President of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), Dr Joseph Obeng, has described the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) as just being “self-centred” in its demand on the implementation of the reversal of the benchmark value policy.
According to him, the benchmark policy does not come anywhere near the “non-competitiveness” of the local manufacturer. He noted that because they are not producing at a competitive price and lack modern technologies, they are non-competitive. Dr Obeng explained that other factors such as lack of access to cheap credit and high cost of electricity keep acting against them from being competitive and not the benchmark policy as they claim.
The AGI in reacting to government’s decision in suspending the implementation of the benchmark policy reversal, argued that the policy would boost local industries if implemented; however duty-free imports will wipe out all of its market, stating that the consultation should continue but the implementation should start.
“Have you ask them if we reverse the benchmark, are prices going to be competitive? No. So, it means that it has no relation with it. They are just being self-centred and even though they might have some reasons but this is not the way to go. So, they have to come again and I believe government have also listened to them. The benchmark value reduction did not come out of emptiness, it came because we had a serious problem and the problem being that the duties were extremely high and government wants to give us some respite; some it’s a rebate that government gave so that we can be competitive along the sub region and where our duties were higher. So, it does not take anything away”.Dr Joseph Obeng
GUTA calls on AGI not to be entrenched in demands
Following this, the GUTA President called on the AGI to refrain from being entrenched in its demand during consultation with government. Welcoming the move by government to suspend the implementation of the benchmark policy reversal, Dr Obeng revealed that what his outfit is seeking is that government will also listen to their side apart from listening to AGI.
Speaking to the Vaultz News, Dr Obeng explained that GUTA was able to put its case across when it met with the finance minister for him to convey to government and made a “cogent argument” that he believes is convincing enough for government to also appreciate its concerns.
The GUTA President indicated that he is very grateful to government for having listened to “our plea” by suspending the benchmark reversal.
“With this, we are also humbled and we are not going for this discussion with entrenched position. We are going to… put the nation ahead of any selfish interest that we may have. We are going to make sure that government is compensated, AGI is well compensated and the trading community as well as the consuming public also being compensated; so that it becomes a win-win situation for all of us. Though, we are in waiting for this engagement and with this open mind… we are calling on other stakeholders, AGI to be precise, to also refrain from being entrenched on their demand”.Dr Joseph Obeng
Elaborating on the compensation, Dr Obeng noted that GUTA has a “stake” when it comes to matters on high cost of doing business; government demands its fair share of the revenue and AGI is calling for the benchmark reduction of 50% which is hurting its business. When the parties find a middle ground, he explained that, they are all going to be sorted out.
Touching on what the association’s next move will be should government go ahead to implement the reversal of the discount on the policy, Dr Obeng asserted that government “will not do that” as he has put forth a “good argument” which he believes has influenced the suspension. He emphasized that with government having the authority to govern the nation and subsequently withdrawn the policy’s implementation means the association has made quite a “substantial argument” and that also is important for government.
“Don’t also forget that we are even more than AGI. Apart from agricultural, trading comes after agriculture and transportation before they can even think about the manufacturing industry. So, we are also a major stakeholder whose interest is also very important to government and so government would not just leave us when we have a great deal of concern, of cause, like the one that we are encountering now”.Dr Joseph Obeng