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The Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) has appealed to the government to maintain the 50 per cent reduction in the benchmark value on goods that it introduced to support businesses.
According to the association, reducing the benchmark value on goods by half was the lifeline for businesses, especially in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the removal of that policy would worsen their plight.
The President of GUTA, Dr. Joseph Obeng, who made that appeal in an interview with the Daily Graphic last Monday, said commodity prices had already reached “unbearable limits” and if the reduction in the benchmark value on goods was removed, it would worsen the situation and also affect the consuming public.
Benchmark value reduction
In April, 2019, the Minister of Finance, Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta, directed the reduction of the benchmark value or delivery values of imports by 50 per cent, except for vehicles which were to be reduced by 30 per cent.
This was part of efforts to reduce the menace of smuggling and make the country’s ports more competitive and attractive.
However, GUTA said it had picked information through its engagement with other stakeholders that a decision had been made to reverse the reduction of the benchmark value on selected goods.
Dr. Obeng said the selected items to be affected included rice, edible oil, biscuits, frozen chicken and other food and essential commodities.
He said the country was not self-sufficient in the production of those targeted products so taking off the reduced benchmark value would be disastrous for both businesses and the consuming public.
“We want to appeal to the government that the 50 per cent reduction on the benchmark values is the last straw of hope that businesses are holding on in the wake of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The time is not ripe for the reversal of this good and strategic policy when consumers are suffering due to the high level of prices of goods,” he said.
Plug revenue loopholes
Dr. Obeng said although the association was aware that the government needed to increase revenue mobilisation, reversing the benchmark value reduction policy reduction would rather induce smuggling and other unorthodox ways of clearing goods, which had impeded the government from achieving the revenue targets.
“We suggest that the government should look at the abuse in the system of warehousing, goods in transit, the tax exemption policy and find innovative ways to monitor and control these areas which will definitely stop or minimise drastically the excessive leakages in the system,” he said.
He observed that the hike in world commodity prices and freight charges, in addition to prolonged shipment of goods and other related challenges, had sent businesses “into near collapse and led to the unbearable prices of goods in the market.”
Dr. Obeng said the public was already suffering from the effects of the situation, “so for us to punish the final consumer who barely has sufficient and affordable alternative will not be fair.”