This might not be the best time to operate or own a Foreign Exchange (Forex) bureaux in Ghana.
As money transfer, banking and non-banking financial institutions escalates, several forex bureau operators' worst fears of the collapse of the industry seems to becoming into reality.
Many Forex Bureaux in the country have complained bitterly about the way their market is being taken over by money transfer system that gives customers cedis instead of the foreign currencies in which their monies are sent them from abroad.
"As they receive monies in cedis, little foreign exchange is brought or left for the industry, meaning reduced profits and less taxes to government." The president of Ghana Association of Forex Bureaux, Dr. Kwasi Fosu Gyabaa, reiterated the downward trend of the industry but denied it will collapse.
"It is down but it is not as bad as people think. The industry is not collapsing" he said.
He said business used to boom during the nineties when the Bank of Ghana was giving them US$20,000 a month to trade with.
According to the president, the major problem the industry is facing is the activities of black marketers of foreign exchange.
Ghana is losing million of cedis a month in terms of revenue to government, well-informed sources within the Forex Bureaux (FBs) industry have disclosed. These losses comprise of the non payment of taxes and fees and causes a reduction in the volume of businesses FBs get, thereby reducing taxes collected.
The black-marketing activities of these individuals found in all major towns in the country are believed to constitute about a third of the FB market.
The black marketers, who traditionally operated in the Zongo and Cow Lanes of Accra Central, have now extended their activities to the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Airport environs and Mamprobi.
Dr. Gyabaa said the arrest and prosecution of these operators have failed due to inaction on the part of the police and the courts.
He told the paper that the BoG had explained to the association that it was not part of their duty to go after the black marketers.
The strategy of not writing exchange rates on boards, according to the president, has stopped arbitrage in the sale of hard currencies.
He expressed however that the quantity of monies transferred into the country is also good for the economy.
The deputy minister of Finance and EconomicPlanning in charge of Revenue, Mr. Kweku Agyemang Manu, said black marketing in foreign currency cannot be eradicated entirely so far as human beings exist but what the government can do was to minimised its impact on revenue generation.
An introduction of a liberal parallel formal foreign exchange market to make foreign exchange more accessible to everyone is one strategy that has been introduced in recent times to curb the problem, Agyemang Manu said In remarks to some financial journalists in Accra on Thursday, the deputy minister stressed that black marketing of foreign exchange was becoming unattractive with the recent depreciation of some hard currencies against the cedi particularly the dollar.
Dr. Addison of the Research Department of the Central Bank on his part said black market activities of foreign currencies have reduced significantly because of the inflow of hard currencies through transfer system. He called on the law enforcers especially the police service to impose the law in that area.
The Non-Bank Financial Institutions Department supervises and regulates non-bank financial institutions operating under the Financial Institutions Law PNDCL328 and forex bureaux operating under the Revised Forex Bureaux Regulations 1997.