Feature Article of Wednesday, 30 April 2014
Columnist: Tutu, Jason
Feature Article, by Jason Tutu
In the wake of the judgement debt furore and botched state programmes like SADA, GYEEDA and the likes, one can only expect government to work at sealing other loopholes of cash loss. But the truth appears to be that, the current government is actually seeking newer ways of institutionalizing such grave means of sucking the national purse dry.
It is sad that we have government agents complaining bitterly about revenue loss through tax evasion and a rather large informal sector; while on the blind side, they seem to be doing all they can to divert and siphon the little that accrues to the state.
Currently, the approach to disingenuously milk the state has been through judgement debts and undelivered projects. Scandalous revelations involving government officials fronting for private enterprises to rip off the state, and the perceived lethargy of the attorney general’s office to properly defend Ghana against such marauders; have set minds befuddled as to whose interest our state officials actually serve.
Today, another of such dodgy plots to cash in on, this time not only state resources, but also the cash of unsuspecting farmers, farm produce vendors and others involved in agribusiness, is the beleaguered Plant Breeders Bill (PBB).
Fundamentally, one expects this bill to espouse the intellectual property rights of breeders, which they can claim via civil action in our law courts. But certainly, notwithstanding the several unreasonable powers given to breeders in this bill, even to the point of eroding national sovereignty, the bill further seeks to use the tax payer’s money to prosecute Ghanaians on behalf of breeders.
This bitter legal pill waiting to be pushed down our throats has been craftily buried in the PBB, and reads as follows;
“Offences (Clause 58): A person who wilfully….offers for sale, sells or markets the propagating material of a variety protected in Ghana etc.… ”commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than five thousand penalty units and not more than eight thousand penalty units”
This clause above introduces an element of criminal prosecution on behalf of breeders. But the question that remains to be answered is this; why would the state of Ghana seek to use public funds and resources to prosecute its own citizenry on behalf of a plant breeder who is in business to profit just like any other enterprise?
If this law was made with the short-sightedness of protecting the CSIR, then government better revise its notes. Because as we all know, as soon as this bill becomes an Act, the influx of multinational breeders lurking in the shadows will make the CSIR into nothing more than a preppy lab. And the state will now be saddled with the albatross of prosecuting its own citizenry to protect foreign interests.
This unfortunate development has the two pronged onslaught of extracting resources and funds, firstly from the national purse and secondly from the pockets of Ghanaians in agribusiness respectively – all inuring to the benefit of the ‘untouchable’ plant breeders.
Another bizarre phase of this whole mess is the loud silence of the opposition in parliament and the rather insidious efforts being made by a number of them to push this bill through. One may genuinely want to ask – in effect, who are they working for?
So then the mental light bulbs switch on … what is the motivation of government and its officials in seeking to encumber Ghanaians with such an unholy law? Well, the trend speaks for itself.