General News of Monday, 21 July 2008
Accra, July 21, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Monday expressed government's determination to ensure that stiffer laws are enacted to make counterfeiting and piracy crimes as offensive as drug trafficking and punish offenders as such.
He said government was poised to make Ghana a no-go zone for counterfeits and would ensure that special courts were established if necessary to hear cases involving the manufacture, distribution and sale of counterfeit or pirated products.
"This insidious crime of product counterfeiting has become a global phenomenon; it's no longer the canker of the under-developed or developing world. The developed world is also battling with counterfeiting products albeit at a scale lower than in our part of the world," he said.
The President made this known in a speech read for him by Mr. Kwadwo Mpiani, Chief of Staff, at the opening a two-day National Dialogue on Counterfeit Products in Accra for stakeholders.
The dialogue, the first to be organized by the Food and Drugs Board (FDB) in collaboration with European Union (EU) and the Institute of Packaging, Ghana, is on "Protecting the Consumer against counterfeit products through Inter-Agency and Regional collaboration".
President Kufuor noted that government was worried not only of the threat to human life but also the fact that counterfeit products denied genuine products of the rightful market share, costing governments significant amounts in lost tax revenues as well as threatening jobs and creating lack of consumer confidence in products. According to the European Commission, counterfeiting and piracy cost the EU eight billion euros a year in lost economic output between 1998 and 2001. "We can no longer ignore this activity whereby certain unscrupulous individuals and criminal gangs produce counterfeit medicines and medical devices which risk the lives of people, or as in the reported case in China a few years ago involving dummy milk formula for babies in which several children died." President Kufuor urged the meeting to make appropriate recommendations to government on policies and strategies to curb counterfeiting and piracy and develop strategies to overcome the major challenges confronting the nation, which he described as coordination of the activities of the different agencies in this area. Health Minister Major Courage Quashigah (Rtd) said the counterfeit menace was worrying and its impact was enormous, adding that, counterfeiters deterred honest manufacturers from investing resources in new products.
He said various medicines, food and beverages, cosmetics and medical devices such as condoms were being counterfeited and noted that though scientific data was very scanty, efforts at fighting the menace needed to be more proactive.
Product counterfeiting, he said, hit everyone hard in the pocket and only the faceless persons behind the crime benefited, while legitimate businesses collapsed and many people also lost their lives. "The magnitude of the problem caused by counterfeiting requires strong and sustained action from all stakeholders including businesses and consumers," he said.
Government, the Minister noted, was therefore committed to mobilizing resources to protect intellectual property and said that Ghana had a high stake in optimizing the use of intellectual property to protect the national knowledge, inventions and creativity. He commended the role of neighbouring countries represented at the meeting and called for increased inter-agency cooperation at the national and sub-region levels and said it would enhance collective action against the heinous crime.
Miss. Shirley Ayokor Botchway, Deputy Minister, Trade, Presidential Special Initiatives and Private Sector Development said issues of intellectual property could not be overemphasized and that government would continue to wilfully support activities of regulatory, security and stakeholder agencies that were committed to fighting the crime. She said the worrying nature of the crime was that consumers were increasingly being put at the risk of harm and death from unsafe and ineffective products which were exported through complex distribution channels before getting to the consumers.
She therefore called for a concerted effort to fight the crime and put in place quick decisive and punitive measures needed to bring rampant counterfeiting and piracy activities down.
Mr. Emmanuel Kyeremanteng Agyarko, Chief Executive Officer of FDB, said the fight against counterfeiting and piracy could only be successful if stakeholders, including the consumer worked closely in a coordinated manner and across borders with the aim of "dismantling the modus operandi of the criminal gangs behind counterfeiting". He noted that, it was time to get tough and deal decisively with the rip-off-artists and make them pay for the harm and pain inflicted on consumers and the economies of various countries. Mr Agyarko urged participants to ensure that various options should be deployed to make markets better secured from counterfeits products.