Stakeholders of the UNCTAD XII conference yesterday identified lack of entrepreneurial skills required to compete in domestic and foreign markets, inadequate resources required for business growth, and adverse terms of trade as some of the factors that would affect
the growth and efficiency of the private sector in the years ahead.
They said those factors would equally affect the short and longterm development efforts of government to reduce poverty in Ghana and to attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
The conference was organised by the Private Enterprise Foundation (PEF) and sponsored by the UNDP for its members and Parliamentary Select Committee on Trade and Industry to collate enough information and the benefits that the private sector would derive from the on-coming conference scheduled to take place in Accra from April 20 to 25.
It was also to discuss and present a common position paper to the Government of Ghana Private Sector on opportunities and challenges offered by UNCTAD XII. The stakeholders expressed worry about the inability of Ghanaian entrepreneurs to exploit West African markets in spite of decades of the existence of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
They attributed that to the absence of dynamic private sector advocacy machinery within the West Africa region, a market characterised by lack of efficient and cost effective flow of goods and service, high cost of doing business in the region due to uncompetitive manufacturing and productive structures; inadequate transport facilities and pervasive corruption.
Dr Osei Boeh-Ocansey, Director-General of PEF, presenting the paper, said Ghana's continued dependence on commodities was essentially seen to be a structural problem and could only be solved if earned resources accruing from the current commodity boom would be used to pursue a systematic policy of diversification of the national economy.
He said PEF agreed with the view that in globalisation, which was characterised by cross-border trade, financial and information flows, national and international policies for action, there should be an enabling environment for trade and investment.
'We recommend that UNCTAD XII should be used as an opportunity to address the challenges of the country's non-traditional exports strategy by providing technical assistance to our member companies, in the form of development of knowledge and capacity to help them to meet the international trade requirements of Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary and Technical Barriers to Trade (SPS/TBT).
'We also call on UNIDO (UN Industrial Development Organisation) in collaboration with UNCTAD to provide Ghana/Africa with technical assistance for the promotion of value added processing of Ghana's non-traditional export items such as pineapple, mangoes and tomatoes,' he added.
On the Global Energy Fund, the foundation called on UNCTAD to assist the government of Ghana to mobilise resources to finance mechanisms for new energy technology and infrastructure within the framework of the fund.
The fund, PEF said, would be fashioned along the lines of the Common Fund for Commodities, which was successfully negotiated under the auspices of UNCTAD.
Mr Kweku Agyeman Manu, Deputy Minister for Trade, Industry and PSI, mentioned tax evasion, civil servants' attitude towards payment and lack of initiative to explore other markets as some of the reasons behind the collapse of most private businesses.
He said Ghanaians, and for that matter Africans, had a natural behaviour of dodging taxes, yet they wanted all facilities like those in the developed countries. 'How would the country provide for art-of-state facilities if its citizens fail to honour their tax obligations?'
Mr Manu therefore urged the private sector to dare and discover more markets for their products and not wait for other nationals to hijack the system before they came complaining.
Mr J.B. Danquah Adu, Chairman of Parliamentary Select Committee on Trade and Industry, urged the members to see how best Ghana and PEF would take advantage of the opportunities of the UNCTAD XII conference and use that to expand their businesses.