The minority in parliament has noted that they are interested in protecting local businesses but feared the unfettered powers the suspended LI would have bestowed on the Minister for Trade and Industry.
The Minority reemphasized their support for legal measures protecting local businesses from import-related challenges. However, they strongly opposed legislation granting unchecked discretionary authority, particularly to a single figure like the Minister of Trade, allowing them to issue import licenses and regulate import quantities without adequate checks and balances.
They noted the suspension of the LI with joy.
“The Minority Caucus has noted with relief the announcement by the government to suspend the laying of the proposed regulations on the Restriction of imports of Selected Strategic Products, 2023.
“We are happy that the government has jettisoned these regulations after stiff resistance and opposition in Parliament by the Minority Caucus. We wish to assure the Ghanaian people and the business community that the Minority will always be on their side and put their interests first. Ghana First!”Cassel Ato Forson, Minority Leader
They stressed that such powers unchecked may lead to price control of essential commodities.
“The Minority has always maintained that these regulations will breed corruption, because not only are they arbitrary and opaque but they are designed to encourage arbitrary exercise of discretionary power in the hands of one person, particularly the Minister of Trade and Industry.
“We have argued that by vesting too much unfettered and unchecked power in the Minister to determine who qualifies or not to be granted a permit to import into the country as many as twenty (24) commodities, the regulations lend themselves to abuse of power, state capture, and rent-seeking conduct reminiscent of the days of ‘essential commodities’ and ‘price control’.”Cassel Ato Forson, Minority Leader
Furthermore, the Minority emphasized the support of various stakeholders in their fight against the LI.
“Indeed, various stakeholders including the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), the Food and Beverages Association of Ghana, Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana, the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Chamber of Automobile Dealership Ghana and the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have all joined us in all kicking against these proposed import restrictions.”Cassel Ato Forson, Minority Leader
Contradictory Government Pursuit
Furthermore, the Minority found it contradictory for the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government to pursue import restrictions, conflicting with Ghana’s commitments under the current IMF program. Notably, one of the performance criteria in the IMF bailout expressly discourages the imposition or escalation of import restrictions for balance of payment reasons.
Especially amidst widespread hardship and the burden of numerous taxes, as outlined in the 2024 Budget, the Minority finds it objectionable that the government would introduce import restrictions contributing to inflation and hoarding.
Minister of Information Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, explaining the suspension of the Legislative Instrument (L.I) to journalists in Parliament cited the need for additional discussions with stakeholders to achieve consensus. Emphasizing the significance of this engagement, he underscored the objective of enhancing local production of these goods.
The government endeavored to implement a substantial policy change by imposing restrictions on the importation of 22 items, aiming to promote domestic production and protect local industries.
The objective was to diminish dependence on foreign goods, bolster self-sufficiency, and uplift the national economy. Aligned with overarching economic objectives, this strategic initiative seeks to cultivate sustainable growth and resilience in the country’s industrial sector, urging consumers to endorse locally manufactured products.
Nevertheless, the proposed bill, Import Restriction Bill 2023, has encountered notable challenges in securing parliamentary and industrial approval.