The ports in any country generate the bulk of the revenue needed for national development. The goods are transported through the ports be it at the sea, air and land borders as they offer reasonable and convenient services to importers and exporters, as well as other individuals who bring in goods for commercial and domestic purposes.
Ports in most developing countries are not automated as human contact is one of the main means by which revenue is collected.
In Ghana, for instance, the “Long Room” is associated with the Tema Port. In the “Long Room” all manner of businesses, both genuine and illegal, take place.
From time immemorial, port authorities, and for that matter governments, have complained about leakages at the ports and the inability of revenue-collecting agencies to meet their targets.
In Ghana, the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), charged with mobilising revenue at the ports, hardly meets its targets.
Importers and exporters complain about the bureaucracy at the ports which sometimes serves as a disincentive for the appropriate payment of taxes to the state.
In the particular case of Ghana, the bottlenecks are many because of the presence of numerous state agencies all purporting to be checking importers and exporters so that they cannot dodge their tax obligations.
But all these state agencies, such as Customs, Port Administration, National Security, Immigration and sometimes the police and the Ghana Navy in the case of sea ports, all tend to frustrate importers and create the environment for importers to attempt to cut corners and thereby deprive the state of the needed revenue.
It is against this background that the Daily Graphic welcomes the directive from the government to the Customs Division of the GRA to remove all customs barriers in the transit corridors in the country with effect from September 1, this year.
The directive, according to the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, is part of a three-pronged strategy intended to facilitate the movement of goods and services and make Ghana’s ports more competitive.
Ghana has two important ports in Tema and Takoradi that serve not only importers and exporters in the country but landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
But the concerns of importers of the countries include the cumbersome nature by which goods are transported from the ports to destinations across our borders.
Police and Customs barriers hinder the movement of goods within and outside the country. The cumbersome clearance procedures at the ports also create their own bottlenecks and serve as a disincentive for the use of the Tema and Takoradi ports.
The Daily Graphic is certain that the port reforms envisaged by the government and the expansion programmes at the ports, if implemented to the letter, would help to reduce human interference in transactions at the ports and plug the loopholes in revenue generation.
That is why the government must put in place measures to deal with those who would want to frustrate the efforts to make our ports more competitive and thereby raise the revenue badly needed for our development.