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Business News of Monday, 18 February 2013

Source: Economic Tribune

Import bill chokes economy

Government’s inability to cut down on imports is putting taking a heavy toll on the economy. In 2011, for instance, importation of food items such as rice, fruit juice, fish and sugar cost the nation $90 million, $20 million, $200 million and $28 million respectively.

The Communications Director for the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Akomea, who gave the aforementioned startling figures emphasised the need for the government to cut down on her imports in order to create more room to boost employment.

“It is a shame that we are so dependent on import. Last year, we spent $20 million to import fruit juice from faraway places like Dubai even though we are an agricultural country. The fruits fall on the ground and rot,” he stated.

Speaking at Citi FM's roundtable series on the theme of employment and job creation in Accra last week, Akomea said: "This is a country a country blessed with abundant water bodies and yet we spent about $200 million importing fish into this country.

“We have become a nation of shop keepers, because it is profitable to set up a shop, as against setting up a factory that will employ people. The things that we spend a lot foreign currency to import, a lot of those things we can produce here; once we get our energy situation right and once we get the water and so on right.”

Nana Akomea pointed out that Ghana is a country that produces the best cocoa in world, but “if you go to any of the shops, you will find that out of about twenty varieties of chocolates, only one - ‘Golden Tree’ [chocolate] - is from Ghana. The rest are all imported. In fact, last year we spent over six million dollars importing chocolate."

According to him, the current situation can be reversed “if we have a programme to do import substitution by government facilitating it, providing the necessary infrastructure and credit [and] not credit at 30 per cent.” All these measures, he said, will save all the nation money and also generate employment for the unemployed.

"We will also institutionalise the training of entrepreneurship across all the tertiary institutions so that whether you are reading history or drama you will be taught and be required to pass a course in entrepreneurship, so that when you come out of school at least you will know how to set up yourself in business in your own field," he concluded.