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Opinions of Sunday, 13 February 2011

Columnist: Amponsah, Kwabena

Prof. Mill, Please Remove Taxes and Tariffs on Anti-Malaria Commodities

Kwabena Amponsah-Manager,

Malaria kills 5000 children every day. A child dies of malaria every 30-40 seconds in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Western world does not see malaria as a human tragedy and African leaders do not consider it a priority; in fact, most do not even mention malaria in their presidential manifesto, even though the disease is endemic in their countries.

As at the time of writing this article, only Guinea, Kenya, Mauritius, Tanzania and Uganda and the Asian nation of Papua New Guinea have done away with taxes tariffs on products recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as crucial to effective malaria control. There is a saying in the Akan language that if you do not have anything to give to your in-law, the last thing you do is to rob him or her. Taxes and tariffs on anti-malaria drugs and preventive methods do the latter. With this article, I call upon the President of Ghana, His Excellency, John Atta Mills to remove all taxes and tariffs on anti-malaria-medicines, insecticides targeting mosquitoes, mosquito nets and other products that are solely or mainly imported into the country with the purpose to treat or prevent malaria.

I do not have figures on how much Ghana accrues from taxes and tariffs put on anti-malaria medicines and products but I doubt that the amount makes any significant dent on the state of our economy. In any case, what is most significant is the number of children who will be dead by the time I finish writing this article. Most anti-malaria products are produced outside of Africa. The least Ghana can do is to put one more pesewa on the price of anti-malaria drugs and products as a result of taxes and tariffs. The extra burden this puts on families already cracking under stretched budgets is enormous.

In addition to taxes and tariffs, there are technical hurdles at our ports that result in unnecessary costs that absorb the funds organization and companies have committed into fighting malaria and also create inordinate delays in distribution. It is vital that the Government of Ghana puts in well-defined systems to ensure public healthcare products, especially those targeting the most vulnerable in the society are easily and correctly identified at the ports of entry so that their release for distribution can be facilitated. . But I would not want to ask for too much at this time. Please, just do away with the taxes and tariffs on anti-malaria commodities.

Dear Prof. Mills, Africa needs strategic leadership, vision and courage to address this challenge and I urge you to take the leadership role in this. Future generation will remember you for the effort.

About the Author:
Kwabena is a Ghanaian resident in the USA. He has a Masters degree in Biochemistry from the
University of Ghana, and a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Florida. In his spare time, he writes on diverse issues affecting Africa on the blog