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Let’s support port reforms

BY: Daily Graphic

The government will, from today, slash down the benchmark values for all imports by 50 per cent, except those for vehicles, which will be cut by 30 per cent.

This is part of the reforms aimed at reducing the incidence of smuggling at the country’s ports and in response to calls by importers on the government to reduce import duties.

Delivering a lecture in a packed Town Hall Meeting in Accra on the state of the economy, the Vice-President and Chairman of the Economic Management Team (EMT), Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, also stated that physical examination of containers would be reduced from over 90 per cent to under 10 per cent by June this year.

This is, indeed, a piece of good news, since it will make the country competitive and our ports the preferred destination for more cargo vessels.

Indeed, studies have shown that neighbouring Togo is more competitive in attracting cargo vessels than Ghana.

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So for us, this is highly welcome news and we commend the government for the initiative to make our ports more competitive.

The worry, however, is that the policy will lead to a reduction in tariffs at the ports, which will result in low revenue targets by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).

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But the Daily Graphic is comforted by the fact that this reduction in benchmark charges will lead to increased vessel traffic that will generate more tariffs to make up for the revenue loss due to the reduction in the charges.

This is because analysis of the Monthly Import Performance of the Customs Division of the GRA between 2015 and mid-year 2018 shows that the amount of revenue realised from imports has been increasing year-on-year.

The growth in revenue realised from imports over the period can largely be attributed to the strengthening of the single window system at the country’s ports in September 2015, when West Blue Consulting was brought on board to complement the efforts of GCNet, and the recent implementation of the paperless port system at the ports.

For the first quarter of this year, about GHȼ5,798.76 million has been collected for the state from importers, as the GRA projects a 30 per cent growth in revenue by the close of the year.

Interestingly, this year, Ghana moved two places up on the ‘Trading Across Borders’ in the latest World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report, an indication that the paperless port clearance system initiated by the government is already paying off.

The Daily Graphic is even more convinced that these reforms at the ports are anchored on the back of the digitisation agenda that will ensure efficiency, contribute to reducing revenue leakages and ensure faster turnaround in service provision.

Efficient ports facilitate trade competitiveness and greatly increase revenue mobilisation.

The appropriate questions to pose now are: what makes Ghana’s ports inefficient? What are the salient challenges they face?

For us, if the reforms at the port are implemented, the country will boast of having one of the most efficient port systems that addresses all the challenges listed.

We are certain that these reforms will greatly improve trade facilitation, revenue mobilisation and port efficiency that will have a significant impact on the economic development of our country.