Feature Article of Sunday, 8 September 2002
Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.
I admire any man who has money to buy a car, who would leave it at home and take a bus to work, perhaps dressed in a suit. Sometimes one has to question the sanity of such a man. In Ghana, of course such a man needs to dry-clean the suits every week and have three handkerchiefs daily.
I don’t know about you guys out there, but I have loved cars since I was a child. In fact the fascination of cars as moving transportation vehicles so fascinated our older people that a proverb was created, translated as “A boy who will buy a car when he grows up starts learning about the price of tires”. For the young, this implies the general need in life to pre-plan in order to succeed (where a car was used as a measure of success). Any news about laws and regulations and duties /taxes and restrictions on cars imported to Ghana raises my attention level. We all have to be true to ourselves. There is not a man or woman I know who was a boy or girl once, who does not include the ownership of a car as part of their success asset portfolio.
The irony of life is that in August 2002, it was reported that a man who sentenced his fellow human beings to the firing squad for owning cars and assets considered “luxury” items, is driving a $100,000 Jaguar car. Ex-Chairman and head of military junta PNDC, and former President, J.J. Rawlings of Ghana claims they were gifts donated by friends. Ghanaians overseas work hard for their money. Can we say the same about our friends and colleagues in Ghana’s parliament and civil service? If these men and women did, one may ask: Why are we still so far behind, and economies like Singapore and Malaysia did so well during the same time after Independence?
The NPP government seems to be trying to reduce and modify regulations and laws made with little rationale, but let's see the rationale.
Mr Owusu said any over-age vehicle already imported before the coming into force of the Act might now be cleared from the ports upon the payment of relevant duties and taxes in addition to the appropriate over-age penalties under the provisions of the current law. The concession, which, he said, is valid until September 30, 2002, is being granted by the Commissioner under Section 336 of the Customs Management Law, which empowers the Commissioner to issue instructions on any other matters not covered by the law or any amendments.
However, any vehicle which is not processed and cleared by September 30 would be forfeited to the state and disposed off accordingly. Under the current law, a vehicle that remains uncleared within 60 days after the date it was imported into the country would be forfeited to the State. The grace period does not however apply to over-aged vehicles currently awaiting clearance at the ports. Mr Owusu explained that motorcars aged not more than 12 years old would attract a penalty of five percent, those not more than 15 years would attract 20 percent while vehicles aged over 15 years would attract 50 per cent CIF value respectively. He said buses, coaches and vans that were not more than 12 years would attract a penalty of 2.5 percent, those aged not more that 15 years would attract 10 percent, those not more than 15 and 20 years, respectively would attract 15 and 50 percents.
Trucks, lorries and tippers aged not more than 12 years shall attract a five percent penalty, those not more 22 years shall attract 10 percent and those over 22 years would attract 30 percent.
Importing cars was, for the communist-minded Botchwey at the time, a breach of the "people's law" and ethics of "all-of-us in this poverty together". I recall in 1989 when I was home, the news rumor was of a woman who had imported a Mercedes 190e model. She had to pay 500% duties, some US$45,000 or so at the time. That Kumasi woman paid it, and it was the news of the time! Would any professional who has worked overseas for 10, 20 years be considered "too bourgeoisie" to drive a Mercedes 190e? I leave both the socialist and the capitalists to ponder on that one. I refused to pay the 500% super sales tax on my Video Recorder in 1989, and had to return it to the US. Does owning a Video Recorder in Ghana take money and food away from the mouth of anybody? It is for this reason that I have personally analyzed and put most of the blame of our economic demise on men like Dr. Kwesi Botchwey who faked their way for the better part of two decades and helped to see us to HIPC. I wish we could bring them to court to answer a few questions for us all. Men like this whose lack of understanding of “socialism” has helped put the final nails to the other wise nice concept which former CPP Minister Krobo Edusei described in the memorable words: “Di bi ma me ni bi” (eat and let me eat too).
The POINT and fact is that there was no Scientific or Engineering reason given for these laws that the PNDC put on the books. They were done in as irrational a way as Jerry Rawlings just made a statement in 1979 banning all cars into Ghana except six models (Fiat, Opel, Vauxhall, Nissan, Mercedes, BMW). Toyota had not been included because the dealer at the time, as reported, had been a Lebanese businessman who was considered "arrogant" by this once-brutal dictator who now parades our streets as nobility enjoying freedom of speech.
Any government where policies and regulations are made without hard core rational based on the effects on the people and society, are bound to create animosity. For example, one can justify the ban by such known environmental effects as pollution and poisonous gas emissions. However, in Ghana, no such correlation was made. Correct policies can help create jobs whiles they monitor such things as pollutants.
In Ghana /Africa where policies are made without the effects on the economy and people, by the whims of some administrative lord, such rational thinking does not occur. A good example was when a few years ago the Police Commissioner announced the banning of the tinting of vehicle glass windows. Tinted windows could be used to hide crime, they reasoned. It was rumored the girl friend of the Police commissioner was found taking a ride in a tinted car of another man.
My God!! What a crock of an excuse!
Scientifically it has been found that the direct rays of the sun causes skin cancer, mostly in white skins, but also even in our own dark skins. Tinted windows cut down the ultra violet rays from the sun that cause this cancer. In addition the reduced sunlight creates a shade and comfort, and in cars with air-conditioning, help conserve petrol used to power the A/C. There is a good scientific reason to tint all windows if we can, especially windows for public buses and passenger vehicles. One could conserve some 3-10% fuel nationwide by this energy reduction alone. In addition to that Ghana plastic manufacturing companies could help create tons of jobs by manufacturing these thin film tinted plastic for cars as well as for house windows. This is currently done in the US, where House Windows are rated by E-Factors. The current fashion trend is a Vinyl Frame Window with less conductivity that Aluminum frame, and rustproof in humid climates, double paned glass, also tinted. The better the energy design the higher the E-Factor. This is how jobs are created with policies of smart and savvy leaders and administrators.