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21.02.2005 Press Review

EDITORIAL: Consumer Protection is Paramount

By Public Agenda

At last the government has shown it is ready to implement measures to ensure that Ghanaian consumers are protected.

In its trade policy document launched last week, the government also says it wants to create the environment that promotes fair trade and enhances consumer welfare.

Above all Public Agenda is thrilled by the readiness of government to protect sensitive industries until such time that they are able to compete with multinational corporations.

In the past, Ghana made a costly mistake when it agreed wholesale to open its market to foreign goods with dire consequences for local industries.

After implementing IMF/World Bank policies for decades, what we need to do now is to look inwardly for some solutions, while the west can provide the rest. Some countries in East Asia chalked impressive growth results because their governments followed their own version of intervention of development. They picked out infant industries and groomed them by supporting and protecting them.

As well as building local and national industries through protectionism, the Asian Tigers also orientated their industries toward supplying export markets. The exact policies pursued by these countries are still a matter of heated debate internationally. However, these countries achieved the most dramatic improvements in economic growth, especially in education and poverty reduction.

Many factors undoubtedly contributed to the successes of the countries, but there is no denying the fact that their governments played a key role in building up domestic industries. That is why Public Agenda is glad that the government is now beginning to make the right noises about supporting the development of a strong private sector to produce more goods for consumption. It is equally heartening that the government pursuing an export-led approach, but that should not take precedence over local food production and manufacturing.

As stated in the policy, the government must do every everything to promote domestic trade and distribution based on locally manufactured goods. Government must also encourage processing to increase demand for primary production as it has promised in the policy.

It is very pathetic that a country that is seeking to make a GDP of up to 8 percent and capita income of $1000 by 2012 should still be importing more than 60 percent of all industrial and consumer items. If there was anytime to act, this is the time. It only hoped that this trade policy will not become one of those documents launched with much fanfare, only to gather dust on the shelves.

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