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Opinions of Monday, 23 January 2023

Columnist: Joe Effah-Nkyi

Self-clearance of imports: Govt should revisit the issue

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The Finance Minister’s 2023 budget, which was put into the public domain quite recently, undoubtedly, gave a holistic summation of the performance of the economy and other proposed measures that seek to expand the tax net much wider and create further pragmatic strategies to improve upon the country’s socio-economic development.

However, the key reservation of many of us boils down to government's decision to amend Customs Regulations, 2016 (LI 2248) to allow for Self-Clearance of goods. In other words, prospective importers would by this regulation permitted to go through the clearing processes themselves at the Ports of entry without recourse to the services rendered by Customs House Agents.

We are therefore compelled, to conclude that such action is so punitive and that it is tantamount to absolute extermination of indigenous businesses that individuals have toiled day and night to establish and besides, a conspicuous violation of the right of the Agents, who by no fault of theirs happen to find themselves in such unpredictable business environment.


Clearing agents play a decisive role in the import and clearance of cargo at the country’s points of entry on behalf of clients. Complexity nature of international trade requires the Agent to ensure timely submission of the appropriate paperwork through ICUMS to the various stakeholder entities for prompt processing to actualize the concept of Just-In-Time (JIT) and ultimately make some modest savings.

It is significant to know that Freight forwarders or for that matter Clearing Agents as they are affectionately called, incontrovertibly, contribute immensely to the economy of Ghana by way of revenue mobilization in the form of payment of Customs duty/taxes into government treasury and this is executed on behalf of consignees.

It is interesting to note that, the exceeding annual tax revenue constantly declared with greater exuberance by GRA/ CEPS over the years is a true manifestation of the unyielding efforts and genuine contribution relentlessly contributed by these Custom House Agents.


It is irrefutable fact that Clearing Agents, with a total population of approximately 10,000 members are the greater contributors of VAT in addition to annual tax appropriation by GRA. From the point of view of the theory or concept of “BASE OR BOTTOM OF THE PYRAMID”, the entire Agents association is likely to be categorized at the Bottom of the Pyramid, yet that is where a greater chunk of the country’s tax injections emanates; due to their numerical strength.

This is a clear indication that Agents are not doing badly after all. They have proven repeatedly that they are undeniably important catalysts of the country’s economic development.

Evidently, the various Freight forwarding associations and the membership comprising GIFF, CUBAG, FFAG, ACHAG, etc. unequivocally support the central government through payments of insurance bonds and other forms of taxes that support government initiatives.


Undeniably, Custom House Agents, by their nature of work, absorb a greater chunk of the teeming SHS students and even university graduates encompassing advanced degree holders as employees and are well remunerated. The operations of the Clearing Agents have contributed to the setting up of innumerable peripheral businesses by individuals in the form of cafes, Restaurant operations, Taxi rest stops, Shops, including general hawking activities; this has ultimately guaranteed greater economic impact for these beneficiaries and ultimately adding to the overall GDP growth of Ghana’s economy.

It must be acknowledged that utilization of Vehicular trucks by Freight Forwarders, at especially the Ports, has motivated entities like GPHA and MPS to charge port entry fees and this has directly inure to the benefit of the very organizations and for that matter the country in its entirety.


In my conclusion, the consequential ripple effects of Self-clearance of imported consignments could be so devastating. Assuming the operating licenses of all these numbers of businesses are revoked, chances are that ‘chaoses’ shall inadvertently become the order of the day.

The affected youth will be displaced both physically and emotionally. Broken homes shall become pervasive resulting in acute truancy of our future leaders.

The number of unemployed could jump to intolerable intensity and this is likely to have a systemic effect on the governance system.

In this connection, we are calling on Parliament, the Clergy, the Council of State, and finally our President to put in the needed intervention measures to avert this misfortune. This is to save the industry from abysmal collapse and ensure decorum in all perspectives.