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AGI’s proposals ahead of 2023 Budget must be taken seriously

BY: Graphic Business
Dr Humphrey Ayim-Darke - President, AGI

On August 10, the Graphic Business, with support from one of the country’s foremost banks, Stanbic Bank, created a unique platform for key players in different sectors of the economy to make suggestions to the government as it prepares the 2023 Budget Statement and Economic Policy.

The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), whose representative was one of the key speakers at the forum, used the opportunity to propose a raft of measures to be factored into the budget in what it believed would help create the right framework and environment for local industries to contribute fully to the industrial transformation agenda of the country.

These included the total reversal of the benchmark discount values policy, a review of duty exemptions on imported raw materials and lower cost of electricity in favour of industry.

It also proposed laws to govern the investment of pension funds in the country, a local content policy review and the introduction of an impact assessment mechanism that would assess all government programmes and policies rolled out in the last couple of years.

The AGI was of the strong belief that those proposals, when considered, would stir up the productive sectors of the economy, particularly industry, which is a major engine of growth (see full story on the front page).

The Graphic Business fully aligns itself with the proposal made by industry, in view of the fact that for long we have, as a country, shown commitment to lead an industrial transformation agenda but, unfortunately, the intentions have largely remained on paper because there is really nothing to show for it.

For us, raging global developments, such as COVID-19 and the dreaded Russia/Ukraine war, that have taken the world by surprise and impacting negatively on economies, including ours, should be seen as a major opportunity for us to sit up and pragmatically transform our economy into an industrial one.

The Graphic Business has no doubt that we have the capacity and the wherewithal to do something, leveraging technology and coming up with policies that will drive and create the enabling environment for industry to thrive unhindered.

We believe that the call for the total reversal of the benchmark discount value policy which provides a discount of 30 per cent on some selected imported products is necessary to revive the industrial sector, make it more vibrant, and help stabilise the local currency.

Again, the current situation where residents pay less for electricity, compared to industry, is counterproductive and only raises the cost of doing business. We trust that should industry be made to pay the normal tariffs, its cost will reduce and that will create the opportunity for it to expand to absorb the teeming number of unemployed youth in the country. Again, such a move will become a disincentive for those who bypass electricity meters in their quest to reduce cost.

The paper also supports calls by the AGI for the government to take a second look at the laws governing the investment of pension funds in the country.

There are a lot of pension funds sitting idle, while industry seeks financial investments to expand. Those that opt for loans are charged exorbitant interest rates over a short term, while industry requires long-term funding at reduced rates.

We agree that pensions funds must be jealously protected. However, we are also of the view that through the right policies and the necessary safety nets, including insurance, we can support industrial players which have shown a high level of commitment and adhered to strict corporate governance practices with a positive trend in profitability with pension funds.

The paper trusts that since the budget is meant to show direction that will inure to the benefit of all, the call by the AGI should not be treated lightly because, aside from leading us to the dream land of an industrial economy, we need to be competitive with the introduction of the African Continental Free Trade Area.