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Opinions of Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Columnist: Alert Ghana

The death of Ghana’s commmerce – CEPS: create, loot & share

Applying cosmetic euphemism to make an untoward system look better is not exactly a camouflage for the bitter experiences at Ghana’s ports.

Portraying to the nation that CEPS is working assiduously to ensure the payment of appropriate taxes and levies without a chance to bamboozle the system, is like trying to keep a skirt down when the wind is violently blowing it away. Importers of excisable products are being fleeced in more ways than can be imagined.

In fact, the Tema port has become a haven for thugs and criminals who connive with unscrupulous personnel of the security agencies to commit all sorts of crimes, some which are: car snatching, seizures, and fake bids.

As if that is not enough torment, the frustration of clearing goods just adds to the woes of importers who have to pay bribes and unnecessary gifts (usually goods from containers) to quicken the processes. There is not a single importer who tells a good story. The despicable manner that the authorities handle the business of the nation smacks of an attitude that seems to be beyond reproach.

The final nail in the coffin of these businesses came eventually in the form of a directive by the Commissioner of CEPS to the effect that all excisable commodities shall be stamped prior to their exit from the port. This means that all containers will be opened and their contents emptied and stamped one by one. The insult in this is that other than the massive theft that will go on, and the damage to goods during repackaging, same will be at the cost of the importer.

To accentuate the lack of wisdom in such an unsound directive, there will be a traffic jam of containers to be offloaded, processed in this new way, and reloaded. An already sluggish system will become stagnant due to obvious canker and incompetence of the fellows manning the various sectors at the ports.

So instead of a container clearing within the regular, unacceptable, period of one month, it will take an estimated three to four months. Guess what happens to the shelf life of the goods, especially beverages that have a relatively shorter expiration period? You can guess, huh? I am glad you can see the picture; an ugly one that manifests my premonitions.

Not only is that vapid and insalubrious, it also adds to the plebeian difficulties of the working class who will suffer the fate of millions of their peers (joblessness) because businesses will come to a grinding halt.

It is with deep regret that I announce the death of the little commerce that has kept the pulse of the nation beating, albeit slothfully. How can CEPS be so insensitive? What their directive means is that many containers are going to be broken into and robbed. Anyway, this circumstance of thievery is already rampant and I dare any officer to debunk this. Reefer loads of cheeses that are worth over one hundred thousand US Dollars each are sometimes delayed until the owners succumb. Then deals are made where the Create, Loot, and Share brigade get half of the booty or more. This case is not pertinent to only Cheeses but to all items brought into the country: beverages, biscuits, groceries, and so on. Some make it, and others fall prey to the hounds at Tema port. Very hardly do containers leave the ports without gratuities to the officers which most often are goods forcibly taken. That is why it does not surprise me that some goods at the markets sell for half the price of the same at supermarkets.

Is it any wonder that foot soldiers of this government fight internal wars just for an opportunity to get space at the main ports? The airport is no exception where people fight to be. Hence the arrest of George Boateng, the failed Presidential contender of the NDC, for imposing himself as a National Security Operative making thousands in the name of connivance and coercion at Kotoka International Airport.

Let me state that CEPS is becoming a belligerent agency of deceit and disservice to the nation. Well, if they have to go along with their suspicious machination, then the stamping must take place at the facilities of the importers where the goods will be safe from the pouncing agents of mafias, cartels and organised crime. After all, most importers have customs bonded warehouses that are manned by customs officers.

Is it not enough that people pay exorbitant electricity tariffs? Some supermarkets get electricity bills in the hundreds of thousands of Ghana Cedis, monthly.

No wonder Hon Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo asked His Excellency President John Mahama whether the state of the nation address the latter made last week was referring to a different Ghana because the status quo is deep in the hell hole we all are suffering in Stay tuned. More to come!!!