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Opinions of Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Columnist: Appiah Kusi Adomako

Golden Age Of Business And The Collapse Of Local Industries - Part II

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong Abraham Lincoln

Our over-riding passion for foreign goods and services are unthinkable. From the president at the Christianborg Castle to ordinary street sweeper at Suhum Central Market we like imported goods and services rather than our own whether it is superior or inferior. So far as the item is coming from the European or American soil it is better than one own. It will surprise you that of the imported products are sub-standard such that even in their own country they will not allow their citizens to use it. We are told that most of poultry products that come to country have been in refrigerator more than five years.

When Ghana broke free from British hegemony in 1957 Dr Kwame Nkrumah did all his possible best to get import substitutes for the country. All manners of industries were established to produce good locally. After his overthrown in 1966 all the efforts that he was doing to break our dependency on foreign goods were brought to an abrupt end. During the era of the PNDC most of our indigenous factories were closed down or had their operations interfered. Appiah Menka Complex and Dr Kwame Sarfo had their entrepreneurial spirit quenched by the PNDC.

The NPP government has not been helping the local producers. When taxes were put on imported poultry products into the country so as to help the local producers this practices did not live long. It was removed meaning local producers of poultry products could not compete with cheap imported goods from outside. Day by day local industries keep on hibernating in era of golden age of business. This is irony!

When Ghana Airways was active our president was not patronizing it giving reasons that Ghana Airways could disappoint you anytime. President Kufuor travels with KLM, Lufthansa and British Airways and pays huge sum of dollars to these airlines. I wonder should the US Air Force One (presidential plane of the US president) develops technical fault such that it cannot fly the US President there is no way the US President will travel with SABINA or Aeroflot or Cathway Pacific Airlines. At least he and his entourage would go by any local airlines unless the local airlines do not operate on such route.

After the World War II goods produced by the Germans and the Japanese were regarded as inferiors. They persisted and proved to the whole world that it was a lie. Today when talk of good cars and electrical products Germany and Japan are best. The Chinese also persisted and now today their economy is booming sending signals of fear to the US and the EU.

Just recently our own Nigeria has banned into their country 96 products from Ghana. You ask yourself haven?t they rectified ECOWAS treaty on free movement of goods and services? What the Nigerian government is normal. The government is acting to protect the interest of the local industries. Government of Ghana must learn from this. So far what we have done to protect the rice farmer in Bongo or the poultry farmer in Atwima Akropong? We have given the mandate to president and so he should act on our behalf. Even in the US when President Bush realized that cheap steel imports were not helping the US steel companies he imposed high taxes on them so that the local ones could survive from the weight of cheap import. It is true that products produced in Ghana are very expensive due to the overheads cost and the limited number of produce. However if we decide that we are going to use our local products it can compel manufacturing companies to produce in high quantities. There can be no great gain without its accompanying pain. Now we have succeeded in banning into the country used gas cylinders because the local factories can produce the equivalent numbers here.

THE WAY FORWARD The solution to this is within our own reach. God will not send marching armies from heaven to Ghana to come and revive our ailing industries and state owned enterprises. The onus lies on the president and parliament. Once the law comes it effect the people have not alternative but to comply.

We can start from the rice industries. The Aviyeme Rice Project should be strengthened and the farmers in the Northern Ghana must also be assisted. The days of cheap political talks should be over. Where there is a need for an irrigation the state should assist in terms of facilitating in allowing the farmers to get loans and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture should attach technical advisers and extension officers to such projects at the cost of payers. We should strengthen them in terms of helping them to secure loans to buy plant and machinery. Where they need tax holiday parliament should grant it to them. Effort should be made to ensure that they produce quality products and enough quantities for both local and for export. I learnt that Ghanaians want perfumed rice so we can also perfume the ones we produce here in Ghana. Then on the issue of imported rice to prevent them from competing with the local ones we can ban advertisement of all imported rice whether in billboard, radio jingle or TV slot. Beyond this punitive taxes should be imposed on imported rice and the revenues generated should be used to service the local rice industries. Finally when the local production of rice is enough to meet the national consumption then we can ban into the country the imported rice. With dedication and commitment we can get there.

Parts of the HIPIC relief and the G8 debt relief should be used to support the local industries. Take for instance you go to Barclays Bank of Ghana or Agricultural Development Bank and you make a request for one hundred million cedis to start rice farm you will be turned down because they will say your business plan is not viable. However go there the next day and apply for the same amount and tell them that you want to import rice from Thailand or US and you even need five hundred million cedis they will give it to you because this one in their own opinion it is viable.

Appiah Kusi Adomako is an educationist, freelance writer and the president of the Ghana Chapter of Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation. He can be contacted through: Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation, P.O. BOX. KS 13640. Kumasi. Tel 027-740-2467

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