zones, namely Tema which has 1,200 acres of land; Sekondi with 2,200 acres; Shama with 3,200 acres and Ashanti with 1,090 acres of land.
The Deputy Executive Secretary noted that nine free zone companies operate in the Eastern Region, especially in Koforidua, Akim Oda, Asamankese and Nsawam, employing 2,966 people.
Sussana Mensah, Deputy Regional Minister, said the Government would continue to pursue excellence in governing the local private sector to lead the country's industrialisation drive. "However, the onus lies on the private sector to take advantage of the opportunities the Government has created, especially the incentives offered under the free zones scheme, which translates into lower operating costs."
Madam Mensah said the time for local businesses to take advantage of the good will of Ghana to venture into manufacturing for export or offering services to the free zone companies. She said experience in other free zone promoting countries has indicated that the implementation of the programme was unfavourable because some companies exploit the benefits of the zones to the disadvantage of the host communities.
"I, therefore, wish to caution the free zone enterprises located in this region to comply with all the regulations at all times. We need your investments in our region tom make the region prosperous much as you need incentives and other locational advantages that Ghana and the region offers to expand your business. Let us, therefore, work together to achieve a win-win situation."