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Opinions of Sunday, 22 November 2015

Columnist: Kofi Amponsah –Bediako

Realising the national desire for quality products

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If this is the case, then exports, like imports, must all conform to applicable standards. Needless to say, one of the major problems facing us is the awfully sorrowful and detestable presence of sub-standard products seen in various parts of the country. Beginning from electrical gadgets, food, drugs and medical devices as well as extending it to others such as building materials, petroleum products, chemicals and so on, one cannot be sure of the quality of products on the market except to say that many of them are rather found to have disappointingly and unsatisfactorily fallen below standard.

On November 16, 2015, we read an article in the Daily Graphic by Mr K. B. Asante in his column, Voice from Afar, entitled “Must we eat poison until we fail ‘international’ standards?” He complained about sub-standard products that are consumed locally until we are alerted by foreigners with respect to the dangers associated with them.

He made it clear that Ghana boasts experts comparable to what pertains outside and yet would always have to wait until our attention is drawn by foreign countries regarding the dangers associated with some of the products, as is the case with the adulterated palm oil.

Exports and imports Mr K. B. Asante hit the nail right on the head when he stated, among other things, that “…we consume poisonous substances in palm oil until similarly qualified persons advise their governments not to allow our palm oil onto their markets because of the health hazard it posses.” Obviously, Mr Asante was referring to only one side of the problem, namely, exports. The other side of the problem is imports.

This observation points to the need for conformity assessment bodies such as the Ghana Standards Authority to collaborate with regulatory bodies or agencies such as the Forestry Commission, National Petroleum Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drugs Authority, Energy Commission, etc. to ensure that goods imported or exported meet the requirements of the applicable standard.

It is normal, as observed and practised internationally, for regulatory bodies in a country to use relevant standards developed by the respective countries’ national standards bodies to regulate the sub-sectors of the economy under their respective controls. In Ghana, it is the Ghana Standards Authority that performs this function for the regulatory bodies.

The implication here is that there must be positive, results-oriented and also enviable collaboration worthy of emulation, but not an aimlessly unproductive and antagonistic relationship, between the Ghana Standards Authority, on one hand, and the regulatory agencies, on the other.

Whats’ sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If this is the case, then exports, like imports, must all conform to applicable standards. Thus, when it comes to exportable products, every effort needs to be made to guarantee the required acceptable quality before being allowed to be sent out.

Checking imports It is, therefore, clear that the time has come for the country to devise an innovative and workable scheme consciously and purposefully aimed at effectively, comprehensively and satisfactorily checking, especially imports of sub-standard products into the country. Sub-standard electrical cables, for example, can lead to overheating, fire outbreaks and burning of houses. Similarly, sub-standard drugs can, contrary to expectations, create problems some of which are nervousness, sleeplessness, numbness, heart attack and, in some cases, even death.

This issue has needlessly been debated over and over by different interest groups even though all parties of the debate claim they are committed to quality. Probably, the time has come for us to visit the issue again with the intention of discussing and dealing with it in a dispassionate manner to help define and pursue the interest of the country as a whole by ensuring that products to be imported or exported out of the country are safe, secure and reliable.

A new scheme aimed at preventing sub-standard products from entering the country, from importing countries, ought to be instituted immediately so as to ensure that for every consumer of any product purchased on the market, there would be the much-desired anticipated guarantee of consumer safety and health as well as protection of the environment.